Devastating news for Nanaki fans out there: Red XIII won't be a playable character in Final Fantasy VII Remake, but the way he's included in the game will instead be fashioned after another hugely popular Square Enix Game in a way that fans should be grateful for. Here's why that's actually a great decision that makes a lot of sense.
In an interview published Monday by VG247, FF7 Remake co-director Naoki Hamaguchi confirmed that Red XIII, the talking fiery wolf-dog creature that joins the party in the original, won't be a playable character in this first entry.
“We felt the point at which Red XIII joins the party in the story is very late on so we thought okay, if we’re gonna have him as a full character and try and get the player to enjoy his character development arc and growth as a character through that, it’s not really enough time to do that," Hamaguchi said. "So we thought that the best way to have him involved was as a guest character. Normally throughout the game you'll be playing as a three-man party, but you will have him as a guest character that fights alongside you during the last part of the story there."
Red XIII was first confirmed for FF7 Remake in the theme song trailer from January, where we saw the moment from late in the game where Cloud, Barret, Tifa, and Aerith encounter Red XIII in Shinra Tower. (The scene begins at about the 1:44 mark in the below trailer.) His inclusion comes as no surprise considering what we know of the game's scope, but him not being playable does come across as surprising when he's destined to become a full party member in future installments.
Square Enix confirmed in June 2019 that "the first game in this project will be set in the eclectic city of Midgar and presents a fully standalone gaming experience," and given the scope of the original game, Red XIII being included was a must. Hamaguchi's comments, however, do seemingly confirm where in the story FF7 Remake ends.
Spoilers for both versions of Final Fantasy VII follow.
In Final Fantasy VII, the last act set in Midgar is essentially a raid on Shinra Inc's headquarters at the center of the city to rescue Aerith, who's been abducted. Cloud, Barret, and Tifa encounter Red XIII in the scientist Hojo's lab. There's a high-speed chase through the city's freeways with Cloud on a motorcycle and the rest of the gang in a pickup truck. Red XIII becomes a permanent full member of the team right away in the original, but because all of this happens so late in the Midgar section, that means he only appears in a few hours of FF7 Remake towards the very end.
His "guest character status" means that he'll join the fight in a way that's reminiscent of the Kingdom Hearts games in that he'll function like Donald, Goofy, or any characters that fight alongside Sora as tempotary guests. Red XIII will be on the battlefield, you might be able to issue him some basic commands, but you won't be able to control him directly.
It isn't until much later in the original Final Fantasy VII that we learn more about Red XIII's backstory as the last living member of his race, so investing too much time and energy from a development standpoint would feel like a waste. Developing and programming Red XIII's combat mechanics in particular would take a lot of work, and it probably would've led to even further delays for the game. Bites and claws will function differently from swords, punches, gunfire, and smacks with a staff.
Rest assured that Red XIII will get his moment of glory in the inevitable second FF7 Remake, but for now we'll have to accept his reduced role. If anything, we should be grateful that Square Enix decided to go this route rather than spend more time building the character's combat mechanics.
Final Fantasy VII Remake will be released April 10, 2020 for the PS4.