This piece contains spoilers for 2020’s Final Fantasy VII Remake.
There are two types of people in the world – those who were disappointed that Geoff Keighley’s ultra-hyped “one more thing” at the end of his Summer Game Fest showcase was an extended Final Fantasy VII Rebirth trailer, and those with taste. I’m proud to be a part of the latter group.
While it was a bit surprising to see Square Enix show off the second chapter in its Final Fantasy VII remake trilogy so close to the launch of Final Fantasy XVI, it’s clear that considerable effort is being put towards nailing this reimagining of the most beloved game in the franchise. And while the trailer showed off some gorgeous views, awesome dual-tech combos, and intriguing wrinkles to the story, it was the prominent placement of the words “On 2 Discs” just below the release window of “Early 2024” that really stood out to me.
At first, I laughed at the bizarre choice to highlight this fact as a selling point for the game. Hell, PlayStation’s official tweet about it starts off with the words “Two. Discs.” And as someone who’s almost entirely converted to buying their games digitally, I already started to do the mental math on how much storage space I’d need to clear up on my PlayStation 5 in order to make room for a game that stretches across a pair of 100GB discs.
But the more I thought about it, the more I’m digging the idea of Square Enix wearing the scope of this game as a badge of honor. While it would be a silly thing to lean on for 99% of games, it somehow makes sense for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.
I distinctly remember playing the original FF7 on the PS1 back in 1997 and feeling this immense wave of awe the moment Cloud and company escape Midgar and step outside into the wild green yonder of the greater world. While the opening chapter through the tiered city only lasted a few hours, the sunless streets of the sprawling metropolis felt like they stretched across the entirety of the planet. So discovering that this opening area was only a small dot on a much larger map was a lesson in scope and grand-scale storytelling that I really hadn’t seen in a video game up until that point.
Cut to 2023, and it feels like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is trying to capture that same sense of grandeur by picking up at the moment where the first game left off, which just happens to be that same moment where the story’s camera lens zooms out considerably.
At the beginning of the trailer, Cloud uses both arms to push open a set of heavy steel doors, and between this, Tears of the Kingdom, God of War Ragnarok, and pretty much every FromSoftware game, it feels like this act is the new “shimmying through a tight space to hide a loading screen.” The party then transitions from a tight and dim corridor to the bright green expanse of the world outside Midgar. Aerith even comments on how nature somehow still finds a way to exist, even while Shinra is leeching off the very lifeblood of the planet itself.
The trailer does a good job of feeling sprawling, while in actuality only showing us the first few locations that the party visits after leaving Midgar in the original game. We see the green pastures of the Chocobo Farm, the quiet village of Kalm, flashbacks to the crucial events in Nibelheim five years prior, a new boss inside the Mythril Mines, a quick glimpse of Junon Harbor and the Sister Ray cannon, and a classic Bugenhagen lore dump in Cosmo Canyon. If those words sounded like complete nonsense to you, I apologize.
But along with much more varied and open locales to explore compared to the Midgar of the first game, it’s clear that this FF7 reimagining is also dipping its toes into the now en-vogue multiversal storytelling.
If you finished the 2020 game along with the Episode Intermission DLC, you know that there’s an alternate timeline or universe where Zack Fair is still alive. This is the timeline that’s shown off in the news footage at the beginning of the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth trailer, where we see our familiar party members seemingly dead in the wreckage of Midgar. Given last year’s remaster of Crisis Core, it feels like Square Enix is preparing us to become more familiar with Zack, as he’ll be taking a much more central and probably even playable role in FF7 going forward. I could absolutely see a world where these two timelines collide, and Cloud is the one who dies instead of Aerith, leaving Zack to lead the party as a temporary replacement until Cloud is inevitably revived.
All of that is to say — the scope of what Square Enix is trying to do with this second chapter in its Final Fantasy VII reimagined trilogy goes way beyond what we saw in the first game, so I understand the need to go beyond the confines of a single disc. And making that a marketing point is just leaning into the nostalgia of when it was commonplace for RPGs to be housed across multiple discs.
The timing on this trailer is serendipitous, as only a few weeks ago I wrote a piece lamenting the age of gaming where FMVs, orchestrated scores, and sprawling adventures outgrew the confines of a single piece of media, forcing us to have to physically change discs at certain mile markers along our journeys. And alongside the likes of Metal Gear Solid and Xenogears, the original Final Fantasy VII was one of those games where the act of swapping discs had become ingrained in my memory in the decades since.
Yeah, it’s a gimmick, but Square Enix highlighting the fact that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is too big to fit on one disc got me even more excited to see what it has in store in 2024.