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I do not believe Aerith can die anymore if you come at it from the perspective that similarly doesn't allow Yuffie and Vincent to be hidden characters anymore: there's too much development resources and sheer game design associated with her continued presence in the format these remakes have adopted to remove her from the formula entirely. 1997 Aerith was a stat sheet and a few niche mechanical rarities (tuned deliberately overpowered with consideration given to her eventual absence) in a game that wasn't difficult in a mechanical sense; an assortment of numbers in an RPG system as modular and swappable as VII was always meant that her loss was centered entirely on the narrative and emotional end of it.

2020 and 2024 Aerith is a moveset in a game that now fashions itself a highly individualized assortment of them; removing her upends the dynamic of what the rest of the design leans on (even if it will be plugged by two newcomers in the final part) but it also wrests players of a kit they have been utilizing, and understand, engage with and enjoy the game's mechanics through. In my mind, that's far greater a hurdle to negotiate than whatever unreliable narrator paradoxical ambiguity mystery box they are playing with narratively--storytelling as fundamentally obfuscating as these games engage in, tugging at player expectations, can be justified or rationalized in endless ways that will ring true or fall flat to audiences no matter what is done with it. But for as much as the "what will happen next" theorizing takes center stage in discourse around the material, going into the final battle and ending of Rebirth, the foremost question and spectre of doubt that rang through my head was definitely "is Radiant Ward going to survive into part 3?"
I think what you describe there Peklo in your second paragraph is exactly why Aerith will stay “dead” - at least to the main party and for an extended period of time. The designers of the Remake series have thus far done a really good job of having its gameplay and gameplay systems reinforce the game's dramatic themes in very clever/thoughtful ways. In the same way that making everyone's but Cloud's limit break gauges maxed out at the start of the final battle speaks volumes about what is happening with everyone's mindsets, making the player feel Aerith's absence by having to cope without her in the party is one of the stronger tool-sets they can use to really make the player feel the absence and loss of her to the other characters. Also, as much as many people say that the characters in the original game are blank slates mechanically, I remember keenly feeling her loss gameplay-wise back in the day. She's the best spell caster in the game bar none, and losing her - as well as her unique limit break set oriented around healing - makes the game a fair bit more challenging if you'd been relying on her up until that point.

But I do agree that she'll return in some fashion or form. Even if it's only for short Zack Fair/Laguna Loire-style gameplay snippets to see what she's up to in wherever tf she is right now. It only makes sense given not just the economical reuse of expensive assets, but IMO it's essential for the storytelling ethos these first two games have enjoyed. Where they've very clearly gone out of their ways to imbue its non-Cloud main characters with vastly expanded agency. Especially concerning Tifa and Aerith. Whose lives and personalities in the OG are mostly there to serve as accessories to Cloud's story, but in the Remake saga have gone out of their way to make it clear that these characters have inner lives, personal agency, and interpersonal relationships that exist outside of just them & Cloud. Aerith's story effectively ends in Disk 1 of the OG game because she has served her purpose to the story. And we're only given the smallest of hints that she's off doing things elsewhere in the Lifestream unseen to us. A game as respectful and loving to its characters as these Remake games wouldn't just leave things at that. If Aerith is like, negotiating with the Lifestream to get the planet to more actively protect itself, or doing literally anything else, the player will see it this time around.


Same as I ever was
Wouldn't be surprised if we get several interstitial bits with a playable Aerith in part 3 like we did with Zack in Rebirth, even if she doesn't rejoin the party.

Actually I bet we'll know for sure the instant there's a cover reveal. Prominent Aerith in the art? Bingo.
I slept on the ending a few nights. Mulled some thoughts over. Rewatched the ending to get a little extra context while also not flooded with emotions. I still think things are intentionally vague not just so there's an air of suspense, but so that the writers could have wiggle room to course correct. But I'm increasingly convinced there's universe hopping going on and it's not ALL Cloud being messed up in the noggin Specifically:

1) Schrodinger's Cetra: I think it's notable that when she appears by the lakeside when everyone else is mourning her death, that Cloud gets his usual visual-static-headache when he starts seeing things he shouldn't. Only this time, the hue of the static is visually coded pink, not the green/black that usually implies either Sephiroth or Lifestream nonsense. That, combined with Nanaki sensing her presence briefly, I think it's clear Aerith is there in some capacity, though likely separated by dimensions. She and Cloud exist in super-states that can observe/interact with other realities, but remain anchored to the ones they're in.

2) Crossing Rainbow Bridges: Cloud stopping Sephiroth is visually coded with him slicing the space behind Aerith and creating a bright, rainbow-hued wall of light around them. I don't think it's a coincidence that this is the exact same visual effect used when we see parallel dimensions being born and cleaved off of each other. We're shown earlier Zack having choices to make on where and what he's going to do - Go save Biggs, or go try to find help for Cloud at the Shinra Tower. We are told directly that new universes are born based on the decisions we make. Both scenarios end poorly but also end with the same rainbow colored cascades of light erupting from the source of the divergence. Later, when fighting Sephiroth, he cleaves and separates Cloud from Zack using the same visual coding, telling us world separate. And when Zack and Cloud fall through the flower patch in the church, same exact Rainbow effect. All of this is there to instruct the player and help inform the Aerith death scene. Cloud stopped Aerith's death and created a new alternate dimension where that happened. But he's anchored to the reality where he didn't by Sephiroth, and exists in a weird super-state where he can observe and interact with both. And this is pure conjecture, but I assume it has to do with there being two Holy materias and him holding onto the clear one from the Rebirth timeline.

