To take my mind off everything else, a bit of me doing fan analysis here.
Okay, to get some gushing out before the rest:
OMG, RED, I CAN’T WAIT!
CAIT SITH AND HIS CUTE LITTLE TEEFS!
Okay, let’s get into this.
What we know
The release date is in February, so basically that’s like super close all things considered and you can pre-order it now with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade included for free, in case you missed getting the non-Intergrade version free a while back, except this comes with Episode INTERmission included as well, so literally you’re getting the premium package for the fabulously low price of FREE, which I think is everyone’s favorite four-letter word that you can still shout in a daycare. If you haven’t played Remake yet, I recommend it, even though I haven’t myself all that far for reasons completely unrelated to the game.
If you have a Remake save, they’ll spot you Leviathan. If you have an Episode INTERmission save, they’ll toss in Ramuh. You’ll still have to find them in-game, apparently, but they’ll be available. Notably, it’s implied neither of these have to be an endgame save; any playtime should do. Two free summons is good in my book and I’m guessing you’ll probably start the game with all the story summons from last time, because they’re certainly not going to have a game without Ifrit and Shiva and Ifrit gets handed to you fairly early on. How much else might be fielded is another question or even if you have to earn certain things back, I guarantee the option will be there.
It’s also been stated that there will be summons that were not in the original game. Which to be fair, stood quite true for Remake, so no real surprises there, but worth noting. Especially because of how many summons there already were in the original. Bearing in mind that all the summons available until the Forgotten Capitol included Choco/Mog, Shiva, Ifrit, Ramuh, Titan if you knew what you were looking for or got lucky, Odin, Bahamut, Leviathan provided you detoured to Wutai, and Kujata, it’s reasonable that everything from last time will return. I mean they already have the assets and programming; there’s literally no reason not to. They have revealed the "new" Bahamut Arisen, but that’s literally just a new localization of Neo Bahamut. It frankly was the first thing I thought of when I saw the new design. Whether there will be more major summons who aren’t just being re-branded in the West that haven’t been seen before (other than that Moogle Trio pre-order bonus) we’ll have to wait and see.
Otherwise, the story will go through the Forgotten Capital, which we all know is where spoilers happen in the original, but that might very well change in this one.
Just to detour a bit on the design, Kujata looks to have gotten an overhaul and now has triple stacked faces in yellow, blue, and red, or rather orangish-brown, light turquoise, and something purple roughly in the range of mulberry, but the effect is basically the same. This is unusual in that Kujata really only had one main-game appearance and as such all of its depictions were pretty much unchanged, as least as far as the summon itself went without granting the name to random recolors of other enemies. Kujata was always a gray-brown bull with a few too many eyes and horns, a big reddish razor mane, and a large ring in its nose with a trio of golden rings held on it not unlike a shakujo (otherwise known as a monk’s staff). The interesting thing is that the ring is gone, which is fair enough given something like that might be a pain to animate nicely, but the reddish mane is now more prevalent than ever and, tellingly, is much closer to the original ruby color after years of being interpreted more orange. Kujata in mythology had a giant mountain of ruby on its back, so this more bluish-red color seems to say the right people were involved in the decision-making. The mane also seems to change color a bit based on whatever it’s casting, which will be really cool to see in action. This is really the first fresh take anyone has had an opportunity to do on it and they went hard without sacrificing too much of what made it identifiable. It still is ultimately a bull with too many eyes and too many horns and a ruby mane. As much of a fan as I am, it has my seal of approval.
Titan has also been shown off at this point and looks more or less like they combined the original with a rock formation, which works just fine, I guess. Phoenix has also been shown off, as has Alexander, and while maybe Phoenix could have stood not to lose the rainbow theme that the original FF7 kicked off and that has held fairly steady since then, it doesn’t look bad or anything. Which is to say that I could nitpick various design changes to the summons this time around, but none of them are really material. You look at them, you see something pretty close, whether Shiva wears pink or not, or Ifrit has his chest hair or not, or Phoenix has the rainbow inner wing feathers or not.
Mechanically, this round has done what I really wished the first one did and separated Classic Mode off from the other difficulty settings into something closer to Active and Wait, only it’s now Active and Classic. This is the best thing they could have done! Seriously, now the difficulty settings can control actual difficulty even if your stubby fingers and tired brain can’t manage active combat. In addition, they’ve now added Dynamic to the difficulty settings, which means that enemy levels scale with yours, as in you can choose whether going back to earlier areas lets you totally stomp the enemies there or if they continue to put up a challenge. Given the open-world nature of the game, that’s a fantastic addition on its own. I can only hope that Classic has otherwise been ported over without changes, as it was easily one of the best systems Square Enix could have ever come up with for people like me, eminently respectful, yet prompt in the delay it waits before taking back over when you release the controls and relinquishing it back to you immediately. It’s hard to label anything a perfect system, but that is a shining example. Divorcing it from Easy difficulty is really the only thing I could have ever thought to change and that’s nothing to do with the mechanics.
