There’s still a little over four months to go until Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, the next chapter of the Final Fantasy VII remake trilogy, hits the stores, but we visited Square Enix at New York Comic Con to try a sneak preview of the game and to sit down with game director Naoki Hamaguchi to ask some questions.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: Zack Will Have a Larger Role
Like my fellow writer, Erren Van Duine, my Final Fantasy VII Rebirth preview consisted of playing a slice of “Cloud” and Sephiroth’s visit to Nibelheim five years in the past, as well as a portion of the open-world area available once the team leaves Midgard and is on their way to Junon.
One of the most applauded and contentious aspects of Final Fantasy VII Remake is the fact that the story hints at possibly changing the status quo.
“Will Cloud and others … defy destiny? Will things be played out exactly the same as that of the original title? That is one question we’ll be exploring," Hamaguchi said.
In line with that, Zack Fair is set to have a much bigger role in Rebirth than he did in the original Final Fantasy VII, where he only appeared a few times in tangential flashbacks to Cloud’s backstory.
“(Zack) will be a key figure, through him the players will have experienced the workings of the Final Fantasy VII world within Rebirth,” said Hamaguchi.
The remake of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core being released in the interim between Remake and Rebirth makes even more sense in this case, giving players a chance to familiarize themselves with Zack and his story before he makes his Rebirth appearance.
While Zack is undoubtedly a fan-favorite character of the franchise, Hamaguchi explained that, “We are really aware that Final Fantasy VII franchise in particular, even for characters in spinoffs there’s a lot of fans for these characters as well, so we are aware of that.”
However, in even more exciting news, he revealed, “Without again providing any major spoilers, besides Zack, who was not in the original Final Fantasy VII but will be making an appearance here, there’s going to be other characters from FFVII spinoffs that will be appearing in Rebirth as well.”
My fingers are absolutely crossed for Cissnei, who, like Zack, is one of my favorite characters of the franchise. Other likely possibilities are Angeal, Genesis, Lazard, the cast of Deepground from Dirge of Cerberus, or even Denzel or Kadaj from Advent Children.
Admittedly, the living/dead status of some of these characters in the timeline makes an appearance unlikely, but it’s clear that the timeline is a bit wibbly wobbly anyway, so anything is possible.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: Naoki Hamaguchi Talks Tech Advancement From PS1
The first part of the demo that I decided to tackle was the flashback to Nibelheim, which, though it plays out on paper much the same way as the original game, has vastly different implications due to the addition of voice acting and better art than 1997.
"We see Cloud acting not very like himself, he’s speaking and acting in a way that’s very reminiscent of Zack," Hamaguchi said. "That’s a portion that the original creators had intended for Final Fantasy VII but due to technological constraints may not have been properly expressed."
Mt. Nibel itself is gorgeous in a way that the original, unfortunately, never was. From the mako deposits and the gorgeous swirls of magic and the absolutely ethereal atmosphere, it’s clear that the design team put a lot of effort into the locations.
The graphics add to the richness of the story, really showing you what the characters are experiencing rather than sketching it out and leaving you to add the majesty to it in your head.
"Both those fans who may have played before and also newcomers, there is this new discovery by playing this game since there are technological advances that allow us to put more definition and more detail and more context that may not have been possible previously, and there’s that new discovery," Hamaguchi said.
Story, however, is a different thing entirely.
“The original storyline is evergreen … it stands the test of time,” Hamaguchi continued. “If we do follow the script of the original title and do things shot by shot, exactly the same, that sort of lacks in newness on its own, and so fans of the original title may not be satisfied with that. So we wanted to kind of keep that newness and sense of wonder in thinking, 'What will happen next?'”
As the second of a (planned) three-part remake, one of the most pressing questions I had for Hamaguchi was about the ending of the game.
The original game was spread across three discs, with the first disc ending with Aerith’s death, but given that all of Remake covered the first part of the first disc and didn’t stray beyond Midgard, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rebirth.
“When we were first in discussions on where the landing point will be of Rebirth, Kitase-san and I were in complete agreement that we want to go up to the Forgotten City and up to Aerith’s fate, so that was decided and agreed upon early on,” said Hamaguchi.
This puts the ending of Rebirth at roughly halfway through the original Final Fantasy VII’s content, leaving the second half to be adapted into the third part of the trilogy.
One of the new things added to Rebirth that I absolutely loved in the Junon section of the demo was the fast travel with Chocobo bus stops. In order to set one up, first, you have to find a cute baby Chocobo with a nutshell on its butt! Then, you follow it to the bus stop, prop up the sign and voila! For bonus added cuteness, you CAN pet the Chocobos!
Hamaguchi also confirmed that the Moogle game from the Gold Saucer will be making a return appearance, in a slightly altered form.
Between the adorable chocobos, the gorgeous demo scenery and Hamaguchi's tantalizing comments about the plot of Rebirth, I'm now more excited than ever for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. Bring on the Zack!