3) A Little Lost in Translation: I think it's noteworthy that the last spoken line in the game is Aerith saying goodbye. But it's not a normal goodbye. It's a classic "sayōnara" that is typically reserved for finality and anticipated final farewells. She's definitely there and has agency. If Aerith was just purely a figment of Cloud's imagination practicing wishful thinking, why would he imagine her saying that to him, after they were leaving view?

All of this is going to be extremely interesting to see how things unfold. Even if what I think what happened is the most likely, there's more than enough wiggle room for more interpretations or divergence.
Really enjoyed reading a lot of what you guys thought about the game, and particularly the ending. I'll offer my own two cents here, in the form of reactions/reponses to some of y'alls musings:

This was great! Similar to Sarc, my only question to you is are you saying Aerith is dead dead dead for good? I don't think the ending supports that reading. She is still "alive" in the sense that her "will" exists in the planet's Lifestream (as the White Whispers I believe), but she is definitely physically dead in the Rebirth timeline. I do like your perspective that Cloud is not willing to believe she's dead. I hadn't really considered that. The game definitely does not give you much direct insight into what Cloud is feeling/thinking, like, at all in the entire game. Which is pretty interesting considering we see the story play out almost entirely from his viewpoint.

I suppose I can write out my Grand Theory on what's going on heading into FF7: Reunion...
Sephiroth's goal is still much the same as OG FF7: he wants to use the Black Materia to "destroy" the planet. Only this time, destroy is in scare quotes because I think what he's trying to do now is actually to annihilate the very concept of the Lifestream itself. This is why Rebirth went to great lengths to explore the Gi society at the end of Red's journey in the Gi Cave; the Gi formed the Black Materia because they wanted to end the planet's "endless existence" that prevents them from finally dying by not allowing them into the Lifestream.

This version of Sephiroth is practically omniscient and knows seemingly everything there ever is to know about the planet, so he knows there's versions of him that used the Black Materia to summon Meteor and ultimately failed. This is why he's changing tactics now and going after the planet in a more "direct" way: attacking it through the Lifestream itself. This is why the Gongaga section where Tifa falls into the Lifestream is important. I believe it represents the ongoing conflict between Aerith and Sephiroth at its most primal form: White and Black Whispers in battle against each other and using the Lifestream to conduct this battle.

My takeaway is that the Lifestream supports a nature of existence such that everything on the planet exists all the time together in a sort of quantum superposition state, but only Aerith and Sephiroth had the ability to be aware of this until the events of the ending of Rebirth. Even after the ending, they are still the only ones that can "easily" move between timelines; Cloud and Zack are both aware of this reality now, but neither seem to understand how to (or are just not metaphysically capable of) actually move through it; but gosh darnit, Zack is gonna try his best to figure it out!

Anyway, what all this means is that Aerith is "dead" at the end of Rebirth, but she's not dead forever and is still floating around in the Lifestream fighting against Sephiroth. Compared to OG FF7, the stakes are raised an order of magnitude higher by Sephiroth, however, because if he succeeds with his Reunion then it would mean the end of the Lifestream entirely, and then everything on the planet would truly be doomed because no more reincarnation (I'm kind of anticipating his "destruction" of the planet in this case to be more metaphorical and not like, physically bringing a big rock down onto it). I can't quite square all of this with the shimmering ring in the sky that represents the end of the world, but there's aspects of it that certainly support my theory too; Aerith and the other "dream people" have accepted their fate and are now shifting to a "joi de vivre" mindset: sure the Lifestream is going to end as we know it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the life we have right now.

There's a spiritual comfort in the teachings of Cosmo Canyon and the Lifestream: your life will end, but it will still exist beyond that as it returns to the planet and forms new life. Sephiroth wants to get rid of that comfort. What would the people of this world feel if the Lifestream no longer provided that comfort? Pointedly, Yuffie is the only one at Cosmo Canyon who flat out doesn't believe in this cycle of life.
I like the idea that that Aerith and Sephiroth exist in a kind of superstate that observes all these timelines. But as we see, you can be alive in one, and dead in another. To me, it's kind of like, each version of Aerith and Sephiroth has access and memories of what was going on in other timelines. They're linked to each other, but not necessarily exactly each other. The Aerith we know in the Remake/Rebirth primary timeline loses access to those memories while fighting the Whispers at the end of Remake, but she seems to have regained them when her and Cloud's consciousness kind of transfer across worlds at the end of Chapter 13, in the way that it happened for Biggs and Zack at the end of Rebirth.

Also, the more I think about things, the more I come to the conclusion that while Aerith died in the primary Rebirth/Remake timeline that the rest of the party exists in, she is alive in a separate, parallel universe that Cloud created when he appeared to have stopped her assassination. I went back and rewatched a whole lot of clips over and over of the last chapter or so. When Cloud stops Aerith's death, there's a bright, rainbow-light effect that swells up from the ground that forms a kind of wall around the two. It is the exact same visual coding that we see for both before and after when Cloud and Zack are moving between timelines, for when Zack creates new timelines by his branching choices in Ch 14, and when Sephiroth cleaves Cloud and Zack apart. I can't help but see these as being very obvious rainbow bridges - or Bifrosts. And when everything else in the game is coded with Norse influence and terminology, it makes sense to me that we're seeing Bifrosts spring up to connect worlds. I really, fervently believe, Cloud stopped Sephiroth, but the act of doing so created a new timeline where she lived, but couldn't stop Sephiroth completely. And the visions he sees of her and of the torn skies are that Cloud now enjoys a similar superstate where he can observe simultaneously what is happening in the parallel dimension where Aerith lived.

