Final Fantasy VII Remake Revisited Chapter 1: The Destruction of Mako Reactor 1

We’re taking a deep dive into the first chapter of Final Fantasy VII Remake with the wonderful development team who brought the game to life!
By Sunil Godhania

This year is Final Fantasy VII’s 25th Anniversary - and the celebrations have begun!

As part of the ongoing festivities taking place this year, the development team behind Final Fantasy VII Remake have graciously agreed to dive deeper into the game than ever before.

They’ve answered all our questions about RPG, from queries about characters, storyline and world design through to the secrets of the combat system. Plus a few silly questions thrown in too!

Over the coming months we’ll be revisiting their thoughts, memories, and anecdotes from the development of Final Fantasy VII Remake, starting with the very first chapter of the game: the iconic bombing mission.

If you have yet to play Final Fantasy VII Remake, go and play it now!

Please beware of spoilers.

With that warning out of the way, let’s mosey…

Who designed the posters and vending machines featured throughout the train station and why were these designs chosen? Were there any designs which were cut from the final release of the game? If so, why?

I designed these together with several other designers. Some of the posters look like they were intended to spread the influence of the Shinra company in public spaces, and there are also some more generic ones.

We put a number of unique FF references and Shinra promotion into the products being advertised to enhance immersion in the world of the game. That said, there were some designs that were rejected because they were too similar to advertising slogans used by real world companies.

Mizushi Sugawara (Environment Artwork)

A close look at posters in Chapter 1 of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE

How were the information boards constructed? Does a timetable for all trains in Midgar exist, or were these created specifically for this one scene?

These timetables were created specifically for the very modern-day looking Sector One Station.

We struggled a fair bit when designing them, despite the fact that they are not really related to how the game plays out. We started with the time that the last train would leave and then worked back to what the monitor would show at the time the scene takes place.

When considering what kind of gap there would be between trains, we knew it was a service in a major city, but also considered that the majority of passengers using it would be Mako Reactor staff.

If we managed to put together a full timetable for all the trains in Midgar then I reckon we could all become railway employees for real!

Mizushi Sugawara (Environment Artwork)

Cloud with his sword drawn facing Shinra security. A timetable is above him.

Even in this early part of the game, the script is already far more detailed than the original Final Fantasy VII. How was the original script used in the creation of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and how much did it need to be adapted?

The role that the script plays in a game has changed a lot in the time between when we made the original and the remake.

At the time of the original Final Fantasy VII, all a script needed to do was to convey the initial story of the game, but nowadays it is also used as a script for the motion capture and voice recordings with actors who don’t know a lot about the game. It also needs to contain a lot more detail about the backdrops and locations that don’t exist yet, so everyone on the extended development team are all working towards the same image.

As the design work progresses, we also need to add in additional notes about the characters’ emotional states or the nature of the situation at the time.

When we were putting together the script for Final Fantasy VII Remake, we did play through the original game and watch play videos for reference, but we didn’t often refer to the original script directly. Instead, we put a lot of emphasis on the feelings and impressions that we got from a particular scene when we played the original and would enhance those moments in the new dramatization.

Motomu Toriyama (Co-Director(Scenario Design))

Papers and stationary on a desk

As Cloud switches to Punisher Mode it looks as though he takes up a stance similar to how Sephiroth fights in the original FFVII, is this intentional? If so, is this something he learnt from his time in SOLDIER or him imitating his (ex-) hero?

We didn’t specifically set out to imply a detail like that - we just wanted something that would clearly look different from Cloud's regular stance to get across the fact that he has changed attack modes!

We collaborated with the motion designers to find a ready position that would look good and flow easily into blocks and attacks, while also fitting with Cloud's personality. The fact that it is a logical stance to take may well have resulted in it resembling Sephiroth's style in the end.

Teruki Endo (Battle Director)

Cloud activating Punisher Mode against Shinra security

The lifts/elevators that the team take to get to the reactor core look far cleaner than the versions from the original game, why were these given a complete overhaul?

One of the important themes we set for the remake was to depict the everyday lives of the people in Midgar, so there were some things we changed to give a better idea of their presence.

For Mako Reactor One, we reimagined it as still deteriorating, but maintained quite frequently.

The intention here was to create the impression that the reactor staff might have been using the same elevator until moments ago, and thus give the player the idea that the people of Midgar are closely involved with Mako energy in their lives.