Vincent has been shown off, but he’s going to be a guest in this one like Red was last time. Which means that Cid almost certainly will be, too. Cid is technically the last party member you get in the original provided you don’t put off getting Vincent or Yuffie and people seem to forget that. The excuse for Vincent is likewise that he comes too late in the story to learn properly, like Red, and unless they trust that Cid will be significantly easier to get a handle on, he’ll probably be lumped in the same camp, serving perhaps as a pilot rather than a combatant, because like #@%& is he going to let anyone else touch the Tiny Bronco, which is also confirmed to be in. I’m not 100% sure I buy the excuse that either of them actually is that late to the party since unlike Red, both of them will be present for at least 2 major dungeons plus messing around in an open world that Red didn’t have the luxury of, but it probably sounds better than "heck if I know what their new abilities are yet" or "we don’t have time to hammer out the severe balancing issues." Unless they totally railroad you at the end of the game. Oh. Wait…
Cid seems to be missing his smoking habit and I’m honestly okay with that. It’s a different Cid. He had a toothpick in Kingdom Hearts and that was also a different Cid. I cannot stress this enough, these aren’t the same characters they were in the original; it’s a new universe with its own quirks. Characters do smoke in the game; he just doesn’t appear to be one of them. And a lot of fuss has been made over how much younger he looks this time around like he’s "really" 32, but smoking like a chimney actually does age you quite a bit. It’s true! You can easily add a decade onto your skin because nicotine has well-known vascular effects. At any rate, everyone seems to feel that his smoking habit was iconic somehow, but really it was only aesthetic. He never banged on about needing a cigarette in the original; it was just a part of his character design and it was relevant for exactly 3 things: lighting his Dynamite, his victory pose, and when it fell out of his mouth in the ending. You see a LOT of it, but none of it is essential to his character. The same can be said for the other character design changes. Tifa’s gigantic gazongas were just as prevalent to the point there was that "orthopedic underwear" joke, which is to say they were so big they were giving her lower back problems. Those have been significantly toned down. Aerith, despite now being a ranged attacker, no longer has a slinky dress that would have been just fine limiting her mobility, instead giving her something more like she had in Crisis Core with a long pleated skirt for the sake of movement. Red XII has a new weapon entirely. Let’s face it; his old stuff was all women’s hair accessories. They swapped him over to a collar, probably for visibility and probably because he just plain doesn’t look right without both of his feathers. None of these things were so essential to their designs that they had to be preserved. None of them were relevant to their personalities in the least.
Cid as a character really kinda could use cleanup regardless. People seem to forget that he wasn’t a lovable foul-mouthed pilot; he was a legitimately abusive A-hole who got a wake-up call at the conclusion of his personal arc and had very little investment in the Planet at first, outright falling asleep out of boredom as the others talked about the end of the world. He wasn’t really a redeemable character when you met him and needed extensive rehabilitation and the game somehow managed to get everyone to forget that, the way it somehow made everyone forget the party has a body count probably in the hundreds just from the first mission alone. That aspect likewise saw some attention; I expect that Cid is going to be toned down because things are a lot less funny when it’s not chibi origami being violent and screaming in someone’s face, which goes just as much for Barret’s inflicting physical violence on his team early on. Some things do not translate as fidelity gets better, but it does allow for more nuance, much of which was indeed lost in translation in the original.
Chocobo breeding appears to be in, or at the very least the results of that were apparent given the various Chocobos doing their thing flying and climbing mountains. This might stop before it lets you get a Gold Chocobo that would let you go anywhere, of course, since that would let you visit places you don’t seem able to in this game.
We also know Priscilla and Mr. Dolphin are back, but whether Mr. Dolphin is still going to let you use him to carry the Buggy all the way across the ocean to save some cash is yet to be seen.
New to the game will be a crafting system, which will allow you to do things like mix your own Potions and Antitdotes, which seems like a fantastic idea to me. First of all, basically every game in the series AFTER FF7 has had some form of crafting system and generally speaking they’re done well. It might not be the sinfully delectable cooking system from FF15, but given the size of the world map and being of normal human size traversing it this time around, that feels like it’s really going to keep your pockets full of items when you most need it and can’t get to town. If I’m going to be scouring every inch of two continents for shiny objects, the least they can do is make some portion of those edible, to be really honest. If the entire party ends up poisoned by sucking something’s explosive flatulence, I would very much like the ability for them to all be able to stuff their faces with roots and berries to cure it so they can continue the fight. The crafting system will have its own EXP, so you will definitely want to use it regularly.
