July 13, 2024

Ultimate Fantasy VII Rebirth is out now, and we right here at Kotaku have been chewing on its ending for a bit. Now that people have had time to play the sport and kind out their emotions on it, we needed to take a while to speak concerning the finale’s deserves, points, and the way it left us feeling after spending dozens of hours with Cloud and firm. Spoilers forward!

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Kenneth Shepard, Employees Author: Alright, of us. We’re right here to debate Ultimate Fantasy VII Rebirth’s ending. However earlier than we begin sharing our ideas and even telling the room what we really feel about it, I would like somebody to offer me a definitive clarification of what occurred, supported by the textual content itself. I’ll wait.

Claire Jackson, Employees Author: I’m nonetheless engaged on that one…However the ending’s resistance to easy explanations, I feel, is what makes it lovely.

Jen Glennon, Editor-in-Chief: Let me try this. Cloud follows Aerith into the Forgotten Metropolis, regardless that everybody he’s with is aware of he most likely shouldn’t be left alone with Aerith or anybody else. Timeline-overlapping, multi-round boss fights ensue. Cloud groups up with each Aerith and Zack to combat Sephiroth, and wins. However Aerith nonetheless dies. Solely now, she seems as a sort of Drive ghost to Cloud, who acts weirdly chilly when everybody else is justifiably heartbroken about their good friend’s tragic demise. Additionally, Cloud nonetheless has the Black Materia and stays extraordinarily sexy for it, which is new. And there you go, that’s Ultimate Fantasy VII Rebirth. See you in 5 years!

CJ: Sounds about proper.

KS: I feel one of many ending’s largest issues is about how as an alternative of significant ambiguity it simply falls into deliberate deceptive. Which isn’t even my largest difficulty with the ending, however we’ll put a pin in that. However already right here, you and I, Claire, are most likely probably the most cut up on the ending at Kotaku based mostly on conversations we’ve had. We’ve the spectrum of “thinks it’s lovely” and “is completely ingesting the haterade.” Jen, the place do you fall?

JG: I don’t hate the alternatives they’ve made right here. However I might have completed with out the 4 or 5 fakeouts that led me to consider Aerith was going to make it. The entire sport, however particularly when you get to the Temple of the Ancients — hints {that a} a lot larger twist is afoot than simply “welp it performs out the identical as earlier than. You may’t combat metropolis corridor.” However I used to be actually hoping for some really wild shit like Cloud killing Aerith, or her coming again due to Zack’s assist. It felt like a little bit of a pulled punch to me.

KS: I genuinely thought up till the second it was clear it wasn’t occurring that they had been going to kill Cloud and make Aerith or Zack the protagonist.

CJ: Whereas I really like this sport’s conclusion, I’ll foreground just a few issues: I feel it might’ve used one other edit or two to make it a bit leaner, and the whispers are an aesthetic nightmare—they’re a cool narrative idea, however their visible fashion distracts from many key moments.

I discovered Aerith’s “dying” to be so splendidly completed. That Cloud witnesses, for a second, different realities during which he prevents this factor that’s clearly haunting him since Remake solely makes that failure extra impactful for me.

However it’s not simply her dying that Rebirth focuses on, however the trauma and tragedy of different characters. We don’t see recreations of sure scenes, like Cloud laying her to relaxation within the lake. As a substitute, we see extra of the opposite characters grieving over her loss.

I feel that’s a fairly highly effective change. Particularly while you add within the flashbacks that different characters expertise with regard to their previous and the opposite individuals who have died within the story to get to the place we’re. And main as much as Aerith’s dying, we’ve all been questioning since 2020 if she was going to die or not.

Cloud looks into the camera.

Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

JG: I agree that every one the moments of the opposite characters grieving are very transferring. Particularly when Tifa and Pink are sitting on the bottom crying. Aerith’s simply type of standing behind them, virtually keen them to note her however figuring out they’ll’t.