Takako Miyake (Environment Director)

Barret pointing at Cloud while inside an elevator

The laser beam mini-game was added to Final Fantasy VII Remake from the original game. Was this designed from the ground-up for FFVII Remake or was it an idea that was intended for FFVII that couldn’t be added at the time?

This wasn’t something that was concepted for the original Final Fantasy VII. We needed to include tutorials for the various different gameplay features in chapter 1 and used the lasers as a way to explain the dash controls and introduce Jessie's personality at the same time, all tied together as part of the experience of infiltrating the mako reactor.

Naoki Hamaguchi (Co-Director – Game Design / Programming)

Cloud standing near an active laser grid

We love Jessie’s reaction to the laser beam mini-game and in general how carefree and relaxed she is about the whole mission. Why isn’t she tense like Cloud and Barret are?

Jessie has always had a laid-back and easy-going personality, and one side of that is how she does things to ease the tension of the other members in the group.

It's not just Jessie - the other members of Avalanche also have a somewhat casual, “student protest” kind of approach to taking down Shinra and protecting the planet. Jessie and the team did not imagine that they would cause such extensive damage with their first bombing mission at Reactor One, so they fell right into Shinra’s trap!

Later on, they are tricked into inflicting major casualties on Sector Eight and the surrounding area. From then onwards Avalanche gradually takes on a more serious mood.

Motomu Toriyama (Co-Director(Scenario Design))

Jessie talking to Cloud while infiltrating Mako Reactor 1

Why is there a choice for the bomb timer detonation timer? Does this impact anything in the game?

Having the player set the timer to increase the feeling of urgency during the escape section after defeating the Scorpion Sentinel was the essence of why this was added. The effect of this choice on the game is to add more to the reward Jessie gives you in Chapter 2.

Also, not having the timer count down during the Scorpion Sentinel fight like it did in the original FFVII was because we felt that it gave a lot of stress to players who were not used to the battle system yet. So we decided it should start after the battle finished instead.

Naoki Hamaguchi (Co-Director – Game Design / Programming)

Screenshot showing the countdown timer in Mako Reactor 1

How were all the Scorpion Sentinel’s attacks thought up and created? Some are based on the Guard Scorpion from Final Fantasy VII, but the new attacks and even the way it moves and jumps around are certainly new to Final Fantasy VII Remake.

It goes without saying that we wanted to respect the movements the boss had in the original game, so we used as many of those as we could. However, Remake switches the gameplay to real time action, so there were also a lot of things that we could not capture if we just stuck to the moves it originally had.

Even though it is an action game, if we went for a system that relied purely on players’ reflexes, it would raise the barrier to entry for people who do not usually play many action games. Thus, we tried to make it so that the advantages and disadvantages from where you stand became important and allow players to think strategically about how to approach the fight over a comparatively long timespan.

The result of looking at the battle from that perspective was that we searched for motions we could use based on an awareness of the Scorpion Sentinel’s character. We wanted to clearly communicate things like: where is the player is from the Sentinel’s perspective? Is that the right place to stand or the right distance away? Does that position poses a danger or not?

Teruki Endo (Battle Director)

The Scorpian Sentinel boss in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE

Is Barret strong enough to wield Cloud’s Buster Sword with one hand?

Barret’s biceps are clearly massive when you see them in game. As an easy-to-understand comparison, the surface area of a cross section of Barret’s upper arm is around four times larger than Cloud’s.

If you extrapolate this difference in terms of simple physical strength, then yes, Barret does look like he could lift and chop with the Buster Sword in one hand.

However, that is a very different thing to asking if he could wield it as a weapon. If we assume that the Buster Sword is made from iron then it would be a gigantic sword that weighs around 40kg and there would be many factors required to actually wield it effectively, other than just brawn.

Basically, this shows just how amazing Cloud is for being able to use it so elegantly!

Masaaki Kazeno (Character Modeling Director)

Cloud and Barret look at each other

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this first chapter of Final Fantasy VII Remake Revisited and are looking forward to learning more from behind the scenes of the game over the coming months.

Make sure you share this article with your friends on social media and we hope you’re looking forward to the next chapter…

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is available on PS5 and PC, while Final Fantasy VII Remake is available on PS4.

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