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Final Fantasy VII Remake: Everything we know in the lead up to E3 2019

And why we're probably about to find out a lot more at E3.

Square Enix

When I think of Final Fantasy VII 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 VII Remake. It was a big day.

It wasn't just me who was excited, many more were losing it. Now, four years later, E3 is once again upon us, and Final Fantasy VII Remake is once again expected to make a presence.

Square Enix hasn't explicitly confirmed the game will be at the convention. But the company just released a brand-new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake which ended with a brief teaser: "More to come in June." E3, of course, takes place from June 12 to 14 in Los Angeles, California. 

So the ever elusive Remake indeed seems poised to appear at the convention. But 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 VII? 

Final Fantasy is the most famous RPG franchise ever, and Final Fantasy VII 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 XV, which was a huge success, stands at around 7 million in sales.

The game 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 VII 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.

ff7-battle-3-scale-800-700

You see this? These graphics were mind blowing.

Square Enix

Then there's the story. Final Fantasy VII follows Cloud Strife, a member of the feared SOLDIER group. He's joined by a ragtag group of memorable characters, including Tifa, Vincent and Barrett, and is eventually set on a course to meet Sephiroth, who's since become one of gaming's most iconic villains.

Combine an illustrious cast of heroes and villains with an expansive world and a deep battle system and it becomes easy to understand why Final Fantasy VII 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 VII 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, at least.

What should I play before Remake?

If you haven't played the original Final Fantasy VII yet, at this point, it's best to just wait until Remake hits. We don't know when exactly that will be, but hey, you've made it this far right?

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

crisis-core-902x507

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

Square Enix

What do we know about Final Fantasy VII Remake?

Not heaps. And what we do know just begs more questions.

First and foremost, we know the remake will be drastically different to the original. That's immediately evident in the combat: While Final Fantasy VII was completely turn based, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a real-time action game. You won't have to go through menu systems to swing your sword, you'll just swing it. Complicating things further, in an interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu translated by Gematsu, director Tetsuya Nomura said the game wouldn't be quite as real-time as Kingdom Hearts.

So how this real-time-but-not-completely-real-time combat system will work, we do not know. Square Enix released a new trailer in May, at Sony's State of Play event, showing off Remake's gameplay for the first time in years. You can see a snippet of the combat below:

The trailer shows gameplay from the first segment of the game, namely Cloud and Barrett's mission to destroy a Shinra Corp. 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.) It also gave us our first look at Aerith and Sephiroth.

In another significant structural change from the original, Final Fantasy VII Remake is to be released in multiple installments, each of which will be the size of Final Fantasy XIII, according to producer Yoshinori Kitase. Kitase, in the same interview, said the game the company's creating is just too big to play in one installment.

It sounds like the team is recreating the hell out of this game, as 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, again 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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Release date?

Anyone who's into Square Enix RPGs knows that the company doesn't exactly rush games out the door. Slow and steady is certainly Square Enix's modus operandi; recall the 10-year development of Final Fantasy XV and the 13-year gap between Kingdom Hearts II and III. 

So it's no surprise that we've seen so little of Final Fantasy VII Remake despite it being announced four whole years ago. But there is reason to have hope for a sooner-rather-than-later release.  When a new trailer for the game was shown in May, Nomura, via Final Fantasy's account, tweeted: "Most of the plans are already in place in the run up to launch, so please bear with us a little longer until we can release more information next month."

That launch is either referring to the actual release of the game or extensive revelations of its mechanics and a release date. We'll almost certainly find out at E3. 

As mentioned, the game will be released in installments. If there will be a gap between each installment and if so how long those gaps will be are unknown.

In theory, Sony wouldn't want Square Enix taking too long. The remake is being developed for the PlayStation 4, and there are rumors that the PlayStation 5 will be announced and released in 2020. You would imagine Sony would want the game out when selling PlayStation 4s is still a top priority. Then again, Square Enix dances to the beat of its own release-cycle drum.

It's the remake season

Final Fantasy VII Remake is gaming's most famous remake, even if it's not even out yet, but it's not the only one. In the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation, HD remasters were all the rage. God of War, Kingdom Hearts and Okami, all popular PlayStation 2 games, were among those that benefited from a HD touchup. But since then, many developers have gone for full-blown remakes, and have stuck the landing.

The two that come to mind are Shadows of the Colossus and Resident Evil 2. The former, released last year, was universally praised upon release, scoring a 9/10 at GameSpot for its stunning technical reconstruction of such an artistically imaginative world. Meanwhile, Capcom's remake of Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield's escape from Racoon City enraptured fans, and the game shipped over 4 million copies since its February launch.

These two games proved that remakes can be as magical as fans hoped. That's a good omen going into the Final Fantasy VII Remake.