Final Fantasy VII Remake Revisited Chapter 15: The Day Midgar Stood Still

We’re taking a deep dive into the fifteenth 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, the development team behind Final Fantasy VII Remake have graciously agreed to dive deeper into the game than ever before.

We've been revisiting their thoughts, memories, and anecdotes from the creation of the game. Check out the first and most recent chapters here:

If you've yet to play Final Fantasy VII Remake, go and play it now, and if you read on...

...please beware of spoilers.

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

In the original FFVII, there’s the jumping to the swinging wire moment (I failed so many times!) – were you tempted to try to bring that across to the new game like you did the reactor switches, squats etc?

In Chapter 15 the party use wire guns to climb up on the wreckage, but this idea actually came from a homage to the swinging wire in the original game.

We decided that it would make for a better result having something that could be used to traverse the dungeon throughout the chapter, rather than just as a one-off gimmick where you have to watch for the correct timing like it was in the original.

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

Cloud using a grapple gun

As soon as this chapter starts, there is one ruined building that collapses as Cloud and the team pass by it. With the overall shock at the dire state the town is in and how naturally it collapses, players are likely to pass straight on by, but this seems like a scene that a lot of care and attention went into. Could you explain how this scene was put together, including the more technical aspects?

The collapsing buildings were created for us by a separate team of simulation specialists, after which we spent time tweaking them.

This did not involve moving each piece of rubble individually, and we actually only moved the top part of a single pre-destroyed model, which allowed us to depict large scale destruction with fairly light processing.

Takako Miyake (Environment Director)

There's a lot of aerial combat in this chapter, which must have been very difficult to implement for melee characters like Cloud and Tifa. Looking back on FFVII Remake and aerial combat as a whole, is there anything that the team might do differently if given another chance to develop the battle system?

This was something we were very torn about. We wanted to make it so that players who were not particularly skilled at action games could still fight fairly easily, but I think that there were possibly some issues left unaddressed here.

I would like to re-work the system overall so that perhaps characters could always choose to fight in the air to a certain degree, like Yuffie can.

Teruki Endo (Battle Director)

In the original FFVII, the Valkyrie is fought slightly later in the game. Why was this boss battle brought forward and how early in development was this decided?

In Mr. Nojima's original script, the Valkyrie actually appeared in the Shinra Building like it did in the original game, but we were a little concerned that there were too many repeated boss fights in the Shinra Building, which affected the tempo of the area, so we had it altered to be the boss of Chapter 15 instead. Another big factor was how this area sees the player moving over a cross-section of the fallen plate, so having a boss that could fly fitted in well here.

The change was made during the script creation phase, so it was comparatively early in the overall development process.

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

The "Fires of Resistance" track that plays throughout this chapter is a real delight. How was this composed? Were the team given an outline of what's to happen during this chapter (and perhaps even shown early versions of the game running?) to decide how to create this dynamic, ever-changing, piece of music?

In Chapter 15 there is a feeling of despair after the great catastrophe that has just occurred, with the party in a heavy, sombre mood.

When I started work on “Fires of Resistance”, I wanted to make it a track that reflected the emotions of Cloud and his comrades at this point in the story but doing that was actually quite tricky to pull off. It was definitely a competitor for the track that took the most toil and effort for me to complete out of the whole game. I actually finished a whole other version of the track, which was abandoned during development, so the version that everyone hears in the game is actually “Fires of Resistance 2.0” (laughs).

I started work on the original version of the track by asking myself what kind of music would help me shake off the misery if I had come face to face with a tragic event or some kind of great disaster. The result of that approach was a track that had a curiously high energy to mask and break away from my feelings of sadness (a kind of empty bravado).Musically it was bold and reckless, with a fast tempo and an irregular metre, and to top it off, I did it in a Celtic style!

Basically, it had become a heaped down musical smorgasbord of a battle music track and had a sound that had not been seen in FFVII Remake before. I felt that this could be an interesting direction and rode out the momentum to also go on and do a version for exploration sections as well. However, when I took a step back and thought about it objectively, I realised that this was probably not the kind of energy that the scene has, and so I shelved the original attempt (laughs).

To put it simply, I tried throwing a curveball to get a bit of a unique reaction, but it just wound up falling flat (laughs).

