When I went hands-on with Final Fantasy 7 Remake recently I also had the absolute privilege of speaking to Kitase Yoshinori. Kitase was the Director of Final Fantasy 7 and is producing the remake. Speaking to an absolute giant of the gaming industry such as Kitase is a real thrill, not to mention the insight he has when it comes to both the original game and the remake.
As Final Fantasy 7 came out in 1997, I was interested in what it was like to come back to these characters, this setting and this story after so many years. However, Kitase said that the characters have never really left him.
Since Final Fantasy 7 was released, Square Enix has worked on plenty of related content including Advent Children, Crisis Core, mobile games and Super Smash Bros. Because of this, Kitase said that it didn’t feel like a step back.
However, the story is something he hasn’t touched for 23 years and to go back now is something he calls “very interesting.”
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
While playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I was struck by how relevant it felt in regards to contemporary society. Climate change, wealth disparity, corporate and government corruption, these are all themes at the forefront of the game which were all present in 1997. Kitase said he thought the themes were timeless which is why the story of Final Fantasy 7 worked so well in 1997 and again resonates in 2020.
The approach we took to it hasn’t changed for the way we tell these stories in the original and the remake. They’re universal themes and we felt [in 1997] that if we make it too specific and too much a mirror of one real-world issue it ends up being very closed up.
Kitase told me that while creating the original game he wanted to focus on the idea that it’s set in a fantasy world. By keeping the themes more general and universal “it can really resonate with different people who have different takes on environmental issues.” By using these universal themes, Kitase said that players can see parallels in the issues that are important to them but he’s not saying one specific thing.
Something that surprised me was the influence Kitase said Advent Children had on Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Fans will know that Advent Children is an animated film sequel to Final Fantasy 7 the expands the lore and continues the story of Cloud and Sephiroth. However, even though it is set after Final Fantasy 7, Kitase explained that changes were made to better incorporate the two.
Some of the sub-characters and the backstory of how they link into Advent Children was tweaked in order to better suit the continuity.
The major impact Advent Children had on Final Fantasy 7 Remake was visual. “Advent Children became a benchmark for us. When we were developing the game, the cutscenes and the fights that happen in them as well as the general combat and game itself we always think ‘how can we push this?’
“And it always turned out that we’ve got to meet that benchmark. We’ve got to get to what was shown in Advent Children.”
In 2020, Cloud isn’t a truly different character anymore. The silent, brooding and aloof hero is a dime a dozen these days but in 1997, Kitase says he was unique. He wasn’t a chatterbox and Kitase believes he was really different from what players had been exposed to in the past. In the Remake, Cloud is younger than most players remember him. In Advent Children and other appearances, Cloud is the older, cool, calm and controlled hero.
In Final Fantasy 7 Remake, he’s younger and not quite the hero he becomes later on. “We see a lot more of a human aspect to Cloud in this game,” Kitase says. “Sometimes people around him laugh and make fun of him and maybe he does things you wouldn’t expect him to because he’s not really sure of what he’s doing.” It this, Kitase explains, that makes Cloud a great character in the Remake; his humanity.
On the flipside, Kitase says that Sephiroth has always been a “well-rounded villain.” He told me that the depiction of Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7 as this evil presence was so well done that it has stayed with people all this time.
He doesn’t actually reveal himself until the second half of the story and up until then he’s only ever mentioned indirectly. People spread rumours about him and you’ll see things that he’s done, like leaving the body of a massive monster that he’s chopped down.
You’re getting this idea and building him up in your mind that he’s really strong, powerful and scary.
The fact that people have such a strong reaction to Sephiroth and that he has endured to this day is a sign that Kitase succeeded in the way he presented the character he told me.
Coming back to Final Fantasy 7 after 23 years is a huge undertaking, considering its popularity, reputation and rabid fanbase. However, Kitase told me that he’s excited to be working on the Remake and to see what fans think.
Something that fans may or may not be prepared for is that this release is only the first part of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The scale of the game means that Square Enix needs to split the game into parts in order to make it work.
I asked Kitase at which point this first part ends and was told that this game ends at the point the main party leaves Midgar. However, what was included in the original game has been greatly expanded upon and so Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be comparable in length to a mainline Final Fantasy title.
It may seem disappointing to have this first part end when the party leaves Midgar — wait for me Red XIII, Yuffie and Vincent — but there seems to be so much packed into the Remake and so much expansion of the story and characters that you’re not likely to be disappointed.
As for when the second part takes place and when it will be released, Kitase and Square Enix remain tight-lipped.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be available for PS4 on April 10, 2020.
Leo Stevenson travelled to Sydney as a guest of Square Enix to attend a Final Fantasy 7 Remake preview.
Special thanks to Kitase Yoshinori for his time.