Just to detail something, I’ve seen someone lament that there will be crafting because crafting is just so prevalent now, but what you really need to worry about is not just any old crafting. Crafting has generally been done well in the series or at least not done terribly compared to the competition. The thing you most have to worry about is whether the crafting is inconvenient or just not worth it. Some things that make for bad crafting:
- Ingredients that quickly stop being useful, e.g.: "Do you like potions that stopped being useful ten hours ago? Well, if not, welcome to trucking around 99 units each of Cucumber Slices and Fresh Water." This is especially frustrating if the game is opaque about what everything is for and doesn’t open the system up until long after it would have been useful to know. (I see you, Starfield!) A good game will allow you to up-cycle the Cucumber Slices with the Premium Mud for the Spa Facial and the Fresh Water can and should be used for basically any potion you can make.
- Load-bearing ingredients that are frustrating to procure. Also known as, "I could make 50 Sodas if I just had 50 Bottle Caps." Maybe they only spawn in one spot in a far corner of the map or drop only at a fraction of a percent from an enemy that only spawns on a Wednesday night after 10:00 p.m., but if you’re sitting on buckets of everything else needed to make something useful and scraping for more than a handful of the final ingredient, you are here. This is down to balancing because even if an ingredient only appears in one spot, if that spot is eminently convenient to get to, it’s not really a hassle. Not every ingredient has to be everywhere; it’s just that nobody wants to have to truck themselves across the whole known world for a paper clip.
- Limited carrying capacity. Starfield is also notorious for suggesting you need to collect everything that isn’t nailed down and then telling you you’re only strong enough to carry 10 of them.
- Designated crafting points. People might think they prefer this for roleplay purposes, but for mechanical purposes, it is always more convenient to be able to do it whenever, wherever. Sorry, but this is equally true of anything. Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver made farming infinitely more convenient than any other generation with the Berry Pots and Oblivion made alchemy infinitely more useful than Skyrim by letting you carry around a miniature lab to let you craft potions and poisons on the fly. You will never beat the experience of holding up a finger in the face of a fire-breathing dragon while you throw together a fire extinguisher.
- Esoteric requirements or high failure rate. MMOs are the guiltiest of this, but no one wants to blow through all of their rare ingredients only to find out their success rate is 0% until they’re level 50. If the game isn’t even forthright about this, frustrations run high because there’s no indication WHY it’s not working until you take yet another trip to Google. If the failure rate never stops being miserable, it begs the question what the point even is.
By all indications, the game will suffer more or less none of these issues, so there is every reason to be optimistic. (Now if only we could get someone in front of a camp stove again!)
Something else you’ll be able to do is fix what are basically Chocobo bus stops by putting their sign upright, which feels like something even the Chocobos could do if they really cared so much about it. This more or less makes them more accessible once you have them for the party.
Also notable is that Red will ride the Chocobos and it looks weird. Apparently there was some debate on whether he should simply, as a beast himself, run alongside the party and having seen the end result, it’s not cute enough that I wouldn’t have either wanted him to do exactly that or maybe sit in a way that looks more comfortable and hold the reins in his mouth. I could imagine some really amusing banter coming from Red about everyone else letting beasts do the work. They literally wrote two scripts for every mission because of his character arc; don’t tell me he got the shaft in writing.
Oh, yeah, in case you didn’t hear, they basically had to double the mission workload because there’s a version of every mission before and another version for after his major character arc. Obviously they were careful not to spoil any of this quite yet, but absolutely don’t think they didn’t care about him in this game. I won’t spoil what that character arc is or the end result of it if you don’t know it already, but suffice to say if you haven’t read literally everything else I’ve ever written on it, it’s a doozy.
A few gameplay tidbits: team attacks are back from FF15 and they’ll take a meter of some sort rather than being context-based, which at least keeps it fresh while introducing some really nicely cinematic elements to combat. Materia have also been shown that allow for two elements per orb, which is a nifty idea. There are also others to allow you to customize your A.I. party members a bit, the biggest Godsend being the one that lets them use their special abilities without your input. I’ll be honest, putting switching on the D-pad wasn’t the absolute worst idea, but having assigned those buttons to external paddle attachments, I really can’t play it any other way, and seeing as one of those is a wired setup that overheats very quickly and the other is currently AWOL, even if I do continue to simply remote play my PS5 because the PS4 controller is just a significantly better fit for my stubby fingers, maybe leaving my party members to their own devices will be worth the hassle of getting that stuff.
