The immensely popular 1997 role-playing game Final Fantasy VII has been worshiped in its original form, grafted into a similarly admired 2020 remake, and now, developer Square Enix promises a magisterial “rebirth” in a PlayStation 5 exclusive set for February 29, 2024. Like the 2020 remake, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will act as both an effigy to the original—a breakthrough title for Japanese-made RPGs—and a reinvention of it, with improved graphics and new narrative beats that break from established lore, including a “surprise” during one of the game’s most memorable scenes, developers say.
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After you reach FFVII’s Forgotten Capital as swooshy-haired protagonist Cloud, the game drenches you in ice water and makes you watch as antagonist Sephiroth kills Cloud’s sweetheart Aerith. In the ‘90s, FFVII’s first disc ended here, on this frigid note.
At this week’s Thailand Game Show 2023, and while speaking to Indonesian gaming site Gamebrott, Rebirth director Naoki Hamaguchi issued a message “to all the gamers regarding this ‘you-know-what’ moment” in the Forgotten Capital: “we can confirm that we will give you a ‘big surprise,’” he said, according to a Google translation of the Indonesian text. “So you can look forward to later in the game.”
Hamaguchi, unsurprisingly, didn’t offer up the intricacies or extent of this “surprise,” and declined to engage with any fan theories (though he expressed his appreciation for them, saying “we really accept it and feel happy about the activeness of fans in creating various kinds of theories.”) But if it’s anything like the logical but potent plotline changes Square Enix made to its 2020 FFVII remake, it’ll likely frustrate those long-time fans who want to see their childhood memories faithfully recreated, while thrilling others with its breaks from the familiar timeline that suggest bold new narrative possibilities, all while perhaps leaving FF7 newcomers scratching their heads over what it’s all supposed to mean.
Example: in the ‘90s, FFVII’s arcane ending—protagonist Cloud defeats enemy Sephiroth for the last time, the world is overrun by an incorporeal Lifestream of mint-green energy—was impressive, and its post-credits scene, in which wolf-beast Red XIII runs around a leafy, seemingly uninhabited planet, was mind-blowingly (and, to some people, annoyingly) vague. The 2020 remake respects this history by blowing minds in a similar way, preserving ‘90s ambiguity but introducing fresh details to analyze.
Rebirth—which Hamaguchi tells Gamebrott features even more “extensive exploration” than the original FFVII, but leaves some of its charming features alone, like the minigames at Gold Saucer amusement park—seems set to do the same.