Also, just as an aside - it's also become abundantly clear that the change of the subtitles for Aerith's final line in Remake was 100% necessary, since it was foreshadowing the fact that when Aerith looks up, she also sees the rips in the sky.
Some miscellaneous criticism about stuff around the final boss and ending sequence. Mostly not plot concerns:
I feel like they almost completely wasted the Forgotten Capital as a memorable setting for this leg of the journey. In the original, it's in the running for my favourite locale in the game in all aspects of its presentation: the coral reef aesthetic and conch structures, abandoned by their once-inhabitants; one of Uematsu's foreboding and unsettling best in "You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet"; and more abstractly... the quiet of it all, despite the climactic events therein. Rebirth shuffles these present elements to an extent that they might as well not exist anymore: you do not get to explore the city in any meaningful fashion and so do not develop a sense of it as a place; the music played is not comparable because they place the relevant leitmotif in the slow-walk sections and boss preambles in the preceding Temple of the Ancients bits; and no sense of loneliness can exist when the events depicted are remixed into a Whisper-propelled apocalypse scenario that's insistent and loud through every leg of it. You can conjecture that maybe the third game will do more with the location, but its placement in the narrative of these games frame it as a site of trauma that's not easily returned to--the party only does when they must probe for answers in what Aerith was trying to do in her final moments--and so I wish the ominous anticipation of the location was conveyed instead of the loud spectacle we got.

the eight+ phase final boss sequence is too much for anyone's good; excess in its purest form. I don't particularly desire to fight Sephiroth in a boring duel framing every time they make one of these and for him to smirk it off. Scaling a giant Bizarro/Sephiroth Reborn was vaguely embarrassing in a Shadow of the Colossus clone kind of way, but at least it's a brief diversion. I'm guessing they moved that particular design and rough encounter structure here from the original finale to make room for something else, but again the particulars of the source material are lost or ignored: "Birth of a God" is nowhere to be heard, and I can't say whatever stood in for it stuck... I guess some rendition of "One-Winged Angel" was playing, at some point, again. Fighting just Jenova wasn't deemed suitably climactic, I guess, even though for all of this material, the sequences that comprise the battle against her are the ones that work the best presentationally and in the atmosphere conceived.

Cloud and the player struggling against Jenova/Sephiroth's influence as he approaches a praying Aerith really fell flat for me in how it sits relative to the rest of the game's design language. In the original, you are wrested of traditional control of the character and have to start pressing buttons to try break free of your newfound constraints--the results of such prodding are awkward shakes and spasms, but every input that doesn't strictly stall inexorably draws toward Cloud readying and priming his sword for a killing blow on Aerith. In Rebirth, you are playing the game you've played for the last hundred hours or however long: pressing triggers in sequence to have Cloud perform a mundane action, here first struggling against a storm of Whispers to reach Aerith, and then making those same inputs for an analogue of the original sequence... except for relying on the standard format for player input the all the rest of the game has, nothing about the scene stands apart as an uncommonly dire situation of Cloud being rendered the puppet his adversaries insist he is. I understand the writing intention for much of this reframed material is to thrive on ambiguity--is Cloud struggling to resist striking at Aerith, or is he so lost in himself that he's actively attempting it through the player's inputs--but it ideally shouldn't come at a cost of diluting memorable storytelling through mechanics and presentation in favour of an uniform design model.
I very much appreciate these observations Peklo, as I haven't played the original since college maybe. And I get and respect why you felt this way about these things. But I personally don't mind any of these changes. In fact, I think a few of them are inspired and work very well. We don't see the moment Aerith is killed, because we are seeing Cloud's POV - and his POV is completely messed up. My read of events, as described above - is he managed to create a timeline where he saved Aerith and defied fate. But he now exists in a superstate where he's observing both the new timeline, and the timeline everyone else sees at the same time. And in his already precarious mental state, he is actively suppressing/rejecting the reality of where she died. My assumption is that they will save the full, vivid memory of her dying for either when Cloud has his mental breakdown in the Northern Crater, or when Tifa helps piece together his psyche in the Lifestream, which should still have immense dramatic impact. It's just a little reordered. And it's also important IMO to have that ambiguity of did he save her or not because again - we're experiencing a different series of events where he did kind of save her.

I totally agree with you about the boss gauntlet at the end being too long and brutal. But I kind of respect it, you know? One of the most powerful parts of gaming as a medium is that the interactivity between player and game can let the audience feel a level of immersion and thus empathy with what is happening better than almost any other artistic medium out there. And having the player feel just a tiny amount of the levels of fatigue and exhaustion that the characters of the game must be feeling is a choice. It might not make for the best entertainment product, but for me it made for a better experience.

As for the yet-again-Sephiroth-duel that we're experiencing yet again, I think there's an important thematic rhyme to that. Consider this:

- At the Nibelheim Reactor 5 years prior in the OG game, Cloud 1 v 1's Sephiroth. He has the strength to win, but not vanquish Sephiroth.
- In the Northern Crater at the end of the OG game, Cloud 1 v 1's Sephiroth. He again wins, but it also doesn't permanently vanquishes Sephiroth. (See: Advent Children - where we see another Cloud/Sephiroth 1 v 1 that presumptively also doesn't end in a permanent defeat.)
- At the end of Remake, Cloud 1 v 1's Sephiroth at the Edge of Creation, but Cloud isn't strong enough and Sephiroth takes his leave.
- Here at the end of Rebirth, Cloud 2 v 1s Sephiroth with Aerith's help - where they're able to defeat Sephiroth (and demonstrably get under his skin in a way we almost never see him) but he still escapes.

