Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania Interview With Tetsuya Nomura | English Translation | FF7 Remake

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This is an English translation of an interview with the developers of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Read on for insight into the development of Final Fantasy VII Remake from Director Tetsuya Nomura, Producer Yoshinori Kitase, and Scenario Writer Kazushige Nojima!

All Ultimania Interviews
Origins, Story Changes and Mysteries: Tetsuya Nomura Building the Game and Going Beyond Midgar: Motomu Toriyama

Origins of the Remake

Started As the 5th Entry in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII

When did work start on the FFVII Remake project?

Yoshinori Kitase: To tell the truth, the remake has been in the works for quite some time now.
Tetusya Nomura: As we continued to develop the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, we had planned to continue it with a remake, but with only me working on it at the time and being was busy with other project, we silently shelved it.

What brought you to pick the project back up again?

Kitase: The 25th anniversary of Final Fantasy got me thinking about FF's and my own future and wondering if we were to actually remake Final Fantasy VII and see it through to the end, when would we need to start to make it in time. In an unrelated event, while Shinji Hashimoto (Final Fantasy's Brand Manager), Nomura, and I were talking, I asked them about resuming production. Hashimoto had previously said he wanted to improve the original's graphics with those from Advent Children, and after some talks we started working.

In the beginning the game was being worked on externally, right?

Kitase: We had internal staff working on it as well, but the majority of our staff who had experience working on Final Fantasy games were busy with other projects so we got started with more outside help. But in order to retain the quality FF is known for, I felt that it was better to have the majority of production done by more experienced staff so we started shifting development internally.

The Remake Project is planned to be released in multiple parts, when did you decide that part 1 would end leaving Midgar?

Kitase: We had actually already decided that when development began. We were already working under the assumption that we would fully realize Midgar, a widely recognized symbol of the game, but we also had to factor in the amount of time it would take to create the foundational features like the battle system and assets that will be integral for future installments so we had to dedicate ourselves to that.

Also, escaping Midgar is a turning point in the game so systems related to the world and level design would increase, whic lead us to making this decision. While there were many worried about the length of the game with the releases split into parts, I didn't think there would be a problem. I watch plenty of gameplay videos myself so I was fully aware that it takes only roughly 7 hours to escape Midgar in the original. With the switch to 3D movement, the amount of information as well as time it takes to traverse the map will inevitably increase, and knowing that we would be adding more to the story as well I assumed that the length of the game would be just fine.

Kazushige Nojima: And we really couldn't think of a better place to end it.

Nomura: Like Kitase said, when leaving Midgar and stepping out onto the World Map, the level design changes a lot. With how we've split up the game, even with adding in new things, there'd be a higher chance of us ending things poorly. With that in mind, there was no other choice but to end part 1 at Midgar. We had plenty of requests to add more to part 1 or make it all into one game, but looking at the quality of the game we released I'm hoping they can understand that this was the right decision.

Kitase: It looks like instead of releasing the game all at once and splitting it up with Midgar as the stopping point for part 1 we were really able to realize the Remake Project, doesn't it.

Why “Final Fantasy VII Remake”?

What Are the Two Reasons “Remake” is in the Title...?

Were you working with the external team at the start, Nojima?

Nojima: Yeah I was. In the beginning it was me working on the main scenario of the game while the external staff was in charge of sub-scenarios. When we moved development internally and Motomu Toriyama (Co-director) joined with his scenario team, I handed in what we had to be rewritten and from there started moving towards the final product.

Kitase: With Toriyama on board we started applying the scenario to the game itself and continued rewrites to guarantee consistency.

How detailed was your scenario?

Nojima: I wrote quite a bit. I was obsessed with getting the characters right so I had to fix things a lot. With Toriyama's scenario team we had plenty of corrections and making sure the dialogue was good for voicing so I'm honestly not sure how much of what I wrote at the beginning is still in the game.

Kitase: The main story is still what Nojima wrote, we just ironed out some of the less important details.

It's a little strange for a remake to just have “remake” in the title, what led you to make this decision?

Nomura: It was me who chose the title and I had two reasons for that, the first being that I wanted to ease the fans doubts. When we show off our first trailer and fans realize it's Final Fantasy VII, I believe they might be confused if it's a remake, a remaster, or a movie and get a little worried. When we actually showed off our first trailer at E3 2015, we had a lot more people thinking “Are they making a movie?” than we expected. So I felt including “Remake” in the title would help them understand better. The other reason is my true intentions behind adding “Remake” to the title, but unfortunately I can't explain that quite yet. Maybe I can talk about it in a few years (laughs).

The meteor in the logo is now made of metal, what made you change it?

