Redesigns Abound for Final Fantasy VII
It really does not look good for a game when an entirely new character model for its protagonist is unceremoniously dropped into the production four years into development. It is not just cloud who has received this treatment, as Biggs, Wedge, Jesse, and in all likelihood a high number of undisclosed characters have all received this treatment. Goodness knows what this means for the game’s cutscenes; character expressions will likely have to be reanimated from scratch, else risk looking like Mass Effect: Andromeda. That being said, maybe the team knew that characters would have to be redone, and postponed working on the cutscenes until the new models were safely in place.
This week the new character models were revealed behind closed doors at Square Enix’s 30th anniversary Final Fantasy event, Farewell Stories. Biggs has been described as “super handsome“, Wedge has been described as “refreshingly chubby“, Jesse has been described as “cute“. As for cloud, he is allegedly now much closer to his original 1997 design. Naoki Hamaguchi, the game’s development leader, was quoted as saying:
“while Cloud may look this way, he was a dork. I believe those of you who played the the original would understand what I mean by saying he’s a dorky character.”
A person in attendance then went on to describe Cloud’s character model to a fellow Twitter user:
“[DKHF]: Apparently in the image shown Cloud looked different from the last Remake trailer, more like he looks in Smash Bros? Does that mean his hair was less spikey or something?
[Hosagi]: I didnt think so? It was really well rendered, his features definitely looked a lot softer. But just looking at an image from both, his new real time design is definitely somewhere in between, it looks genuinely great though.
[DKHF]: That sounds good, I saw someone say his face looked softer like in Advent Children.
[Hosagi]: Yeah definitely softer, has like feminine lips and very light blue eyes.”
Kitase and Hamaguchi later went on to joke:
“[Kitase]: Next time at the FF 35th anniversary FF7 Remake will finished… right?
[Hamaguchi]: There will be more new screenshots then.”
But is it really a joke? Where is the lie, fam?
This is good news in a sense. The change in character models had to happen, else the game would turn out as an even bigger trainwreck than it already stands to be. Hamaguchi at least gets it; Cloud is a bit of a dork. He is an insecure individual who covers for his insecurity with excess bravado. In subsequent years he has been character assassinated by Advent Children, which depicted him as a mopey emo – but that was never his personality. Cloud’s initial character model for the remake looked gaunt and angular with blotchy skin, which made him look like a depressive junkie. Thus it is a good thing that character models have been changed, but who knows what this will mean for the game’s release schedule?
Bandai Namco Working On Metroid Prime 4
This week we learned of the existence of Ridge Racer 8 as a Switch exclusive title via the LinkedIn profiles of several employees of Bandai Namco Singapore. More importantly, these employees also claimed to be working on a super secret first person adventure/shooter, which got tongues wagging that this was actually the team responsible for developing Metroid Prime 4. Eurogamer later reported that they had confirmed that this was the case from multiple sources. Moreover, they later updated their story to reveal that Bandai Namco Japan were also working on the game, and planned to bring the project under their control:
“Since publication I’ve heard Bandai Namco’s Japan studio is also working on the project, with the intention it will now take the lead on its development while Singapore moves to focus on another Switch game]”
It is arguable whether or not it was fair to meet this news with concern before the update. Bandai Namco has no background in making first person games [this may be their Dirge of Cerberus], and even if they did their track record of making games for Nintendo is regarded by some as being a little hit and miss. After Eurogamer’s update however, concern is not a strong enough response to this situation.
Metroid fans should be greeting this news with alarm – a good amount of alarm, and possibly a little panic too. When a game begins its production under one developer, and then gets transferred over to another developer – that is not a good thing! It seems safe to assume that Metroid Prime 4 is in dire trouble! This might not be Bandai Namco’s Dirge of Cerberus so much as their Duke Nukem Forever!
Mass Layoffs Hit Capcom Vancouver
Sometimes the world works as it should, and mediocrity is met with consequences. This is one such case. During the early days of the seventh console generation Dead Rising gained attention as a quirky little in-house Capcom sandbox title which was not afraid to experiment with some pretty far out ideas. Capcom then farmed out the sequel to faggy hipster studio, Blue Castle Games, and the result was actually not all that bad. The sequel stuck pretty closely to the design of the original game, while broadening the games scope a little. Following this Capcom purchased the studio, renaming it to Capcom Vancouver.
As Capcom Vancouver they released Dead Rising 3 as an Xbone launch title, which was generally held to be a good game, yet lost much in the way of the franchise’s character. Then the studio released Dead Rising 4 which was a hollowed out shell, devoid of colour and joy – needless to say it sold very poorly. It would seem that this week’s happenings is Capcom Vancouver’s return on this particular investment.
The studio had been working on Dead Rising 5 set in an alternative history New York city [and was likely going to be full of self-indulgent anti-Drumpf references], but the project was over-scoped, and the team was under-staffed – and Capcom’s response to this was to cut 30% of the studio’s dead weight! That is to say that around fifty jobs were lost. It is like Capcom Vancouver is a dog, and Capcom Japan has just whacked them across the nose with a rolled up newspaper and said ‘no’! When your game releases on Xbone and PS4 and yet still fails to break 800k units sold, then you do not get to expand the next game’s scope even further! Those sales really are not enough to sustain several hundred employees.
Capcom Vancouver need to get the picture – their problems are not going to be solved by just trying to make the next game even bigger. The first game in the series is the best game in the series. The first game in the series is also the smallest game in the series. The first game in the series is the best game in the series because it is the smallest game in the series. Dead Rising 4 allowed players to revisit the mall location from the first game, but rather than the nostalgia trip the team obviously intended, this instead resulted in players lampooning the new game due to the fact that the graphics were much worse than the original Xbox 360 title. The smaller scope meant that the original Dead Rising team were able to polish its graphics until everything looked nice and refined, by contrast Dead Rising 4 was all rough edges, which does not look good for a game when it is running on much more powerful hardware.
Either this week’s round of layoffs will prompt Capcom Vancouver to engage in some introspection, and to ultimately revise Dead Rising 5 around a more focused concept – or this might just be heralding the beginning of their end. Regardless, it seems really unfair that they be given all these second chances when Clover Studios was thrown to the wolves [pun intended] after only ever making fantastic games!
By the way, happy Xenogears day!
Xenogears is twenty years old today. Twenty years ago to this day JRPG fans would have been able to run to the end of the world in order to pick themselves up a copy of the game’s Japanese release. Time is truly a river…