Hot rumour from Japan enticing RPG gamers over the weekend foretells of a high-budget remake of Final Fantasy VII for Nintendo’s DS portable, news that if true proves the games industry can match any soap opera for drama and twist.
The rumour began with Square Enix producer Tetsuya Nomura confirming to Japanese PlayStation 2 magazine Dengeki PS2 that Final Fantasy VII will have a significant showing at next year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo, building on the company’s comments from last year when SE promised “…polymorphic [Final Fantasy VII] content providing well-known properties on several platforms, allowing exposure of the products to as wide an audience as possible.”
Of course, this rumour stands in contradiction with established talk that a high-budget PlayStation 2 remake of Final Fantasy VII is in the works, though it could be argued that it makes far more sense for a DS version to be released.
As you may well know, Final Fantasy VII was - to put it mildly - something of a controversial PlayStation game. The RPG was originally in development for Nintendo’s new home console, a 64-Bit machine going by the name of Nintendo Ultra 64. The code was in a fairly advanced stage and Square was at the time amongst the most active of companies lobbying Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi to ditch cartridge-based media in favour of a CD-based system. Yamauchi - a stubborn man - rejected all calls to move away from the relatively secure cartridge, and in turn assured Square that any game could be accommodated, even if it meant spreading its new RPG across several cartridges. Square rejected this idea and, under constant courting from the emerging PlayStation camp, cancelled Ultra 64 Final Fantasy and announced that it would be releasing Final Fantasy VII as a PlayStation exclusive.
This news sent shockwaves through the Japanese games industry and is widely seen as a turning-point in the fortunes of the Nintendo 64. The console was by no means a failure, though it was crippled by reluctant third-party support; the angle with which Sony rose to dominance over the old guard.
And for years afterwards, Nintendo - under Yamauchi’s control - openly derided Square, with the Nintendo president always on hand with a word or ten of discouragement for his one-time ally. Then something happened. The launch of the Game Boy Advance had fans up in arms, requesting Final Fantasy and other Square RPG properties for Nintendo’s new handheld, in essence a portable SNES. Nintendo was seeing profits tail off as the Pokemon boom faded and so Yamauchi - reluctantly, we are told - allowed Nintendo to re-enter talks with Square. After the second meeting, both parties were highly positive and Yamauchi made the surprise announcement that he would chair the next meeting. Legend has it that the perceived betrayal of Nintendo by Square stood as the lowest point in Yamauchi’s career and the great man seemingly wanted to iron out the wrinkly past, with an agreement in principle being reached during that third meeting, ending more than a decade of tension between the two Japanese giants.
History lesson over, it is a fact that a considerable amount of the code which comprises Final Fantasy VII was tapped in using Ultra 64 development kits and this code can easily be ported across to Nintendo DS. A DS remake will make more financial sense and require considerably fewer resources than an enhanced PlayStation 2 remake.
As we mentioned, the videogames industry can hold a candle to any soap opera, though it must be said that Final Fantasy VII DS would even trump the murder, return and murder (again) of Dirty Den.
Speaking to SPOnG this morning, a Square Enix representative said, “Final Fantasy VII is one of the franchises that we aim to really explore using our polymorphic content principal. There has been talk of a remake for sometime now as you know. We are aiming to deliver such properties in many different ways and on many different platforms and FFVII will be the first to really show this strategy to its fullest potential.”
Expect more in the coming months.