We’ve seen some gameplay for Red XIII and Cait Sith and the former has a special Revenge meter that builds when he defends against damage in Sentinel Stance for special attacks, making the player need to balance attack and defense with him, though the stance also comes with a counterattack option on □. We’ve also seen Stardust Ray and it is, to be blunt, the sort of thing I’d honestly have expected more from a Grandia game in the sense that it makes a gigantic globe of swirling gobs of energy that is mostly in the air and seems to be of the "whatever something smashes into takes damage" persuasion. It looks fantastic, but I feel like it has very little chance to hit things on the ground given that most of its area as a spherical attack is totally wasted. His original attack animation is preserved in his newly-anointed Sidewinder attack. He otherwise has Crescent Claw and his Limits are Blood Fang, which acts mostly how you’d expect, and Howling Moon, which increases the duration of Vengeance Mode. I would honestly have rather that have been assigned to Lunatic High, but it does leave holes in Sled Fang and Lunatic High that might be filled with other ideas, which I find… acceptable. Red’s limits did repeat themselves a bit and if they come up with new and interesting abilities to replace the ones they more or less merged, I’m all for it. I also understand that we live in more enlightened times and "lunatic," while used in what I personally consider a relatively positive sense, and as cool as "Lunatic High" sounds to me personally, has not aged well from the language of the time. There’s probably some concern about drug references, too… At any rate, we also know about his team attacks and the most interesting note I have on that is that he teams up with Barret to do basically Angelo Cannon. Which is its own kind of awesome, in my opinion, jokes about how that could catastrophically fail aside.
Cait Sith actually fights as just himself quite a bit, it seems, granting himself his giant stuffed Moogle as a sort of self-buff that puts a marker next to his health bar. His abilities change based on whether he’s riding or not and the Moogle when summoned will act as an A.I. party member when it’s summoned and he’s not riding it. Luck will also play a large part in his abilities. Which is to say he’s going to be a complex fighter with a lot of variables to keep track of and, well, despite that, you’ll still be at the mercy of the RNG. All I really have to say personally is he’d better be very rewarding to play well given how difficult it sounds like he’ll be to use, though to ease that burden, it doesn’t sound like his Moogle will be very limited, since there was a reference made to just summoning a new one when it runs out of HP.
We also have confirmation on how "Cait Sith" is pronounced after all the years of dancing around it and… *sigh* …look, I know we all said it the way it was spelled in English, and everyone totally wanted to rub every sanctimonious "well ackshyually" nerd’s face in the mud for insisting it was "kett shee." I said it, you said it, the annoying kid everyone otherwise hated worse than the sanctimonious nerds said it, but I kind of would have liked for it to be "kett shee" being really honest for the same reason I want to throttle someone who purposefully pronounces "jalapeño" as "gel-op-in-oh" because first off, it’s right in Japanese, and second off, by this point everyone has been made acutely aware of what is correct and you don’t just go around intentionally mispronouncing words from other people’s languages. It’s kind of a dick move. Anyone who thinks they’re funny doing it can take a high jump on a balance beam and land on both sides of it.
We also know who will be voicing the new characters and on one hand, giving the role of Vincent to Matt Mercer of "Critical Role" fame, Overwatch fame, and just all sorts of kinds of fame that’s highly unusual for a professional voice actor when Aerith is voiced by a random YouTuber feels just a little bit unfair until you kinda realize he’s just as much of a geek as anyone and poured his heart out in the audition and walked away thinking he was just going to do additional voices like the first game until they programmed the prompter system to glitch out and reveal the Vincent role to him in the recording booth. Which is really just a grade-A troll there, if you ask me. Mercer will absolutely do a fantastic job as Vincent because he’s just a fantastic actor and it’s clear he’s passionate about the role, but the humility really strikes me, too, because of course there was disappointment on his part thinking he didn’t get it, but given his high degree of visibility and really having all the opportunity in the world for the moment, it’s good to know it hasn’t gone to his head, either. Voice actors tend not to fall into that trap, but voice actors also usually don’t end up in his kind of spotlight, either. And really the world can use all the wholesomeness it can get.
Reno’s Japanese VA sadly died early during the recording process (like not in the booth, but in general) and so his role will be limited. They’re keeping his performance and they’ll fill out the rest with archival data, but that’s a… particularly Japanese thing to do, really. It’s not like the US where VAs always have to re-audition for the role and it can very well go to someone else; in Japan, that’s your role and in many cases they retire it if you die rather than give it to someone else. The fact they’re re-casting him at all was not necessarily a given; the fact they’re letting his voice live on in one last game is respectful by all metrics. It really is a different way of doing things. Reno will be back in full force with a new Japanese actor in game 3.
