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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth (Gaming)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Friday, March 15, 2024, 16:16 (40 days ago)
edited by Cody Miller, Friday, March 15, 2024, 16:22

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is in a way, the opposite of Halo Infinite. Both games reference and recreate beloved games - wanting to rekindle your passions, but the effect while playing could not be more different.

Infinite was a rather dull affair, which simply reminded you that Halo was a great game. It tried its best to bring you to that familiar place, but ended up feeling insubstantial on its own merits. The experience was melancholic, knowing the best for Halo is long behind us.

Contrast this with Rebirth, which I would dare to say is now the definitive Final Fantasy 7 experience. It embraces and extends, taking your feelings and amplifying them, deepening the story in dramatic and vivid ways. It expands the character’s personalities, desires, and conflicts both internal and external. It’s such an emotional experience seeing the characters and story come to life in a way beyond your imagination. Many of the additions seem so natural, so fitting, that going back to the original reveals the cracks. The experience is new and fresh, which perhaps is why there is a sense of awe, connection, and wonder that Halo Infinite lacked completely.

Having finished the game I’m still thinking about it. It is among the top video game experiences I’ve ever had, yet not without faults.

The open world is a mixed bag. On one hand, it is so large that it preserves the illusion of planet wide travel. The early 3D Final Fantasy games didn’t sit right with me, since in 3D it becomes apparent that a cluster of 4 houses isn’t really a village. It felt small. That is not the case here. You believe everything.

It’s the open world objectives that are a drag. There just so many, and yet they are all so similar. It’s exhausting, but not in a good way. Things improved slightly when certain regions made travel more of a puzzle. You know where a thing is, but HOW do you get there?

The towers could go. The springs could go. These are nothing but open world bullshit, do nothing, and are the exact same thing across the entire series of zones. Don’t need them. The protorelics were fine, since they were at least unique in each zone and offered novel challenges. Cut the summon crystals to one; have that be where you find and challenge the summons. Have the tough monsters exist in the zones as well, but don’t mark anything down. This should all be pure exploration, and not tracked or labeled. What could have been a wonderful world to explore was just a checklist.

Traversal can itself feel a bit janky and less refined. Sometimes you can’t climb over things you think you should, and can over things you think you can’t. Invisible walls preventing you from jumping off cliffs are just not great. Let us fall, kill us, then put us back at the top.

The world map in the original game was more of an abstraction, design to give you the illusion of traveling from one end of the planet to the other. Functionally, there wasn’t much hidden on it. There were occasional entrances to unique places you could find, but for the most part it itself hid few secrets. The entrances themselves held the treasure, with the optional areas and dungeons being the things you explored.

In fact, the portion of the game the OG covered was basically linear despite the world map. It was carefully curated, opening up more of it as you progressed the story and got better transportation. You go from foot, to Chocobo, to buggy, to the tiny bronco that could traverse the shallow waters near the shore. There simply wasn’t much to do off the beaten path until you got the Highwind.

The open world started eating into the story. I imagine replaying via a new game+ would be a much better experience, with the story unfolding at more propulsive pace. Folks did not like the linearity of Remake, but I considered that a strength.

The actual sidequests are mostly good. Many have interesting story elements, and are performance captured with good delivery and editing / cinematography. It’s not like FF16 where it was mostly canned animations with autocutscenes. A lot of effort was put in. Not all are a hit, but most are.

The combat is just so bonkers good. It’s the perfect blend of action elements, and RPG elements. It’s been refined over remake, with the old characters getting minor overhauls, with Red XIII and Cait Sith being newly designed. The systems are extremely fun, deep, and fast paced. There was enough the same to be able to jump in, but enough different to have plenty to learn and experiment with.

The number and quality of the minigames is quite frankly, insane. Queen’s Blood is just flat out incredible. A dedicated team spent a year on it, and it shows. It’s easy to learn, hard to master, and it’s the epitome of multiplicative design. There are so many way to play, build your deck, and make strategies to win. While the main quest line was fairly easy, the optional challenges and survival modes are very very tricky, and almost belong in puzzle games. It’s fantastic.

The OG had many mini games that were just half baked. I would say that doesn’t apply to any here. Some are better than others, but all pass a certain quality bar. If you choose to do them, you will spend more time on them collectively than most entire games.

The story is a high point. Let’s put ending talk under spoiler tags. Absolutely phenomenal, nailing the characters, the writing, and the new additions while keeping their cores true to form. These versions of the characters feel like the definitive versions. The sense of humor is so great, and it rides that line of being too wacky, or Flanderizing too much without actually going over. It’s such a great mix.

Of a particular high point are the relationships between the characters that are further explored. You are going to love each and every one, and the ones you already loved you'll feel for even more. There are several changes to the plot that likewise make the experience better, more streamlined, and more believable.

The ending. Oof. I did not know what to feel. I honestly kept thinking about it. I’m firmly on the side of “I don’t know if it was the right choice or not”. Some people are declaring it a travesty, but I am going to see where they go with it. They aren’t wrong when they say “that” moment was robbed of its emotion, but could you ever really feel that way again? Especially when it’s what you suspect? The only way to do that would be to actually commit to a change (Sephiroth killing Tifa might have done just this. It would be so impactful after how they developed her in this game, could still preserve the themes of death and memory, and also make sense from a narrative perspective with Sephiroth trying again, since it was basically Tifa who stopped Sephiroth by bringing Cloud back. It seemed like they were hinting at this… but no).

Part of me is disappointed that not much really lived up to the “unknown future” promised in Remake’s end. And yet, I understand not going that way. But they way they did it… the confusion… the strange boss fights, I’ve got to take pause. On the other hand, I can see this being just as effective if they play their cards right in the final installment. After all, as mentioned above you’re never going to make people feel the same way they did in 1997. Aerith’s death but in HD is what you think you want, but probably would not be what you thought it’d be when you get it.

And so, I have hope that it will be addressed later. Perhaps when Cloud is in the Lifestream with Tifa, or maybe on the revisit to the City of the Ancients with Bugenhagen. It has the potential to be devastating in a totally unique way, given Cloud wasn’t necessarily ‘present’ for it, and he’d have to work through that.

I can imagine a path forward, but to me it seems perilous. The final installment will see if they make it across, and so I do my best to reserve judgement. But I’m only human, and the initial feeling as the credits rolled were not those of excitement and satisfaction as in Remake, but of unease and trepidation.

Plus, Hollow is a better credits song than No Promises to Keep.

The bottom line, is that it’s kind of like a dream. I’m amazed it exists the way it does, but like all great dreams some things are odd, and there’s sadness in waking up.


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