Monday, August 8, 2022

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s PS5 Exclusivity Is A Sign Of Its Ambition

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will be exclusive to PS5. Older consoles are missing out as Square Enix fully dedicates itself to the current generation. The same is true of Final Fantasy 16, another blockbuster JRPG that is set to call Sony its home later next year.

This news was glazed over during the game’s initial announcement, with some assuming it would come to PS4 given that’s where the first game debuted. But it isn’t, so those who fell in love with the first entry on older hardware will need to find the pennies for a PS5 or lose out. That’s a bummer, but this evolution was also inevitable, even more so for a massive exclusive like this that Sony will market as an experience not available anywhere else.

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Related: Final Fantasy 7 Was Almost Remade On PS3, But It Was Little More Than A Tech Demo

A PC port will inevitably rear its head, but for the first few months of its life, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will be on PS5 alone, and that’s an incredibly exciting prospect. The official reason for this exclusivity comes down to the SSD, with Square Enix wanting players to have the ability to explore a massive world without the compromise of loading screens and unnatural segmentation. If an open world exists in Rebirth, we’ll be able to explore it in a way that completely does away with previous restrictions. That’s a massive development for the series.

Recent comments from Yoshinori Kitase seem to confirm that Rebirth will be open world in some capacity, even if it just refers to larger zones in between story locations like Nibelheim and Cosmo Canyon. We’re out of Midgar now, with the closing scenes of Intermission showing our lead characters hitching a ride to who knows where while Zack Fair awakens outside the dystopia and makes his way inside, seemingly hoping to reunite with Aerith and figure out what on earth is going on. There are so many questions and no answers.

Rebirth being a PS5 exclusive means that notable shortcomings from the original game including awful textures and dungeons taking place across multiple sections and awkward transitions will be a thing of the past, while also allowing for more experimental level design that doesn’t see us walking across railway tracks or samey corridors before fighting enemies and moving on with the story. There is a change for more variety, afforded by the ambition of hardware that has already proven itself even if exclusives remain thin on the ground.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart might be a fairly pedestrian platformer in terms of gameplay, but it makes use of the PS5 hardware in so many fascinating ways. Not only is it gorgeous, its faster memory and a greater allocation of resources see our characters zip through worlds that load in an instant. It felt like a future, one of the first signs that this generation could offer a step forward. Games like Demon’s Souls and Returnal build upon that ethos, but actual ‘next-gen’ titles have been few and far between.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth could change that, and evolve the genre it belongs to in the process. I’m thinking bigger battles, more extravagant cutscenes, and attention to detail that rivals even pre-rendered cutscenes in motion. remake got so close to this unattainable standard but fell short at the last hurdle, with even Intergrade showing symptoms of its last-gen origins when brought to new hardware. Loading times on that new version are obscene, allowing players to go from the console home screen to actual gameplay in under 10 seconds. You have to see it to believe it. Imagine all of those refinements, but in an experience designed from the ground-up to take advantage of PS5. It would slap so damn hard.

The reveal trailer provides small glimpses at what this ambition might entail. Sephiroth and Cloud are seen walking across a bridge in the town of Nibelheim, with Mt. Nibel awaiting them far away in the distance. For all we know, this entire town and the surrounding mountain region could be a single area, cohesively rendered to allow full exploration to both progress the main narrative and engage in side quests. It’s all the footage we see outside what I presume are cutscenes, a small yet alluring tease of what’s to come in the full game.

Combat will likely remain the same, as will a number of other systems given that Square Enix spent much of the first game laying the foundations for what’s to come. Yet it can continue to build upon that formula, to broaden its creative ideas and take us into an open world that in the modern landscape I once thought impossible. Turns out it might be.

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