As far as what won’t be in the game at all: Wutai. Which makes sense, because that’s a whole extra continent they’d have to do that’s ultimately optional in the original, if highly encouraged. It’s also a place Reno shows up, so, yeah. What that ultimately means, though, is that you’ll still have Kalm, the Chocobo Ranch, Junon, Costa del Sol, Fort Condor, North Corel, the Gold Saucer, Gongoga, Cosmo Canyon, Mt. Nibel and Nibelheim twice (once in flashback), Rocket Town, the Temple of the Ancients, Bone Village, the Sleeping Forest, and the Forgotten Capital/City of the Ancients. Which is to say basically almost the whole world map, another major city, possibly more depending on how much they expand Costa del Sol in particular (I assume "a lot" to be more in line with Crisis Core), and the rest of Disc 1.
Kalm looks like it’s going to be significantly expanded and on top of that there will also be towns not in the original. Which… I have to admit I’m not really on board with. The original didn’t have a shortage of towns. That was decidedly not one of its issues and I’d rather see the towns it had be enriched with content than just made bigger. I really, really hope the new towns are small settlements that are more encampments or windmill farms like we’ve seen than just more freaking cities. We had an entire game in a city; cities have potential to have a lot of stuff to do and it doesn’t feel in the spirit of stepping blinking into the light of the wide-open world if all you’re going to do is city hop for all your content when it could be concentrated in fewer hubs. I just want to be able to go pick some flowers and stuff, okay? And for that matter, I want to be done with a town at some point, maybe get a surprise new quest after the world has changed around the place after I’m assured the place has become a cheap inn to me and nothing else. That’s how you pace things. The game is not really structured in a way that any one place can or should become a hub. At best they should be limited to regional hubs – somewhere you visit when you’re in the neighborhood and maybe check the local cork board to see what’s been pinned on it since you left.
I feel like this bears repeating, but Midgar was about ⅙ of the original game, and despite that it was significantly less than half of Disc 1 by volume. You spent a lot of time there, and it was sizable, but ultimately the world outside was so much bigger that the only reason it didn’t compare in density was because the world map let you grow into a kaiju and take 2 steps to the next locale and towns were generally a small handful of screens to navigate, most optional, which severely cut down on tromping about. Now, I love me some tromping about. Final Fantasy XV was some quality tromping about. I’m just saying that without quite so much (constructive) backtracking, Midgar would not have taken quite so much time. It made excellent use of its assets. Content is ultimately not spread evenly across the discs. I’d estimate that Midgar is maybe ⅓ of Disc 1 of the original, but Disc 1 altogether is roughly half the game, technically maybe a little more if a few forum threads are to be believed. Which is to say that if you were going to choose whatever point of the game to make an even second entry from after expanding Midgar, "the rest of Disc 1" is a fair estimate. Bearing that in mind, losing Wutai until the last entry doesn’t sting as hard, though it would have been nice. Really, it’s just saving something, anything, for later.
That also means that Disc 2 and Disc 3 will be crammed together in the final entry, which is pretty much fair; Disc 2 is a bit short and Disc 3 is basically just the final dungeon. Saving Wutai for that probably is wisest for development time because game 3 is going to come fast having to only deal with a couple more continents and fleshing out only a few more towns, one of which has no particular need to be fancy and can very easily reuse assets from FF15. The assets are there for most of the world.
And now for some quality speculation
But there’s also something I’d like to note about what IS in the game: Alexander. You might have noticed it was not in my list before, where Odin and Kujata were. Bear with me, because this is maybe a little picky, but Alexander originally came from the Great Glacier, which is after the supposed end of the game. And on one hand, that could just be because people asked for it, but on the other, it could mean that there’s a little more to the game than is otherwise being let on. And there’s a reason why this is important. In the original, there’s leftover data all the way through Icicle Area to imply that game events were supposed to play out a bit differently or at least in a different order. Which is to say there might be reason to lie a little bit because things are going to play out a bit closer to that original plan.
In the same vein, Phoenix doesn’t come in until later in the game after you finish defending Fort Condor, at which point the condor egg hatches and you get Phoenix for your troubles. Being brutally honest I could do without needing to spend more time defending Fort Condor than necessary, if only because I’m currently doing a Fort Condor 100% run on the original and it’s a royal pain in the patoot the way battles can take place between two actions right next to each other that no sane person would abandon just to run all the way back to check on things. It could stand to be a bit more expedient.
I honestly don’t know what Alexander says about possible changes to the element system, but my gut instinct says "nothing," and it will probably do fixed damage or non-elemental damage or maybe hacky proximity-based and weakness-specific damage like it did in FF13 where they seem to have mined many of their ideas from last time. Unlike the sequels to that, I don’t honestly think they’re going to make any changes to the elemental system if only because they seem to have it right where they want it, because they’ve been doing "Fire, Ice, Lightning, wildcard" as a comfort zone since FFX and seem to be happy with Wind for its physics applications stolen from FF13 along with most of the other battle mechanics and the Crystarium system for upgrades.