Nomura: I actually wanted to use the logo from the game for the E3 trailer, but when we were making it the logo for the remake hadn't been completed yet. All I knew is that I wanted to match the atmosphere and already had the idea to make it metallic so I let the trailer staff know and they made it for me. That logo ended up being used in the final game as well. Also, the logo in the E3 2015 trailer actually didn't have the Final Fantasy logo on it either, so it was just the meteor and the word “REMAKE”. This was because I had always wanted to just have the meteor logo. Back before the original came out the advertising producer at the time had actually suggested we only use the logo for the game case. He said “Even without the title, everyone will probably know this is Final Fantasy VII,” and while he isn't employed at Square Enix now, I'd always wanted to do it.

Something Only Yoshinori Kitase Knows About the Remake

kitase thumb.jpg Producer
Yoshinori Kitase
Works FFV, FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII, FFX, FFXII, FF Type-0, Mobius FF, Sigma Harmonics

Kitase: Naoki Hamaguchi, one of the co-directors, told me “we don't have enough people” so I ended up being in charge of finishing the designs for the Sector 5 Mako Reactor, President Shinra's office and the building roof, and Midgar Highway. On the roof we have the scene where President Shinra is cornered by Sephiroth but I put more emphasis on the tempo and ended things quickly.

Changes in Style and Scenario

With a More Realistic Style, They Wanted to Develop the Characters Further

What sorts of things were you most particular over in regards to development of the remake?

Kitase: In the original, life was supposedly better due in part to Mako, but we focused on the slums a lot and you don't get to see how the people above the plates are truly prospering. For the remake I really wanted to emphasize this so in the opening movie I added things like streets with cars coming and going or kids riding bikes. On the other side of this, partway through the movie it transitions into a darker scene that shows the darker side to using Mako. I also wanted to show the top of a plate like where Jessie's parents live so we added that as well.

Nomura: For me, I wanted to leave as much of the original in as possible. Like with battles, we chose to bring back as much as we could from the ATB to materia, limit breaks, and so on. Things that made the original what it was. When it comes down to it, though, this was for the fans of the original, so we also had to keep new players in mind. In order to satisfy players of the original and those who would be playing for the first time, we took things from the original and revamped them for the modern day in the hopes that we could find a common ground with prior fans. Even with character designs, with the originals being over 20 years old at this point, a bit of a facelift would be acceptable, but if we went and flattened Cloud's hairstyle that would be pretty weird. Trying to find that balance was difficult.

Nojima: When writing the scenario, with the way graphics have improved since the original, I focused on more deeply developing the characters in the game. For example, in the original there were only a few buildings within the Slums, but in the remake we added a lot of houses and the city feels lived in. I thought to myself, “I really want to show the people living here.” Each member of Avalance was delved into further as well, I intended to explore their backgrounds, like why are they doing what they do?

Like how you revealed that Jessie was formerly an actress at the Golden Saucer.

Nojima: I wanted to make Jessie's words and actions a little more theatrical, so we planned to add an episode in where her past was like this, and her family is currently in this situation, and so on.

Kitase: Around the mid-point of development, all of the previous sub-scenarios were put in with the main story and then we added and cut as we went. There was even a sub-scenario for the Turks at one point.

Nojima: Right, “what are the Turks up to right now...” or stories related to characters from the Compilation. There was also one where Tifa gets help from Marle to pick a dress to infiltrate Don Corneo's mansion.

Kitase: It was a chapter after Cloud falls from the Sector 5 Reactor about what Tifa was doing and how she got into the chocobo carriage that we had in the game until the latter half of development but due to issues with the schedule we had to cut it.

Something Only Tetsuya Nomura Knows About the Remake

nomura thumb.jpg Director and Concept Designer
Tetsuya Nomura
Works FFVII, FFVII Advent Children, FFVIII, FFX, FFXII, FF Type-0, Kingdom Hearts Series

Nomura: At the start, I was thinking about changing Cloud's original design a little bit. I put him in a long sleeve shirt and tamed his hair a little bit but it started to look less and less like Cloud so without showing anyone I kept going with a design closer to the original.

Developing the Characters

Pretending to be an Adult - “Lame Cloud”

While playing, I felt Aerith's lines had the biggest impact.

Nojima: Aerith's the most important character in the remake so we paid special attention to her lines. I wrote her under the presumption that her words were were likely filled with hints of what's to come.

Especially during the resolution scene in Chapter 14 where she says “But whatever happens, you can't fall in love with me. Even if you think you have... It's not real.” Those who are familiar with the original will understand the weight behind her words.

