Square Enix recently announced they had shifted the development of Final Fantasy VII Remake from CyberConnect2 to an in-house team headed by Naoki Hamaguchi, main programmer for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, and the project lead for Mobius Final Fantasy. According to Hamaguchi:
“So far, development (for FFVIIR) has been carried out mainly with the support of external partners. However, in view of factors such as improving quality when the product goes into mass production in the future, the company has decided to shift the developmental system back to within the company, so as to maintain a stable schedule and have control over factors such as quality. We will be forming a robust system within the company to properly carry out the development.”
Yeah, I’m not buying that for a second. I will never trust the Japanese wing of Square Enix with a schedule or a budget, as they have proven to be grossly incompetent in the handling of both aspects over the last decade. In fact, my faith in Square Enix is so low, the announcement that the company has taken over full developmental duties of the game has snuffed out the last of my hope for the project: Unless there’s a wild change in the company, Final Fantasy VII Remake will be Square Enix’s biggest disaster.
One of my biggest fears for Final Fantasy VII Remake is that by moving development in-house, Square Enix will try to move it to a new proprietary engine instead of Unreal Engine 4. That may sound silly, but the company has a long history of trying and utterly failing to create cutting edge, proprietary engines for their mainline games. Final Fantasy XIII and vanilla Final Fantasy XIV were both embarrassing failures of game design, mostly due to the fact the Crystal Tools engine was a dumpster fire fueled by Square Enix’s bank account. The disastrous Final Fantasy XIII series was made in a desperate attempt to try and squeeze something out of Crystal Tools before it was unceremoniously dropped, and it showed.
Instead of learning from that mistake, Square Enix doubled down on it with Luminous Studio. The result? Some pretty tech demos and a game that spent a decade lodged in development hell, and though I still made Final Fantasy XV my personal GotY for 2016, it’s still incomplete to this very day. How many games have been made on Luminous Studio? One. The only other game that was using it, Kingdom Hearts III, abandoned the engine for UE4, because Luminous Studio was trash to work with in comparison.
With Final Fantasy XV still fresh in the gaming community’s memory, Square Enix isn’t doing themselves any favors. Two years have past since Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced. Most developers would have had, at very least, a gameplay tech demo ready for the public’s eyes. Especially if the game is still going to be episodic in nature. The whole appeal of an episodic game, in theory, is to get your product into players’ hands more quickly, and yet here we are two years later, with fans being told Final Fantasy VII Remake might be out in about three years. I won’t hold my breath.
Given the past development woes of Square Enix, an episodic release of Final Fantasy VII Remake is doubly stupid. Where are you comfortable ending episode one of Remake and leaving off for another 5-10 years as Square Enix chugs along on episode two? Are you going to be happy when the game ends with that specific encounter in a certain old city? That would suck for people new to the series too: Just 10-20 years until that plot point gets wrapped up! Thanks, Square Enix!
Don’t even get me started on Tetsuya Nomura. The man has been a part of Square Enix since he joined Square to work on Final Fantasy IV as a debugger. That’s over 25 years of work at the company, and in that time he has influenced the entire video game industry with his work on Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts. Nothing I’m about to say is intended to diminish the respect I have for his past work.
That said, Nomura is clearly past his prime, and in over his head. He couldn’t handle directing Final Fantasy XV, on his watch it became a fustercluck of epic proportions. What kind of company looks at that failure and decides to triple down on it? Square Enix, obviously, because they made Nomura the director of Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy VII Remake, two of the most important titles they have left in their arsenal, at the same time.
And here we are again.
The Nomura directed Kingdom Hearts III was announced to be in development four years ago. Since being announced, there has been a change of game engine, a grand total of less than seven minutes of unique footage, and the recent statement that Kingdom Hearts III should be out within “the next three years or so.” Somehow this cartoony, BS cross-over with pre-established characters, is going to take as long as Final Fantasy XV to see a release.
Nomura’s going for the hat trick with Final Fantasy VII Remake. Two years have been pissed away, and for all we know development is restarting from scratch. Now we’ve been told that the first of the three episodes is going to release roughly five years after its announcement. Tetsuya Nomura is going to die of old age before Final Fantasy VII Remake is completed, unless the higher ups at Square Enix “Old Yeller” his position at the company first.
I’m not casting shade on Nomura because I think he’s lazy, or doesn’t care about his work. On the contrary, I think he cares too much for it, so much so that he has become the George Lucas of video games: Unable to stop screwing with something that’s perfectly fine, he’s cramming details into every orifice of the games he’s now working on, to their detriment. It’s as if the power of consoles since the PS2 has driven him mad with power, and he’s now seeing how many eccentric details he can attach to his characters, or how much flash and polish he can add to the cinematic elements, regardless of how poorly it fits in the overall composition.
I know Nomura has talent, and I honestly believe that his works, including Final Fantasy VII Remake, could be greatly improved by paying someone that can verbally, and physically if needed, tell him to stop when he gets carried away by his ambitions. Final Fantasy VII was a legendary game with a timeless story, but then he let Gakt ruin the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII with retcons and fan fiction tier writing. Kingdom Hearts was a simple romp through Disney worlds with Final Fantasy characters interspersed, but now? There’s not a human being alive that can explain that story without a wiki and several visual aids. Square Enix can’t even keep the names of these games from becoming garbled alphabet soup, they actually released a game titled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue
The saddest part is that Square Enix and Nomura are trying to do something extra special, but this is one of the few times where everyone wants more of the same, but prettier. Everybody was screaming at them to do a lazy 1-to-1 port and just focus on upgrading the visuals they fetishize so much at Square Enix, and in an effort to prove they can’t even get that right, they’re going out of their way to do something new. Nobody wants the story changed, just look at the negative response to the changes and retcons brought about by the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series. Many people don’t even want the combat changed, and to be quite honest, if it’s going to be as janky and relatively boring as Final Fantasy XV’s ARPG combat, I’d rather it stayed turn-based.
Square Enix has continuously shown they have no idea what they’re doing with their major projects. In fact, the only thing they do seem to know about Final Fantasy VII Remake is that Nomura will be making story changes that will upset fans. What’s the fucking point of the Remake if it’s not for fans? Nobody believes you can surpass Final Fantasy VII, it’s coated in a thick layer of nostalgia that puts it on a tier of its own as the first ever 3D Final Fantasy, and nobody wants you to surpass it. After 20 plus years, fans want their gaming equivalent to comfort food, and you’re fucking it up because, to carry on the food analogy, you bought new cookware and spent all day watching the Food Network.
The game fans want is being held back for the sake of what Square Enix and Nomura want, and that’s a recipe for disaster.