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On the Way to a Remake – A Retrospective

by June 25, 2015 13 comments

On the Way to a Remake title image
Well, it finally happened. The remake has finally been announced. This seems like a good time to look back at what sparked the wish for a remake in so many people in the first place, as well as all the statements Square Enix staff had made in regards to such an endeavor.

Spoiler alert: It’s going to be a long list of NOPE NOPE NOPE MAYBE NOPE ending with OKAY FINE, YES.
I can’t claim to have caught every single mention or rumor of a remake, but this retrospective tries to be as complete as possible.

Anyway, let’s dive in!

Shinji_Hashimoto_Please_Be_Excited

Reminiscence of Tech Demo

Undoubtedly it was the tech demo shown ten years ago that really set off the huge demand for this game, but even before then there were talks about a remake from none other than Square Enix – or Squaresoft as they were still known as back then – themselves.

Hironobu_SakaguchiBack in early January 2001 at the Square Millennium Press Conference, plans were announced to port or remake several Final Fantasy games, including possible PlayStation 2 remakes for Final Fantasy VII, VIII and the recently released IX.

However, when series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was asked about it again by RPGamer in October that year, he said: “I believe I mentioned that in that interview, but as of now there’s no specific movement in that regard.”

So it seems while the idea had existed, there were ultimately no concrete plans in that regard and it never moved forward.
One might even say the demand for remakes had not been that high in the first place considering the PS1 games hadn’t been out for too long at that point of time.

In September 2003 at the Tokyo Game Show, the world got its first glimpse at the world of Final Fantasy VII with up-to-date CG graphics with the announcement of the CG movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children alongside the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.

Then 2005 came around…

It was the year Sony debuted the PlayStation 3, at E3 in May. Square Enix had made a technical demo for that purpose, designed to show off the real-time rendering capabilities of the new console, similar to the FFVIII tech demo that recreated Squall and Rinoa’s dancing scene in PS2 graphics.

It was an exciting display of what an FFVII game could look like on a next-generation console and it undoubtedly ignited a spark in many fans that wanted to see such a game happen.
However, then president of Square Enix, Yoichi Wada, was quick to point out that this was not proof of a remake but merely for display purposes.

But it was too late. People already boarded the hype train and there was no getting off, no matter how long this journey would take…

What follows is a ten year history of hopes and desires for a remake and a long series of denials and excuses given by Square Enix right up until the announcement of what many had come to think of as a mere pipedream.

In July 2005, Gamespot inquired about an FFVII remake, only to have Square Enix repeat that the tech demo was just that. When pressed further however, they noted that the reception for the tech demo had been very positive and as plans for future FFVII projects had not been set in stone yet, a remake was a project that they would keep in mind.

There_is_a_chance

Then in August, 1UP interviewed Tetsuya Nomura on Kingdom Hearts II and couldn’t help but to ask whether he was as interested in a remake as the millions of fans were.

Again we got a non-committal answer but it is here that we learned that Yoshinori Kitase, the original game’s director, has apparently told Nomura many times that if they were to do it, Nomura should be the one to direct it.
At that time he said his schedule was too busy for such a project.

nomuracropThey reiterated the same point in the October issue of EGM, with Kitase adding that it would take a staff of 300 people and probably around five years to get the project made – not necessarily a point against it but just stating the facts.

In November ’05, word from Kitase and Nomura in an interview with Japanese magazine Dengeki was that a remake might have been possible if they only had two Compilation titles on their plate and that the tech demo itself already took 2 – 3 months to complete. According to Kitase, the increased quality of games would inevitably lead to longer development cycles in the future. Additionally Nomura said he’d move on to a new project after KHII that would neither be a sequel nor a remake.

We enter the year 2006 and as the next E3 draws near, the rumor mill kicks into motion for the first time in May.
Supposedly, the June ’06 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly has learned that the remake was in fact happening (with the battle system of XII, no less) and despite official statements to the contrary, the tech demo was really a sneak peek at the real thing. This was posted under their ‘Loose Talk’ section.

The following statement was issued upon IGN’s inquiry:

“Since the Final Fantasy VII tech demo at E3 2005, there have been a lot of rumors about the presentation hinting at an actual remake. While the June 2006 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly confirms the remake for release in 2007, Square Enix has never stated this. “

Obviously, it wasn’t happening at that point.

That didn’t stop Best Buy from putting up the remake for preorder in June though, fanning the flames even higher. More denials from Square followed.

Crisis_Core_Post_Credit_Ending_CloudFast-forward a year to June 2007, with Nomura again addressing the situation in the Japanese Gemaga magazine. He plainly states: “My apologies, but we are absolutely not making it.”