Nojima: Honestly I got a lot of pushback for putting that line in. Apparently some of the staff thought she might seem like she's looking down on Cloud. If we work under the assumption that Aerith knows the future then it's a powerful line, but if not then the meaning changes completely. I thought the contrast there was pretty interesting. On those same lines, I recall watching the same scene but with Tifa instead and thinking Cloud was pretty lame. Cloud and Tifa are about the same age, but Cloud is missing 5 years of his life and lacks life experience so he probably hasn't quite matured yet. I wanted to show how Cloud, who has the mind of a 16-year-old, would try and behave like the rest of the group who are in their 20s. Cloud learned from seeing the way Barret comforted Tifa after the Sector VII Plate fell but ends up mucking it up. I wanted to show that kind of side of Cloud.

Nomura: In a similar fashion, we made it so that the way Cloud talks is dependent on who he's talking to. While talking to Aerith he stands taller and tries to act cool, with Tifa he acts more like himself, and with Jessie you can see his annoyance. Specifically with Aerith he overthinks things and ends up acting a little strange.

Nojima: Cloud really can't find the right distance with Aerith (laughs). When it comes to Jessie you can tell he's flustered so she takes advantage of that and keeps going.

Nomura: The thing is when editing the voices we found that at the start Jessie comes on stronger than we thought and worried she might be seen as too persistent. To offset that, every time Jessie flirted with Cloud, she'd end it with something like “Psyche!” to show it's just for fun and she's really a charming character.

Changes in the Story: A Different Course?

Why Unexpected Events Were Put in the Remake

For the story in the remake, while new events were added in, the general outline remained the same as the original but part of the way through I was surprised when realized there was more to it than meets the eye.

Nomura: You betcha (laughs).

Nojima: I'm positive I got players to think “How is this going to play out?”

How did the story develop like this?

Nomura: When I first approached Nojima to write the scenario I told him I wanted to do it in this way. Going from there, the plan was to go beyond just a remake. The battle system may use things like ATB from the original, but now everything is in real time. I wanted do something like this with the story as well; at its core it's Final Fantasy VII but new.

Nojima: Personally I wanted to focus on Cloud but also include things introduced with the Compilation. Those who played the original may feel like we've created an entirely new world with the remake and I wanted to place importance on that. That's how I came up with the story. I couldn't come up with any other ideas besides this so when I first showed it to Nomura I had to explain everything to ensure he didn't say no (laughs).

Following the story, the next major scene should be the flashback in Kalm, right?

Nomura: Our first objective was to avoid that kind of foreshadowing while in Midgar.

Nojima: Just enough that players realized something was different.

Nomura: In the ending you see Biggs for a moment and we assumed players would think “Wait, what's going on?” What ended up happening is the staff working on the videos would add in things here in there where they could. Everytime I'd find something I'd tell them “Nope,” and take them out but there were so many that some of them ended up staying in.

Nojima: I think I put in 2 or 3 when writing the scenario... Not sure what ended up happening to them (laughs).

Compared to the original Sephiroth appears a lot more as well.

Nojima: When we started we didn't intend for him to show up as much as he does, as our initial goal was to just hint at his existence, but midway through development we changed things around to have him appear more often so we added more scenes.

Nomura: At one point Naoki Hamaguchi (Co-director) came to me in a strange way and said he wanted to talk. He said “I want to have a fight with Sephiroth in Midgar,” but because Sephiroth's first true appearance in the original is in a different location I thought players might not be too happy. Apparently he had prepared things to convince me but I just said “Sure” and went with it (laughs).

Something Only Kazushige Nojima Knows About the Remake

nojima thumb.jpg Story and Scenario Writer
Kazushige Nojima
Works FFVII, FFVII Advent Children, FFVIII, FFX, FFXII, Mobius FF, Dragon's Dogma Online

Nojima: After we announced the remake, every time I'd go into the office people I recognized from other teams would ask me how things were going on our end. I thought maybe they were testing to see if I would honor the non-disclosure agreement or not and started becoming suspicious of everyone (laughs).

Mysteries, Part 2 and Future Parts

Things the Game Has Yet to Explain

If it's alright I'd like to ask a few questions about things left unexplained...

Everyone: ...

Nomura: Well we still have a few parts left so I don't think I can answer much?

In that case you can just answer what you can. First, and this was depicted in the original as well, what is Aerith looking at in the opening movie?

Nomura: I feel like someone said she was trying to get warm back when we were working on the original...

Kitase: I don't think that's it (laughs). Kinda like staring at the sparks of an open fire, she could be staring at the light of the Mako.

After that, in the remake Aerith notices something and starts running. Why is that?

Nojima: She sensed the Whispers presence and ran away. It's possible that up until that point Aerith had already had some bad experiences with them.

Aerith also seems to know things about the future or that she hasn't heard of, why?

