Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Is Adding A Lot, Perhaps Too Much
3:47 PM EST on February 9, 2024
After a multiyear wait, the second part of Square Enix’s gargantuan Final Fantasy VII remake effort is finally on the verge of release, and this week, the company dropped a demo to whet everyone’s appetites. It focuses on Nibelheim, once the site of numerous plot-propelling horrors, but now the birthplace of Cloud’s career as a burgeoning piano maestro. This kind of sumptuously generous – and deferentially referential – addition makes perfect sense for a remake like Rebirth. Others, we argue on this week’s episode Aftermath Hours, not so much.
Elsewhere in the episode, we discuss Disney’s $1.5 billion investment into Epic Games for an even bigger slice of the Fortnite pie, as well as all the ways Disney has stumbled into gaming success (and failure) in the past. This gives way to a conversation about the sanitized Disney of the modern day and where, with corporations feeding them flavorless comfort food, kids now go for their necessary doses of weird. We also talk about Xbox’s identity crisis as it moves away from a model rooted in exclusives, as well as IGN’s union push and the way unions – in their less perfect moments – are perceived in a country where everybody’s been propagandized to distrust them. Oh, and we respond to a question about who’d play each of us in a CW show about Aftermath. Chris hates it.
You can find this week's episode below and on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you prefer to listen to podcasts. If you like what you hear, make sure to leave a review so that our show can become so beloved that one day it too can be remade with better graphics.
Here’s an excerpt from our conversation about the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth demo:
Nathan: I’ve seen so many people share clips of the piano minigame. What makes it so good?
Chris: You can basically play the real piano with a twin-stick setup. It's two dials, and it's like "Here are your chords on your left side and here are your notes on this side," and then you can switch through to sharp [or things of that nature]. I didn't play the piano for terribly long; I played it for a year or so, and then I was like "This is hard." But you can do that, and then you have a minigame where you're playing the famous tunes from Final Fantasy VII. And it's a reference to when you go to play Tifa's piano in Final Fantasy VII. If I remember correctly, you can have her play it, and she gets her limit break. It's an interesting way to reup. It's an interesting, new, very complicated way to create a minigame around a very tiny moment in the original.
Those are the parts of the game that I like. I like the Honey Bee Inn shit. I like when they really rip apart a part of this game and then stretch it out and have fun with it. What I don't like is that there's a sliding block puzzle where you've got to vacuum up mako reactor goo. I don't think that really adds anything to the narrative of Nibelheim. They kinda have to add these chokepoints to extend the game, I feel, but I don't know. They're not terribly complicated puzzles. Maybe they will be down the line. But it always feels like "You didn't really have to do that." Or if you did, you could have made it more interesting. But you can't make them too hard because Final Fantasy is an easy series at its core.
Nathan: I feel like having those parts is definitely in line with the spirit of the original. I've seen people talk about this before: As triple-A games calcified into various genres that have expected components to them, you no longer got these big games that contained not just the main exploration and combat components, but also a snowboarding minigame for some reason.
Chris: The snowboarding minigame is cool and will probably be in there, and if it's not, I'll be mad. It'll probably be a simple version of SSX. That's the stuff I like because it has character. I think the issue is, I played a Jedi game recently, and that has really good block puzzles. Any time they force me to talk slow or do the loading screen crunch where you go through a little crevice, I'm like "This doesn't feel like an active enough game. I feel like I'm being tethered down. I feel like I'm being slowed down to pad out the game." The parts where it slows me down are annoying. I really hope there isn't too much of that in this game. There was a lot of that in the previous game.
In the demo I saw a crevice, and I was like "I have to go into the crevice." It wouldn't let me go in the crevice. Then I had to go up to see that a bridge was out. Then the game was like "Oh, the bridge is out! Come back. Maybe you should go in this crevice." Yeah, I should have gone in the crevice to begin with. I know narratively they want me to do that, but it's an annoying way to do it.
Nathan: That is really annoying!
Chris: I'll also say that from a lore perspective, there are really tiny things that they change that are very funny. Like Tifa mentions that Shinra Manor is a rental – like "Oh yeah, back when Shinra was a little up-and-coming smaller industrial concern, this kept the town afloat." I don't know if I need to know that about this. It can just be a spooky mansion. It is kinda funny. I'm not holding it against the game.
And the other thing is, it's really gay. This demo is really, really gay. Because this is the flashback when Sephiroth and Cloud are meeting in someone's memory. So there's a lot of these winking fan service things. I won't spoil too much, but there's a lot of "Hmm, hey sailor" shit that's pretty nice. That's the stuff I like: I like it when it's gay, and I like it when they have fun with their minigames.
Nathan: Somebody in chat just said that Shinra started in a garage somewhere in Cupertino.
Chris: It's just a really weird way to think about that company.
Nathan: But a very modern thread to inject into it, I guess. It makes a kind of sense.
Chris: I'm not criticizing the game at all. But the need to stretch these games out and add detail is not always additive, is the point.
Nathan: Sometimes it's superfluous.
Chris: Or at best, neutral. I'm like "Huh, OK. That's in my head now. It could have just been a spooky mansion."
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