CJ: So even we as gamers witness an alternate actuality the place she survives for a cut up second—and it’s taken away from us by Sephiroth but once more. And I’m fairly positive the implication of the ending is that, ought to the occasion cease Sephiroth, that can guarantee completely different realities keep separate and Aerith will nonetheless have died. However that’s speculating about half 3 a little bit an excessive amount of maybe.

JG: This leads me to a query I had after I rolled credit. Are the stakes for half 3 nonetheless excessive “sufficient” if Aerith lived? Is that this simply one other ‘save the world’ story with out that loss at its middle?

KS: I really feel like they’re attempting to determine new drama with issues like Cloud clearly nonetheless being an unreliable narrator who could have Sephiroth nonetheless controlling him, although with some sand within the microchip like him having the Black Materia nonetheless. At this level, that is without doubt one of the extra important diverging factors, as underwhelming as that’s in comparison with the theories folks have been crafting for years.

CJ: I feel which will protect the nervousness over Cloud’s frame of mind, nevertheless. We haven’t but reached the purpose within the story the place he’s extra coherent about who he’s. He’s nonetheless beneath the spell of Sephiroth, and right here he’s strolling round with one of the crucial harmful objects possible.

JG: I do surprise if there’s something extra to that second within the temple when Aerith tries to say the Black Materia was a faux. There are a complete lot of threads within the final couple hours of Rebirth that they might unspool within the third half. However moreso than Remake, this one left me fearful that they don’t truly know the best way to finish this factor. (Or they’re intentionally protecting it nebulous and planning to determine later.)

KS: I’m glad y’all suppose there’s something concrete to tug from in these hours that they received’t probably patch out simply earlier than the third sport launches. As a result of I’ve no religion in that now.

CJ: Yeah, by way of the place it could finish, it does really feel a little bit awkward—however it has on the earth of FF7 for some time. Introduction Kids is adopted up by Vincent’s sport, which is type of the final canonical second, however it doesn’t have a conclusion.

KS: So, to go off Jen’s level. When Remake got here out, I wasn’t thrilled with the ending. Not as a result of I used to be a purist who was indignant that Sq. “lied” and mentioned this was a remake when it wasn’t, however as a result of I had little or no religion on this workforce to meaningfully look at its personal work in the way in which it gave the impression to be positing. I really like metatexual work that examines the affect of one thing earlier than it. The Evangelion Rebuild movies singlehandedly redeemed that total sequence for me. I beloved the Scott Pilgrim anime that Netflix simply put out. Each of those had been initially framed as remakes, however ended up being about the unique textual content as an alternative of uncritical recreations of them.

Sq. Enix

However with Sq., I misplaced any hope that it might actually grapple with these questions when the Ultimate Fantasy X prolonged universe works undid the arc of that universe to basically pay tribute to the iconography of the unique sport. So when Remake was positioned as Ultimate Fantasy VII Rebuild, I used to be skeptical, however thought ending it on the concept characters could be defying destiny and the remainder of the video games could possibly be one thing new was fairly daring.

Then my fears had been confirmed when it turned clear they had been reverse engineering the whispers and the concept of defying the “canon” story to make it a multiverse play as an alternative. Rebirth’s remaining hours turns this mission from an Evangelion Rebuild into Spider-Man: No Means Residence. It looks like purchaser’s regret for the premise Remake ended on, and it’s considerably much less attention-grabbing. Yeah, a part of my difficulty is that the ending is intentionally deceptive in a method that turns Aerith’s dying right into a hat trick, however greater than something, I’m simply bummed that the ending was a lot much less radical than its promise. I used to be ready for this sport to finish in an unrecognizable place. Now we simply have the identical factor with completely different seasoning.

CJ: How does it flip Aerith’s dying right into a hat trick? It does appear to me to be very a lot concerning the canon of the unique. That’s what the Whispers do as a story body—as a lot of an eyesore as they’re.

KS: This falls into the deliberate deceptive I discussed earlier. You QTE into blocking Sephiroth’s assault, the sport exhibits his sword miss her, then it’s like “however truly, multiverse,” then blood begins showing from a wound that doesn’t exist. It offers you the second of pondering you’ve got defied the destiny of this second after which is like, “simply kidding…except?”