Nomura: ...Why indeed. You'll have to wait for future releases for this one.

At the end of Midgar Highway when the party attempts to follow Sephiroth, what does Aerith mean by “This is the point of no return. Destiny's crossroads.”?

Nojima: Once they cross over they'll be in the Whisperer's domain, or in other words, a place where fate doesn't exist, so that kind of crossroads.

After the final boss, what does the conversation between Sephiroth and Cloud mean?

Nojima: That should be taken as-is. That conversation has actually been around since pretty early on but we hadn't decided where to put it.

In the ending, Zack being alive changes things a lot, what made you do it?

Nomura: That would be the climax of all the mysteries we planned for part 1 (laughs).

Nojima: You also get a good look at Stamp.

Yeah, he looked different in that scene.

Nojima: Oh, did he? (laughs)

Was Stamp in the game from the beginning?

Nojima: Yeah. When we finalized the story for the remake we decided to use Stamp as a symbol. In the world of the remake, Stamp is a popular character that everybody knows and Avalanche uses him as a way to send secret messages.

Nomura: I actually was in charge of the design of the Stamp Avalanche uses. I normally wouldn't go this far, but I felt like he would become an important character, so I drew his character sheet myself.

At the end of the story was there a deeper meaning when Aerith says “I miss it. The steel sky.”?

Nomura: The sky sort of symbolizes sadness for Aerith. Zack and her mother were both taken away to the sky, the sky above the slums is covered by Shinra, and the calamity that destroyed the Ancients, Jenova, also came from the sky. Knowing all of that, Aerith prefers the artificial steel sky.

And then the words “The Unknown Journey Will Continue” appear before the credits roll.

Nomura: At the beginning we actually had something different, but due to a variety of factors we changed it. Kitase came to me and said “I'd like to use words that connect to what comes after the ending,“ and I too wanted to add a little more meaning to it, so we went with what you see now. When you think about the meaning it may seem a bit out of place, but we accounted for that.

They Don't Want To Remove Content From the Original Players Want to See

With part 1, players expectations for future parts are pretty high. Have you decided how many parts you want to have?

Kitase: We have a good idea of how we want to do it but no concrete decisions have been made yet so we can't make any announcements at this time.

Everyone seems to believe there will ultimately be 3 parts.

Kitase: We haven't confirmed anything about how many parts there will be, so I think it's just rumors spreading.

We're also curious about when the next part will be announced.

Nomura: That also is dependent on how many parts we decided to make. Large parts will take longer while smaller parts could be released sooner.

Kitase: That being said, in order to maintain the quality and volume established with this release, it wouldn't be realistic for an announcement in, say, a year's time.

Nomura: Personally I would like to release the games quicker to make things easier... The fans likely feel this way as well (laughs).

Building upon part 1, is it possible that subsequent parts will stray further away from the original's story?

Kitase: I've talked with Nomura about this quite a bit. There are a lot of locations and scenes that fans of the original are looking forward to seeing in the remake so I'd like to avoid removing them. So for the following parts we have no plans of making something completely new and continue with FFVII staying FFVII.

Nojima: When writing the story I, for the most part, followed the story of the original with changes here and there. Personally I'd like to try and add some cities and locations that debuted in Crisis Core as well.

Finally, is there anything you'd like to say to fans of the game?

Nojima: I'd imagine everyone is enjoying the game, but I'd like them to remember the parts that had them thinking “What's going on?” Their questions should be answered in future installments.

Nomura: We're remaking a game that was incredibly popular so our attention to detail before release is high and we hear a lot from the fans. However, our staff took on this massive undertaking without hesitation and if everyone likes what we put out I'll be incredibly happy. Being able to form the base of the remake with this game was a huge task. I hope everyone is looking forward to the next release. The only thing I'd like to avoid, though, is for people to say that there's no reason to play the original with the remake out. They are, for all intents and purposes, two separate things. So I'd like if people who played the remake would go on to play the original as well.

Kitase: I believe we were able to show what direction we're taking the remake in with this release. With hints we included throughout the game, players should be able to begin speculating about how the next installment will go and be excited for the future. We hear the reactions on the internet as well so taking that feedback into account I'd like it if we could work alongside the fans to create future releases.

(This interview was conducted at Square Enix on March 19th, 2020)

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2 Anonymous3 months

I must admit he did a fantastic job with the game nicely done don't let anyone else tell you otherwise the voice acting the music the emotions the missions it is one of the best Final Fantasy James that played in a very long time it was comedy those tragedy the music was beautiful I look forward to the sequel thank you for the amazing game

1 Anonymous8 months

Thanks for this, been waiting for a translation!! Lol I knew Nomura had something up his sleeve when he tacked on Remake to the title

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