Watch: Johnny plays Final Fantasy 7 while Aoife sits and judges

We all have that game, don’t we? The one that, while yes, the years have shown you that other games may have done it differently and better, and that while – eesh did those textures always look like that? – some elements may not have been as polished or as groundbreaking as you remember them, your fondness is tied to more than just the mechanics or even the characters. I know we have a tendency to overhype or overexaggerate just how brilliant/influential a game FF7 was, but I’ll always regard it as a favourite because of summer evenings spent huddled up against the TV screen, conferring with friends over rumours of secret characters and items, getting midi themes stuck in a loop in my head for weeks on end.

So yeah, I’m a little bit protective when Johnny comes along, never having played more than an hour of a Final Fantasy game in his life, to give it a try. He took my incoherent gushing over a 20 year old JRPG very much in his stride, but I am disappointed that we didn’t get very far. It’s interesting seeing the game again through new eyes though, even if it makes me even more nervous as to how the remake will turn out.

I’d be quite keen to do a full Let’s Play of Final Fantasy 7 as the Remake’s launch approaches, so hopefully, time permitting, that’s something we can have a think about doing. Until then, what are your thoughts on how Square Enix and Tetsuya Nomura can make the FF7 remake a success?

Finishing Final Fantasy

Hajime Tabata was forced to own mistakes early into his career. A few weeks after the game designer joined Tecmo in the late 1980s, Yoshihito Kakihara, the company’s eccentric founder, called his employees into his office. Kakihara was furious. The reviews of the studio’s most recent Famicom game, Rygar, were in and, they weren’t good. The developers had neglected to include a save system, so reviewers had complained they’d had to leave their consoles on overnight in order to preserve their progress. Rygar had been in development while Tabata was still in college, yet h, along with every other Tecmo employee was ordered to visit the headquarters of each of the major Japanese video game retailers. On arrival, Kakihara explained, the staff must fall to their knees and issue an apology, followed by an assurance that their next game would be much, much better. It was, as Tabata puts it today, “harsh.”

The indignity also provided preparation for his directorship of Final Fantasy 15, a multi-million pound production that, across its slurred decade of development, has been beset with problems, many of which Tabata inherited from his predecessor. In August this year Tabata, doing his best to mute his irrepressible grin, sat in front of a camera and recorded a message in which he apologised to fans and retailers for yet another delay for the game, which will now launch in December. Delays like these may infuriate consumers, but they have more tangible consequences for that constellation of businesses that buttress the launch of a major game — the advertisers, the retailers and so on. For Tabata, humility, rather than braggadocio is the preferred posture in blockbuster video game development, where the stakes are often high enough to dash a business that missteps, and where team morale can, over the endless months of toil, be sapped and spoiled.

A month after he made his apology, I visit Tabata and his team, who together occupy an entire floor at the company’s glass-encased office in Shinjuku. There’s a marathon-closing atmosphere in the studio, whose staff seem weary yet emboldened by proximity to their goal. “When you’ve worked for so long on something like this, the thought of launching with something that’s in any way unfinished is terrible,” says Tomohiro Hasegawa, an art director who has worked on the game since the earliest days, when it was directed by Tetsuya Nomura. “While we’ve had to apologise unreservedly to retailers for messing up their plans, we’ve been so thankful for the extra weeks.”