CJ: I’m unsure that’s essentially what that scene is. She nonetheless dies. The message is that Cloud wasn’t in a position to defy canon. And the unique sport exhibits Aerith after she dies anyway, so I don’t suppose it’s terribly completely different. Multiverse stuff apart, as I mentioned earlier than, if something it’s extra tragic as a result of he, and we as gamers, expertise a second of risk the place that dying is prevented, however it nonetheless occurs.

KS: Exhibiting Cloud block the assault and the sword miss her shouldn’t be the identical, although. Sure, there are possibly thematic intentions with what occurs within the ending that may be unpacked, however from a elementary storyboarding degree, the ending is deceptive and poorly communicated, all in an effort to make a “gotcha” second. And that gotcha makes Rebirth, and Remake retroactively, a considerably much less radical mission than it was positioned as 4 years in the past.

To me, it is a Star Wars sequel trilogy-esque pivot that, as Jen says, has me not satisfied Sq. is aware of the place they’re going right here. You even see the bizarre revisionism in them patching strains in Remake simply earlier than Rebirth launched to suit the brand new course. It’s, as good friend of the location Jesse Vitelli mentioned in his assessment over at Shacknews, writing the sport in pencil to allow them to erase and alter it later.

CJ: How is it deceptive although? I’m unsure its attempting to direct our consideration wherever apart from: the planet is dwelling to a number of timelines, sephiroth desires to mix all of these to cancel them out, and the occasions of this timeline largely comply with the occasions of the unique?

KS: You hit the sword away. It’s by no means proven hitting Aerith. It makes a complete shot of exhibiting us the sword hit the bottom as an alternative. Then Aerith dies anyway. Right down to the storyboarding, that may be a misdirect that is aware of what it’s implying.

Gif: Sq. Enix / Kotaku

JG: I must rewatch or replay this complete scene as a result of I used to be additionally satisfied my actions had “saved” her a number of instances over the ultimate battle sequence, and the dying stuff I used to be seeing was the horrible final result that Cloud had managed to forestall this time.

CJ: I feel that solely heightens the affect of her dying: That there’s nothing Cloud or any of us might’ve completed. It’ll occur and we have to settle for and transfer on from it. Like the entire tragedy and trauma depicted within the sport.

JG: As a lot as I’m ambivalent concerning the ending, I do see the argument that having Aerith survive would take away a few of the stakes of a 3rd sport. Then once more, I additionally really feel like possibly we shouldn’t maintain preventing Sephiroth on the finish of each one among these Remake installments. That’s additionally jumbling up the stakes of every thing.

CJ: Properly if Aerith lived, at that time it is a basically completely different story. And sure, I agree: Fixed Sephiroth boss battles have already made the ultimate showdown with him much less impactful.

JG: Which is principally what they informed us on the finish of Remake. After which pulled again on.

CJ: I feel it was extra of a suggestion on the finish of Remake.

KS: Even when that had been the throughline, that some issues are inevitable and a “canon” occasion, Rebirth isn’t partaking with that anymore. We see it flash backwards and forwards between completely different timelines the place she didn’t die. Rebirth makes multiverse performs in probably the most non-commital method as a result of all it does is be like “they’re on the market. Zack is on the market too, most likely” after dropping its “defy destiny” theme. I don’t care that we didn’t save Aerith; I care that Rebirth desires to have its cake and eat it, too.

And yeah, possibly the stakes wouldn’t have been as excessive if Aerith had survived, however on the very least, it could have been completely different, like they mentioned it could be. And simply because Aerith survives doesn’t imply they shouldn’t do the rest new. Commerce lives, remix concepts, kill Cloud as an alternative, or one thing. Be keen to discover different potentialities, such as you mentioned you’ll.

CJ: I dunno, it’s not like Aerith positive factors a capability to hop backwards and forwards between timelines. So I feel it’s nonetheless committing to that authentic story. Other than the Black Materia nonetheless being in Cloud’s possession, this is identical story largely. And once more, in the event that they cease Sephiroth’s aim of merging timelines, she is going to keep separate from everybody

JG: The Black Materia is a complete matter unto itself.

