FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH devs talk world, minigames and more

Producer Yoshinori Kitase and Director Naoki Hamaguchi on their philosophy for the game’s side content, the difficulty of making a planet and why copying the original game can sometimes feel weird.
By Duncan Heaney


This epic new RPG sends Cloud Strife and his allies on a thrilling journey around the world in pursuit of the sinister Sephiroth. But it’s not all about the chase - the world is overflowing with amazing things to see and do, from story-driven side quests to marvellous minigames. To call it generous in variety would be an understatement.

That’s all by design. I recently sat down with Producer Yoshinori Kitase and Director Naoki Hamaguchi for an interview, but we didn’t want to talk about the story, characters or anything that would spoil some of the surprises in store.

Instead, we chatted about other aspects of the game, including the more open structure, the evolution from FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE and the card game Queen’s Blood.

Or, ‘my new personal obsession’ as it’s quickly becoming known.

It was a fascinating chat, and we hope you enjoy it. If so, be sure to experience the game for yourselves - FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH is out now for PS5:

FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH is the second game in the trilogy. How has this format helped you and the project?

Yoshinori Kitase (Producer): The original FINAL FANTASY VII was so big and had so much content, so by remaking it into a trilogy, we are able to recreate every part of the original at the quality we’re aiming for, without having to cut anything down or shave anything off. That’s only possible with multiple games, and that was something we understood from the beginning.

However, another advantage we’ve come to realize after doing the first game and getting into the rest of the trilogy, is that we can actually take feedback from the previous game on board. We can see what players feel, what they liked, what they wanted, what we maybe could have done better, and essentially keep making the game alongside the fans.

What feedback did you particularly want to address with REBIRTH?

Naoki Hamaguchi (Director): The original FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE was very much a story-driven game. It offered a very dramatic narrative experience that seemed to be very highly regarded by fans.

But at the same time, I think a lot of people asked for a bit more player choice - the ability to make decisions about what to do next, rather than just getting drawn along by the story. We’ve definitely tried to respond to that and added many more layers of freedom, choice, and exploration into FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH.

So, it’s a new approach, but at the same time, we’re keeping the same level of dramatic and engaging storytelling that people responded to from the previous game. That’s all there, too.

What challenges did this new more open structure give you?

Hamaguchi-san: Perhaps the biggest challenge we faced was setting the actual scale for the world that the game is set in.

Of course, there are already quite a few games that let you explore an open area, but it’s typically only one chunk of that world. I think there are very few games that try to give you experience of exploring the whole planet.

The original FINAL FANTASY VII told a story that involved travelling around the whole world, so we felt it was important to give players that same experience - the feeling that they are exploring a planet.

Obviously, in trying to realize that we can’t create a one-to-one scale of a whole planet. In terms of development costs and resources it would be far too hard to achieve that! Not to mention the difficulty of getting the right density of content in the game to make it fun to play - it would be extremely difficult at that level of scale (laughs)!

But we also couldn’t cop out. We had to somehow give the feel of exploring a whole planet and get the balance just right in terms of gameplay, too!

How did you find that balance?

Hamaguchi-san: A lot of trial and error!

The other thing we paid a lot of attention to was to make sure that even though we were adding all this content, all these side activities for players to find and engage with, the experience didn’t get dull. It all had to be varied, with unique gameplay features for each one.

If we just made a lot of content, but it was basically all the same, I think players would get bored with it very quickly. So, we prioritized making each individual activity feel unique and different to the others.

For example, each side quest has its own unique storyline that you can follow and there are unique elements that you can only play while doing that particular quest. They can be unique obstacles, puzzles or minigames - things that you don’t find elsewhere in the game.

Looking for that kind of uniqueness in each individual piece of content was a big focus of development.

Was there anything planned that didn’t make the cut?

Hamaguchi-san: Hmm… (thinks)… in terms of things we wanted to put in but had to cut out, there really weren’t that many. I think we got the vast majority of the things we wanted to do into the final version of the game.

Oh - there was one thing. There’s a scene under Junon in the original FINAL FANTASY VII where Cloud has to get to Upper Junon and into the military base. To do this, there’s a mini game where you jumped on a dolphin, timed your jump to grab onto a piece of metal, and climbed up from there.

Early in development, we actually tried making that pretty much as it was in the original game. We got the prototype working, but quickly realized that because of the modern graphical style, and the fact that the camera can now be moved around freely, it just didn’t look right.

It just felt a bit… odd. Not very convincing, and not much fun to play either.

So, we went for a slightly different direction. Cloud still grabs onto the dolphin, but now there's a sort of water racing game where you try to get around at speed. So trying to replicate the original without change didn't seem to work for this game - the new approach is much more fun.

Of all the minigames, I am particularly in love with the card game Queen’s Blood! It’s really compelling - but what made you add it in?

Hamaguchi-san: As I mentioned earlier, we wanted to get a unique element in each minigame and make them all feel different and special. That also means the way we had to present them wouldn’t be same either.

Some would be very closely tied to the main story - very much a core part of the game - while others would be more like one-off experiences that you’d see in a specific quest and be self-contained within it.

I thought as a third type, it would be really good to have a minigame that had its own separate storyline. It’s not the main narrative - it’s a different storyline entirely - but it continues throughout the whole game in parallel. That’s what Queen’s Blood does.

So, I thought that having all these different positionings or ways to incorporate the minigames into the overall structure would help add to the sense of variety.

Why choose a card game for this type of content?

Hamaguchi-san: Well, this goes back to my own personal experiences with FINAL FANTASY when I was a child, playing through FINAL FANTASY VIII and IX.

I guess it was just my preconception that if FINAL FANTASY has a minigame which continues throughout the whole game, and acts as a break from the main story, a card game is the best fit.

You get your Queen’s Blood deck very early - I imagine a lot of players like me are going to find themselves spending a long time just playing cards.

Hamaguchi-san: I’m glad to say you fell into our trap there (laughs). That’s exactly what we were aiming for!

How did you decide when to introduce Queen’s Blood into the game?

Hamaguchi san: We teach players the game right at the start of Chapter Two, and there’s a reason for that.

Chapter One is very story-driven. It’s a dramatic experience that sets the scene for the story and is intensely focused on the narrative events that set the scene. Once it’s finished, we wanted to show players the direction for the rest of the game - that it’s not just following the story. From here, you’ll have side quests and minigames, which branch out. Also, you’ve got the extended world to explore.

That’s why we put the Queen’s Blood tutorial there. I felt that putting one of the core minigames at that point would basically be a statement of intent to the players that, yes you can just follow the story if you want, but there’s a whole world of other content for you to explore now, too.


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