Final Fantasy VII: Remake Breaking The Limits of Episodic Gaming?

Nothing sparks my passion in game narratives more than episodic game titles. From A Wolf Among Us to Life is Strange, my obsession with this genre dominates my game library and my most recent favorite games list. And, with Square Enix’s announcement that Final Fantasy VII: Remake will be released as a ‘multi-part series,’ I’m confident that what was once my favorite video game of all time will fulfill that position once again.

Like the many, many, many YouTube reaction videos, I freaked out with Final Fantasy VII: Remake’s announcement at E3 last year. Tears fell. I couldn’t speak. And nothing else seemed to matter after that announcement. As anyone in the Cohort, I couldn’t move, because the announcement moved me so much.

And then came the PlayStation Experience trailer. Opening our eyes to just how far along the development and progress of this title actually was. Impressive cinematic style scenes. Fully voice acted. Brand new and updated designs for characters. Gameplay footage, including in battle! Everything.

I mean… BIGGS, WEDGE, and JESSIE! In the flesh! In beautiful, basically-realistic style. It was surreal. Everything that I imagined when playing this game as a child realized in trailer form.

And then came the announcement of FFVII:R’s release as a ‘multi-part series.’ And the internet exploded again. However, unlike the positive rejoicing with the trailers’ releases, this explosion wasn’t so friendly.

Complaints came in at full force. About content being cut. About the total cost of the full game experience. About the length of time before the final experience was available. But most importantly, fans seemed to be pissed about the idea of the game being ‘episodic.’

I’ll admit. I was one of those fans.

The minute I heard, I was pissed. How DARE they break up Final Fantasy VII’s epic adventure! This was a game meant to be played as one whole experience! Not with cliffhangers. Not with breaks in between or changing discs or …. Wait.

It took me a few hours to suppress my rage and take a giant step back. And when I did, I realized a few key reasons why FFVII:R being turned “episodic” isn’t a terrible thing.

The game is actually full of AMAZING cliffhanger points throughout the entire narrative. From Cloud’s fall into Section 5 (literally being a cliffhanger, hahaha) to the escape of Shinra Tower… Of course, the tragic ending of Disc One…

There are a ton of awesome storytelling points that could serve as a cut off point for episodes. And that’s assuming that the game will be chopped up into shorter episodes, a la Telltale style.

It’s important to note that Square Enix has NEVER said “episodic” in their official statements. The phrase they use is “multi-part series.”

Why is this important? Well, they’ve promised us a full game experience with each part of the series. To me, this implies some sort of Xenosaga or .HACK/ style release. Or, dare I say it, Final Fantasy XIII style.

These are undeniably full game experiences, but they combine together to tell one epic story. Well, with the exception of FFXIII. And, couldn’t one argue that the original FFVII already did this by being three discs?

Yes. The game was released all at once. But, people underestimate the incredible difficulty of remaking this game. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have the game sooner and incrementally than wait another nine years after it’s announcement to even think about hearing a release date… (I’m looking at YOU, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, err… Final Fantasy XV!)

The biggest uncertainty that I can see is the overall pricing of the “full game.” However, I don’t think that the pricing will be nearly as bad as some of the memes joke about.

Even if FFVII:R is released in smaller increments, Square Enix has experience with Life is Strange. And, honestly, the pricing of that game was handled fairly. For the full season of five episodes, Life is Strange only costs about $20, even if you buy each episode individually!

Now, of course, FFVII:R will be a much bigger game than LiS, however I feel that Square Enix understands that pricing is all about keeping the full experience in mind. It’s just how must episodic games have been handled!

The exception, of course, is the ‘multi-part series’ structure. If these are released like how I believe they will be, the pricing might be a bit higher. However, we’d also be getting full game experiences in exchange for the higher prices. And, since they’ve confirmed additional content… I’m totally okay with this.

Ultimately, the more that I’ve let myself accept the idea that this remake is going to be released in chunks, the more and more that I’ve embraced it. The facts are out there that Square Enix is making this for the fans. In fact, fans of the original game are likely the ones working it on, because… who ISN’T a fan, honestly?

So, let’s take a step back and let them work their magic. One materia slot at a time.

Originally posted on The Writer’s Cohort, January 25, 2015