They tell you never to meet your heroes, but that’s kind of hard when you work as a writer in the gaming industry. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Producer Yoshinori Kitase and Director Naoki Hamaguchi. These two developers have found a love for meeting with fans and discussing their projects, and they brought that energy to our interview.
Before continuing, I will say that the interview assumes you have played through the Final Fantasy VII series or understand the story to some degree. I wouldn’t say this spoils anything, but please proceed with caution.
Azario Lopez: I was finally able to play a few hours of the game, and I’ve got to say I actually started crying during the flashback scene in Nibelheim. Nothing, in particular, was happening; I was just walking around, but does that happen to you still while developing a game like this, that rush of nostalgia?
Yoshinori Kitase: So yeah, that’s a great question. I myself have played through this game many times as a developer, and specifically, the scenes that have given me the most nostalgia, I would say, is that scene where Sephiroth is at the Shinra Manor and kind of going through these documents where he realizes his origin and where he came from. At that moment, as well as that sort of iconic scene where he is walking into the flames and his sort of expression then, which is somewhat like a faint smile, but there’s this loneliness there, and it’s just this very poignant expression that he has.
These moments stand out for me particularly. So, when creating Rebirth, we really feel that we were able to sort of utilize and leverage the new technology that’s available to fully realize what we had originally intended to present and show to the players in the original release. Now, we’re able to fully express this, and really able to show all that was meant to be shown. I feel that this is something Rebirth is great at conveying.
AL: While Final Fantasy VII Remake served as a foundation for this group to fight against fate, you left the Nibelheim scenes largely unchanged. Was this because you have such a strong connection to the scenes?
Naoki Hamaguchi: So, in terms of the Nibelheim flashback being largely unchanged, we do believe that this location is very central and a core to the story. However, there’s also a fantasy element to it where Sephiroth falls from grace, and the story begins. So it’s very much a place of origin for the title, following Cloud’s telling of the story, which is mixed with Zack’s memories. So, in that sense, he has these sorts of mannerisms that are very similar to Zack, as some players may notice. And that’s another aspect, which was, of course, a subversion of the already intended original title, which is the journey that the original creators took us on, but now we’re able to represent that it a fully realized from.
AL: Speaking of Zack, Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion was recently released, and in it, players have the chance to rediscover Zack’s origins. My question has nothing to do with him, though; I have to know, where is Cissnei?
Yoshinori Kitase: Ah, well, for that question, I hope that’s something that Final Fantasy VII Remake players can play and see for themselves.
AL: I want to ask because Final Fantasy VII is now 20 years old. We were a lot younger when that game was released. And I’m wondering how you retain that mental hold on imagination and storytelling.
Naoki Hamaguchi: In terms of sustaining and continuing to grow that imagination within oneself. For myself, I keenly feel that talking to players and going to events like these, as well as other opportunities where we’re able to travel to other countries outside of Japan, helps a lot. I find joy in meeting huge fans and the many people who have feelings and passion for this work that we’ve created. I appreciate the feedback, as it allows us to learn and grow for ourselves as well.
And there are also these types of real experiences that feed into creativity and imagination as well. I believe the same goes for Final Fantasy X, where we studied stadiums in order to create the Bliz Ball field. These real experiences and continuously consuming various forms of creative media, whether that be online through film, different animation works, or comics, and continuously sort of absorbing those creative works also help me retain my imagination and create.
AL: Okay, let’s go back to when you just released Final Fantasy VII Remake; it’s out in the world, and the next day, you come into the office, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth deadlines are sitting in front of you. Did you ever think, “What did I just get myself into?” As you’re looking at the plans for an open world and maybe even the Golden Saucer.
Naoki Hamaguchi: After experiencing the success of the Final Fantasy VII Remake project, we were always thinking about Rebirth and the third title. Something that I believed had to keep happening was to continuously grow throughout the series title by title while incorporating the feedback and learnings that we have gained from our prior experience and just continuously evolving each title to give an even more enhanced experience to the players.
Without that, we would not be able to succeed was my very firm belief. And so, for that reason, I very much felt this was the challenge that we had to take on to continuously grow and keep growing, and in this case, growing from the Remake project as a foundation. So, in that sense, I think that was our overall approach and mindset as we took on this more expansive world.
AL: Cloud has always been a pretty complicated or misunderstood character, but his dedication to honor and living for the ones who were lost was a clear motivator for the original Final Fantasy VII. Was it tough to really unpack Cloud’s character to be more than this, as you’ve already shown Zack is somewhere in this world?
Yoshinori Kitase: While I’m unable to answer this as it’s something you’ll need to experience in the game, I would like to point out that the way you asked this question assumes that Cloud did not lose Zack. However, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on, and I believe this is also something for players to experience in Rebirth to see what exactly is happening and find out if what you assume is true or if it’s something else.
This is something I would like for people to see. Even within the original, Cloud’s memory of Zack can also be debated. I believe it’s not really that simple to state that Cloud no longer losing Zack has changed his fate. Having said all of that, I do believe Cloud is a character that carries that weight of loss in many ways. And this ties into his character as well. No, that’s all I another.
Moreover, compared to the original in Rebirth, we have depicted Sephiroth’s influence on Cloud’s actions. And so that is very keenly depicted and Rebirth as well.
[Square Enix PR] You have a couple of minutes left.
AL: *panics* Okay, ah, Vincent! Let’s just talk about Vincent. Vincent was announced as a non-playable character, but is there a chance we could see maybe a Dirge of Cerberus DLC Episode featuring Vincent, like what you did with Yuffie?
Naoki Hamaguchi: Right now, we don’t have plans for DLC for Rebirth, including anything Vincent-related. However, despite being a non-playable character, Vincent has an original quest in Rebirth, where we’ll learn more about his background and character. I feel that fans of Vincent will find it quite fulfilling.
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