FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE: Inside the Honeybee InnCo-Director Motomu Toriyama talks dance-offs, muscular massages, the problems of pole-dancing, and how he found an inspiring new take on one of the original’s most famous scenes.
Two words that will excite anyone who’s played any version of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE: Wall Market.
Cloud and Aerith’s visit to Midgar’s entertainment quarter is one of the true highlights of the game, packed with unforgettable moments from life-changing hand massages to high-stakes battles against a literal house.
But perhaps the most memorable of all is the duo’s visit to the Honeybee Inn. This glitzy cabaret is the domain of one Andrea Rhodea. owner, manager, and consummate showman, he pulls Cloud onto the stage for an incredible dance number that culminates with an incredible makeover and a powerful message of inclusion.
It’s hilarious and uplifting in equal measure, and with many players experiencing (or re-experiencing it) in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE, we thought it would be interesting to talk to the game’s co-director Motomu Toriyama to find out how - and why - it came about.
Let’s start with the obvious question: how did you come up with the idea of Cloud taking part in a dance-off?
It started when we were looking for ways to adapt Cloud’s cross-dressing scene from the original game.
This was a very famous part of FINAL FANTASY VII, so we knew from the beginning we would include it in the REMAKE. However, we hadn’t decided exactly how we would portray Cloud wearing a dress.
When we started to remake the Wall Market section, I came up with the idea to make the scene more of an extravaganza, and have it take place during a musical number on stage.
But why the dance-off?
I started with the concept of Cloud taking the spotlight and appearing before the audience of a stage show. For a show that would fit the occasion, I took inspiration from traditional Parisian cabaret and burlesque-style dance shows.
I added in the idea of a dance-off in the middle of the show. I decided that Cloud’s transformation into his dress and make-up should take place on stage, then Andrea Rhodea would take his hand, and they would dance together before striking a pose.
It’s a very different approach to the original game. Why did you make that decision?
Given how famous the cross-dressing was in the original FINAL FANTASY VII, we were aware that people would have high expectations for the remake. We knew we had to do it in a way that both lived up to those expectations, but took modern sensibilities into consideration.
For example, fans these days expect stories and dialogue in games to go beyond stereotypical depictions of gender. Through Andrea’s lines and the lyrics of the backing track, Stand Up, we tried to build in a positive and supportive message for Cloud during his cross-dressing scene.
Was it difficult to find the right words to convey that message so succinctly?
Well, actually we originally had a much longer conversation planned, but we needed to make the dialogue during the dance scene short and snappy so we had to edit it down.
In the end though, I think this left us with a stronger, more straightforward message.
Were there technical considerations too?
Yes. The original could get away with leaving Cloud’s make-up and hairstyle to the imagination, to a certain extent, due to the blocky polygons of the graphics. However, with modern graphics, you can see everything in much greater detail.
Cloud is a cool and stoic character, so we spent a lot of time making sure that his design for the cross-dressing scene would be an amusing contrast, but also dignified and beautiful.
Were there other ideas considered beyond the dancing, or was the scene envisioned this way from the start?
No, we did have a few other proposals. One idea, which was perhaps closer to some parts of the original, was that Andrea would meet Cloud in a bathhouse. Being impressed with his muscles after giving him a massage, he would decide he was a great candidate for a makeover.
But the idea of a massage overlapped with Madam M, so I decided against this option.
There were a few other ideas too, and some of these were incorporated into other rooms, separate from the main stage.
So how did you get started with actually making the Honeybee Inn show?
First, we decided the overall structure of the scene, consisting of the opening show, the three stages of the dance-off, and finally the ending scene. Alongside this, we came up with a general outline for each part and how long they would last.
After this, we started work on the music. Once that was done, we began work on the visuals and more specific details. Finally, we began work on the choreography. We gave the choreography team a general overview of what we were looking for, and the dance show began to take shape from there.
The whole scene took a long time, from the initial idea, to composing the music, taking the motion capture, and adjusting the music and motions to fit together. I was incredibly nervous until it finally all came together!
Was the music locked in from the start, or did that change during the process?
With this kind of scene, you can’t work out the details until you have the music in place, so we decided on the music first. The music was then reworked to fit with the different scenes and timings, as an ongoing process.
Initially, we worked from a general outline of the song and gradually built up from there. I remember going with the composer, Mitsuto Suzuki, to a club in Roppongi to get a better idea of what a dance show is a really like!
Who’s actually dancing? Did you bring in professionals for motion capture?
Yes - for this scene, we commissioned a team of professional dancers that create burlesque shows and choreography. They proposed changing the concept and choreography for each section of the dance-off.
We actually went through multiple recordings and corrections when making the scene.
Initially, for example, there was a pole dancing scene included, which meant that filming began on an elaborate set. We decided to take that part out due to the impact on the rating!
Why did you decide to also make this section a rhythm action game?
The minigames in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE and INTERGRADE are all about completing a specific challenge in a limited amount of time, so we took inspiration from the formats of different genres when we designed them.
Rhythm action is a popular way of representing a dance-off, so we decided to keep the input simple and easy to understand, as well as making sure that the user interface (UI) was in keeping with the visuals of the scene.
Was that difficult to make all those elements work together?
There were challenges to be sure. We decided to make the UI show the timing of the rhythm action prompts by having them fly in on light effects. This gives the scene more depth, but the camera angle shifts a lot during the dance scene, so it was difficult to show everything clearly.
People who have played the game responded very positively to the Honeybee Inn. How did you feel when you saw the reactions?
This scene is a key example of something that was changed dramatically from the original FINAL FANTASY VII. I was a bit worried about what fans of the original game would think, but the whole scene got a much more enthusiastic reception than I could ever have hoped for, so I was quite relieved.
Going forward, I'm sure some parts of the remake will differ significantly from the original. I hope this scene can be a good example of how to approach such changes.
Finally, I think I speak on behalf of a lot of fans when I say… have you considered turning this section into a full rhythm-action game?
(Laughs) It might be fun to add more songs and see more characters dancing, like Tifa and Aerith. I'm sure Red XIII would be delighted to show off his moves!
But no, we’re not working on turning it into a full rhythm game right now (laughs).
Many thanks to Mr Toriyama for taking the time to revisit Wall Market and the Honeybee Inn with us.
It was one of the highlights of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE for many fans, and in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE, it looks and plays better than ever thanks to improved lighting, enhanced textures and buttery-smooth 60FPS in Performance mode.
If you want to experience (or re-experience) if for yourselves, FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE is out now on PS5 and PC.
If you already own FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE for the PlayStation 4 (physical or digital version) and own a PlayStation 5, you can download the free FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE PlayStation 5 enhancement update (an internet connection is required to download it).
This update does not include FF7R EPISODE INTERmission. FF7R EPISODE INTERmission can be purchased separately as a digital download via the PlayStation Store.
Note: If you have purchased FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE (physical edition) for PlayStation 4, and own the PlayStation 5 digital edition (the model without a disc drive) then you are not eligible to download the upgrade.
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