It’s been nearly two months since Square Enix did the impossible. Not only did it finally release the first part of Final Fantasy VII Remake, a dream project, but the game actually turned out to be remarkably good. It expertly weaponized the potent nostalgia of the iconic PS1 original, subverted expectations with surprising revelations and commentary, and generally managed to be a beautiful and modern action RPG. With the news that the game had the best-selling first month in the storied franchise’s history, cementing its place at the top of April’s NPD sales charts, it was clear that FFVIIR was also a dramatic commercial success. With all of this in mind, we’re left with one simple question in regards to Square Enix — now what?
Remake ended where most of us figured it would, with Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Barret, and Red XIII exiting the sprawling metropolis of Midgar and journeying towards the wild blue yonder. But without going into spoilers, the final act of the game managed to twist things in a way that has longtime fans of the PS1 classic champing at the bit to see where the story heads next — you know, other than the Chocobo Farm and the Midgar Zolom. While we can save story speculation for another time, the other major questions are when we’re going to see the second part of this Remake project and on what hardware it will appear.
We met Final Fantasy VII Remake at a very strange time in the lives of our consoles. Coming out on PlayStation 4 just about six months before we expect the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to hit makes it a safe bet that the next installment will at the very least be cross-gen, if not a full-on next-gen game. While I fully expect FFVIIR to be among the crop of games that receive PS5 remasters, it’ll be interesting to see if it just jumps directly to the Series X once its year-long Sony exclusivity is up in 2021.
So if that’s where we’re going to play the next part, the question remains when we’re going to play it. We know it was already in development back in November 2019, and given that Square has the foundation in place, it’s a safe bet that it’ll take less time than the first part. Although, as of March 2020, the game was still in the planning phase. Perhaps Square Enix would have shared some information or even a slight teaser trailer at E3 2020, but given how much the entire industry has been impacted by the global pandemic, it’s certainly possible that plans have been changed.
Purely speculating, I’d say that we’ll receive a next-gen remaster of the first part in 2021, with the next installment arriving at some point in 2022. Regardless, given how gorgeous the game already was on PS4, it’s certainly exciting to imagine how beautiful the world outside Midgar could be on the new hardware.
While Final Fantasy VII Remake is off to a wonderful start, the beloved franchise is more than just this one project. Final Fantasy XIV continues to be one of the most incredible turnaround stories in video game history. After a floundering launch in 2010, the game completely reinvented itself under the direction of Naoki Yoshida, delivering A Realm Reborn in 2013. The years since have been marked by a constant stream of excellent expansions and updates, including 2019’s remarkable Shadowbringers. An update later on this summer promises to streamline the base game and help new players get to the quality meat of the expansions quicker and more effectively, which should help spread the game’s tendrils even further.
But since last year, we’ve known that Yoshida has moved on from the MMO world and is spearheading a team working on a “big new project” for next-gen consoles that many think could eventually be revealed as Final Fantasy XVI. Given how successful Yoshida was with helping transform the mess of FFXIV into the massive success of A Realm Reborn, it certainly makes sense that he would be given the keys to the next major installment in the series, especially with the fact that Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata parted ways with Square Enix at the end of 2018. Having the next generation of Final Fantasy consist of the three pillars of the remainder of the VII Remake project, the continuing growth of XIV as it eventually moves onto next-gen consoles (including finally hitting Xbox), and a brand new installment in XVI headed by Yoshida sounds incredibly promising.
The other thing about Final Fantasy VII Remake’s massive success is what it could mean for the possibility of Square Enix revisiting other beloved classics going forward. We finally got Trials of Mana late last month, and Crystal Chronicles Remastered should be coming later this summer. Folks have been asking for more Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross for about as long as FFVII, and it’s a series that’s only grown in esteem over the generations.
There’s also a wealth of other lesser-known RPGs from the PS1 era that have extremely passionate fan bases like Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story, and Xenogears and would have built-in cache if Square were to announce that they’d be returning in some form. And of course, the Final Fantasy series itself is rife with potential, with the most popular entries seeming to be the SNES’s VI, the PS1’s VIII and IX, and PS2’s X.
It would be interesting to see Square Enix hand the reins over to an outside studio for one of these projects. Given the incredible success teams like Bluepoint Games has had with Shadow of the Colossus and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection on PS4, and more recently Vicarious Visions with reviving Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and soon-to-be Tony Hawk, there are certainly studios out there who’ve become experts in pulling these classic experiences forward through time. The question here is whether or not Square would be open to giving up full control on these projects, especially considering how VII Remake was initially being developed by CyberConnect2 before being moved in-house after Tetsuya Nomura expressed dissatisfaction with the work.
And it goes without saying, but Final Fantasy is just a part of Square Enix’s larger strategy. The company continues to hire folks for new Kingdom Hearts projects, so that series doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Bravely Default II is still scheduled to hit Switch later this year, and Crystal Dynamics’ long-awaited Marvel’s Avengers project is slated for a September release. And of course, Square Enix is publishing games like People Can Fly’s Outriders, Techland’s Dying Light 2, and Babylon’s Fall from PlatinumGames. And these are just some of the games we know about, let alone the unannounced projects that are earlier on in development.
After an extended period of turbulence, it looks as if Square Enix has not only managed to right the airship, but is currently on a trajectory to reach even higher altitudes. Its portfolio is vast heading into the next generation of consoles, with a healthy mix of new and old. In a way, Final Fantasy VII Remake itself exists as a microcosm of this entire philosophy. It simultaneously celebrates the company’s long and storied past, deftly navigates the current waters, and makes its way into the unknown future.