Despite its title, Final Fantasy VII Remake won’t actually be a straight retelling of the original game, but instead a deeper exploration of its world and characters. During a closed-door presentation at E3, producer Yoshinori Kitase said that simply recreating the game with new graphics wouldn’t have been enough to get the team — which includes many of the developers from the original Final Fantasy VII — excited enough to come onboard. “Our goal here is to remake this genre-defining RPG for a new audience, for a new era, and not just to make a straight one-to-one copy or a remaster,” he said.
The first game is set in Midgar, a dark, steampunk-inspired city dominated by the evil corporation known as Shinra. As in the original, players control Cloud and a group of mercenaries known as Avalanche as they bomb reactors and fight to stop Shinra from draining the planet’s energy. According to Kitase, the development team chose to set the entirety of the first game within Midgar because “it really is the most iconic location in Final Fantasy VII’s world.”
Midgar has been greatly expanded in the remake. The game is sizable in content, with developers boasting that it will encompass two Blu-ray discs’ worth of content. Kitase said that this approach “really allows us to remake the original without having to scale anything back or remove anything that the fans loved in the original.” In a hands-on demo, it was easy to see how even small scenes have been blown out through more dialogue, bigger level design, and more in-depth battles. Although the demo features several short battles as Cloud, it culminates in a boss fight where players confront a scorpion-like mech that requires players to dodge a devastating laser attack.
Combat in the remake feels akin to recent Final Fantasy games like XV, where players swap between party members to launch attacks in real time. Final Fantasy VII Remake adds a strategic element as well, in which players can slow down time to launch limit break attacks or use magic spells. The goal is to stagger enemies, therefore allowing players to deal wicked amounts of damage.
It’s still too early to tell how successful Square Enix’s sole focus on Midgar will be, but revisiting the game’s opening section — a reactor Avalanche has come to bomb — is an undeniably powerful experience. The sheer scope and detail of the world we’ve seen so far is impressive, and characters like Biggs and Jessie appear to play a more central role than they did before. The game appears to be divided into chapters; a brief introduction referred to the opening as “The destruction of Mako Reactor 1.”
The first game in the series is set to launch next March, though Kitase previously told Kotaku that they’re unsure of how many games they’ll make in total. During The Verge’s presentation, Kitase said that the development team is “creating the next mainline numbered Final Fantasy game.” Meanwhile, the team is preparing to move beyond the first game’s development. “We’re also now starting to continue planning it out and outlining the overall content of the second game,” Kitase said.