KS: Proper, and the truth that it’s the identical story is what sucks. You allow Remake on this daring word that issues may be completely different now and Rebirth is like “Yeah they are often completely different…in one other universe, possibly.”

CJ: But when it’s the identical story, isn’t it partaking with its authentic textual content greater than had it modified stuff?

KS: I’m not satisfied they’ve any curiosity in partaking with the unique textual content past reverse engineering the unique idea to recreate it once more. Which is why Rebirth looks like purchaser’s regret.

CJ: Why is {that a} dangerous factor although?

KS: As a result of narrative and theme cohesion are a naked minimal in storytelling. This reads like Sq. is making it up as they associate with no plan. We’re going to spend years speculating about one thing they’ve confirmed they’re keen to undo. Comply with by means of on what you began.

Cloud holds the Black Materia.

Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

JG: Shifting gears to the Black Materia of all of it — We depart Cloud after the Forgotten Metropolis in a a lot much less sympathetic place than we do within the authentic sport. Like okay, blow off some steam and go snowboarding, bud. However on the finish of Rebirth, he’s stonewalling his mates and clearly as much as no good with the Black Materia. You don’t suppose Tifa or Pink would really feel a little bit higher figuring out that Aerith’s spirit is round Cloud on a regular basis, even when they’ll’t see her? Why doesn’t he reassure them in a roundabout way?

CJ: Yeah I do discover myself far more paranoid about Cloud. Which once more, jogs my memory of the unique. As Cloud’s layers of storytelling peeled away, who he was turned stranger and stranger till the reality was revealed. And within the authentic it takes some time. We all know he’s coping with some unusual psychological results with listening to folks speak to him, blacking out and many others. Then its implied he’s a clone of Sephiroth, then we perceive the reminiscence results of what he’s been by means of. I used to be typically on the sting of my seat questioning about simply who he’s within the OG, and I’m doing that once more right here.

KS: That makes me suppose Sephiroth nonetheless has him in his clutches. He’s clearly not proper within the head, even for Cloud Strife mid-FF7 requirements. And the way in which he appears so distanced from everyone seems to be clearly acknowledged by Tifa and Barret by the top.

CJ: It places me in a nebulous place now, ready to play as Cloud once more partly three, as a result of I’ll continually be fearful that he’s going to do one thing he shouldn’t.

JG: I do admire that Rebirth establishes that Tifa insists she didn’t see Cloud in Nibelheim a lot earlier on. However as you gesture towards, it does depart him in a bizarre place on the finish of Rebirth. These revelations aren’t making him higher, or hotter. They’re making him worse.

CJ: Yeah, it’s sticking with that theme much more. In any other case it could’ve been “oh, Jenova scrambled my mind. I suppose that is who I used to be all alongside.”

KS: Rebirth checked out Cid and mentioned “I can repair him.” It checked out Cloud and mentioned “I could make him worse.”

JG: Like proper after Cloud wakes up from the incident on the Temple of the Ancients, Tifa says “Discuss to me” in the event you hear any bizarre voices or “really feel such as you’re not your self.”. And Cloud instantly does the precise reverse for the following a number of hours.

CJ: And a number of other hours it’s…

KS: Oh, talking of that. There are a variety of boss fights on this ending, and 1. Sq. Enix is aware of the best way to choreograph an unimaginable combat sequence. 2. I really feel like I’m utterly desensitized to preventing Sephiroth at this level and surprise how they’ll one-up themselves within the third sport.

Moises Taveras, Employees Author: Leaping in simply to say that if I must combat Sephiroth on the finish of the following sport, too, I’ll bounce within the path of a Chocobo stampede.

CJ: Completely. I felt that method in Remake. Like, give us some extra Jenova variants to combat. Save Sephiroth for the precise conclusion.

KS: It’s been one of many weirder after-effects of constructing one sport into three, is that every of those video games has to have that escalation to a remaining boss run.

JG: I feel Cloud is turning into the Sephiroth he desires to see on the earth. However I kinda want they’d gone all in with it right here in Rebirth.