I'll eat a shoe if this isn't building up to a final, final showdown in the Northern Crater again at the end of Re3 - but this time, Cloud will fight him 10 v 1 and this time eradicate him for good. Because that's ultimately Cloud & Co's strength and real difference between them and Sephiroth. They have friends and things to fight for, and he has nobody. Fighting him 1v1 is never going to end him, but The Power of Friendship will.

My thoughts about the ending , click at your own risk.

My initial thought / hope was that they were carrying on the canon events but also tweaking the fans a bit. My interpretation of Sephiroth's actions was he engineered Cloud and friends to kill 'fate' at the end Remake so that he could defy destiny. But why set up a plot where you're defying destiny and then do everything exactly the same?

Well, because it's what needs to happen. And we see proof of this pretty clearly in Zack's timeline - which we first see come into existence the moment we defy Fate. Zack's alive! The fans rejoice! Won't this be the coolest thing EVER?

Except it's not cool. Zack's survival accidentally fucks over the entire FF7 universe. Because Cloud never joined Avalanche, Barret and Tifa die and the plot of the game never happens. Aerith is put into a coma - neither in the lifestream to oppose Sephiroth or awake to summon Holy. Without Tifa, Cloud presumably delivers the black materia as scheduled and becomes Sephiroth's new eternal BFF-with-benefits. We see several possible choices Zack could make in Midgar, but none of them matter - Zack is a nice guy but he's not the hero of FF7. He was never gonna save the world. Zack's timeline is doomed. Zack's world is one where everything came up Sephiroth. It's a world where Sephiroth *wins.*

In other words, this is the world he's been looking for where he can defy his destiny. This is what he wanted. Sorry fans, Zack has to be dead.

At the end of Remake, we see another timeline come into existence - one where Aerith is not killed. The fans rejoice!(?) Won't this be the coolest thing EVER?

Except if you played the original game, you know that...uh... this might actually be a bad thing. At the end of the original game, lifestream Aerith is essential to saving the planet. Without Aerith in the lifestream, this timeline, too, may very well be doomed.

if Zack and Aerith lived, the heroes would lose, all your Clerith fanfics be damned. If they both showed up at the end of Part 3, help out in the final battle, but then say 'thanks for everything Cloud, but things went the way they did for a reason. We don't belong here' and then leave, I'd actually think that's a pretty satisfying ending. The OG was the way it was supposed to go. We thought we could defy fate, but If things had gone differently, Sephiroth would have won. This was the only way.

But now that I typed it out, I realize there's no way they'll do anything that smart. This ending was vague for a reason, so that whatever theory you want to present could be true. Given the rather infamously vague nature of OG FF7's ending, I can't see them doing anything but *even more* vague nonsense. Did Aerith and Zack come back to life or did they stay dead? Did humanity live or die? Did the worlds converge or didn't they? Do Cloud and Sephiroth ever *kiss?* The ending of Part 3 will Reply All 'yes' and will not actually answer anything. Kingdom Hearts has been doing this for twenty years and the fans fall for it every time.

Now that we're past *that scene* I also suspect Part 3 will likely not sell as well.

One thing I will give credit for is Sephiroth looking direclty into the camera and saying 'At this moment I can feel the hate of countless worlds.' That is one of the most amazing 'fuck you's I've ever seen a game do.
I have a few different interpretations of what is going on here:

1) The Zack timeline is doomed not because Cloud never joined Avalanche, but it's the timeline that was created when the Remake party breached the boundaries of fate. Remember the final battle in Remake where giant tornadoes hit Midgar, the Shinra Tower topples, and everything gets messed up? We see those events happen in the news reels of Zack's timeline. Because Zack - when he died - got shunted over to that timeline. It's why when he shows up at the gates of Midgar, the Main Party's escape has already happened. Even though if it was just a normal divergent universe, he should have arrived way earlier before all of that could have happened. The main party in that universe is dies not necessarily because Cloud isn't there, but because they get caught up in the havoc of the fight while they're trying to escape, and there's no whispers trying to protect them when when the expressway starts collapsing.

2) Sephiroth isn't trying to destroy the Lifestream. By his own words, he's trying to destroy all these other timelines because he's trying to reunite all these disparate worlds in order to *strengthen* the Lifestream. Notice how in the timeline Zack lives in, the Lifestream is has been completely tapped out, despite the fact that if all things were equal, the world-ending events that should kill the Lifestream hasn't happened yet in this timeline. The Lifestream seems to connect these worlds. And I hypothesize that the Lifestream is shared between them too. That's why in the Zack timeline, it's already gone. It's abandoned that timeline because it knows that timeline is doomed without a Cloud & Co around to stop Sephiroth & Meteor. So why would Sephiroth defy fate, and yet seem like he's following it? I think he wants to reunite all the worlds into one by destroying all of the other possible paths of salvation for the planet, but he wants to make sure the one that remains is the one he's in control of and can reshape reality to his twisted designs. In the original FF7, his motivation for going berserk initially is because he thinks he's a Cetra, and that regular humans wiped the Cetra out, so he's out for revenge against all of humanity. There might be something similar going on here again. It's something I noticed that definitely got lost in translation: in the flashback Nibelheim sequence, Sephiroth uses the pronoun 'Ore' to refer to himself before he goes mad, but after switches to 'Watashi' - symbolizing a detachment from how he previously viewed his own identity. But the Sephiroth we see at the Edge of Creation, is back to using 'Ore'. It's a curious move - maybe this superstate version of himself is back to his pre-Nibelheim-Death mental state where he's not trying to eat the Lifestream like Genova would want, but still wants to wipe out mankind? I dunno. It's an interesting thing to ponder.

