It remains to be seen if 2024’s game calendar can live up to 2023, which was one of the best years in gaming in a long time, but it sure is giving it the old college try. Not only has the year since high reviews and major releases such as Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth and Persona 3 Reload, but one of the most anticipated of the year is on the horizon. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth‘s release date is slowly creeping closer, and fans have been eager for it ever since FF7 Remake made it clear that things are a-changing.
That puts Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth in a unique position. Not only is it a remake of one of the biggest classics in the industry, but it must live up to those expectations and those set by Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It means key scenes may change or they may not, and fans have been debating key moments, characterizations, and so forth ever since they rolled credits on Final Fantasy 7 Remake. As such, Game Rant asked about all the challenges inherent to this legacy and this future direction in a recent interview with game director Naoki Hamaguchi and Square Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase. The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Preview: This Game is Massive
With a little under a month until release, the final preview of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth offers a taste of the exploration available in the game.
Q: In playing the demo, one of the things that stuck out to me that I’m very curious to ask about is the idea of interacting with the other party members and giving specific responses. It suggests that it will influence certain story moments. Can you talk a little bit about how that works and how the specific dialogue choices could influence the story?
Naoki Hamaguchi: I think you’re referring to the affinity mechanics in Rebirth, so mainly this most influences the Gold Saucer date event that will take place in the title. One way it influences this is the various times at which you’re interacting with another party member and you can select between options. According to that, the affinity may change, but there are also circumstances where you will go on a quest.
Usually, this will be Cloud and then there’ll be another secondary character that also takes part in the quest. By clearing these quests together, the affinity between Cloud and the other party member will rise. The same goes for different mini-games within Rebirth and the results of that mini-game can also affect affinity. There are various ways in which affinity can change throughout the game.
FF7 Rebirth and Expectations Set by the Original Game and FF7 Remake
Q: Rebirth is in a unique position where you can utilize feedback from the original Final Fantasy 7 and the remake. Can you talk about how you’ve incorporated fan expectations regarding the original game, while also taking in feedback from Remake and incorporating all of that into Rebirth?
Naoki Hamaguchi: It’s hard to say if we were able to do that, incorporating all of it. However, I do believe that players of the original had this sense of freedom of exploration, which they enjoyed, in how they went about playing Final Fantasy 7. For the remake, we had this very developed, in-depth, story-driven drama that was playing out in Midgar where the characters have their journey. I do know that some Remake players wished they had more of this player-driven, free experience where they have choices and can pursue their own adventure in a sense.
For Rebirth, we really tapped into this and recreated that feeling, that exhilarating sensation, when players first stepped outside and into the world map and began exploring. We very much delivered on that, so I believe that’s something fans can look forward to.
Q: As far as the Remake subtitle, that takes on several meanings when you play it. It is a remake of Final Fantasy 7, but also there’s this idea of remaking what you expect the story to be. I was wondering if you could talk about Rebirth as its own subtitle and how that is incorporated into the story of this game. Why choose Rebirth as the subtitle?
Yoshinori Kitase: We can’t quite go into details in terms of how the subtitle Rebirth plays into the storyline because we’d really like players to see for themselves, but we were approaching this title about the concept of a story being reborn. It was very much on our minds as we approached it.
More conceptually, I do think that Remake has that nuance of constructing something again. Rebirth kind of takes it a step further to say this is almost a new start or a new beginning for Final Fantasy 7, so I think that’s very present.
Q: After playing Remake, fans know that maybe their favorite scenes or certain iconic moments can be slightly different, can be completely different, or could be exactly the same. What were the discussions for Rebirth like when it came to preserving certain moments, playing with expectations, making it surprising but also satisfying to people? I mean, obviously, there’s a specific moment that everybody’s curious about, so what kind of discussions go into keeping key moments versus asking if you should surprise people?
Naoki Hamaguchi: What you mentioned is probably at the core of our approach toward this Remake series. There are two elements that we considered. One, we wanted to consider certain elements that could not be expressed fully in the original title with the technology at that time that we are able to do now, today. We put effort into expressing this the way it was originally intended in all its detail.
Secondly, we wanted to include elements that slightly differ from the original storyline and maybe that were unique to Rebirth in the sense that they evoke a feeling of both excitement and almost like anxiety in a positive sense. I believe this makes for an appealing and attractive source of entertainment. These elements and points were something our team was very aware of and worked towards.
Q: You mentioned technology. I was curious about the benefits the PS5 offered this game versus Remake being developed specifically for PS4 at first. What has the hardware allowed the team to do that they maybe couldn’t before or what they wanted to try?
Naoki Hamaguchi: As you know, we’ve developed Rebirth as a PS5-exclusive title. In this way, we fully utilized the capabilities of the high-speed SSD. We have also remade our own graphics and loading systems to complement this. This allowed us to really cater to the very expansive world and the detailed regions, as well as the content and experiences one can have in each region. Providing a seamless transition between each area and scene could not have been done with the PS4. That is now possible on the PS5 and its specs.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth: Story Focus vs. Player Freedom
Q: With Remake being a little more story-focused and Rebirth offering those fans more freedom, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the expectations that fans can have as far as how expansive the experience is compared to Remake? How much side content and things like that, what can they look forward to compared to Remake’s content?
Naoki Hamaguchi: Comparing Rebirth and Remake, I would say the key game design for both is completely different. The experiences that someone can have in playing these two titles are quite distinct. Remake is story-driven, and it’s true that the main story is essentially the only story that players can follow. When this happens, there may be some players who feel they are made to play this main story when they don’t have alternative options or other content or stories that they can play into. Whereas, in Rebirth, we are offering a large number of side quests and other content that they can choose to spend their time with if they wish.
Of course, within that, people can choose to just focus primarily on the main story, and the players that do so will have an experience similar to the one in Remake. However, the major difference is they have this choice, and it is driven by their own choices. I think this creates a much more immersive experience when playing the game due to people acting on their own accord. In that way, you’re able to dig deeper and dive deeper into the game. This is something we really sought to accomplish for Rebirth.
For Rebirth, we have a very fulfilling main storyline that players can pursue, but on top of that, we have side content that is unique and distinct on their own. Some of them may have an original storyline, some may have unique mini-games that are exclusive to a specific side quest, or they may be a distinct way to solve a puzzle or mystery for this particular quest. That way, every side quest is a varied, unique experience that can keep players interested. Players can learn about and understand the worldview of Final Fantasy 7 much more deeply by engaging with these. Those who want to play the main story can focus on that and do so, while others who want to immerse themselves in side content and explore every nook and cranny can do so as well. The major appeal of Rebirth, I believe, is allowing the different ways of play according to the player’s preference.
Q: Without spoiling anything, could you talk a little bit about the discussions of ending Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth knowing there’s more to cover but also giving people a satisfying conclusion here?
Yoshinori Kitase: From the get-go, we have clear that this ends at the Forgotten Capital. With Remake as well, we had announced that it goes until the party escapes from Midgar. This is told to the players, but in determining that and seeing Rebirth as the second title out of the trilogy, the midpoint I guess, we felt that it was necessary for the ending of Rebirth to serve as the most dramatic part and as the story’s climax of Final Fantasy 7. There were many discussions to decide this, and we thought that ending at that point would be the most effective way for people to wonder and want to play the next title as well. For original players of Final Fantasy 7 as well, I think this is the area that people most wonder about, so we felt that made it the most appropriate ending point of Rebirth.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is the highly-anticipated continuation of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The story will continue to follow Cloud Strife and may even see appearances from Zack Fair.
- PlayStation 5
- February 29, 2024