Nicolas Scagnelli

A good sequel builds on the original, right? I’ve seen many great installments in various movie and book series that build upon what worked in the originals, and smartly decided to take out the stuff that maybe didn’t. That’s what any good sequel should do. Now, if you go beyond this and decide to be a madman, you take the original work and completely flip it on its head. That’s what the legends over at Square Enix did with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. Do you want to make a work of art that builds upon the original and will go down in history? Be a crazy person and change everything about the next one.

Alright, I’ll give some context to the uninitiated. You’re probably wondering what a Final Fantasy (FF) even is. This game series has been around since the 1980s, and it’s one of the most respected franchises in the industry. It’s funny how a game series called Final Fantasy has over 40 entries. These games are huge, and are a generational moment whenever a new one is released. They’re known for their compelling stories, lovable characters and incredible music. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is the second installment in a story that is remaking the original FF7 that came out in 1997. The first part (Remake) came out in 2020, and Rebirth came out in February of this year.

Final Fantasy VII Remake was a hotly anticipated title. Not only was the game announced five years in advance of its release, but the original is one of the most beloved video games ever made. Fans fell in love with the world and characters that Square Enix brought to life with the universe. Fans have wanted a remake for decades, and they were finally getting one. And the best part was that this new reimagined version of the world we all loved was awesome.

Remake was so sick. It fully realized a game that came out more than 20 years ago with modern game sensibilities. It took a small section of the original game and expanded it into an entire game. Admittedly, that brought along some minor problems, but these were outweighed by every good change made. The combat was completely different in the best way possible. The original had slow yet satisfying combat, but the remake set the pacing all the way up to 11. The original also didn’t have any voice acting, as all of the dialogue was meant to be read by the player. The remake had fully-fledged voice acting for all of these legendary characters, and everyone killed it.

Can you tell that I like the game? It’s not everyday that a great game comes along and fully realizes a world that was incredible but, admittedly, was limited due to technology. It was a breath of fresh air to see this universe portrayed this way. It’s like putting on glasses for the first time. The world is the same as you know it — it’s just much clearer and vibrant. It’s a bona fide spiritual experience. As great as it was, Remake was quite a linear game. There’s nothing wrong with this. Even though it didn’t have many wide, expansive areas, it made up for its linear structure with a fantastic interconnected world.

Some critics said the game was too linear, and that’s fair. The original was known for having tons of locations, and Remake paled in comparison. So what did Square Enix do for the sequel, Rebirth? They said fuck it, and opened up the proverbial sandbox. The first hour of this game is a flashback, but after that, the main gang of characters explore the rest of the world, and it’s breathtaking. Remake took place in Midgar, a bustling steampunk city. While rich in culture and aesthetically gorgeous, it feels very oppressive, which is the main point. Rebirth, on the other hand, opens the floodgates.

The scenery of Rebirth is gorgeous. It focuses on open areas full of grass and other areas of the game that are much more open than Midgar. Full transparency here, this writer hasn’t actually finished the game yet. I’ve honestly been busy with work and personal stuff, including being smitten by the girl in this game I’ve had a crush on since I was in middle school. That aside, this game’s opening hours are the opposite experience compared to Remake. It gives the player so much freedom to pursue whatever kind of content they want, whether side or main story stuff. It’s so freeing and fresh.

What makes this new style of world exploration so cool is how different it was from the first game. They had a winning formula. Remake was received very well and was super successful. They could’ve used a similarly linear style of gameplay here. But they didn’t. Why? Because they’re legends. This new gameplay style is so refreshing to the game, and it makes the audience feel like the characters. They finally go from a cramped, dense city to the nature-soaked rest of the world. It’s wonderfully visually, and even better to play. A game this good almost makes me want to go outside. Shame it’s not that good, but maybe next time.

Nicolas Scagnelli is a senior majoring in English.

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece which represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.