CJ: Oh, that’s a extremely attention-grabbing thought. That’s actually friggin scary, truly.

JG: I overlook when precisely, in some unspecified time in the future Cloud says, “I’m not like him. I’ll by no means be like him,” referring to Sephiroth. However he’s not saying it in a defiant method, actually. Extra like he resents it.

CJ: And, to return to these authentic themes established within the authentic, that was his dream. As he tells Tifa close to the effectively, he desires to be the following Sephiroth.

JG: That’s an ideal level. In mild of that, I’d be curious to rewatch the prologue stuff with Tifa and Sephiroth on the reactor and the way it compares to Cloud shoving her into the mako on the Gongaga reactor. I wager there are some related photographs.

CJ: There virtually definitely is. And as I’ve reviewed footage of this sport since ending it, I’m simply very struck by a variety of imagery, when characters are depicted strolling out and in of sunshine, and many others.

Zack talks to Marlene while Cloud sits in the background.

Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

KS: Oh talking of that, there may be one individual we kinda glossed over on this ending we should always most likely speak about. Zack Truthful, I’m sorry that they dragged you out of the grave to offer you nothing.

CJ: Zack is a bizarre one. I do suppose that in some methods his remaining line speaks to his optimistic heroism. One thing about “who’s to say” what can or can’t occur.

JG: He appears to have an admirably “waft” perspective towards his multiversal purgatory.

CJ: Whereas Cloud is a rattling doomer.

KS: Yeah he’s the golden retriever to Cloud’s black cat.

CJ: Oh, one hundred pc.

KS: One of the vital damning issues that occurs on this sport is that Zack’s return on the finish of Remake was such an enormous second, however then the one factor of significance that occurs in his bizarre little Rebirth pocket dimension occurs when he’s not within the room. They actually have a setting that allows you to skip his sections completely after you beat the sport. Speak about a bummer for the Zack followers within the viewers. Dodged a bullet this time, but in addition the plot.

CJ: Yeah, a part of me needed extra from these parallel scenes with Zack. That mentioned, I really feel just like the fragmented nature of how its portrayed feels very acceptable. If I’m to consider one thing as ridiculous as parallel universes/timelines are merging, it needs to be fractured and bewildering, not logical and coherent. I additionally suppose that you may skip Zack’s stuff after the primary sport to facilitate grinding, because you don’t get something mechanical out of these scenes.

KS: I suppose we’re beginning to wind down right here. Any closing ideas on the ending of Ultimate Fantasy VII Rebirth?

CJ: I feel that its true deserves and flaws will probably be made most obvious when the story is completed with the third half. And I discover the a number of timelines factor to be the right mixing of science fiction and fantasy in a method that the unique was. That it’s an epic fantasy story that additionally works with stuff you’ll examine in theoretical physics is a enjoyable evolution of this hybrid style.

JG: I’m excited to maintain selecting this aside over the following few months, to be sincere. I feel there’s a complete lot to say about it, and there’s gonna be some wild fan theories about all this. Wanting ahead to Darkish Aspect Cloud.

KS: To not ship us out on a bummer word, however the extra I’ve considered Rebirth’s ending the extra it’s soured me on the sport and the Remake trilogy as a complete. At this level, I’m simply on the trip. I’ll see the place all of it goes, however I’m previous hoping or wanting something from it. Between Remake not being a remake and Rebirth not being a radical remix of it, each video games simply felt like two separate damaged guarantees to me. I actually get pleasure from enjoying them as a result of they’re a few of the sequence’ greatest fight and have probably the most endearing variations of those characters, however it’s a multitude I’m caring much less to choose by means of with every passing day. I hope of us get pleasure from idea crafting and likewise hope Sq. doesn’t simply undo components of this ending to suit no matter it decides to do in 4 years. However I’m utterly emotionally indifferent now. It’s extra of a thought experiment to me than the rest.

Additionally, Cid? Name me.

What did you consider Ultimate Fantasy VII Rebirth’s finale? Have been you glad? Did you hate it? Do you’ve got any large theories for the following sport? Tell us under!