Specials: You still can't revive Aeris, damn it.
Ever since Square announced a sequel to Final Fantasy X back in 2002, many fans of the Final Fantasy franchise have wondered what other entries in the series might find themselves receiving sequels. Most sequel talk stemmed around Final Fantasy VII, the best-selling and most popular entry in the long-running RPG franchise, which released for the PlayStation way back in 1997. Thankfully for fans of Cloud and co., Square Enix is going all out with Final Fantasy VII-based releases; from movies, to cell phone games, a handheld entry, even a 3rd person shooter...and who knows, perhaps a full remake of the game that started it all. Some might call the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII overkill, and perhaps unwanted in comparison to an actual Final Fantasy VII-2 (especially given all the delays and troubles surrounding Final Fantasy XII), but SE is definitely going all out to rekindle the love that Final Fantasy VII managed to assemble, and bring in even more fans of the RPG that changed RPGs and ushered in Sony's unprecedented dominance of gaming.
Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII
Platform: Mobile | Release: TBA 2006
When Before Crisis was first announced, many of us Westerners raised an eyebrow over making the game a mere cell phone game. However, those in the know realize that mobile phones are far more advanced in Japan than in the US, so the concept of one of the Compilation games appearing on a cell phone is a bit less surprising (the same could be said for Xenosaga: Pied Piper which told much of Ziggy's story amongst other vital Xeno-world information, which too was released on cellular phones only). Before Crisis is handled in 'episodes' which you download to your phone and play through via a subscription service ? as of now the game hasn't fully ended, with 16 episodes thus far. Before Crisis lets you select from 4 generic Turks (2 male 2 female), as you battle Avalanche and other enemies of the Shinra Power & Electric Company, with the familiar Turks from FFVII. This portion of the FFVII world takes place before the events of the source material, with the 'Crisis' of course being Sephiroth's awakening and attempt to destroy the Planet. BC is more of an action game than RPG, and it lacks a lot of the depth compared to other games ? expected for a mobile phone game, but it does have HP & MP, and has some damn impressive 2.5D graphics ? stuff far more technologically advanced than anything on our cell phones. Before Crisis is slated to receive a release here in the US in 2006, though it's unknown what service it will be available on, what phones it will be compatible with or how the process of getting episodes will be handled. And who knows, perhaps Square will mold the game into a DS or PSP title for those who don't have a fancy enough phone to handle such a title.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Platform: PSP | Release: TBA 2006
Of all the Compilation titles, Crisis Core is the most secretive. Aside from it being announced for the Sony PSP, nothing else was really discussed. And other than a recent anime trailer shown behind closed doors at E3, there's still little info to go on aside from the basics. Crisis Core will let you play as Zack, the SOLDIER who Cloud Strife based his memories on after escaping the Nibelheim mansion during the Jenova Project, in an action-RPG format. Going by the Crisis Core moniker, the events of the game will be based upon the Nibelheim incidents, leading up to Cloud tossing Sephiroth into the lifestream in the Nibel mako reactor and thus the last events prior to Final Fantasy VII. It was hoped that more info would leak out during the recent Square Enix Party 2005, but such event didn't take place, so once again, Crisis Core retains its veil of mystery. The trailer led some to believe it would be some crazy cel-shaded game, but that seems doubtful given the atmosphere of the Final Fantasy VII universe. Perhaps the Tokyo Game Show in September will finally give up the goods, but don't hold your breath. However if news does leak, you'll read about it here at GT.