Finished this today. I had a great time with it overall, but the events of the ending leave me somewhat less excited for Revengeance than I was at the end of Remake.

I was extremely high on the entirety of Remake, and found myself wondering how Rebirth could possibly instill its locations with the same amount of character and atmosphere that Midgar (arguably the most interesting and rich in storytelling possibilities location in FF7's world) had in Remake. Well, they did it. Every environment feels unique, lived-in and real, and I spent a lot of time just meandering around places like inns, checking out the decor. There's a corner of the Kalm inn's balcony where you can hear a jazz band playing from somewhere downstairs, but only for a second unless you stand still and listen to it, which I did for a while. Advent Children is dumb, but I love it for the chance it gives me to look around a world that had previously only been glimpsed through the lens of 1997 video game technology, and I love these games for the same reason. They're so rich, perhaps to the point of excess, but I'm eating it all up with a spoon.

The overarching plot is almost conspicuously threadbare at times, which is something that was also true of the original Final Fantasy VII, but perhaps something they could have shored up a bit here. The party's motivations seem based purely on guesswork and innuendo at times: "those men in black robes probably have something to do with Sephiroth! Let's follow them!" "The black materia? That sounds like something Sephiroth would be after! We've gotta stop him!" In both cases they turn out to be right, of course, but it seems more like luck on their part than actual deduction. (By the way, in OG FF7, I always sort of assumed the black-cloaked men were just draping themselves in whatever discarded materials they could find, and the reason they looked identical was down to technical limitations. Nope, turns out someone made them all bespoke robes, with special insignia on them and everything. Okey dokey.)

At one point Barret says to Cloud "If you say Sephiroth was there, then I believe you!" Dude, I appreciate the support, but he's been seeing Sephiroth around every corner and behind every rock and tree for the entire game. Trust, but verify.

In the late game I was starting to get a little uncomfortable regarding the party's treatment of Cloud's increasingly evident psychological issues. The dude is clearly not well, but for the most part he either gets admonished to "get it together" or outright ignored. I realize there probably isn't a lot in terms of quality psychiatric care available in this world, particularly for fugitives on a globetrotting quest to save the planet, but the extent to which everyone seems more or less fine with letting Cloud's mind continue to unravel as long as he keeps killing stuff real good for them made for some unpleasant tension. Finally Tifa tells him that she wants him to be able to talk to someone about what's going on with him, even if it isn't her, and that's good stuff, but it's very small and comes very late in the story.

I do think it's interesting that both times Tifa shows Cloud her scar, we don't actually get to see what's there, or even what he thinks he sees (as he seems satisfied the first time, but not the second.) At no point did I believe Tifa was a John Carpenter's The Thing, but the ambiguity was well done. So did no one else in the party see him take a swing at her and knock her into the mako in Chapter 9? I guess she just told everyone she fell.

I was incredibly surprised and appreciative of the fact that the individual "Trials" in the Temple of the Ancients had nothing to do with combat.

Zack's story was humongously affecting to me, and had me hanging on every word. There's a moment early on, in his first conversation with Elmyra, where he says something like "Don't worry, I'm taking care of Aerith just like I am with Cloud!" and she snaps "No you're not! You didn't even wipe her face!" in this tone of utter raw grief. I don't know why that line stuck with me so, but it did.

Maybe I'm a little thick, but when you have multiple timelines converging and diverging and rewriting each other on the fly it's kind of hard to latch onto any particular moment or event emotionally. I was ping-ponging back and forth between "oh we saved Aerith" and "oh wait she's dead" so many times that it kind of felt like a coin endlessly spinning and never landing on either side. I get that she's dead now (for certain values of "dead," anyway), but it took so long for that realization to cement itself that it kind of blunted my emotional reaction to it.

At the end of Remake, the future seemed so open and full of possibility. Zack surviving was a huge game-changer, and the party's defeat of the entities that sought to ensure the events of OG FF7 played out again meant that anything could happen from here on out. The idea of using a familiar and nostalgic setting and characters to tell a new story was unbearably exciting to me. But it seems like what's really happening is just the same plot beats from OG FF7 again, but Bigger and Louder, with a layer of weird multiverse frosting on top. If Omni-Aerith is trying to stop Uber-Sephiroth from destroying every version of the Planet, it still amounts to the same thing as when there was only one of each of them, doesn't it? It's just adding an extra zero or two to the stakes. (I'm just waiting for Sephiroth to sneer at Cloud in Part 3: "Did you know there's even a world where you and I are just part of a game? ...I'm going to obliterate that world too!!")