Just as they crushed fans’ hopes they are also quick to build them up again by pointing out that amongst their younger staff are also many people who are fans of FFVII and want to remake it, and that as long as there is a demand, they don’t want to proclaim a definitive end to this possibility.

Crisis Core director Hajime Tabata jokingly mentions in the same interview that he would like to see it happening and wants to push Nomura and Kitase to do it.

Demand was certainly there, and fans were determined to let them know they wanted FFVII in HD. Thus a petition was started and it gathered over 20,000 signatures by September ‘07. And so the author sent the petition to Square Enix…only to be met with a generic PR response along the lines of “not currently being made” and “doesn’t mean it’s not gonna happen” “Thank you for your interest etc etc etc….”

To_Be_Continued_in_FFVIIDisappointing perhaps, but that didn’t deter fans from seeing the signs of the impending remake regardless. The same month also saw the Japanese release of Crisis Core – Final Fantasy VII – for the PSP. Rumors leaked online of the game having a secret ending unlocked by completing the game twice that recreates the opening of FFVII and hints at the existence of the fabled remake.

As it turned out, that was only partially true – the scene existed but it was not a secret ending to be unlocked but a simple post credits scene, and while it did say “to be continued in FINAL FANTASY VII” that was really just stating the obvious – Crisis Core being a prequel DID lead straight into the original game and that was a rather neat way to close the circle.

It didn’t stop people from seeing what they wanted to see. Now the remake is being made of course, but hinting at it was certainly not the intention of that post-credits scene all those years ago.

FFVII_Ultimania_Tech_DemoIn addition, the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania’s last pages showed screenshots from the PS3 tech demo with the words “We hope to meet Final Fantasy VII again!”

Of course this too, was believed to be another hint.

In February 2008, Crisis Core director Hajime Tabata mentioned in an interview with OPM that the conditions for the creation of a remake have not yet been met, and the chances of it happening may increase once the schedules of Kitase and Nomura open up.

In an interview with 1UP the following month, he also mentioned that Crisis Core was not the end of the Compilation and that its finale would “take some other form”, once again fuelling speculation that this could mean a remake.
It is unclear whether he was simply talking about the upcoming Advent Children Complete or a theoretical sequel taking place after Dirge of Cerberus – no other titles in the Compilation have actually been announced to this day.

People were still holding out for anything to happen. Promises of a “Major FFVII-related announcement” were made in regards to Square’s DKΣ3713 event (now that’s a mouthful) in August 2008 but nothing remake-related turned up.

In other news that month, Best Buy once again for some reason somehow let people think FFVII on the PS3 was a thing…and apparently out in just a few days.

Gamestop_FFVII_preorder…yeah, that didn’t seem very likely to anyone back then either.

In a March 2009 Famitsu interview, Nomura spoke about the release of Advent Children Complete. No specific statement about a remake was made, but similar to Tabata a year before he hinted at more to come for the Compilation, stating that he has ideas for the next product while at the same time saying he doesn’t expect any developments in the series for the time being.

The ones anxiously awaiting a resolution to Dirge of Cerberus’ secret ending…well, they’re obviously waiting to this day. Sorry, guys.

Cloud_Shrug

Then, to everyone’s surprise, April 2009 finally brought us the hotly anticipated Japanese release of FFVII on PS3!
…if you hotly anticipated buying the PS1 version from the PS Store, that is. And while you can just play the PS1 discs on your PS3, buying the PS Store version at least also allows you to take the game with you on PSP. And maybe you never experienced the original on PS1, so no reason to be unhappy about a re-release of the classic! The US and PAL region release would follow in June.

In May that year, our very own website published the translation of an interview from the re-release edition FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania with Cloud’s Japanese voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai, who said that he himself would like to see a remake and voices this request to the higher-ups at Square every time he meets with them.
While Sakurai has no influence at Square in getting projects made, it was certainly reassuring at that time to know that even people deeply involved in these projects wanted to see it happen and were vocal about it.

During Gamescom that year, game-related media had the chance to ask more questions about the remake. Here, Kitase confirmed that he and Motomu Toriyama (director of FFXIII and event planner for the original FFVII) actually had discussions about it – if only at a personal level and not in an ‘official’ capacity.
Kitase also said to enjoy the PSN release in the meantime and that maybe they’ll have news for us later.

Case of Bullshit

At that time, it began to look like a remake might just be a question of when, not if. Square Enix was in full teaser mode.
The fans wanted it, Square Enix staff wanted it, voice actors wanted it – and now we had confirmation that even the project leads were wondering how they could do it and slinging around ideas in their free time.