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
Platform: PS2 | Release: TBA 2006
Dirge of Cerberus was the first FFVII game spinoff announced, and likely the farthest along considering. Surprisingly, DoC stars a FFVII character who wasn't even a default PC ? Vincent Valentine, the ex-Turk who was 'altered' by Professor Hojo and slept in a coffin underneath the Nibelheim Mansion. In a twist, Dirge is not an RPG, but instead a 3rd person shooter with some 1st person elements and RPG-style advancement, even including some Materia stuff to add effects to Vincent's arsenal of weaponry. As Vincent was the gunner of the party, this makes sense, and the game appears to function just like a game such as Max Payne or Dead to Rights, and not Devil May Cry or God of War. DoC takes place in Midgar 2 years after the events of FFVII (making it the first actual sequel we've covered so far), and the war-torn city is inhabited by crazy mako-poisoned ex-Shinra soldiers, and Vincent needs to wipe them out before they get to him. As of now, that's all the storyline details we have, though appearances by the other FFVII characters has been confirmed. The recent Square Enix Party revealed one very juicy bit of info ? Dirge of Cerberus will feature online play through PlayOnline. Though you don't play as Vincent; instead you play as one of the insane Shinra soliders that you battle throughout most of the single player game. Like the other games, DoC is due for a 2006 release, and though the actual date is unknown, I'd expect it before at least Crisis Core. My money is on spring-summer 2006.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Platform: DVD, UMD | Release: September 2005
Though it's not a game, Advent Children is the crown jewel of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. A nearly 2-hour CG presentation, Advent Children takes place 2 years following FFVII events as well. Midgar is in the midst of a plague called Geostigma, a virus that weakens and kills, apparently due to the lifestream's eruption at the end of FFVII. At the same time, a group of silver-haired youths who fancy themselves as 'Sons of Sephiroth' begin a plot to revive the Jenova Reunion, leading Cloud Strife back into the fray. Living in Aeris's church in Sector 7, Cloud too suffers from Geostigma, and spends his time as the bodyguard of former Shinra president Rufus, also a Geostigma sufferer. After prodding from his friends, Cloud goes into action and has to save Midgar and the rest of the Planet all over again. Much of the story has been kept under wraps, but every major player from FFVII seems to be here ? some foes have become friends (such as the Turks, apparently, and Rufus), all in the name of protecting the Planet from Jenova, the Sephiroth kids, or even Sephiroth himself (a good villain is hard to keep down, after all). Even Aeris makes an appearance, though she's still dead, fanboys ? it's either flashbacks or 'dream' scenes.
Advent Children is due to release in September, in both Japan and the US, with the Japanese release due on the 8th in theatres and the 14th on both DVD (in both regular and LE form, with the LE containing enough goodies to make anyone drool, but the price is enough to make you cry) and the PSP's UMD format (of course originally it was believed AC was going to be a PSP-only UMD release), and the US release on DVD/UMD not long after that. As this is the 'real' direct follow up to FFVII's storyline, some wonder why this is being made into a CG movie, especially when it could have been made into quite a video game. While my theory of this being a glorified 2 hour trailer for Final Fantasy VII-2 might be a stretch, who really knows ? if they made a 15 minute video to entice fans into a Final Fantasy X-2 back when FFX International released, they could make a 2 hour video to entice the much larger Final Fantasy VII fanbase into a real game sequel to fully conclude the Compliation project.
What of the Final Fantasy VII PS3 Tech Demo?
At E3 last year, when Sony unveiled the first look at the PlayStation 3, one of the demos used to show off the PS3's powerful hardware was a recreated intro to Final Fantasy VII, with CG rivaling, if not outright surpassing, Advent Children. However, Square Enix has been steadfast in saying that it was merely a technical demonstration, and not any hints towards a actual remake of their most celebrated game. However, at the Square Enix Party, the very first thing shown in the Compliation of FFVII montage was indeed the very same demo of the game, making some wonder whether or not such a comment was mere bluffing or perhaps the demand for a remake was so high, they simply can't ignore doing so.
Make no mistake, Final Fantasy VII is woefully outdated ? bad translation, ugly graphics, lack of analog control, and no voice acting renders the game a bit behind the times compared to modern role-players, and such a popular game could certainly use some freshening up for a new generation of gamers who are used to these kind of things. Traditionalists might scoff, but imagine FFVII using the hardware of the PS3 ? it could be just gorgeous and really show off the original vision of the game. Who knows if it will really happen (personally I'd rather see them work on Final Fantasy XIII for PS3 instead of remaking an old game, it appears Square has stretched themselves thin enough given all the FFXII troubles), but it could be advantageous for Square to do so. Long as it's faithful to the original, it would be well received.
With all the hype surrounding the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, it will be interesting to see how everything turns out, considering the varying genres and platforms these games are coming out on. We know Square can make a good movie based upon 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (even if it bombed despite decent praise), but many of the other games in this series are from genres Square is not known for. With the legions of FFVII fans chomping at the bit for all these titles, hopefully they will turn out good and enhance, rather than tarnish, Final Fantasy VII's popularity. If that happens, it might take more than a remake or a true Final Fantasy VII-2 to win back their audience.