I dunno. Maybe I'm being unfair and judging a game on what it's not, but to me it feels like Remake and Rebirth should have had their titles swapped. Part 1 seemingly ended with the promise of something entirely new, but Part 2 is mostly content to retread old ground. I'm still looking forward to spending more time in this world four years from now, but now I have my doubts as to whether any of this is going to have a satisfying conclusion.
I dug the pacing of this game, and the overarching plot a lot more than the original version. In the original version - someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the party follows Sephiroth on a vague notion that Cloud don't trust the guy and that he's up to no good. They have to learn through the course of the first disk what Sephiroth's plans actually are and that he's actually a world-ending menace through their adventure. In this game however, they are privy to all that information way beforehand, so there's a little more motivation for them all to keep pursuing him. I also dug all of the distractions and side quests they come across along the way. Like, yes, they're all technically distractions from a very pressing matter of the utmost urgency. But I dig it because of two big reasons:

1) Sephiroth is demonstrably waiting around for Cloud & Co - we see in one of Zack's timelines that without Cloud & Co around, he goes and summons Meteor to kill everyone a lot quicker. The guy could end things if he wanted a lot faster, but he doesn't because he *wants* Cloud to be a part of the story and the world he's trying to put together. The way he toys with Cloud is one of a person utterly fascinated and enthralled. He knows Cloud is strong enough to beat even him and he wants him by his side. And the way he contemptuously chides Aerith as interfering with his plans during the final fight almost seems... like jealousy? Anyways, dude is down bad for Cloud and he's willing to wait around for him to end the world/do whatever he's trying to achieve in the primary POV timeline. Edit: I forgot that the literal first words of dialog in the entire game are Sephiroth saying, "I'm waiting, Cloud". 😂

2) It plays very strongly into the core themes of the game - all of the main characters of FF7 lived extremely tragic pasts. Pasts so messed up and painful, any one of them could have given into hate and despair, and become a nihilist like Sephiroth. And yet none of them do, and all of them work their asses off to save the planet, for their own reasons. Because fundamentally, all of them have reasons to live and all of them still find joy in life. And exploring the world and taking in all the wonderful sights and sounds and people inhabiting it, all help form and inform the underlying basis for why they're fighting in the first place. And letting the player explore all of that and take that stuff in ourselves, helps us empathize with the party. It's a masterwork of show not tell.

To cap off my thoughts, here's a few wild, completely baseless predictions:
1) I said it above, but I'll repeat here quickly: the final battle won't just be a 1v1 in the Northern Crater, but a whole party vs Sephiroth in the astral plane.

2) The affinity system that we saw playout in Remake and Rebirth - giving us different dates and different night-time chats will continue. So we'll get different party members chilling with Cloud underneath the Highwind on the final night, or even more ambitiously, multiple endings depending on your character-affinities.

3) The devs have said they anticipate Part 3 taking 3 years, but I bet it'll take 4. They reasoned that production on Rebirth didn't start until after they finished production on the Yuffie DLC/the PS5/PC port, which took a year. But I think they're being a little overly optimistic and also not accounting for the fact that all of the time spent on the Yuffie DLC and the PS5/PC ports was time setting the ground for Rebirth too - since all of those assets and technical knowhow all got reused in Rebirth.

4) Everyone will live at the end, but there will be a psych-out where the world ends and we watch most of the characters die before some timey wimey business happens and lets us master fate. I know the devs have said they want/need to stay true to the theme of loss and grief, but once they started bringing ideas of fate into things, they really can't just end the game on upholding a predetermined fate like that. They've done such a remarkable job of giving the characters more agency than they've ever had before, it would be criminal to take that agency away from them, or have them settle for resigning to fate - especially when Aerith of all people sang such an awesome power ballad about how she doesn't believe in fate.

5) They softened Cid's character up significantly in Rebirth because there's no way they would keep him the way he was in the OG where he was a straight up abusive boyfriend.

6) The final battle at the Northern Crater is going to make the end of Advent Children and Dirge of Cerebrus look quaint by comparison with how insane it'll be.

7) If Chocobo Racing is any indication, the snowboarding minigame is going to be the best snowboarding game in decades.
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Interested to see what they do with Cid in Part 3 because while he has a scruffy kind of charm here, context matters, and there's a whole of context when we get to Rocket Town. I don't think they're going to channel OG Cid but I would not surprised if his demeanor shifts more than a bit for that part.


Same as I ever was
Maybe, but this Cid overall seems a lot less embittered and sour, a lot more dashing adventurer. It would be a pretty big shift for him to get as nasty as he could be in the original.
I'll be interested in seeing where they go with that. There's also a whole section of the OG game where Cloud and Tifa are out of commission and Cid is the party leader, right? Most of my vivid memories of the OG are from Disk 1, but a LOT of stuff happens in Disk 2 and 3 that we haven't even gotten to, plus locales like Wutai and Rocket Town that were skipped over.


Circumstance penalty for being the bard
I agree that there is no way OG Cid would play in the year of our Lord 2024. You can't have a scene of him abusing his wife in front of the party with realistically rendered characters and full voice acting. He'd be the most cancelled video game character in history. I feel like they went too far with him though. You can still have a character with rough edges. They filed him a little too smooth.
It's been decades since I touched the original game myself, anyone remember if Tifa is as strong/borderline busted in that one as she is in Rebirth? Because she's hands down the strongest attacker in the party by a long shot. The things I've seen people do with her on some youtube videos are downright disgusting.


Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
She has a (potentially) multi-hit Limit Break which tends to be the only significant difference between characters, so she's not among the weakest. It still requires skill in stopping the reels, so you probably don't always get all seven hits in the combo, compared to simpler, fire-and-forget multi-hit Limits some characters have. Everyone in the game has some kind of unique damage-calculating formula associated with their ultimate weapons; Tifa's Premium Heart grows stronger the fuller her Limit gauge is, making her fluctuatingly effective. God's Hand as her other end-game weapon has 255% accuracy, which makes something like Deathblow with its high accuracy penalty very good on her. Differences like these are still mostly academic flavour considering the kind of game FFVII is, mechanically.


