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Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Release date, Xbox rumors and everything else we know

The march to Midgar begins.

Square Enix
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Cloud in Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

Square Enix

When I think of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I think of its announcement at E3 2015. I remember watching it at my desk, quickly spiralling into hysterics as it became evident the onscreen trailer was for a Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It was a big day. It wasn't just me who was excited, many more were losing it. Now, we're within a year of the enigmatic game hitting store shelves.

After over a decade of anticipation and then years of secrecy, Square Enix showed the world a whole lot of Final Fantasy 7 Remake at E3 back in June. We know a lot, including the part one release date (March 3, 2020) and how the combat system will work, but there's still a lot we don't know. When the second part of the game will be released, or even how many instalments there will be, still eludes us.

If you're catching up from complete ignorance, here's a quick summary:

  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a multi-part game. The instalments will be released separately.
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake part one hits the PlayStation 4 on March 3, 2020.
  • The first part will take place entirely in Midgar.
  • The new combat system combines real-time and turn-based elements.
  • The game will be significantly different from the original, including story points.

If you've never played the original or weren't around at the time of its 1997 release, you may be asking...

What's the deal with Final Fantasy 7? 

Final Fantasy is the most famous RPG franchise ever, and Final Fantasy 7 is the most famous Final Fantasy game ever. It's sold 11 million units, according to creator Square Enix, making it the highest-selling game in the franchise. For reference, 2016's Final Fantasy 15, which was a huge success, stands at around 8.4 million shipped.

Final Fantasy was also a smash hit among critics, holding a 9.2 rating on Metacritic. GameSpot, our sister site, gave it a 9.5 upon release.

It may seem crazy looking at it now, but Final Fantasy 7 was a technological masterclass in 1997. Cinematic cutscenes were modelled in full-motion video, and the blocky 3D models moved around in pre-rendered environments that blew minds at the time.

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You see this? These graphics were mind blowing.

Square Enix

Then there's the story. In the beginning, the bad guy is Shinra Corporation, an electricity company that mines Mako, the Lifestream of the planet, slowly corroding the world in the process. They have their own military force, SOLDIER, of which Cloud Strife is a former member. Cloud begins the game as a mercenary, hired by Barrett, head of the Midgar-based AVALANCHE eco-terrorist group, for a mission to blow up a set of Mako reactors.  

Once we're introduced to Sephiroth, though, everything changes. Sephiroth is a bad dude. He's also a former SOLDIER member, the most elite fighter to ever join the force's ranks, but was presumed dead until he resurfaces. Once he rocks up, the game becomes a hunt for Sephiroth, world's baddest man and one of gaming's most iconic villains. 

Combine an illustrious cast of heroes, like Vincent, Tifa and Aerith, with an expansive world and a deep battle system, and it becomes easy to understand why Final Fantasy 7 has had such an enduring legacy.

One last plot note: If you haven't played the original, do not read up on its story. You'll have one of gaming's most famous moments spoiled.

Why do people want a remake?

People have had a thirst for a Final Fantasy 7 Remake thanks to the efforts of Square Enix itself. The company teamed up with Sony in 2005 to give fans a huge tease. At E3, when Sony was unveiling its PlayStation 3 for the first time, this "technical demo" was shown:

Those bastards showed us what Final Fantasy's intro would look like on the PlayStation 3 when they had no intention of pulling through. Imagine George Lucas shooting a trailer for a Star Wars: A New Hope remake, flush with 2019-level cinematics and cinematography, but saying that it was only a demo and that no actual release was planed. That's how Final Fantasy buffs felt for 10 years. Teased and unloved -- until E3 2015.

What should I play before Remake?

If you haven't played the original Final Fantasy 7 yet, at this point, it's best to just wait until Remake hits on March 3, 2020.

Although, there are a bunch of other Final Fantasy 7 spin-offs out there. These include Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy 7, as well as a film, Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children.

You can skip almost all of these. Dirge of Cerberus was a poorly-received game set after the original, and it follows Vincent, one of the two secret characters in Final Fantasy 7. Advent Children is cool, as far as video game movies go, but it's also set after the original game, so it won't make much sense.

That said, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 was a fantastic game. It's a prequel, following Zack Fair, who was Cloud's mentor in SOLDIER. Playing it won't spoil much of Final Fantasy 7's story, so it's absolutely worth doing. The downside? It's only available on PSP, so you'll need one of those lying around.

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Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 was great, but it's only playable on PSP. Other Final Fantasy 7 spin-off titles aren't worth fussing over.

Square Enix

No need to wait your turn

The remake will be drastically different to the original. That's immediately evident in the combat: While Final Fantasy 7 was completely turn based, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a real-time action game with turn based elements. 

Pressing the Square button will make Cloud swing his buster sword, and there will be similar real-time commands for dodging and blocking. As you battle enemies, your Action Time Bar (ATB) builds up. Once full, you can slow the action down to Tactical Mode, essentially bullet time, from which you can cast magic, use items or unleash Limit Breaks. 

However, it was also noted that players who prefer faster-paced combat can eschew this by assigning shortcuts to these actions on a menu at the bottom left on the screen, which makes the action more Kingdom Hearts-esque.

You'll be able to control more than just Cloud, though. With a press of a button you can switch to controlling other party members, with Square Enix showing off both Barrett and Tifa at E3. It seems like this is where some strategy will come in, as it was noted by Square Enix that certain characters are better to control to fight certain enemies, like Barrett against long-distance foes. 

Check a demo on the combat below.

The action is from the first segment of the game, where Cloud and Barrett attempt to destroy a Mako reactor. The combat looks similar to how it did in the reveal trailer all those years ago, but menus have been updated and character designs tweaked. (Cloud has been hitting the gym, apparently.)

New era, new story

In another significant structural change from the original, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is to be segmented in at least two instalments. In 2015, producer Yoshinori Kitase said the game would be broken into "multiple" instalments, each of which will be the size of Final Fantasy 13. It appears those parts might be even bigger than that: Part one, releasing March 2, 2020, will span two Blu-ray discs, Kitase said at E3.

There's no word on when the second part will launch, and Square Enix says they're still considering how many instalments the story will be told over. There's some speculation, based on comments from Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda, that subsequent parts could be released on both PlayStation 4 and 5

It sounds like the team is recreating the hell out of this game, as Director Tetsuya Nomura and Kitase, in the few interviews they've done, make reference to its immense scale. Another clear theme: The duo aren't interested in a straight remake. The changes they're making aren't just to the combat, or to the vastness of the world, but to the story as well.

"I don't want the remake to end as something solely nostalgic. I want to get the fans of the original version excited," Kitase said to Dengaki, translated by Gematsu. "We'll be making adjustments to the story with this thought in mind."

Nomura added to this, enigmatically saying, "I hope that [fans of the original] can be surprised once again."

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What about Xbox One?

In early July, Xbox Germany advertised a March 3, 2020 release date for an Xbox One version of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Prior to that, it was thought that the game was exclusive to PlayStation 4. Unfortunately for Xbox One owners, it looks like it still is. 

"As previously announced, Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be released for the PlayStation 4 on March 3, 2020," the Square Enix representative would say in a statement. "We have no plans for other platforms." 

A member of Xbox Germany's marketing team tweeted: "We did an internal mistake in the Social Team. We took the video off immediately. Sorry, no announcement on our side. Big apologies for this."

It's certainly possible that there's an Xbox version yet to be announced, but it's also very possible that this was just a mistake.