On a side note, a little while before that a teaser site popped up on the internet with a cryptic countdown saying “VII Days”

Lord_of_Vermilion_Countdown

Needless to say, many poor souls got their hopes up for something big.

It was just Lord of Vermilion II.

Always remember this:

Caution_Teaser_Countdown
(note: LoV is arcade-based but that’s beside the point)

In November 2009, Final Fantasy: Crystal Bearers director Akitoshi Kawazu also briefly chimed in on the subject simply saying that while it obviously wouldn’t be him, he thinks someone at Square Enix will end up doing it.

As mentioned above, it seemed more like when, not if. As for the when though, Nomura dashed any hopes that this would be anytime soon in an interview with Famitsu in January 2010, trying to comfort people that Cloud would have cameos in other upcoming titles at least.

Just the following month, even the ‘if’ of a remake was brought into question when Kitase and Toriyama explained FFXIII’s linearity by saying that towns in HD are hard to make and that the same would apply for a remake of VII.
Needless to say, this sounded like a poor excuse for both how XIII ended up as well as not remaking VII. Fans were not amused.

Just a few days later though his words ended up being more encouraging once again saying he wants to see this more complete version of VII and work on it someday.

kitasenopeThen another few days later Kitase was quoted as saying they would like to make it if it were possible to prepare it within a year(!).

That seemed somewhat ridiculous as not even the original took that little time to make, but it doesn’t end there: Kitase also said that a VII remake would probably take three to four times(!) longer than the three and a half years it took to make XIII.
Yes, more than ten years for Square Enix to create HD games with the same amount of depth and content as PS1 RPGs.

This statement did quite a bit to further the disillusionment with the company for fans.

It’s still baffling to think about these claims, especially now that we know the remake is happening and it is a) obviously taking longer than a single year and b) not gonna take more than ten years.

Seriously, what Final Fantasy game would take ten years to m-

ffxvlogoforroundup

Nevermind. Maybe his estimation was spot on after all…

At that point the remake issue had become a constant back and forth between “We are not making it” “But actually maybe someday” “But it’s probably too hard” “But maybe we will make it anyway?”
It became quite the farce and yet we were only halfway at the announcement…

In early March they asked fans for their opinions about a remake on Twitter and the response was so overwhelming they had to ask people to stop replying.
You mean it’s highly in demand? Stop the presses!

Toriyama also mentioned that if he had to remake an FF game, it would be VII. At that point, Square Enix was just yanking our chain. Including then CEO Yoichi Wada acknowledging the demand and saying they would “explore the possibility”.
Except the very same Wada then went on to tweet in May that they’re getting loads of requests from fans, but to get to the level of something like XIII, VII would take ten times longer to make.

So Kitase estimated ten years, Wada estimated forty.

Seems legit.

Surely this was just hyperbole though, right? …right? …we may never know.

Towards the end of the year, someone was trolling our own website with supposed insider information and this absolutely legit and in no way fake email that apparently proved that Square was hiring ‘linguists’ for the FFVII remake – coming to ‘PSP2/Neo’:

FFVII_remake_fake_mail

This email somehow got picked up by a German gaming site…around four months later. Apparently the various mistakes and the fact that the mail is for recruitment yet written like a commercial (a bad one) were not a dead giveaway to them.

In May 2011, even Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima got in on the fun. He tweeted about having a dinner meeting with Nomura, Wada and Metal Gear character designer Yoji Shinkawa. A fan asked him to tell Nomura to remake FFVII which Kojima promptly passed on.

A year later Nomura brought up the subject and said that new FF games should take precedence and that the goal is to make new games that can surpass the previous ones.
Adding to this, Yoichi Wada went so far as to say that a remake would mean that the Final Fantasy brand is “finished” and that they need to make a Final Fantasy game that can surpass FFVII.

With both Square Enix and fans putting FFVII on such a high pedestal this essentially was taken to mean: “It’s never happening.”

All the while, minor rumors popped up here and there and yearly April Fools pranks were common.
After all this time, a fully remade FFVII seemed to become no more than wishful thinking.

Episode: It’s Happening

But let’s jump ahead to February 2014. After a long calm, there were now the beginnings of a stir.

Kitase mentioned that month that he would love to do it but that it would take a lot to happen. We have heard several variations of that in the past so this was nothing new. He reiterated that FFVII would take ten years as it would be bigger than the Lightning trilogy.