Same as I ever was
imo Tifa is so strong in FF7 Re because she staggers things so flippin' fast (which wasn't a thing in FF7). But I haven't pushed to break it.
imo Tifa is so strong in FF7 Re because she staggers things so flippin' fast (which wasn't a thing in FF7). But I haven't pushed to break it.
She does that too, but peep this video of Tifa soloing the hardest endgame content in record time without breaking a sweat:

She does stagger some of the bosses, but mostly she's just building ATB at stupid speeds and then just pummeling the bosses with one of her basic abilities ad nauseum.

Yo girl's a peerless battle-goddess


excused from moderation duty
Staff member
Every time I drive her I end up playing too recklessly and dying fast. Do you have any advice for how to control my thirst for blood?


Same as I ever was
Hard to know without being able to compare our play styles. It's been over a month since I played the game so my recollections are getting fuzzy. I tended to not control her directly for very long, just enough to fill up her ATB bars so she could throw an item or stagger something depending on what was needed.
I usually throw a combo of Auto-Unique Ability/Auto-Weapon Ability so that she can go ham when I'm not controlling her. That way she does Unbridled Strength/Unfettered Fury (the second of which is crazy good, since it adds magic to her auto-attacks and raises the stagger gauge) on her own and her Chi-Abilities, which also means I can pump out more Synergy Abilities more often, and hers are always beastly with the other party members. I also give her Steadfast Block which means she takes less damage and gains more ATB whenever she's defending, and the CPU manages to have her successfully defend more frequently so she stays alive and pumps out more abilities as a result. Plus, when you're not directly controlling a character, enemies tend to agro onto the player-controlled character unless you do something like throw Provoke onto a tank (I like giving it to Barrett on account of how beefy he is).

I do switch over to her frequently though, since the IMO the optimal way to do combat in this game is to just switch characters very frequently. Anytime a character goes through a knock-animation, or does a lengthy windup for an ability, you'd be maximizing your DPS by then briefly switching over to another character to make sure they're going hard as well. I put Precision Defense Focus on as many characters as I can since it makes the perfect-block window a lot easier to hit, which saves you a lot of damage and will also do stuff like boost stagger and your ATB bar. Getting the timing down on perfect blocks turns the toughest bosses into pushovers. But even if you aren't great at that, roll-dodging is a fair bit easier once you get the knack of it and will save you a lot of dmg.

The uppercut-divekick combo is lethal (hold square to uppercut, then in midair initiate divekick which happens instantly instead of needing to jump first).

Enemy Skill materia is also super OP. One ability is an AOE heal that will regen thousands of HP over time for one ATB bar. It's not great to use mid-battle because it leaves you vulnerable, but if you use it at the very end, the entire party (even back-line) will gather around Cloud and everyone will heal for free. It's a great way to save potions/mana while in dungeons and makes the game super easy to the degree that it makes Hard Mode palatable. There's another Enemy Skill that casts Bravery/Faith whenever you use it, which is like a flat 25 or 33% boost to your atk and mag stats and is a cheap way to buff your character without having to dedicate an extra materia slot for those buffs.

Slotting a fully leveled up Elemental Materia with Fire & Ice and/or Lighting & Wind will cause both of those elements to heal you, so if you're going up against a particularly tough opponent that has elemental attacks, that's a cheesy way to stay alive versus them.
I finished Final Fantasy Rebirth last month. I thought it was amazing.

I got emotional when Tifa asks Aerith if she has ever been in a relationship and then Zack's Theme from Crisis Core starts playing. I was also emotional when Aerith died. I think the game did a good job of characterizing Aerith as someone who would do anything for her friends. Her death got to me. My nostalgia for the characters may have played into my emotional response as well. I have strong memories of playing the original FFVII with my brother. He lives cross country from me now. So playing FFVII recalls simpler and happier times as well.

Square Enix also reported that FFVII Rebirth did not meet sales expectations nor did FFXVI. For how good FFVII Rebirth is, I find that disheartening.

I have a lot of love for Final Fantasy; its my favorite video game franchise. But I'm wondering if time is passing Final Fantasy by.

I liked the FFVII Rebirth combat, but I'm not sure I would say its better than From Software combat. I have to think that players who are unfamiliar with Final Fantasy would find the party switching to be less elegant and effective than a single character experience.

In my mind Final Fantasy is a party based and visually impressive at its core. I'm not sure adventuring parties are where big budget RPGs are. I don't know where that leaves Final Fantasy. Baldur's Gate and Persona are sucessful, but they must operate on a fraction of the budget of a Final Fantasy game.

I would love to be proven wrong.

What was the last FF game to meet SE sales goals? Did FFVII Remake or FFXV meet expectations?


Same as I ever was
I don't think it's better than From, because it's not really the same kind of combat. Apples/oranges to an extent. But it's better than FF7R, which I already liked, and that's what mattered to me. Far and away better than FFXVI's, which I felt suffered from having only one controllable character, who only used swords (however neat the power sets are, those sword combos got real old by the end). I looooooove having a party I can switch between. Rebirth having seven unique characters all with their own weapons and fighting styles felt positively sumptuous in a great way.

