As part of a recent Square Enix event where I played a demo of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth (don’t miss my hands-on impressions), I also had the honor to conduct an interview with Rebirth’s director, Naoki Hamaguchi. For those unfamiliar with Hamaguchi’s work, he contributed to several Final Fantasy titles, including Final Fantasy XII and Mobius Final Fantasy. Recently, he was the co-director for Final Fantasy VII Remake, but now he is the sole director for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. He graciously sat down for an interview to discuss the upcoming game; I am excited to share what we discussed with everyone.
Editor’s Note: There was some confusion with my first question, which worked out, because I was going to ask about returning bosses and enemies in a follow-up along the same lines.
RPGFan: My first question is, what character (new or returning) was the hardest to get into Rebirth’s combat system compared to the original game?
Hamaguchi: Pretty much all the monsters and bosses are carefully crafted; we put effort into all of them. I would say the Materia Guardian in the demo you got to play, while it does seem kinda similar to the Guard Scorpion, they are very different. So we made sure the gameplay experience for defeating these enemies felt different but very rewarding for an early boss fight.
Hamaguchi: Regarding fitting the characters into Rebirth, we seriously considered each of their roles and wanted to keep that balance within the game. And we also considered the overall image the fans of the series may have towards the characters, so there are appropriate expectations for these. These are the things we really took into consideration. For example, with Red XIII, he is the kind of character that has a lot of close-range attacks, but we also want to differentiate that from another character like Cloud who can do the same thing, so Red XIII will have more of a timing-based attack based on his ability to guard. This leads to his revenge mode ability that’s specific to him and makes him unique. As for Cait Sith, we can’t go into a lot of details at this point, but we did see in the trailers him riding into battle on the fat Moogle, which will come into play in battle. Whether he is riding the Moogle or not will make a difference in his playstyle during battle. His dice element will also be part of his attacks. So, in this way, we kind of kept the elements of the characters that the fans love while making them balanced with actions in battles. It’s something we took great care in doing.
RPGFan: Approximately how many minigames are playable in the Gold Saucer? Do you have a favorite or one you’re excited for players to finally get their hands on?
Hamaguchi: For minigames, save a few of them, pretty much all from the original games are going to be recreated for Rebirth. For example, with the Mog House minigame that used to be in the Gold Saucer, this is now moved to the world map and we can experience the Mog House without being in the Gold Saucer. As for my favorite and one that I’m really excited for players to experience, I would say the Chocobo races, which will tie into the main story as well. Like all the side content in the game, the Chocobo races are really well developed, and it’s a minigame I can easily see the fans getting into because of all the aspects to it. To add to that, fans of the original games (or people who have played the original) have this image that the Gold Saucer was the place for minigames and the hub for those activities. This time around, there will be minigames within the Gold Saucer and some outside of it, scattered across the world. They can be uncovered by exploring certain locations or talking to certain characters. For example, the card game is played by characters worldwide. By continuing the journey and progressing the story you will unlock new minigames and new opponents across the world. I think players will come out of it with the feeling that the entire world of Rebirth offers so much in terms of activities to enjoy.
RPGFan: In the trailers, we have seen the synergy team attacks. Will everybody have a team attack with every character à la Chrono Trigger, or will it be limited to a specific grouping of characters?
Hamaguchi: Thank you for this great question. To answer it simply, all characters will have synergy attacks with every character pairing. Sort of the reason why we decided to do it this way was to give players that freedom and fun of choosing through trial and error their favorite pairings or trying unique pairings they hadn’t tried before. If we were to have it so that only specific characters are able to synergy attack, that would go against this idea of freedom and enjoyment for the player. We really wanted to keep that idea of freedom for the players despite knowing that a lot of hard work and graphic resources went into making it this way.
RPGFan: We appreciate that!
[Laughs from the room]
Hamaguchi: On top of this, each character is going to have their own skill tree in which one could develop and gain new synergy actions and abilities for their favorite characters. For players that really like Cloud and Aerith, they can focus entirely on them or any pairings. We just wanted to give the players choice and freedom to pick what they like the best or what they feel is the most suitable for defeating certain bosses or enemies. I think that could be a really fun experience.
RPGFan: In Remake, we saw the use of summons like Leviathan and Bahamut who were not available at that point in the original game. So far, we have seen Alexander in trailers: a summon who, as far as we know, is from a part of the original that would not be explorable yet in Rebirth. So my question is, are we going to expect to see more summons from further in the story in Rebirth? And which summon is your favorite so far?
Hamaguchi: Great question for this as well. I can’t reveal exactly which summons are in Rebirth so far. I would like to say that the summons are materia from the Lifestream in the original Final Fantasy VII, but outside of that, they didn’t really go much into their background or how they came into existence. So, for Rebirth, we will explore a little bit more into that. For example, there are areas that will be tied into the summons, like an area where a specific summon was once revered or once existed. With Chadley, the player will be exploring some of those aspects and will be shedding a bit more light on that.
RPGFan: As a follow-up to the summons question, are the summons going to interact differently this time around than in Remake? In Remake, you just summon them and they fight alongside you, but we saw in Final Fantasy XVI how amazing and spectacular the summons can really get. Do you have any plans to maybe change that system, or is it going to be the same that we saw in Remake?
Hamaguchi: For Rebirth, there isn’t something that is incorporating summons into the main story per se, but with Remake you may recall that the materia itself did not exactly level up. This time, however, there is a growth element that is kind of different from AP. By playing minigames or progressing through certain content in the story, the summon materia’s ability will grow. In that way, there is this sort of growth factor tied to the side content of the game.
Hamaguchi: So, I have a question for you. You know that in Final Fantasy VII there are those Weapon creatures? If we were to introduce them like summons as another kind of entity-like creature, do you think that would be too much? Or would you enjoy it?
RPGFan: I think that would be very cool. Giant Kaiju battles are awesome.
[Laughs from the room]
RPGFan: I actually enjoyed it in FFXVI a lot. It was a lot of fun to do stuff like that. But who knows? Whenever we get to fight the Weapons, you know they’re really big. Maybe we need big summons as well.
Hamaguchi: We will take it into consideration!
RPGFan: So, final question and maybe the most important. I am a big fan of dressing characters up in games, and I would like to know if there are cosmetics this time around. Maybe put Barret into a sailor suit and keep him in it the rest of the game? Because I know he loves that suit in the original game.
Hamaguchi: This is a great question too. Thank you. Throughout Rebirth, there are going to be occasions with optional or mandatory clothing changes. These align with the circumstance or the story. As far as “can they wear them constantly,” we were careful to consider some of the serious moments where it may be more appropriate to not wear a costume to keep the scene impactful. Being considerate so that players can have the best experience.
RPGFan: Thank you so much for your time. I am looking forward to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth! I can’t wait to play it!
Hamaguchi: Thank you as well!
I once again want to thank Naoki Hamaguchi for his time and thank all the wonderful staff at the event. I was already heavily looking forward to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and now my hype meter is at an 11. February can’t come soon enough!
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is coming to PlayStation 5 on February 29th, 2024. Be sure not to miss my detailed hands-on impressions of the game!