Detour to Dreamland: The FF13 Nightmare
I would love to be surprised. I liked FF13 itself, but it often feels like I’m the only one and it stings to see FF7 borrow so heavily from it when it inspired so little, much less specifically from the two sequels nobody wanted. Honestly, FF7 was fairly unique in just how many elements it gave the player to mess around with and how mechanically interesting it made them. Poison, Earth, Water, Wind, and Gravity all required either creativity to use or at least thought and understanding in their applications. Water and Poison were both especially useful right up until you made a grave error with them. With the right setup, Poison became quality healing, because Bio hit with respectable damage and absorbing Poison damage meant you effectively got free Regen out of the deal, but Poison enemies enjoyed that exact same benefit and could become that much harder to take down. That was part of the design. It held a particularly privileged position that I’d be beside myself to see back. Water was hard to access, but you could get Aqua Breath (Aqualung) from a relatively dangerous enemy (Harpy) and it was both expensive and powerful. That made it something that would immediately bite you in the event it didn’t work, or worse, healed something. But the game let you make those errors. And it seems like the remake project is not offering that same flexibility or freedom.
I know that Poison has been shafted as an element for decades now, and I can understand that Water might seem redundant with Ice, but Wind being so heavily represented gets my goat because the old game spent most of its run only letting you enchant your weapon with it, which in turn could wreck flying enemies with your ranged attackers. It’s not part of the identity of the game the way it is for FF13 and that smacks of them putting little thought into what FF7 was mechanically. And on one hand it’s introduced like an addition, but on the other, that’s really just an illusion; it’s a core part of gameplay borrowed from something else that’s been thoroughly dragged through the mud.
I understand much of this is that "Seven-ness" meaning something different to everyone that makes this project so difficult, but at the same time, the original’s story isn’t considered sacred anymore and if you’re not sticking to the story and you’re not sticking to the mechanics, what ARE you sticking to? If all you wanted was to make more Fabula Nova Crystallis, that could have been done in FF16. This isn’t to say what’s there doesn’t work; just that it feels like Lightning is going to Chest-Burster out of Cloud and scream, "IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED!? DO YOU LOVE ME NOW!?" And no, she can get shoved right back in, because FemCloud (or at least the version everyone but Japan got) was easily the least redeemable part of any of it. Which is kind of the problem here: fans and the press alike were nothing short of brutal in their derision of her overstaying her welcome and she did it for 3 games and an MMO event intended to set her up as a dimension-hopper that we’d never be rid of. The backlash was enough that FF15 was outright distanced from Fabula Nova Crystallis to keep that mud off of it. The FF13 systems work and always have, but sweetening it up with a bit of FF15 and pouring it into FF7‘s Jell-O mold doesn’t fully hide that signature dirt flavor that FF13 will always bear in the West, even to me because of the sequels.
I could very well do with the elemental system from FF13 itself, because that would offer Water back to Leviathan to justify its existence and would also offer it back to Aqua Breath to make it anything but non-elemental, but pulling them from the sequels specifically brings me right back to choking down loam. And if it’s going to keep doing that, I hope it can at least make it feel worthwhile, because while "Seven-ness" might be vague and difficult, "Thirteen-ness" is already figured out and if people don’t complain about MaleCloud doing it, then it’s going to just stay that way getting grit in everyone’s sandwich who remembers that crap.
And now back to your regularly scheduled speculation
It’s a reasonable guess that Quake is going to be in. I would like to hope we get to see something properly interesting for it even if Earth’s not an element; maybe some of that proximity-based damage from FF13 or else hitting hard enough to justify being boring, because we already can intuit that enemy mobility categories were made with it in mind. I would much rather have a proximity calculation so less of it is wasted provided whatever it’s aimed at meanders out of the AoE and more gets Staggered, because you know it’s absolutely going to rule at that, because it ruled at that in FF13. And I can hope for something resembling how plain interesting the animations used to be, using green lasers to really sell the living power of the land that’s just such a point in the lore, unlike FF13 where it just blew a bit of dirt into the air. That’s honestly my worst fear for it: reducing it down to something unimportant, when its early availability and breadth are essentially unique in the series.
We can also reasonably expect to see Gravity Materia, since you get that comfortably within the confines of Disc 1. They already have one spell effect from the line; there’s little reason to expect it’s not making the cut.