But then there was a certain NeoGAF user who has become somewhat infamous as an apparent insider who has in the past leaked info about upcoming games and more often than not seemed to be right (although just as often keeps things deliberately very vague). Whether he truly has insider sources or just a knack at predicting what may come out in the future, we can’t say.
But the same month, this guy said it’s happening and we now know that the timeline seems to match up. It was most likely around this time that the remake entered production.

After Kitase just brought up the ten-year excuse again it didn’t seem too likely. Not too many people believed in the possibility of a remake anymore. Few remained hopeful.

In June ’14, Kitase spoke to Famitsu about the mobile game FFVII G-Bike. He mentioned that the success of this game might lead to more FFVII-related games as well as jokingly saying that a remake may completely depend on G-Bike.

Shinji Hashimoto PlayStation ExperienceAt PlayStation Experience on December 6, 2014; Final Fantasy brand manager Shinji Hashimoto took the stage. He began, “Seventeen long years ago…” and the FFVII logo popped up on the screens in the back.

People cheered. They knew what was coming. They thought they knew. It could only be one thing, right? Why else would Final Fantasy brand manager Hashimoto fly out to the PlayStation event? This was it. It was coming. The people in the audience and at home watching it live were at the edge of their seats.
The trailer started playing. It showed scenes from the original FFVII. They went on. And on. Surely the screen will shatter dramatically any second and reveal HD scenes in PS4 graphics any moment now, right? Some held on to this last thread of hope.
FFVII on PS4. It now became clear to everyone. It is just a port. Go home, folks; nothing to see here. Just a PS4 port of the PC port of the PS1 original. With original, upskirt upscaled graphics.
They flew out the brand manager of Final Fantasy to announce a simple port live on stage. ‘Why wasn’t this done via simple press release?’ People asked themselves as disappointment spread throughout the hall. People were clapping. They weren’t doing it out of politeness, they had to keep their hands busy in order to stop themselves from strangling Hashimoto.
‘Whatever happened to throwing rotten fruit and vegetables at such events?’ some wondered. ‘They should bring that back’.

Little did people know at that point…

Shinji_Hashimoto_Laughing

A small hint of what was to come was given to us by Yosuke Matsuda, current CEO of Square Enix in a comment to Nikkei Trendy. Talking about the fiscal year of 2015 he said they’d have a little surprise and it would be a JRPG for home consoles.

Then, right before E3, Siliconera reported they had learnt that Square Enix is in fact remaking FFVII for PlayStation 4. People mostly laughed it off. Then other sites picked this up. Then multiple sites claimed their independent sources also verify this.

The buzz this rumor generated was different from usual. And yet it seemed hard to shake off the disbelief after all the previous denials from the makers of Final Fantasy.
Many still chose to not believe this or braced themselves for more disappointment.

And then the bomb was dropped at Sony’s pre-E3 press conference.

A Sony rep introduced “World of Final Fantasy”. Then he began talking about how Square Enix introduced a ground-breaking RPG eighteen years ago…the screens in the back changed to show an animated lifestream.
This again? They can’t possibly be messing with us twice, right?
Music from Advent Children played. A city was shown in broad daylight. Is this Edge? Is this Midgar? Is it a sequel? But the imagery soon became more and more familiar. This was Midgar. The credits shown on screen – Kitase, Nojima, Nomura. This has to be it? Or is it something else after all? Are we getting our hopes up? Is it just a movie? A sequel to Dirge of Cerberus that about five or six people are really asking for? Is Square Enix letting us down again?
Barret passes by the camera. People cheer.
Cloud passes by. Both are wearing their original FFVII outfits. The crowd goes wild. The FFVII logo appears on screen.

We’re seeing it. Still working on believing it. We still don’t believe th-

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Boom.

All the doubt, all the cynicism and disbelief – everything was washed away.

After a journey of ten years – a journey filled with disappointment, anger, excuses and denials but also a tiny sliver of ever remaining hope – it is finally happening.

Whether the remake will turn out amazing or disappointing we cannot say. But the joy we felt at the announcement and the memory of it will stay with us. Let us embrace the reunion of all fans of FFVII, the return of old friends and arrival of new faces as new discussions take place again and old debates are revived, let us cherish the revival of this community and the new bonds we will form as we board this hype train straight to Midgar.

At last…

The promise has been made.

 

 

P.S.

You let the brand manager of FF announce a measly port, but a random Sony rep gets to drop the bombshell of a remake? Really, Square?

Wanna talk about this or other remake-related topics? Discuss it here on our forums!

