Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Is Secretly A BioWare RPG

To my surprise, the decisions you make and bonds you form in Rebirth actually matter.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Is Secretly A BioWare RPG

I was incredibly nervous when Square Enix first confirmed that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth would have an affinity system. After taking inspiration from The Witcher 3, it was reasonable of me to fear that Rebirth’s offering would be lightweight and unnecessary. Surprisingly, it boasts far more depth than I ever could have expected. Time is taken to pair characters together as they embark on side quests with narrative weight and consequence. It’s been years since an open world has offered up a laundry list of side quests I actually care about enough to finish.

The affinity system comes into play when selecting dialogue options, activating new synergy actions in battle, finishing certain missions, and spending time with select party members. It takes a while to build up a worthwhile camaraderie, which is represented by coloured emoticons located above the heads of characters at specific moments. During the game, you will notice this change in colour and expression as you grow closer together. Whoever has the highest value after you reach the Gold Saucer for a second time will be your date.

You can go on a date at the Gold Saucer with either Aerith, Tifa, Red XIII, Barrett, or Yuffie. Don’t worry if you don’t get your first choice though. After finishing the game, you can pick all the others from a menu.

The dialogue choices are surprisingly nuanced too, and can change how characters view you or how certain situations play out in subtle yet meaningful ways. It lends itself brilliantly to the cast of characters that many players have known for decades, but never have any of them received such extensive development as they do here. It is worth embarking on optional quests just to hear a few lines of curated dialogue, similar to how Commander Shepard’s squadmates will talk to him on the surface on a new planet, Barrett will talk about his personal history, or we can listen to Yuffie chat about her homeland and struggling to do battle with Shinra. I left all these missions feeling more informed and emotionally invested in everything when I half expected all the side content in Rebirth to be meaningless filler hardly worth existing.

Rebirth will often begin side quests with a simple conversation between a random NPC and a member of your party, outlining a task to complete or an enemy to defeat with enough context to make it not seem like complete nonsense. It ranges from serious melodrama to adorable anime hijinks. Whether Aerith is making a mushroom stew or bonding with dead ancestors, you connect with her through pockets of conversation and dialogue choices that add an extra layer to the characterisation that also folds into your relationship. While there’s no morality spin at play here, it still feels like you are helping define Cloud’s personality and how your party feels about him. You can be grumpy and dismissive or patient and understanding, and even funny or sweet if the situation falls for it.

I suppose there was a fear that Rebirth would feel outdated with such a basic view on morality and dialogue systems. Cloud can ask a range of questions before embarking on his quest to gather greater context, while conversations with party members that affect how you view one another will force you to make timed choices in a matter of seconds. My favourite was when Aerith was making a speech in Cosmo Canyon, and she looks over to Cloud for moral support, and your options are either to reassure her, tell her to suck it up, or to smile like a clumsy himbo with severe golden retriever energy. It warmed my heart that through nothing but my only initiative and a single animation, that Rebirth could get me choked up.

Prior to release, I expected this system to disappoint, or it was doomed to feel needless in an RPG where the focus is on characters I already know and a combat system that isn’t exactly suited to slow decision-making. But little did I know how much I’d appreciate getting to know them all the more, viewing individuals I’d known for decades from a new perspective, which just wasn’t possible in 1997. You’ll chatter while pottering about towns and can engage in a conversation whenever you like, earning greater insight that you can choose to embrace or ignore.

If anything, now I’ve fallen for it, I would love for the third game to take things even further. Instead of side missions with a specific party member tagging along for bants, why not have dedicated loyalty missions or questlines away from the main narrative, where you spend a few hours tackling a personal issue associated with each character. Maybe this will result in rare materia or weapons towards the endgame, or adorable scenes that shake up the otherwise binary reward of a date at the Gold Saucer. There’s so much potential here.

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