Last week, Square Enix reiterated once again that despite the long radio silence, Final Fantasy 7 Remake will still be released in multiple games. That leaves a question: how do you divide the story of FF7?
As we proved last week, we’re quite fond of hyper cheesy Final Fantasy speculation here on VG247 – so I thought I’d have a hard time parsing some of the various options to split Final Fantasy’s sprawling story Fantasy 7 in a multi-part version. Needless to say if you are new to the game this article contains spoilers for all of the original Final Fantasy 7, compensation. If you want to get into the clean remake, don’t read on.
The decision to split FF7 was surely a difficult one, but one can easily see why it might be necessary. It’s a massive game but also paradoxically not as long as its scope suggests. You can totally beat the original in under thirty hours, while the vast majority of content should be well under sixty. But it also burns up expansive and therefore expensive locations and assets with reckless abandon. It’s a product of 1997, when a random idea like a quirky enemy could just be thrown around on a whim, but in 2019 such an aside has significant costs associated with it.
So Square Enix has an enigma. Recreating FF7 without deleting much of the original game would be prohibitively expensive. Cutting lots and slaughtering the game would be worse. So splitting it seems like the natural solution – and it’s the one they choose.
“It will essentially be a large-scale game for every part of the multi-part series,” FF7 Remake producer Yoshinori Kitase told Game Informer in 2016. Kitase goes on to suggest that fans should look to Final Fantasy 13, which had two sequels, to get an idea of what to expect. Based on those comments, a trilogy seems likely.
“If we just look at each of these parts, one part should be on par with the scale of a Final Fantasy 13 game,” he said.
This is not a risk free solution. The original FF7 generally has a steady pace, and splitting the narrative could easily damage it. The narrative as-is probably isn’t enough to fill two or three games of FF13 length either – so new storylines would have to be added throughout. There is also a commercial risk, of course: each piece will be expensive, but the FF13 series has seen a significant drop in sales with each subsequent entry.
Let’s be honest: it will be incredibly easy for them to screw things up. For a crash course in how splitting a story up in weird ways can wreck it, look no further than The Hobbit movies and Lindsay Ellis’ excellent YouTube essay on how it all went wrong. . But assuming all of these issues are properly resolved, what’s the best way to break up the original story? Fans have ideas.
Splitting Meteor: Fan theories on how to turn FF7 into multiple games
It’s not like this particular speech is all that new. Final Fantasy fans have been debating and predicting exactly the structure of FF7 Remake since its initial announcement in 2015. Over the years, I’ve seen a few theories rise to the top as the most recurring ones:
- The game will be divided according to PS1 discs. This seems to be the first breakdown that many think of, but when looked at more closely, it doesn’t quite match up. Yes, FF7 on PS1 is three discs and it looks like the remake might come in three games, but the discs don’t really fit into a three act structure. Also, the final disc is indeed worn – it contains a lot of side content and the game’s final dungeon, partly because the ten-minute ending of FMV takes up so much of the PS1’s disc space. The third disc would not work as a standalone game without being altered very significantly.
- The first part is probably just Midgar. I agree with this one, by the way, and the fact that all the footage shown from the game so far is from Midgar seems to support this theory. Midgar is by far the densest area in the world of FF7 and could easily be expanded considerably – and already has been in some spin-off material. Against this theory, it’s the bit of FF7 Midgar that actually represents. Despite being huge geographically, it’s really only about five or six hours of gameplay.
- The game will be split in two: the first continent, and everything after. It’s an interesting proposition, and almost feels like a twist on the idea of the first Midgar-only game. After leaving Midgar, there’s a short tour of the surroundings – a Chocobo farm, a mini-dungeon, a few towns, and a larger town. The suggestion here is that the first part of FF7 Remake would end with the party setting off on a freighter for the first time to another continent, a journey that culminates in a first encounter with the evil alien Jenova. This theory holds some water, as content-wise it’s probably exactly around a third of the point in FF7 – but the Jenova encounter isn’t the strongest ending and the rest of the game gives the felt like it would be too much to fit into one sequel.
The VG247 theory: how to split the remake
The above are all good theories. But neither is exactly how I would structure the remake if I was in charge. If Square Enix is convinced that they have to break FF7 to remake it, I think for better or for worse, three parts is the way to go. At this point, FF7’s fairly traditional three-act structure should be used to decide where each game begins and ends.
The narrative should guide the decision to take a break before the next game, as it is essential to preserve the rhythm of FF7 as much as possible. If you use the original FF7 structure, here’s what I think you get:
Part One: Midgar (and beyond?)
As mentioned earlier, Midgar is huge and much of it remains unexplored. In the original game, we see a good deal of life “under the plate”, in the slums, but we never really explore the opulent lifestyle of the city above, except during the chaos of an AVALANCHE mission. We see a lot more above the plate elements in other FF7 spin-offs, making this an area ripe for expansion. Suspiciously, the 2015 trailer for the FF7 remake appears to show Cloud wandering around urban areas that seem distinctly above the plate as shown in Crisis Core – areas not featured in the original game. .
It would be easy to see these opening chapters of FF7 expanded simply by having more of Midgar open to explore, touring the city, and tackling additional AVALANCHE Missions quests. Midgar is home to the majority of the world’s population, so it makes sense that it’s huge.
Midgar who makes up the first part is also a natural in the narrative: he’s heavy on exposition and has his own sort of villain who is ultimately defeated at the end as your attention turns to Sephiroth. It culminates in a thrilling setting in the ShinRa Tower breakout and ends in an excellent cliffhanger overlooking a wide-open world in front of you, with the stark realization that everything has changed.
As one of the theories above indicates, however, this installment could easily go a little further in the narrative. After leaving Midgar, there is a short series of detours before departing for a new continent, in pursuit of Sephiroth. These could easily be included in the game instead of reaching its climax aboard the freighter, but I think that makes for a less appealing cliffhanger and opener to part two.
Part Two: Flashbacks and Darkness
Generally speaking, the traditional structure of the story accepts that the middle chapter is the darkest. The obvious contemporary example of this is The Empire Strikes Back, and FF7’s structure perfectly complements a trilogy that fits that.
After finishing with the Escape from Midgar, I would consider a second game opening cold in the Nibelheim flashback sequence. A young, inexperienced Cloud is on his first mission (a perfect opportunity to provide players with refresher tutorials), and it’s also a first real introduction to Sephiroth. This flashback also sets the group’s mission for the rest of the game.
From there I would continue the game as on PS1, expanded in places, reaching its climax step by step. this death but instead just as Cloud hands Sephiroth the Black Materia before vanishing. Here’s the end of your “dark central chapter”: you’ve been shaken by loss, and now the protagonist is gone and the villain has the maguffin that can be used to destroy the world.
Third part: an open world
This ending for a second game also gives you one hell of an opening for a third game: Tifa (or Cid, but who chose him?) is suddenly the protagonist and the stakes are higher than ever. Tifa is also new to leading the party, which is another great chance for an in-universe, contextual tutorial. Additionally, most of FF7 so far has been a road trip, linearly heading from place to place in pursuit of Sephiroth. At this point, the game can open: indeed, if Square Enix wanted to, it could save a possible open world map for this entry.
This third part works for many reasons, but mainly because it saves shine for the final chapter, including a victory lap in Midgar, WEAPON raids, and the final truth of what happened. spent in Nibelheim, which will probably be this time around. include additional details established in Crisis Core.
Anyway. That’s how I’d share it – but, FF fans, how would you? And how is Square Enix doing? Hopefully, we’ll get a hint in June, when the game will be shown in more detail.