This article contains vague spoilers for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. The spoilers are generally “world-based” or from Chapter 1, and do not delve deeply into the overall plot of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. Well, the “new” plot events of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. We assume you have played Final Fantasy 7. And Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Anywho, please be aware.

If you are going to make something bigger, make it better while you are at it.

There have been rumors of a Final Fantasy 7 remake since the release of the Playstation 2 (which I regret to inform you was nearly a quarter of a century ago). When Final Fantasy 7 Remake was finally released… nay… When Final Fantasy 7 Remake was announced, things started to get weird. Before we saw Cloud ‘n pals return in April of 2020, we were already warned that this would be a very different experience from “original” Final Fantasy 7. We knew that the sheer scope of Final Fantasy 7 would not be contained by one disc, so this was at least going to be a “Part One” affair. And, given how these things seem to go, many assumed we were looking at a trilogy to cover everything that had happened in Final Fantasy 7’s main scenario (and maybe there would be spinoff titles again?).

As trailers and the actual game were released, we learned that Final Fantasy 7 Remake was very much its own animal. Not only did Final Fantasy 7 Remake expand on the characters and scenarios that were little more than polygonal cardboard cutouts in the original, the direction of the plot also embraced its positioning as a “remake”. You cannot recreate a story without transforming that story, so Final Fantasy 7 Remake made that its plot. The undercurrent of Final Fantasy 7 Remake was that this was not the world you knew, things were different, and these characters had a chance to make things better. In the same way that OG FF7 saw its cast fight for the future of their planet, FF7R’s AVALANCHE was going to fight against their oppressive destiny, and make their planet… uh… more better. And did it work out? Well, the gang actively decided they would fight the (literal) shadows of the past that constrained them. Great for them, but we would have to wait for the sequel to see if they succeeded.

And that’s a neat trick, but you can only do it once.

So Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth starts with the same “Nibelheim Flashback” sequence that appeared immediately after Midgar in the original order of events. Aerith, who spent the whole of Final Fantasy 7 Remake knowing more than she appeared ™, is asked directly by Tifa if she knows Cloud’s secret. Aerith spoiling Cloud’s Zackian ending could have saved us all a lot of time and heartbreak later, but Aerith states that the Shadows from the finale of Final Fantasy 7 Remake sucked the future/alternate timeline memories out of her head. She spent one whole Final Fantasy 7 game vaguely knowing what was going to come next, but now that she is out and proud about being some manner of pseudo time traveler, she’s got nothing. While you could claim this is cowardly storytelling (when it was This looks familiara “mystery”, she had all the answers; now that it could be straightforward, she’s got nothing), it quickly aligns the audience with the state of FF7R’s characters. When Remake was released, many people started playing the game “knowing” what was going to happen. And so did Aerith. One shadow tornado/split timeline later, nobody knows what comes next. And same for Aerith. You might know Cloud is lying during his flashback (and that whole sequence not coincidentally lays “something is off here” on much thicker than in the original Final Fantasy 7), but you do not know how that is going to resolve in a world where Ghost Sephiroth is haunting Cloud’s brain and making him doubt his teammates’ various boob scars. This is a whole new story, and it will not be constrained by the past or an audience’s expectations.

But the problem with a “whole new story” based on an old story is that you have got to get that story from somewhere. And, what’s more, we are officially taking the Final Fantasy 7 story beyond the bounds of one game to three here, so that new story must have significantly more meat on its bones than its originator. Like, a “you win a Tiny Bronco if you can eat this steak within an hour” amount of meat. And, while lesser games would likely take the same route as this entire essay and throw redundant descriptions at the problem, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth decided to do something not only engaging, but important.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is a game about the continued trials and tribulations of Cloud Strife and friends. It is also a game about colonialism.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake occurred completely in Midgar. This seemed like an easy choice, as Midgar is the center of the Final Fantasy 7 universe, and it is arguably the perfect introduction to this world. The bad guys, the good guys, and everything in between all exists in Midgar in microcosm. The rest of the planet and everything that happens afterwards all harkens back to this well-recognized beginning. But Midgar was only the prelude in the original Final Fantasy 7. So Final Fantasy 7 Remake took the opportunity to make it a living, breathing city with a population, schools, and 8,000 sidequests. And, since OG Final Fantasy 7 forbids reentering Midgar until the game’s finale, marking that as the end point of Remake was an inspired choice. Midgar is now off-limits for AVALANCHE, and you do not even notice that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth sets this limit because Midgar is literally no longer part of its world. Your last adventure is over there behind the wall, and you will not return. Let’s not go back to Midgar. Tis a silly place.

