It's always a rollercoaster with Square Enix, something that the last few days wholly epitomised. After not hearing much regarding the Final Fantasy VII Remake since its announcement, we got some debut gameplay footage at the PlayStation Experience in San Francisco. It confirmed a few changes that people had suspected, but on the whole there was a strong positive vibe resonating around what was shown. That positive vibe lasted around a day, when Square Enix revealed the game wouldn't be coming out as a single experience, but would instead be released as a multi-part series.
On face value, it's easy to understand why people went to the negative. When thinking about games being split into multiple parts, you are drawn to episodic games like The Walking Dead from Telltale Games or even Life is Strange from Square Enix. Both very strong games in their own right, but they have certain compromises in place that fans anticipating the Final Fantasy VII Remake just don't even want to fathom. It's difficult to compare these titles to an RPG of epic proportions and Square Enix has since clarified this as being an incorrect comparison. "Each entry will have its own unique story," was the statement issue in a press release. "As a gaming experience, each entry will have the volume of content equal to a full-sized game."
This is more what I was anticipating, as opposed to a smaller, episodic title. Think Mass Effect or Shenmue. These are games that had persistent storylines across multiple games where your actions got carried forward into the next experience. There's no reason to think that Square Enix couldn't apply the same thinking to the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Granted, this comparison does come with a big caveat - unlike with Mass Effect or Shenmue, fans of the original will already know what the storyline will be in the next experience. However, that's not necessarily a deal breaker.
Peter Jackson achieved huge success despite The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit being very familiar pieces of literature. He was able to twice keep his audiences eagerly anticipating the next instalment into an already existing series due to the sheer quality of the production. Not only that, he was also able to use the films to introduce new audiences to JRR Tolkien's fantastic story and further project the franchise out, something which the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be tasked with doing.
This alone can be seen as a huge positive. Final Fantasy VII is often revered as one of the greatest video games of all time - it stood as the complete package. If Square Enix are able to amplify the Final Fantasy VII Remake due to utilising this approach, the franchise we know and love will continue to grow from strength to strength.
My only reservation at this point comes with Square Enix's rather poor track record when it comes to multi-part games. However, despite a few different attempts at sequels and expanded lore, Square Enix has never actually been in a pre-emptive position to tackle a multi-part franchise. Each previous attempt, whether this be Final Fantasy X-2, the Final Fantasy VII Compilation or the Final Fantasy XIII Saga, was not pre-planned. And it showed. With the Final Fantasy VII Remake, they have the opportunity to show that they can do it right.
It's easy to jump on the negativity train, but when you look at the sheer potential of this approach, it's difficult not to get a little excited. There are plenty of natural cut points throughout the story of Final Fantasy VII, but within each of these there is so much that can be fleshed out.
From a visual perspective, Midgar itself is a huge behemoth of a city and it will be awesome to see how much more the sectors will be expanded upon. But what about other locations such as Kalm, the Chocobo Ranch or Fort Condor?
When looking at the narrative, parts of Crisis Core and Before Crisis could be integrated to help expand upon some of the back story. We could also see minor characters, such as Jessie, Biggs and Wedge get more screen time, ultimately making their story more heart wrenching. But wouldn't it also be cool to find out more about people like Bugenhagen, Professor Gast and Ifalna, Lucrecia or Dyne?
When looking at the gameplay, we can already see that a new approach has been offered up, but we have so far only seen a small part of what this could become. And that's just the combat. What about smaller nuances like Chocobo Racing, Fort Condor or even some of the fun mini-games seen at the Gold Saucer.
As Nomura stated in a recent interview, one of the main reasons behind the decision to split the game into multiple parts was that they didn't want elements of the original game to be marginalised due to a lack of time or space. With this expanded approach, much more time and focus can be placed on smaller aspects. It also means that we could return to a much more frequent release schedule. Assuming there are 3-4 parts, we could receive one every year and the quality could even be furtherenhanced with each part. It also means that a 2017 release for the first part is much more realistic than perhaps was thought initially.
Yes, it's a bit annoying that we might have to wait longer to be able to play through the entire experience, but think about it like this. If you're a fan of the franchise, you've already played through it already and know the story anyway. If the quality is good enough, waiting for the next part will do you no harm at all. If you aren't a fan of the franchise, well, you are pretty much used to this cycle already. If anything, you might even be better off as you maybe won't have to wait the typical 2-3 years to get the next part.