Now that the majority of the early adopters have finished Final Fantasy VII Remake, we’ve all shifted our gaze to the future and what the next chapters will bring. This first portion covered, in detail, all of the events that originally took place in Midgar. While it was wonderful to see a much more fleshed out design for that iconic suspended plate, it was hard not to notice areas of the game being much longer than they needed to be.
I’m not talking about the optional sidequests which, to me, seemed like a well-designed set of missions. Rather, the issue was with sections of the main story that felt like they were designed to just be lengthy and convoluted. For instance, the “shortcut” with its crane mechanics, the sewers, the train yard, and several areas toward the end of the game seemed to function more as padding than story-driving content.
These were not all necessarily bad parts of the game. They still included important narrative elements. However, they also included some uncomfortably long sections comprised of simply getting from A to B with little substance in between. I understand why these exist though. Imagine the reaction to this remake of an 80-hour game being 10 or 20 hours rather than the 30 or 40 that it is. There were fans even angry with the padded length of the game – despite the limited scope of only Midgar being known.
Developing an entire battle system and recreating the diverse variety of environments in, around, and under Midgar took a lot of time. If your visit to the trainyard was cut down to just a blip taking 10 minutes, it would be hard to justify building that rich environment and some of the unique mechanics that went with it. Making use of existing assets to flesh out a game is always going to be a popular choice in development.
Yet, justified as it may be, it didn’t help but make it feel like it was needlessly slowing down the game. RPGs that keep to a steady pace of exploring narratives and building the stories are always going to be more enjoyable than those that leave you in the same area for long periods doing busy work. The question is, whenever the next chapter begins, will this “padding” be used significantly less?
While I’m unable to answer that definitively, I do believe future installments will have less padding for several reasons. Since the battle systems, many characters, enemies, and mechanics are established, much of that will require less work from developers in those areas. This will free up development resources and time to expand on diversifying gameplay and environments.
Also, Final Fantasy VII Remake ends with the Cloud and his crew exiting Midgar. At this point in the original, the player was now free to begin exploring the overworld. This meant a ton of new enemies, environments, and interactions were on the menu. That opens up a large collection of resources from the original for the developers to adapt to interesting and varied content.
Of course, there are no guarantees. Tetsuya Nomura, the game director, is quoted saying that “I hope to release the next one ASAP” and that “If we divide it into more detailed smaller sections, then development will be faster.” So it may be the case that subsequent sections are similarly padded to justify having the game in smaller pieces. That reminds me of Half-Life 2 episodes, and we all know how that turned out…