The Final Fantasy VII remake trilogy is one of the boldest reimaginings ever seen in gaming, and the second installment, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, has the tall task of recapturing the original game’s expansive world beyond the city of Midgar. And every indication suggests that FF7 Rebirth’s development team is taking even bigger swings this time around. Creative director Tetsuya Nomura says we can expect further story enhancements for key villains — including the swaggering nepo baby Rufus Shinra.
“We won't be making immense departures from the original. With Remake, we went further in-depth into Avalanche in ways that were not done in the original,” Nomura tells Inverse. “This will be done for Rufus as well. He will have some sort of new episodes that do not exist in the original, where we will get to know more about him and dig deeper.”
Rufus plays an interesting role in the FF7 Compendium, or the expanded universe surrounding the game. In the 1997 original, he’s essentially a secondary villain to Sephiroth. However, his role is greatly expanded in a variety of spinoff movies, games, and books. Rufus plays a central role in the 2005 animated film Advent Children, the mobile game Before Crisis reveals him to be the benefactor behind Avalanche, and the novel The Kids Are Alright revolves around Rufus’ secret half-brother. We don’t know how much of all that is canon to the Remake trilogy, but it’s fair to say all of it is fair game.
Alongside a hands-on preview, Inverse spoke to Nomura and FF7 Rebirth director Naoki Hamaguchi about the inspiration behind the synergy system, new and returning minigames, Vincent’s role, and more details about one of 2024’s most anticipated games.
How do you balance combat around new options like combos and Synergy attacks?
Hamaguchi: It was coming more from a place of thinking about the overall game experience and scenario. As you know, in Rebirth, the characters are leaving Midgar and going on a journey that eventually leads to the Forgotten Capital. Along the way, relationships and tighter bonds are formed, so we really wanted to align the battle system to the scenario and worldview, and thought about creating this more immersive experience with the bond between the characters in mind.
With Remake, the overall battle system was thought of in terms of command-based functions and action-based functions. The Synergy system can be defined as belonging to either of these two functions, command or action.
We have the Synergy actions, an action-based element where there's no gauge depletion, that can be used for guarding or deploying aerial combos. Users who are skilled at action gameplay can really have fun with the system. The Synergy ability is geared more towards the command function, and there is a specific gauge that, once filled, deploys this ability. Players can switch amongst characters and enjoy various combinations, and feel the bonds and relationships between characters.
There’s a big emphasis on minigames in Rebirth. How did you go about updating minigames from the original, and were there any that you thought just wouldn’t work?
Hamaguchi This is something that fans are expecting, we believe. So for Rebirth, we've included this vast number of minigames, even more so than the original.
Some of them are derived from the original, that are then reformatted or reconstructed to meet the modern audience. But for Rebirth, there are also ones that are just completely new that did not exist in the original. Some are just one-off event-type minigames and others can be played throughout the game as you go.
Just to talk about a specific minigame in Rebirth. If you remember the Rufus Inauguration Parade, in the original, you may recall that there was that minigame where you press the button in time with the parade. Within Rebirth, Cloud is now leading this parade. Here he’ll be able to collect the soldiers that will join the parade, seeking out soldiers within the crowd, then set up a specific unique configuration. This then determines the difficulty of the minigame and the results, and there's unique happenings that occur depending on which soldiers Cloud selects.
How does the open world and exploration work in Rebirth? How did you make sure exploration was satisfying?
Hamaguchi: In terms of the world map, we can think of this as one massive, very vast world map. Within it, there will be dungeons, cities, and oceans, where the player is able to have a seamless experience of being able to traverse and explore all these elements.
When we're thinking about the open-world concept, there are two types that we can look at. One is where it's just a completely open world from the get-go and the player is able to go anywhere, explore everything from the beginning. The second is where it's not completely open in the beginning and some parts may be restricted, but as the player progresses in the story, some locations open up and we're able to explore.
For Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, it's more of the latter. As the story progresses, the players and characters are able to reach new locations, in which there'll be these specific or unique experiences. Moreover, as the story progresses and you go on further, you'll be able to return to the places that you explored previously to see that there are now more new and unique experiences that you can have.
Remake drew on additional materials from the series with characters from books like Leslie and Kyrie. Can we expect Rebirth to continue drawing from the series’ spin-offs, like the recent Traces of Two Pasts novel?
Nomura: Right now, we're only able to talk about the characters that are depicted in the trailers that have been released thus far. But that being said, I will say that there are many characters that appear in Rebirth, perhaps even more so than Remake. Similarly for characters that are depicted in the novels and spin offs, we'd like for players to stay tuned for more information on this as well.
Speaking on a different title, in the Ever Crisis mobile app some parts of the Traces of Two Pasts novel are depicted. Fans of the novel may be interested in playing this.
Has the summon system been enhanced or changed in any way, outside of new summons being added?
Hamguchi: With the previous title, Remake, where summons could be used was a bit more limited. We felt that it would be great to expand upon the areas in which some summons can be used. So, in this title, there'll be more areas and more battles in which summons can be utilized.
In Remake, there wasn't really a growth system with summons — they didn't level up. For this title, it's not that they will level up with AP, per se, but there will be a system where the player will be exploring the world, and then within that journey, the summon materia itself will level up.
We’ve seen that Yuffie and Vincent will be joining the party. Are we going to see their backstories integrated into Rebirth in any way?
Nomura: Firstly, for Yuffie, the order of locations that the characters explore will differ slightly in terms of her storyline with the original. So as we mentioned for Rebirth, it will be the story going up till the Forgotten Capital.
With the original game, following the storyline, the party would be visiting Yuffie’s hometown Wutai, in the midst of that. But for Rebirth, this has been shifted to the next title so going further in-depth into the backstory will happen in the next game. Vincent won't be a controllable character in Rebirth, and will be more of a guest character, similar to Red XIII in Remake.