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Interview: Producer and Co-Director of Final Fantasy VII Remake on Development, Release, and Thanks to Fans



Interview: Producer and Co-Director of Final Fantasy VII Remake on Development, Release, and Thanks to Fans


Final Fantasy VII Remake has been out for over a month now, and it looks like its release ended up being a watershed moment for the series. With that in mind, we had the opportunity to speak with producer Yoshinori Kitase and co-director Naoki Hamaguchi about Remake’s development, its release, and the decisions behind some of the game’s design.

Push the square: First of all, congratulations on the release of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Are you satisfied with the reception that the game has had among the fans?

Yoshinori Kitase (Producer): Thanks to everyone who enjoyed the game. There are a lot of people who played the original game who are now working in the industry as developers, game writers, or even influencers, and I think those people liked the remake and spoke about the game, becoming evangelists and spreading the word to new players. I’m very grateful to all the fans who have been with us since the original and who have supported Final Fantasy VII over the years, and it’s great to welcome all the new players who are experiencing the game for the first time.

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Naoki Hamaguchi (Co-director): Thank you very much! After seeing the response when the game was released, I was very proud that the kind of remake we were aiming for was appreciated and approved by the fans. Our goal was to deliver a gameplay experience that felt new and nostalgic at the same time, not clashing with people’s fond memories of the original, but enhancing them, and expressing them in the most modern way possible. We’ve received a lot of feedback from fans who express their approval of this approach and say that the approach we took for the remake resonated with them, and this has inspired confidence in all the little decisions we made to build the game. We are hugely excited about developing the next game and making it something that also meets the expectations of the fans, but it is important not to forget the sense of humility, and that we still have a lot to learn.

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Final Fantasy VII is a classic RPG that means a lot to so many people. Have you ever felt that

pressure while developing the Remake?

Kitase: There was some pressure, but it soon turned to joy seeing the team make a new game that showed so much respect to the original while feeling completely new and fresh at the same time.

Final Fantasy VII’s remake expands significantly on the Midgar story arc. During the development of the game, how did you decide which parts you wanted to expand?

Kitase: I personally envisioned quite a dramatic change overall, but our director; Tetsuya Nomura and co-director; Naoki Hamaguchi wanted to keep the aspects dear to the original as much as possible. Ultimately, the development team decided to focus on respecting the original while adding new elements, ensuring a fine balance between the two.

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What part of Midgar did you most enjoy recreating?

Kitase: I would say overall I loved being able to show the city of Midgar and its unique structure in full 3D. The technical limits of the original game fixed the camera in a top-down view, but in the remake you can move around it 360 degrees, allowing you to see Midgar from many different angles in a way like never before. The feeling of immense weight and oppression that you get from looking out from the slums really allows you to experience the sense that slum dwellers have of living there first hand.

Can you tell us anything about new content that was planned, but didn’t make it into the final version of Final Fantasy VII Remake?

Hamaguchi: This is my honest opinion, but I really feel like I’ve managed to squeeze everything I wanted into the remake and balance it properly, so I’m sure it’s a worthy offering to bring to all the fans who love Final Fantasy VII.

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There is one thing that is not so much a regret, but rather an interesting observation… Final Fantasy VII Remake contains many mini-games that pay homage to the original, and there was one that I really wanted to include but in the end I couldn’t. In fact you can still see the impression of where this is supposed to fit .

Fans will remember the basketball minigame in the Golden Saucer, but we actually also put a basketball hoop in the park that’s on the way to Jesse’s family’s house in the slums and I wanted to make it playable there as well. However, we felt that having a game that created noise from bouncing basketballs didn’t really work with the atmosphere at that point in the story, when the team was moving undercover in the middle of the night, so we removed it. But we still wanted to leave a little tribute, so we left an abandoned basketball and made it possible for it to roll around.

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In terms of personality and the way they’re written, was it difficult to take the characters from Final Fantasy VII and reimagine them for Final Fantasy VII Remake?