All things considered, Enemy Skills should be returning as well, and we can probably expect a much healthier number of them with more of the world available. Whether all of them make the cut is another question. That’s probably going to depend on what is and isn’t considered an element and what does and doesn’t defy easy explanation. As much as I love Aqua Breath and Matra Magic, without Water or any reason a machine might be capable of magic (Cait Sith aside), we might get both or neither, as good of a fit as Matra Magic’s rockets were for a technological world. There’s a good chance of Beta and Trine since we know the enemies that have them are appearing in some form. That alone increases the chances of Aqua Breath, even if it has to be an Ice or Ice/Wind attack within the elemental system, since they were more or less a roughly equal elemental trio. It’s not entirely unreasonable to expect Ice/Wind given Kujata is in with its prior Fire/Ice/Lightning damage (implied, but not confirmed all in its Tetra Disaster). Others that might return are L4 Suicide, White Wind, Big Guard, ????, Frog Song, Flame Thrower, Death Sentence, Laser, and Chocobuckle, since those enemies are all within reach. That would give maybe 15 skills to work with, ignoring additions and removals. That’s a heck of a lot more satisfying than 4.
Given some of those would require Manipulate or Confuse, we can also hazard one or both of those are returning, too.
Cid can be reasonably expected to serve primarily as the pilot of the crew if not a combatant. With Vincent tagging along, it’s only reasonable that he contribute a bit to battle given his reason for joining is, to put it politely, highly personal. Cid, on the other hand, only joins the party in the original because they otherwise stole the Tiny Bronco kinda/sorta by accident and Palmer ticked him off in the immediate prelude by trying to do it very much on purpose. His connection to the party is tenuous at best. In terms of "do I really want to fight for these knuckleheads," Cid could very easily simply choose not to and serve purely as their chauffeur, provided some remuneration. It’s reasonable to think that he would take a bit more time to warm up to the party otherwise given they’re more or less guilty of at least some of the same stuff as Shinra in his eyes, and Shinra’s only real additional personal slight is failing to fund his dream of going to space. He’s otherwise, in some sense, a Shinra employee who’s been sitting on his hands and probably not actually been paid in several years. Their environmental motive is not something he starts out particularly concerned with.
Vincent potentially joining as a combatant has all sorts of interesting implications, though, given there’s every reason to think he’ll at least be able to transform into Galian Beast given it looks like Red XIII is retaining his Stardust Ray from Remake, almost certainly as a Limit. That could, in theory, introduce elemental complications for the party assuming it’s not as heavily scripted as Stardust Ray was in the end of Remake.
Sephiroth has been said to be one of the "heroes" of this game and it leads me to believe that the Nibelheim flashback will perhaps get a bit more focus this time around, which is all to the good in my book. The more we get to see of him still sane, the better. I know that’s like kind of the whole point of his role in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion, where he’s more or less the only sanity to be had in the vortex of weirdness swirling 10 feet off-screen from Cloud’s flashbacks, but not everyone will have played that and it’s important to have some of it in the game where it matters, never mind that the whole game by its nature is more or less spoiler territory. It is, however, confirmed that he’s playable specifically to help the player see his perspective. This in itself is the polar opposite to the original, where he was only briefly present as an uncontrollable guest character whose setup you couldn’t touch and whose stats were outright hidden, with him being scripted to take no damage and use no MP. You were supposed to be left in awe of him there; seeing him in action as an impossibly cool fighter was just a part of that.
(SPOILER WARNING:) We also know Zack survived in this timeline, and it’s reasonable to think he’ll show up somehow given they specifically said they wanted to remake his game to get the new audience familiar with him. Side note: I bought it, but for similar reasons to Remake have not played it despite always having wanted to. I honestly just don’t have the time or energy right now and, well, Red XIII isn’t in it, which is honestly what had me most frustrated with everything, but maybe a bit of a full explanation on that is in order.
Why I’m excited (and why I never finished the rest)
Remake still has my recommendation. As far as I’ve managed to get in it, I’ve very much enjoyed it in terms of presentation, combat, and the overall narrative. It’s a good game and if you have any doubts about whether you’ll like it, the free demo is basically just the opening mission with spoilers removed. Ultimately, none of that is why I stopped playing.
