As we already know from the PSX 2015, Final Fantasy VII Remake will be split up into multiple parts. Final Fantasy VII producer Yoshinori Kitase published a message on Square Enix Blog yesterday as to what the reasons behind this are.

The message itself reads as follows:

For many years, people around the world have asked me “Will you ever remake Final Fantasy VII?” For many years I gave the same answers and on a personal level, having made the original Final Fantasy VII, did I really want to spend so many years making the same game again?

With Final Fantasy VII Remake, we have the opportunity to go beyond the story, world and experience of Final Fantasy VII in ways we’ve always dreamed of - from the depths of Midgar to the skies above the Planet. The multi-part format enables us to expand the original story and turn it into an epic experience for fans and new gamers alike.

This past weekend at PlayStation Experience we were thrilled to present more of Final Fantasy VII Remake. It was great to see so much excitement when we surprised everyone with the first gameplay footage and it was a treat for us to show that development is going well, and further along than perhaps many had realised. Just like when we revealed the announcement trailer at E3 earlier this year, we like surprising you.

One thing that we wanted to be clear about during this weekend to accompany the new trailer was the scale of this project. We wanted to tell you this now and not in the future so that you’d share our vision for what we want to deliver.

The biggest reason why we haven’t done a remake until now is because it’s a massive undertaking to reconstruct Final Fantasy VII from the ground up with the current technology. Producing a proper HD remake of Final Fantasy VII that maintains the same feeling of density of the original would result in a volume of content that couldn’t possibly fit into one instalment.

We’ve seen everyone’s comments and reactions to the news that Final Fantasy VII Remake will be a multi-part series and many have speculated correctly as to the reason why we have made this decision. If we were to try to fit everything from the original into one remake instalment, we would have to cut various parts and create a condensed version of Final Fantasy VII. We knew none of you would have wanted that.

I hope that by explaining a little more about our design decisions that you can appreciate the size of this project and what we have planned for this remake. Going beyond the scale and depth of the world, narrative and gameplay from the original to deliver something that feels familiar yet new. As I said before, we like delivering surprises. :)

See you all soon and Happy Holidays! - Yoshinori Kitase

First of all, with the E3 teaser, I had some hope, that they were secretly working on it for some time already and had more than just a pre-rendered teaser, that they didn’t want to show, yet. But the announcement from the previous year, made it difficult to believe, that they have been working on it. So now seeing how far the development of Final Fantasy VII Remake really is, is actually really great and exciting. So Kitase archived his stated goal to surprise, at least for me. And an episodic release Makes it even more likely, that we will get our hands on the remake very soon.

But the statement, that “it’s a massive undertaking to reconstruct Final Fantasy VII from the ground up with the current technology”, raises somewhat of a controversy. And in the core of this article, I wanted to write about that here today. The said “controversy” is that people are pointing at western developers like Bethesda or CD Projekt Red, who actually manage to produce big triple A RPGs with hundreds of hours of gameplay and a graphical density, that represents today’s technology quite well. So, rhetorically speaking, why can’t Square Enix do it? Have Japanese developers lost their edge?

Before answering that for yourselves, let me tell you this: A 200+ hour western RPG like The Witcher 3 has a script of roughly 450.000 words, which, without a doubt in my mind, is breathtaking if you consider, that most of it is voiced. But with roughly 600.000 words, Final Fantasy VII’s script plays in an entirely different league, placing it very far up in the list of longest video game scripts, which is mostly covered with Japanese games, to begin with. The first few places are all visual novels with over a million words, followed by RPGs, where Final Fantasy VII is very far up and more visual novels. To have a comparison: a very thick novel has roughly 100.000 words, all three Lord of the Rings volumes have 473.000 words combined. Only a few RPGs have more words than Final Fantasy VII and only the translation one of them almost drove a video game writer into suicide. But he “only” had to translate the text, not remake the whole game completely with state-of-the-art technology, 3D-cutscenes, post-processing effects, new polygon models, voice acting, animations and lip-synchronizations and all this fancy stuff you expect of a modern game today.

That is the kind of dimension, that Yoshinori Kitase tries to describe in his statement.

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If you also take into account, how the script of a Final Fantasy was typically represented up to, let’s say, Final Fantasy X, you will understand, that generic cut-scenes, as they are represented in western RPGs, won’t do. I don’t mean the word “generic” in a negative way. Talking-sequences, as they were introduced in Mass Effect and are presented in most modern western games, these days, are a genius achievement. You create the camera views with cinematic post-processing once, let the engine do the lip-synch works and can reuse that for hundreds of dialogues throughout the game. And it looks good, intriguing and creates at least a TV-like quality of scenes, which isn’t bad in today’s standards. But that’s not what JRPG fans want. JRPG fans, or fans of Japanese games in general are spoiled by all-handcrafted sequences or gameplay designs for a particular scene in the game as they were always present in the Final Fantasy series. Next to the story focus, the art design and the music, that is what we fans of those games love so much about them. But at the same time, it is what dooms the Japanese game industry into some incompatibility with modern technology.

In other words: No, I don’t think that Japanese developers have lost their edge or something like that. Western RPGs are barely comparable to JRPGs. The comparison is unfair and totally loses the point.