Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth: Reaction to demo as Tokyo Game Show starts

A scene from Final Fantasy VII Rebirth showing a face-off between Cloud Strife and Sephiroth. They appear to be fighting on top of a large pile of scrap metal and debris, with the shells of crumbling buildings visible in the background as thick smoke or fog swirls. Sephiroth, who is tall and slim with long white hair, and has a single angel wing emerging from his back, looks up into the air as Cloud jumps, his oversized sword held above his head as he prepares to attack.Square Enix

Tokyo Game Show has begun, and fans will have their first chance to play Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth.

Developers Square Enix are launching a demo of the long-awaited follow-up to 2020’s FF7 Remake at the annual convention held in Chiba, Japan.

Critics have already had a chance to play the open-world section and brief story mission featuring fan favourite-characters Cloud Strife and Sephiroth.

And the verdict? “More of the same, but it’s been supercharged”.

That’s according to Eurogamer’s Ed Nightingale, who said the demo was “familiar yet fresh… the sort of magical spectacle fans will relish”.

Polygon’s Oli Welsh had a similar take, observing that Rebirth’s gameplay felt like it was “expanding the scope, adding features, but cleaving close to what made the first game tick”.

And IGN’s Bo Moore said the brief flash of the game’s story felt “very familiar, yet also different”, noting the “tremendous difference in scale and presentation” in the PlayStation 5 exclusive.

BBC Newsbeat spoke to two of the game’s leading creatives – producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Naoki Hamaguchi – to find out more.

Here’s five things they told us during our interview, which was conducted before the most recent trailer dropped on 14 September.

The ending is going to be big

The original Final Fantasy 7 is famous for one of the most devastating plot twists in video game history (no spoilers here).

But when FF7 Remake made tweaks to the original’s plot, it got fans wondering whether that moment would also be altered.

Producer Mr Kitase told Newsbeat Rebirth’s story will climax in the Forgotten Capital – the location of that iconic scene in the 1997 original.

“What happens there is going to be a big surprising development,” he said, “and a hook to get people interested and motivated to want to see what happens in the final part of the series”.

So, a cliffhanger, then? The Final Fantasy equivalent of the Empire Strikes Back?

“The second part of the trilogy is a very important one and I don’t think it’s going to disappoint,” he added.

But it might take you a while to get there

Cloud Strife is seen from behind, riding a two-wheeled device along a cobbled seaside promenade. It's sunny, with palm trees, and we can see other people milling around in summer wear - it has a resort feel to it.

Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII Remake’s main story took most players between 30 and 40 hours to complete.

We asked director Mr Hamaguchi if players could expect a similar playtime from Rebirth.

“I’d say just doing the main story alone, you’re looking at 40 to 50 hours to complete without doing anything else,” he said.

“Then on top of that we’ve got so much side content and exploration content in the world. There’s actually more side content than there is main story content.

“So if you’re going to really go into everything, dig deep, explore the world and find everything you’re easily looking at over 100 hours if you want to do everything.”

The open world is going to be a major feature

Like Final Fantasy 16, Square Enix’s most recent PS5 title in the mainline series, FF7 Rebirth will feature a large, open-world area.

But Mr Hamaguchi told Newsbeat it won’t be a “go anywhere you want, do anything you want” style of game from the get-go like Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

“We start out with a fairly broad area, a fairly wide area to explore,” he said. “But there are limitations on it.

“Then as the story progresses, as the game progresses, you get new abilities and open up new areas, and the game expands further and further.”

Mr Hamaguchi says the developers want the open world to work as “one single space” with “all of the towns, all of the dungeons and everything linked together seamlessly in one space”.

“It was a really important feature that we wanted to add to this game and one thing we wanted to focus on was the idea that you’re giving the player the opportunity to explore and experience the world,” he said.

It’s staying on PlayStation 5… for now

Square Enix announced this week that it’s sold seven million copies of FF7 Remake and its enhanced update, Remake Intergrade, across PlayStation and PC.

We know from previous reports that about five million of those were sold on PlayStation 4.

That console sold close to 120 million units, according to Sony, which says over 40 million PS5s have been bought since its launch in November 2020.

BBC Newsbeat asked if there were plans to bring Rebirth to other consoles, such as Xbox or the rumoured new Nintendo console.

Mr Kitase told us “that’s very much to be confirmed at the moment”.

A slide at the end of the latest trailer says the game “is not available on other formats until 29 May 2024” at the earliest.

This sparked speculation that we might see Rebirth elsewhere just three months after it comes out on PS5.

But Mr Kitase also told Newsbeat Rebirth “has been developed very much optimised for the PS5 hardware”.

“So for the time being we hope everyone can enjoy the game on PS5.”

The battle system will grow on you… hopefully

A man with long black hair and red velvet cloak is seen from behind, looking down at six other characters from an elevated position. They are in a candlelit room that looks Medieval in style, with ornate furniture, an opulent rug and stone floor.

Square Enix

Based on the previews, critics were not instantly convinced by Rebirth’s Synergy system – a new addition to battles that allows two characters to perform combo attacks.

While most agreed a demo was not enough time to properly judge the new feature, there were worries it could overcomplicate things.

Mr Hamaguchi told Newsbeat character relationships were a deeper focus for Rebirth’s team, and the new battle system will play into that.

“Throughout the whole story, you’re seeing these characters learning and growing together and learning about each other,” he said.

“We felt that we wanted to have that as a core pillar throughout the whole of the game.

“The synergy system very much came from the idea that players, depending on how well they know each other and get on together, that will reflect in battle as well.”

Even though FF7 Remake won huge praise and many awards there were some criticisms – mainly of its linear story and “padding” in some sections.

Mr Hamaguchi’s spoken previously about the importance of staying humble and learning from the previous game.

So we asked him what lessons the team had taken into Rebirth.

“I think certainly the reaction from the fans to the storytelling and the dramatic story experience of the game was really positive so we didn’t feel that there was any need to change that much at all,” he said.

“We really need to maintain that.

“But certainly there were some voices who said that it was lacking in terms of player choice or freedom. So that is definitely something we’ve looked at and tried to improve on and address.”


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