Being really honest, my drive to complete Remake took a dive when it became clear that my progress would not transfer, where before I was viewing Rebirth as just the spark I needed. Games require time and energy I don’t often have and after a strong beginning, the momentum splatters itself against a brick wall of sidequests and busywork, which I could skip, technically, but my completionist instincts would never forgive me. And every time I booted it up, I took a look at the active sidequests and just kinda wanted to skip to the good parts. The rub is if you asked me where my memory effectively starts in the original, it’s more or less when you get the Poison Materia, and having Red scouting ahead of the party when Jenova escapes, moving along into that amazing elevator setpiece battle and the duel with Rufus and Dark Nation, then the motorcycle chase because seriously, Cloud riding down the stairs on that motorcycle is one of the coolest moments in the game, and stepping out into the wider world, with vague hints of how I am clinically incapable of choosing the right barrels to shove down to save Aeris in the church, the sewer segment into the Train Graveyard because the Sahagins living there raise interesting implications, the pillar battle, just loving the Hell House as an enemy, and Wall Market if only because Wall Market has so much content and none of it is fighting, and the second visit there segues straight into infiltrating Shinra HQ. Those are parts I very much enjoyed, but you’ll notice that most of that is kind of toward the end of the Midgar segment, which is to say the very end of the game. And also mostly the parts directly related to Red, who, if you’ve read anything I’ve written for ages, you already know is special to me in a way that no other character probably can be the way our stories ran in parallel during my formative years. And also Aeris, who is easily my second favorite character in the game. I don’t talk a lot about how formative Aeris was for me in her own way, but in many ways she taught me how to deal with adversity. And maybe if I could drag myself to when she became available it would be enough to keep me going, but sadly the elevator battle didn’t even make the cut and I was super looking forward to that. Which is to say I know the parts I actually want are going to take me several hours to get to at best and at worst I’m never going to get to see them, ever. So when I sit there and have to contemplate whether I really want to dump 80 hours into this thing, looking at the crap I have to deal with in the immediate sense, the answer given my energy levels is always "someday, but not now."
The same can be more or less said for Reunion in that I was positively thrilled years ago to get my hands on my brother’s PSP and copy of the game only to find that the power switch was broken. It’s probably fixable, but I never got it taken care of. I’ve very much liked what I’ve seen of Zack and would still like to play it someday, but every time I look at it, even though it’s specifically geared to short bursts, I can never really muster the energy for it. The answer is still always "someday, but not now" and really it takes a back seat to Remake, which isn’t fair to either of them, because I know getting that taste might actually jumpstart a bit more energy for gaming.
And on top of that, I just have other things I’m playing right now when I DO game. Which is rarely, given I rebuild my energy much faster doing creative stuff rather than consuming media.
What makes Rebirth different, obviously, is that it skips right to the "good parts" or at least "the wider game shortly after the good parts start." I can just as easily watch a decent Let’s Play of Remake and have a couple saves on hand for Ramuh and Leviathan if that’s all that’s going to transfer. I guess my point here is that I can’t get excited about Remake because none of it is going to matter, which kinda sucks to be really honest, because I would have liked to experience it properly, but Rebirth is pretty much exactly what I asked for.
And on one hand, I know that’s unfair, because I really shouldn’t recommend something I have barely enjoyed myself, but on the other, none of that has anything to do with the quality of what I’ve seen. It’s not like I didn’t like what I saw; the problem is mostly that as a completionist, I stress over things that are largely unnecessary to the experience. In this case, it was one of Chadley’s things that was just really hard to pull off. That’s ultimately a me problem, not a game problem.
Which is why Rebirth is more or less the perfect solution for me, because that’s the part I can get excited about without caveats or anything in between. That’s where I can make a beeline to Kalm and pick up Earth materia, and face the Custom Sweepers for Matra Magic, and grind my party stupid on cannon fodder to nab Beta and defeat the Zolom. It’s the part where I don’t have to hold up progress because I’m clinically incapable of letting go of the sidequests. Believe me, I am all for sidequests; FF15 gave me like 70 of hours of nothing but sidequests before I had to worry about continuing the story and I enjoyed the heck out of it without actually getting anywhere, but importantly, none of those sidequests were missable so I HAD to do them. That’s important; sidequests that feel like work are a very different experience to sidequests you choose to engage with at your leisure, and FF15 had no shortage of leisure activities.
I guess I could say if Final Fantasy VII is going to be like anything else more modern, Final Fantasy XV is what I’d hope to see it shoot for, because that game had so many activities in it and let you do so much that it’s almost unfair to the main story. The quality of just moving around the world is fantastic and everything you can do in that game is so much fun that the story more or less fell into the shadow of that to me. I’d love for any open world game to be HALF that good. The thing is, it looks like that’s more or less exactly what’s happening here, so I know I’ll be happy with it.
I guess that’s what this all boils down to. Maybe a little idealization ahead of time that might get a reality check on release, but also just the characters that I’m most interested in all being there, the promise of systems that sound very much like things I already like or was hoping for, and the promise of maybe not feeling quite so restricted by the early game.
Anyway, it’s something to look forward to. I won’t take vacation for this one, but I can hope my energy levels are as such that I won’t need to.