Sources:
RPGamer [1] [2]
Gamespot: [1] [2]
IGN: [1] [2] [3] [4]
1UP: [1] [2] [3]
EGM quote: [1] [2]
Bluelaguna: [1]
Gamegrep: [1]
Gamefront: [1]
Squareinsider: [1]
Squarehaven: [1]
Bit-Tech: [1]
Kotaku: [1] [2] [3] [4]
Play-mag: [1]
Videogamer: [1] [2]
vg247: [1]
FFRing: [1]
Destructoid: [1]
TechDigest: [1]
CetraConnection: [1]
play3: [1]
Gematsu: [1] [2]
Dualshockers: [1]
Engadget: [1]
Siliconera: [1] [2]

13 comments

  1. cold_spirit
    #1 cold_spirit 26 June, 2015, 06:23

    Great article! I agree that something really felt different when the remake rumors hit before E3 this year. I tried to brush it off, but it stuck with me throughout the day and I ended up streaming the conference at work. And to my surprise…

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jason Tandro
    #2 Jason Tandro 26 June, 2015, 08:00

    This… is a wonderful article!!!

    But yeah seriously, amazing detail and the fruits of clearly a considerable amount of research. You have done an outstanding job piecing this all together Tetsujin!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Gregory
    #3 Gregory 3 July, 2015, 15:40

    Great article.

    Literally cant wait for the remake. I am going to join up with the forums right away and get posting :).. got some views and theories myself which they can improve on the original 😀

    Cheers for a good site!
    Greg

    Reply to this comment
  4. Kain424
    #4 Kain424 6 July, 2015, 04:28

    This was hard, man. I believed in this for fifteen years. The cynic in me kind of won, but habit kept me googling and searching for Final Fantasy VII news stories the entire time. Daily. And as excited as I am, I see stuff in that trailer that I don’t think I like.

    Edge? That didn’t even exist until Advent Children, right? Daylight in Midgar!? Modern train systems? Maybe it’s more of a “proof of concept” trailer than anything. Maybe. The cynic was hugely, maybe even fatally wounded when that trailer hit. But it still lives.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tetsujin
      Tetsujin Author 7 July, 2015, 09:07

      Edge isn’t in the trailer, that’s all Midgar. And yes, daylight in Midgar actually exists, contrary to popular belief.

    • Raulfin
      Raulfin 11 July, 2015, 23:26

      The fact that anyone that has actually played FF7 even once can even think that daylight Midgar doesn’t/can’t happen completly baffels me. There are many times in Midgar at the start of the game that you can see daylight… I mean, literally, did you not go to Aerith’s house, or church, or return to Tifa’s bar after the first mission!? There are dozens of secens of daylight in Midgar, it is litterally impossible to have not seen them.

    • MickeyGFunk
      MickeyGFunk 15 September, 2015, 04:19

      technically the slums are where the story takes place in midgar and they exist underneath the 8 “pizza” plates, so the light can be attributed to artificial light from mako… it’s bright in the sector 7 slums by 7th heaven but the plate support that you climb clearly shows a ceiling.
      so don’t be quick to judge Kain424.

      also there is a quote from an npc in midgar or posibly barret but i can’t remember exactly that mentions lack of sunlight, though aerith’s church does show sunlight. perhaps there are mirrors, light from the side, or holes in the upper plates. it’s never blatently addressed.

  5. Raulfin
    #5 Raulfin 11 July, 2015, 23:25

    The fact that anyone that has actually played FF7 even once can even think that daylight Midgar doesn’t/can’t happen completly baffels me. There are many times in Midgar at the start of the game that you can see daylight… I mean, literally, did you not go to Aerith’s house, or church, or return to Tifa’s bar after the first mission!? There are dozens of secens of daylight in Midgar, it is litterally impossible to have not seen them.

    Reply to this comment
    • Raulfin
      Raulfin 11 July, 2015, 23:26

      Meant as a reply to the other comment, ignore/delete this.

  6. Brandon
    #6 Brandon 18 July, 2015, 08:09

    I wasnt aware of the rumors that it would ACTUALLY show up, but I actually had a feeling since the remaster port was announced that continued to grow. However, I actually got to go to a PS E3 Experience in my area and so I wasnt able to read up on the news and rumors. So when I got to ACTUALLY experience the reveal for myself I was so incredibly hype and wanted to cry lol.

    Reply to this comment
  7. mistydolphin
    #7 mistydolphin 6 October, 2015, 22:45

    that whole port bs was a stupid move. heres what they SHOULD have done: open with the port, THEN reveal the remake immediately after. make the fans THINK your trolling them again, then the big reveal. i swear people.

    Reply to this comment
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  9. ComaAlpha
    #9 ComaAlpha 3 January, 2016, 03:16

    too long. make into a video. please.

    Reply to this comment

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