It’s been just over two weeks since we returned to Midgar in the glorious first chapter of Final Fantasy 7. Since becoming an absolute staple in gaming after its 1997 release, this FF7 remake strikes a remarkable balance between old and new, and in large part that’s due to a man by the name of Yoshinori Kitase.
A gaming industry legend, Yoshinori Kitase directed the original Final Fantasy 7, and while he passed the directorial reigns for the remake to fellow gaming icon Tetsuya Nomura, the guy behind Kingdom Hearts, he still played a major role as a producer. And it shows. Now that we’ve had the time to play through the expanded Midgar section—and take stock of just how massive this Final Fantasy 7 episodic release will be by the end—it’s plain to see how seriously Kitase and the team took the opportunity that was uniquely theirs, to recreate the game they had made two decades ago with technology and tools that were incomprehensible at the time.
That process began, according to Kitase, with the team identifying “key points, such as memorable scenes that have remained in the minds of our fans” that could not be erased in the remake. “Remake features lots of these key points, including materia and summons, all the way down to ‘cross-dressing Cloud,'” he said in an email to Esquire. “By making sure we were very thorough and took great care in depicting these elements, I believe we were able to make these feel very modern and timeless so they will meet the expectations of fans new and old. There are quite a few members on the development team who were fans of the original, including co-director Naoki Hamaguchi, so they took on the challenge to recreate these with the utmost respect.”
And of those pillars from the original, Kitase said it was the fan-favorite scene that sees Cloud going undercover as a woman that he and the team were particularly excited to revisit, not one of the large battles or emotional flashbacks as we might have assumed. With how far the world has progressed in the last 20 years, including the scene in the remake could have easily been disrespectful, handled improperly. But, “members of the staff poured their all into recreating and reimagining this scene,” Kitase said. “In the 23 years from the original launch, society’s values have changed significantly, so we tried to preserve the humor of the original, but we approached the encounter and outcome so that the depiction is now more natural and respectful for all.”
Final Fantasy as a whole is one of the most influential series in gaming. What Super Mario is to platformers, Mortal Kombat is to fighting games, and Tetris is to puzzlers, Final Fantasy has been to JRPGs. Final Fantasy 7 in particular was one of the titles that established the video game style in the West, making RPGs one of the largest and highest-selling genres around the world. To Kitase, its influence comes down to story, both the game’s and that of its creators.
“A creative piece typically reflects the creators’ upbringing, living environment, educational environment, their sense of religion, etc., and takes shape by passing those elements through a filter—whether it be fantasy, science fiction, or anything else,” he said. “As such, we try not to be particularly conscious of others, but instead concentrate on being ourselves; doing so adds that exceptional and unique individuality in the shape of the characters, the lore, the visual presentation, color palettes, etc. that makes this franchise so different from others (especially compared to Western titles).”
“I think these elements are very meaningful to bringing more diversity to the games industry,” he continued.
Final Fantasy and other series with distinct individuality give us an immersive experience tied to other cultures. And while gaming has a ways to go on being both inclusive and progressive, it is able to bring other cultures’ storytelling and gameplay styles to a world stage for millions of players. Final Fantasy 7 shows the industry how a remake can continue to highlight improvement and refinement while still having heart.