With Final Fantasy VII Remake well into its post-launch honeymoon period, the time has come to chat with the development team and witness their reactions to all of our reactions.
While the recent Ultimania book gave us a ton of info on the actual design process, at this point Square Enix and company have had the chance to dwell on the game's impact; including this interview from VG247 with producer Yoshinori Kitase and co-director Noaki Hamaguchi.
Once again teasing a new entry that could be very far away, Kitase opens with this powder keg of a remark: "We’ve really enjoyed seeing these theories and guesses of what the ending means. We wanted the fans to keep the discussion going on social media and keep their excitement high as we head towards the next game." No spoilers here, but the ending is a huge point of contention for Remake players, and the single most polarizing part of the game (for the record, I didn't have a major problem with it: there's more to this story and there's no shame in waiting to see if they hit their mark).
Shifting gears to the endgame philosophy and what items/materia were made available, Hamaguchi notes that the team refrained "from using the ultimate magic such as Flare, but apart from that, we incorporated new ideas with an open mind, without sticking too closely to the rules of the original." That's part of the reason why they shed the materia splitting mechanic (leveling up materia to allow to it to form new items) which they felt would cheapen the strategic buildup of the game (and lessen the impact of hard mode).
Hamaguchi gets in on the "next chapter" teasing, explaining: "As this is the first game in the project, we left out the most advanced weapons and materia. However, we added in new elements to make it possible for players to enjoy the character growth cycles like in a standalone game, and I think that might explain why you felt that way."
He also says that his favorite element of the game is the chapter select feature after finishing the story. Hamaguchi seems particularly proud of this advancement, noting "it was the first time in the entire Final Fantasy series that we have done something like this, but we are pleased about the positive reaction we have seen from players since launch."
While it's a bit clunky, for the most part I'd call the chapter swap system a welcome addition that I'd like to see refined in future entries. I would have vastly preferred a postgame "explore the world at your leisure" mechanic, but if the team felt like that wasn't viable from a storytelling perspective, so be it. The Remake is structured far differently than a lot of other true open world JRPGs for narrative purposes, and some of the sacrifices to make that happen were worth it in the end.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake interview [VG247]