7 things we learned from Inside FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE

Why is Cloud Strife sometimes uncool? How did manga inspire the boss fights? We highlight some of the most interesting tidbits from the video documentary series.
By Duncan Heaney

Have you watched the Inside FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE video documentary series yet? It features interviews from many of the game’s developers, who talk about everything from how they developed the characters, to how they created the thrilling combat system.

The series is overflowing with fascinating facts and amusing anecdotes about the creation of the game. Here are just seven of the coolest things we learned:

1. The game was designed to be both new and nostalgic at the same time

The developers of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE didn’t want to create something purely for fans, or entirely for new players - they wanted both groups to be able to enjoy the game.

In fact, this was a fundamental design principle for Director Tetsuya Nomura:

I felt that there would be many fans who had played the original game, and with over 20 years having passed, there would be lots of new ones too,” he explains.

I really felt that I had to get the balance right and make something that could be enjoyed by both groups. That is what I took the most care with.

That philosophy is echoed by the rest of the team. Co-Director Naoki Hamaguchi recalls that the game couldn’t rely on nostalgia - it had to appeal to everyone, from those who played the original to those who were only vaguely aware of the likes of Cloud and Sephiroth.

As Producer Yoshinori Kitase told the team: “It should feel both new and nostalgic”.

2. The main character is intentionally uncool (sometimes)

Cloud Strife, the lead character of FINAL FANTASY VII, has undergone a few subtle changes for the remake. While his original personality remains intact, the main story and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima wanted to get much deeper into his inner psychology.

In the original, he wrote the aspiring mercenary as a composed and stylish character, but for this game, he depicted him as being more obviously fallible… and less cool.

Mr Nojima says: “This time, he can miss the mark and be a little cringe-worthy at times. Because he wants people to accept him and respect him, he puts on a front. So when he doesn’t know something, he just goes ‘Not interested.’

I have written him in a way that makes you think that ‘Not interested’ might not be a cool thing to say, but can sometimes be a bit lame.

This reason for this change? Mr Nojima explains that modern technology means that the characters look much better than back in 1997, so the characterization has to be more realistic to match that detail.

3. Boss battles were inspired by four frame manga

The spectacular boss battles in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE have multiple phases, with the behavior of the boss and even the setting changing over the course of the battle.

But did you know that the concept for this battle system was inspired by 4-frame manga in Japan. These comics carry a basic story structure in just four panels: introduction, middle part, development and conclusion.

In Episode 4, Lead Battle Designer Tomotaka Shiroichi explains how the team applied this to the boss battles in game:

Encounter the enemy and start the battle in phase 1, and show each other’s hand and the boss takes the lead in phase 2.

In phase 3, the boss shows you the signature attacks, and the players start fighting back. That’s when bosses start revealing their weaknesses. Phase 4 is the climax and introduces the next part of the storyline.

4. The composers approached each track as if it was a new piece of music

The original FINAL FANTASY VII has one of the most beloved soundtracks of any game. Recreating the legendary Nobuo Uematsu’s compositions for a new game is no easy feat.

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE’s sound team wanted to respect the original music, and they made sure to capture the melodies that people love so much and update them with new arrangements and technology.

At the same time, however, the composers weren’t beholden to the original game.

I made multiple arrangements of many of the iconic FINAL FANTASY VII music tracks,” recalls composer Mitsuto Suzuki

Some of them are very faithful to the originals, and there are other arrangements that only sound reminiscent in passing. But if you pay too much attention to the originals, then it is quite difficult to try and make something even better. For that reason, I try to be as natural as possible and approach them as if I was writing a completely new piece.

Those sentiments are shared by composer Masashi Hamauzu, who was recommended for the project by Mr. Uematsu. As he says:

I felt that the best way to honor that recommendation, was to make music as it comes to me, rather than trying to copy what Mr. Uematsu did.

Composer Masashi Hamauzu has a cool connection to the original game

Not only is Mr. Hamauzu one of the composers for FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, he was also involved in the original game - in a particularly cool way at that.

I sang in the Sephiroth chorus,” he laughs. “I think that was my first job helping out Mr. Uematsu”.

We have to say, as initial tasks go, that’s a pretty good one.

6. Cloud’s physique was inspired by ballet dancers

Ever wondered how Cloud’s able to wave around the Buster Sword so freely? That’s just one of the things the character designers had to take into account when recreating the iconic hero.

Naturally, the team used Nomura’s original illustrations as reference, but they also took reference shots from real life people to see how bone structure and muscles should work together.

Of course, there are some aspects of the game that aren’t what you’d call realistic, and to make sure that the character looked right, the team had to make sure they found the right referencing material.

Masaaki Kazeno, Character Modelling Director, explains: “Cloud wields the Buster Sword, which is a massive and very heavy weapon, and if you design the muscle structure which realistically would be needed to wield that size of weapon, he would end up becoming a much larger, more of a body builder kind of guy.

That’s completely different from the image of Cloud. Therefore, we used a lot of reference from male ballet dancers, who may often be slim but have a lot of muscle tone.

7. Translating FINAL FANTASY VII’s odder elements took some work

If you’ve played the original FINAL FANTASY VII, you’ll know that it can be a somewhat unusual game at times. For example, when running around the Shinra Building, you may encounter an enemy that looks… well, like a big blue fish.

Which should raise questions really. As Mr. Kitase himself asks in Episode 5: “Why would you have a fish shaped monster appearing in a building?

In the original, some of those more eccentric elements of the game got a pass due to the stylized presentation, but the move to more realistic visuals meant that there was a risk that they could look odd or out of place.

At the same time, these exaggerated elements are part of what give FINAL FANTASY VII its unique identity. As a result, the team spent a lot of time and effort adapting the original monster and enemy designs so that they’d fit into the new game’s style, but remain recognizable for fans of the original.

If that sounds like a challenge, apparently it was. Or as Mr. Kitase put it: “that was hard, but also great fun to do.

That was just a sliver of the fascinating facts revealed in the Inside FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE documentary series. There’s loads more to discover and it’s a must watch for anyone who’s interested in the new game.


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