Kitase: We didn’t make any changes to the basic personalities from the original. That said, there have been nuanced changes to the way some things are displayed in places, reflecting changes in real-world social conditions over the last 23 years. An example would be how Barrett and the members of the Avalanche now agonize over their decisions and sometimes doubt the rightness of their actions against Shinra Company, realizing that they may not be on the side of justice after all.

We love Final Fantasy VII Remake’s combat system, but it sounds like it would be a tough system to get right. How long did its development take? Did you have any problems?

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Hamaguchi: The concept of the battle system in Final Fantasy VII Remake was made clear to us at an early stage. What we wanted was to evolve the ATB system in the original to express the same concept through a more modern system.

We went through a lot of trial and error, but instead of trying to just integrate the ATB system and an action-based system into a hybrid model, we thought we should get the best out of both systems by clearly defining the role of each. At the core of the remake’s battle system is still the simple concept of charging up an ATB meter and using the charge to execute abilities, exactly like the original game’s ATB system.

In addition to this, action items play the role of enhancing and allowing the ATB to work better, allowing the player to use the ability to do things like charge up the ATB meter more efficiently, or set enemies so that the abilities are more devastating. when using a load. Therefore, the system is based on supporting the use of the game’s action and achieving its goal using ATB commands.

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This successful relationship between the two elements also provides the basis for “classic mode”. In this mode, the action elements are automatically operated by the AI, allowing the player to fully focus on identifying the correct moment to execute the ATB skills, exactly as they could have done in the original game. You could say that this system was only possible thanks to the clear definition of the roles for the ATB and the action gameplay that we did for the remake.

There is a surprising number of options for the player in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Cloud’s dialogue options can sometimes influence the development of the story. Why did you want to give players these options?

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Hamaguchi: Since the story in FINAL FANTASY VII until the escape from Midgar is designed to be fairly linear, I’ve always been concerned about compromising the sense of tension and suspense inherent in the narrative by implementing gameplay that is more open. In nature.

However, he was also aware that the story would be unpopular if it was so rigidly linear that no player was allowed any freedom. Therefore, we decided that all players would have the same experience in the main story, similar to watching a movie, but implementing options at certain points that illustrate the depth of the characters and the game world. This allows players to choose how they want to progress through the story and is quite engaging.

Considering the two possible game designs, one that only allows players to rigidly progress through the main story in a linear fashion, and the other in which a player’s choices are reflected in their story progression, it’s important that players feel like they’re playing through the story of their own free will, rather than being “forced into it.” That’s why there are side questions, mini-games, and reports from Chadley in the game, to increase the number of opportunities to let players make up their own minds.

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Roche is an interesting character, but he only appears in one chapter. Where did the idea for Roche come from?

Hamaguchi: For new characters in general, I was aware that I should only add the game and its characters to go deeper into the Final Fantasy VII game world.

Roche, for example, has an important role in explaining the situation of the Soldier operatives fighting on Shinra’s side, when he secretly enters the Shinra facility with Cloud and the other Avalanche members. In their cut scenes, you can also see a link between Cloud and Roche, so I’m really excited to see what could happen to them in the future.

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Then, in Wall Market, we wanted to portray Don Corneo in the style of a real-life mob boss who has power in the underworld. To make the performance feel more real, we wanted to add henchmen who work for him for his own mutual benefit, so we decided to add Madam M, Sam, and Andrea who do Corneo’s dirty work.

After all these years, we have to ask ourselves: who is the best fit for Cloud? Tifa or Aerith?

Kitase: We never talk about how the characters relate to each other outside of what’s depicted in the game. Our sole focus has been how to best represent the characters in an engaging way as part of the remake.

However, I also love seeing the exciting discussions between fans within the community and it’s something we’ve seen since the release of the original game!

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Many thanks to Kitase-san and Hamaguchi-san for taking the time to answer our questions. Special thanks to Daniela Piertrosanu and Square Enix PR for making this interview possible.

What do you think of Final Fantasy VII Remake more than a month after its release? Plan a return to Midgar in the comments section below.