'Tis the pool boyBut all the Final Fantasy 7 fans knew the problem that was coming next. People remember Midgar because it is the focal point of that universe. People do not remember Kalm. People vaguely recall Junon. People may have entirely missed Gongaga. It is not that these locations are pointless or exceedingly uninteresting, they are just… there. Stop by the town, buy some items, learn a smidgen of lore, and then get pointed in the direction of the next dungeon. And even locations like the Golden Saucer that are integral to the Final Fantasy 7 experience are not necessarily memorable for “big” reasons you could hang a game on. Barret has some backstory, you play with a moogle, you move on to wondering what is keeping Bugenhagen afloat. In the memory of most Final Fantasy 7 fans, the game basically contains a nebulous gray area between “escape from Midgar” and “Aerith dies”. This middle is not the creamy center of an Oreo, it is the workday between waking up and getting home to play the good parts of Final Fantasy 7.

So the fact that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth makes lemonade out of these lemons is nothing short of miraculous.

Let us focus on one specific location in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth as a glowing example of what happened.

Location: Costa del Sol

What it was in Final Fantasy 7: After stowing away on a ship to finally escape Shinra’s “main” continent, AVALANCHE earns a brief respite in a tropical paradise. It is a typical Final Fantasy town where you can rest at an inn and buy new equipment. If you search around, you will not only find your companions enjoying the area, but also Shinra’s malevolent Hojo, who is uncharacteristically enjoying the surf and sand in a lab coat. After resting up, the party moves on to the next area.

WE NEEDED THE PS5 FOR THISWhat it is in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth: After stowing away on a cruise ship to finally escape Shinra’s “main” continent, AVALANCHE earns an additional respite in a tropical paradise. They are shown hospitality by an old friend from Midgar, and can participate in various activities/minigames that reinforce the “fun in the sun” nature of Costa del Sol. Fun is mandatory to advance. Eventually, Hojo arrives, and he prompts a boss fight that incidentally leads to the party gaining a new member. The party may then move on after hitting the usual inns, shops, and side quests.

And that is what everyone expects of a “modern remake”, right? You have new original characters with new motivations, new things to “do” in an area that was previously a pitstop, and a new bit of plot/boss battle that expands on what was merely a cameo in the original production. Heck, you’ve even got the modern trope of “new outfits for the team” (swimsuits!) and “new mount” (segway!). I would like to see Squaresoft pull off motorized scooters in 1997!

But there is more to Costa del Sol than just bikes and bikinis. Costa Del Sol is technically named for a region in Spain, but its resort atmosphere harkens to the “all-inclusive” resorts of Mexico and Latin American countries. Additionally, when you step off the ship, your party members “get laid” with complimentary leis, suggesting the culture of Hawaii. And what do these real-world locations have in common? They all –Editor’s Note: Please find a phrase more acceptable than “had their shit kicked in”- by white conquerors. Now they have their native people derided as “foreigners” while descendants of those colonizers spend literally billions on vacations to these tropical destinations. Looking at some 2018 data, apparently the average American spends nearly a thousand dollars on a trip to Mexico, and that is multiplied by the 18,500,000 Americans that do that annually. But build a wall! And what happens on your trip to Costa del Sol? A Shinra executive comes to enjoy the surf and sand, and the residents of Costa fall all over themselves to make sure he is treated like the most important person on the beach. Even a former resistance fighter is now prostrating himself before Shinra in a doomed attempt to live a better life. This entire coast has been conquered by a malevolent power company, and the best anyone can do is continue begging for scraps from their subjugators.

Looks beachyAnd it’s not just one town! Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth firmly establishes that Shinra’s tendrils are felt everywhere. Poor, deserted Coral was always an example of Shinra’s meddling, but now the nearby Golden Saucer is confirmed as 100% dependent on that sweet, sweet mako. Kalm is stated to be little more than a retirement community for Shinra executives (and talk about the wrong people moving into a neighborhood), and Zack’s hometown of Gongaga is doing its best to recover from its Shinra-caused mini-apocalypse a few years back. Junon appears to have the most radical lore shift. In Final Fantasy 7, Junon was merely your next “Shinra stop”, and the whole area is best known for the Sister Ray, dolphin jumping, and a lively parade. It is a gentle reminder that Shinra exists beyond the bounds of Midgar, and there are other people living in the literal shadow of Shinra. In Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, the whole of the Junon area is significantly influenced by a war for independence against Shinra roughly a generation back, and now everyone that is not a Shinra-transplant living up top is a defeated subject of a boisterous/murderous crown. The native people of Junon basically lived through their own genocide, and now the best they can hope for is sitting in a wheelchair while watching a condor tear up some monster meat.

Shucks, I cannot imagine how that could have some real-world parallels…

Shinra was always a presence in the original Final Fantasy 7, and much of this lore was probably always imagined or transcribed in some random FF7 Ultimania guide. But for the average player, the original Shrina of Final Fantasy 7 was like the Emperor/Empire of Final Fantasy 6. This is your big, world-ending threat that is established from the beginning, but the “normal world problem” of a bad business pales in comparison when the real villain arrives and starts tossing around godlike power/meteors. People have been cosplaying as Sephiroth every Halloween going back to 1997, but Shinra’s General Heidegger cannot even get nerds to grow beards (and they already hate shaving!). Once you get out of Midgar and learn about Cloud’s past with Sephiroth, everything about Shinra (and AVALANCHE’s original purpose) falls by the wayside. Shinra’s greatest threat to the party becomes a series of ineffectual executives and jaded Turks. They are omnipresent, they have certainly left a mark on your party and the planet, but they are also about as threatening as a flan.