I suspect there won't be many games of FF7 Remake series' scope and size for the next decade, excepting Part 3 of Remake (I can't imagine they'll back out on the series now, and figure that Remake part 3 is going to be a prime element of their new multiplatform push). No idea what FFXVII is going to look like at all. So I'm delighted to at least have this one.
Square Enix also reported that FFVII Rebirth did not meet sales expectations nor did FFXVI. For how good FFVII Rebirth is, I find that disheartening.
Reading the internet discourse surrounding both Remake and Rebirth was maddening/rage inducing. The number of times I heard people have the following logic drove me bananas:

Rebirth is Part 2 of the OG's story.
Therefore it is an "incomplete game"
Therefore I refuse to buy an incomplete game.
Therefore I'll wait for Part 3 to see if it's worth playing.

That logic is pure gamer brain-worms as far as I'm concerned. Imagine going to theaters and being like, "I refuse to watch Lord of the Rings until all three movies are finished."

I get not wanting to wait years for a cliffhanger to resolve, but like - 1) the story is already a known quantity for the most part, this game is demonstrably more about the experience than the destination. And 2) stories being divided like this should be a blessing for gamers, IMO rather than a detriment. You can try Remake right now, for pretty cheap (or at several points in the past several years - free!) and if you bounce off of that, you didn't make a full investment. Also 3) I used to be an impatient person, but I've grown to personally like having something to look forward to on the horizon.

So yeah. I think gamer-brain has probably hurt sales of this game. There's also a lot of platform-warriors who get inordinately upset about exclusivity and bombard the entire discourse with intensely negative reactions as a result and that's not great either. Like, I get that it's not great when your platform of choice isn't supported immediately, but it baffles me when the people who spend like three grand on a gaming PC get so indignant about console-exclucivity they start a coordinated review-bombing campaign.

I got emotional when Tifa asks Aerith if she has ever been in a relationship and then Zack's Theme from Crisis Core starts playing. I was also emotional when Aerith died. I think the game did a good job of characterizing Aerith as someone who would do anything for her friends. Her death got to me. My nostalgia for the characters may have played into my emotional response as well. I have strong memories of playing the original FFVII with my brother. He lives cross country from me now. So playing FFVII recalls simpler and happier times as well.
Yeah, I know nostalgia probably plays a HUGE factor in my appreciation for the game. Just walking into a place like Cosmo Canyon and seeing how blown out and crazy it looks - I just can't imagine feeling the same if I didn't already have the POV of having played this as a kid. The scene you spoiler'd also had me straight up destroyed too. They did a really good job of building up that entire scene.

I looooooove having a party I can switch between. Rebirth having seven unique characters all with their own weapons and fighting styles felt positively sumptuous in a great way.
To me, this is the best change in Rebirth from Remake. In Remake, I kind of didn't really want or need to switch characters much. But all of the gameplay changes in Rebirth made all of the characters fun to play, not just some. And it gave everyone unique utility worth using as well. Plus, the Synergy Abilities are so strong/useful that it really behoves the player to switch characters rapidly in order to build ATB up on everyone ASAP so you can spam them as much as possible. I think Rebirth's combat is the best, most fun party-RPG combat I've ever played.


Unfortunate doesn't begin to describe...
I didn't care about rebirth because I didn't care about the original FF7


Same as I ever was
Oh I switched characters constantly in FF7 Remake. You just couldn't decide your party makeup, so it works even better here, where you can.


Circumstance penalty for being the bard
I cannot believe how much of a shipping war has broken out over this game. I've never seen anything like it.


excused from moderation duty
Staff member
What are the belligerent factions, and how does it compare to the original FFVII?


The Goggles Do Nothing
A friend of mine was playing this in parallel, and he wound up more on the Tifa route, while I was somehow aimed at Aerith. Neither of us particularly made "deliberate" choices in that, was just kind of sidequest/party participation influenced. In reviewing the casual details of the game, we apparently had very different experiences with assuming "one girl" was more the obvious pick. To be clear, this wasn't a shipping war, it was more like "oh, the narrative is clearly saying x character is intended to be Cloud's soulmate, and they aren't even being subtle." And now that some of the "differences" can be reviewed after beating the game in a new game plus, I can absolutely see how either perspective on the narrative forcing a particular choice can seem organic.

Just stating this to say that the Tifa vs Aerith nonsense of the past was one thing, but this game went out of its way to fan the flames. I think I had something like 70 hours on the game clock when I beat it, and the fact that something that long can have organic "choose your own adventure" plotting is likely wholly incompatible with how so many people understand/interpret media.

Also Aerith is best. She has her own song!
Yeah, while the game certainly inflames things by making both heroines very likable, and having the story change at specific inflection points depending on which one you are nicest to/vibe with the best... I would still chalk up the irresponsible online behavior to the same age old brain disease of your average citizen being incapable of acting responsible with complete anonymity.

I would still say though, that even with the game's story changing in specific points to allow Tifa-stans to have their cake and eat it too, the game's narrative is still fundamentally the same and centered around Aerith and Cloud as the most important romantic pairing of the plot. Like, there's a reason why you can only go on a maximum of like 2 dates with Tifa, but the game carves out like 5+ for Aerith -- they really want to mess with the player's emotions/brainspace for when she may or may not bite it. And that's really in-line with the narrative of the original game and subsequent works as well. There's also a reason why Cloud sleeps in the Sector 5 Church like a vagrant for two years after the ending of FF7, while everyone else has moved on with their lives. And the ending of Rebirth only really makes sense/is most resonant if you assume Cloud's pairing with Aerith as what's default.