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Sorrel’s Side Quests: ‘Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’ can’t please everyone (and it shouldn’t try to)

Last week, I wrote about Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis. I felt that its status as a lazily designed cash grab tarnished its legendary namesake by association. I still feel that way, for the record – since writing that column, I’ve barely touched Ever Crisis. However, it did remind me of just how much I love Final Fantasy VII itself. So, for the last week, I have fully immersed myself in the world of Final Fantasy VII. I’ve been reading the books, playing the spinoffs and above all else, tracking the production of next year’s Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. It’s the second part in the ambitious “Final Fantasy VII Remake” trilogy, which started with 2020's aptly titled Final Fantasy VII Remake.

I’m about as excited for Rebirth as I’ve ever been for a video game, but watching the extensive gameplay previews, developer interviews and general coverage of the game coming out of Tokyo Game Show this past weekend, I’ve been struck by one thought: this game is going to make a lot of people very angry, but not because it looks bad. In fact, it looks set to elevate Remake’s already phenomenal combat to new heights, and everything I’ve seen about its traversal, its world design and its seemingly infinite supply of minigames has left me thoroughly pumped. No, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is almost certain to be extremely divisive because it can only be one game.

The words “Final Fantasy VII” mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For many, they refer to a very influential PlayStation game from the ‘90s. For others, they refer to a multimedia franchise regarded with the same breathless reverence as something like “Star Wars.” For others, “Final Fantasy VII” only exists as a hypothetical framework for the “Remake” trilogy to build off of. It’s not like any of these camps are especially chilled out either. The people who view Final Fantasy VII’s spinoffs as essential are loudly defensive of that position, and the people who consider everything after the original game to be meaningless fan service fluff are just as fierce.

Final Fantasy VII Remake successfully dodged this problem by being somewhat conservative in the ways it handled the expanded universe. While they weren’t entirely discarded, the spinoffs, prequels, sequels, tie-in novels and the one terrible movie were referenced fairly fleetingly. There’s just enough there to satiate the hardcore fans without alienating newcomers and nostalgics … up until the very end. The climax of Remake ties heavily into Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, the PSP prequel to the original FFVII. Additionally, the DLC released for the game directly references the plot of Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, the PS2 sequel. These aren’t throwaway references, either – they’re pivotal plot beats. If Rebirth is meant to act as a direct follow-up to Remake, it cannot avoid addressing these inclusions.

To me, this is the best-case scenario. If Rebirth sincerely commits to telling a very specific story aimed at a very specific group of people, and if it can become the rare AAA game that doesn’t try to be everything for everyone, I’ll be happy. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth carries the weight of not just the 1997 original, but the legacy the game has spawned, whether that refers to its multimedia follow-ups, its impact on the industry at large or its fiercest fans’ constant arguments. If Rebirth is genuinely planning on reckoning with that 26-year history (in the same way Remake ultimately reckoned with the outsized impact of the original game), it could be something truly special.

But, it’s definitely going to make some people mad.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung is a junior studying virtual reality game development at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Sorrel by tweeting her at @sorrelquest.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung

Opinion Writer

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