Sound and fury meaning nothingFinal Fantasy 7 Rebirth still features the same ineffectual Shinra executives and lackeys (Elena, I am sorry, but you joined the Turks when they were having an off week), but it also showcases a universe where Shinra has already won. Cloud and company have escaped Midgar, and several supporting characters are taking the opportunity of their homes being destroyed to get out and see the world, but all anyone finds is that Shinra is inescapable. Whether you get out from under the dome or not, this planet is dying (, Cloud) because of Shinra. It is obvious everywhere. You cannot have so much as a dance off without Shinra butting in. That green grass and those blue skies look better for everyone outside of Midgar, but it is all an illusion. Shinra has done everything it can to put profit over the planet, and the people must wallow in it.

And this all would not be possible in a situation where Final Fantasy 7’s story did not have the same room to expand. Final Fantasy 7 gave us the broad strokes, but Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth gives us the reality of this world’s horror. From every lore entry to sidequest to cutscene, the full scope of Shrina’s depravity is front and center.

Making an already great game bigger and better? Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has it all.

SBC #32.1 Cloud Strife & Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Cloud Strife in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

  • We will get to the smash stuff in a week. Only focusing on one system right now…

Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

  • System: Playstation 5 exclusive. Can you imagine how many sidequests would be more palatable with the benefit of the Switch’s portability? Sure, the game probably could not remotely function, but it would be fun for ten seconds.
  • Number of players: Your party is much larger this time, but you still only have one player.
  • About the Boy: There is apparently some debate on whether Chadley is “annoying”. It is the opinion of that Chadley is a living embodiment of an intrusive “helper AI” (ala Cortana) that was designed by that universe’s Josef Mengele. Thus, he is not meant to be liked. “Annoying” is an appropriate description for such a beast.
  • The golden dance showBarret? Barret is once again gloriously front and center… though he does have the same issue as before with losing significant relevance/limelight post-Corel. But that is probably just an issue with the chunk of Final Fantasy 7 that Rebirth focuses on, and not some dedicated unBarretting like the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 titles. At least I hope that is the reason…
  • Let’s take a break: I didn’t think Cloud could get any more “old man needs a break” after the persistent benches in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, but the developers upped the ante by granting Cloud dainty little one-use bench cushions for Rebirth. Cloud is the most delicate Ex-SOLDIER in this universe.
  • Just play the gig man: Last time, I noted that (Ahead) On Our Way is the most iconic Final Fantasy 7 ditty in their oeuvre, but it was barely heard in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Now it is back in a big way, and practically inescapable across 4,000 different remixes. I could not be happier.
  • Favorite Area: Cosmo Canyon is huge, wide-open, and involves some chocobo that can fly (well… float). Complete with an “obvious” plot but a gigantic area full of optional content, it feels like the best of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. Conversely, Gongaga is a cramped series of hallways with mushroom jumps that may as well be random teleporters. I do not care for that.
  • Divergent Evolution: As the story goes, Xenogears was originally a pitch for Final Fantasy 7, and this contemporary Squaresoft title was honored during FF7 when Cloud was sputtering about a million shades of light. And, as we all know, the Xenogears “team” left Square to found MonolithSoft and get the Xeno franchise going. Decades later, Xenoblade Chronicles is a prominent RPG franchise in its own right… And dang does Rebirth play a lot like the recent Xenoblade Chronicles titles. Active battle system, “stagger”, and huge, distinct regions with checklists for discoveries. The two franchises feel closer than ever now, complete with crafting system that is based on crap you find on the ground like Mario finds coins. Maybe we could have a crossover that isn’t just Pyra smacking Cloud with her sword.
  • Did you know? In the original Final Fantasy 7, Test 0 was a dog-type monster that could be found at the bottom of a well in Corel Prison. Its inclusion was likely an accident, as the creature could not attack, randomly said stock phrases, and had a disproportionate amount of HP. And it was removed from all later versions of Final Fantasy 7, including the American release. But some of us knew about it because the Versus Strategy Guide for FF7 apparently was based on an early build that included the creature:

    How mysterious

    And this is all preamble for how you may descend into a well in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s Corel Prison to compete in a fighting arena where a certain monster is on the menu.

    Now testing

    He is only there because of a developer mistake! Delightful!

  • Would I play again: There is no getting off this train we’re on…

What’s next? I have more to say about Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. Maybe even bad things! So we are going to continue this conversation on Monday with a detailed look at the game’s final dungeon, and an explanation of the ending a week from today. Spoilers ahoy, but I have to talk about this nonsense! Please look forward to it!

It's Jorts!
Is that Jorts the Cat?

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