For the second version of “Flames of Resistance” I brought a little more emotional restraint back to the process and unlike the first attempt where I had tried to mask the sadness, I faced it head on in the composition. I set out to keep the heavy and oppressive atmosphere of FFVII Remake from a sound perspective too, and the track settled into its current form. The way that the rhythm shifts from 4 beats to 5 beats then to 3 and back to 5 again is probably a leftover from the first version.

For FFVII Remake, I was immensely grateful that the composers were able to see detailed play videos of the chapters we were working on before production, that lasted between several minutes and several hours. On top of that, we also had the opportunity to play work in progress prototype builds, so it was easy to work out what kind of music was needed and what the most effective way to have it played would be before we moved on to putting together the actual composition.

It was also great fun and very rewarding being able to make proposals about the music direction based on the gameplay, such as where it might be good to play a variant of the current BGM etc.

Talking specifically about Chapter 15, I had originally thought to do this section with one battle music track and two exploration area tracks, but I felt that changing the music to be somewhat darker in the gloomy section in the middle would help add to the feeling of exhilaration when climbing the face of the collapsed plate and the feeling of liberation when looking down from the top later on. So, I proposed having that darker version as well.

In the end I created five different versions of the same composition for the plate cross-section area (excluding the boss and cut scenes) and the system switches between them dynamically based on the current gameplay.

FFVII Remake uses this kind of subtle music shifting throughout the whole game to enhance the experience, so I would recommend that players pay extra attention to the music to enjoy it even more during their second playthrough on Hard Mode!

Shotaro Shima (Globe Enterbrainz)

It is a very small detail, but I noticed how in the scene where the team cross the steel girder bridge, there is a small stone right in the centre of the bridge to add a feeling of height and danger. Which section of the development team makes the decisions to add small details like that (e.g. is it the scenario team, the backgrounds team or the level designers) or is it more of a collaborative effort with all the teams getting together and discussing it?

There are many times when ideas like this come up during the debates at our checking meetings. Unfortunately I cannot remember the exact conversations that were had, but the small stone could well have been something born from those discussions.

Takako Miyake (Environment Director)

The shot of Cloud, Tifa and Barret looking out over the destroyed Shinra Building was used often in the marketing campaign for the game - was this a scene that the team spent a long time on perfecting? How did it change during the course of development?

As this is the first time that the player will look out over the ruined cityscape, their emotional reaction will be strong here, so we focused all our efforts on making the backdrop as beautiful as possible.

With the need to depict a wide area of the city, it took some time creating the required resources, but we had solidly fixed down the concept in the planning stages, so we were able to get on with developing the scene without getting lost. The construction of the backdrop and the post-effects were both very important here, so we were helped greatly by the backdrop and lighting teams too.

Hidekazu Miyake (Cutscene Director)

The scene where Cloud, Tifa and Barret are looking out over the destroyed Shinra building at sunset really brings together the power of the distant vista, the lighting effects (lens flare etc.) and the smoke rising from the ruins etc.

What challenges were there on the VFX side when creating this scene?

As this is a defining and memorable scene from the game, we were careful in how we showed the lens flare effect here.

A lens flare moves in tandem with the camera movement, so we re-worked the point where the sunset crosses the characters position many times. The rising smoke and other effects were used to create a feeling of stillness and lingering tragedy.

Shintaro Takai (Graphics & VFX Director)

The battle with the Valkyrie is part of a huge set-piece that takes place over a few floors, how was this battle devised from concept planning right the way through to final development and implementation?

We started from the concept of creating a unique situation that involved combining the scene progression and battles with the crumbling, high-altitude terrain here.

We planned out the Valkyrie's abilities and the size of the area it is fought in to give the player the experience of starting on a narrow platform and the battle area gradually changing to trap them in a difficult corner that they then have to break out from.

Teruki Endo (Battle Director)

In this chapter we move into evening time and the lighting also adjusts to the colours of sunset, with a beautiful crimson sky. Were there any particular places or seasons you used for reference here?

Because you can also see the exposed Sector 7 slums in the distance after the plate collapse, the tones we chose for the sky in this scene were intended to give it a slight melancholy feel too, rather than just being beautiful. It is rare to find these kinds of colours in a normal sunset, so we used images of the evening sky after a typhoon had hit for reference.

Iichiro Yamaguchi (Lighting Director)

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this 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 Chapter 16 next week!

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is available on PS5, Steam and Epic Games Store while Final Fantasy VII Remake is available on PS4.

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