Yesterday, Square Enix dropped the demo for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. Split into two parts, the first arrived with the flashback sequence, telling the events of Cloud and Sephiroth’s trip to Nibelheim. It was emotional and powerful. And I spent most of my time with it playing the piano.
It should really come as no surprise that this happened. First off, I’m the guy who gets side-tracked by everything in an RPG. I went out of my way to not spend all my review time in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth on Dondoko Island, and I spent ages chasing better Gwent cards for my deck in The Witcher 3. Final Fantasy is arguably, when it chooses to be, the king of time-absorbing side-games: Blitzball, Sphere Break, Fort Condor, and the titanic Triple Triad.
The key of life
The piano is not even the most glamorous side-game in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. Yesterday’s State of Play teased a new card game in Queen’s Blood, which will probably consume my hours wholesale. But in this new demo, after sneaking into Tifa’s room, I knew I had to slam on the ivories just a bit.
There, I found the true secret boss: getting a star-rating on Tifa’s Theme. It meant hitting every note, and hitting it on Great; not just Good or Okay, but Great. On two different attempts, I flubbed the final note. I felt the same embarrassment I did in band class way back, struggling to hit a high B-flat on my trombone. I’d like to imagine Cloud squirmed a bit as he recalled all this in front of the party.
Eventually, I cleared it and got my star-rating. I’m not sure if it even carries over to the full Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth or not, but I’m at least pretty confident in my piano skills now, enough to reacquire the star if need-be. Cloud stood up, and closed the shelf over the keys. Then pulled the seat back out and uncovered them. I was not done yet.
Anyways, here’s Wonderwall
I went on to play other songs. Like, just play music. Because the piano in FF7 Rebirth isn’t just a rhythm mini-game, it’s a full-on piano, much like the guitar in The Last of Us Part II. I actually really love that this has become a “thing” in games. It reminds me a bit of Dreams, in a weird way. A simple, effective tool that can be used to make masterpieces. Or disasterpieces.
So yes, I played a surprisingly good rendition of A-ha’s “Take On Me.” I dabbled into some classics, with particular favorites like Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” and Holst’s “Jupiter.” I even attempted a “Dearly Beloved” rendition, which felt fitting, but I struggled a bit with some of the octave and key management.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth‘s piano is surprisingly robust. Each stick handles hitting a tone in the C-scale, with triggers modifying for semitones (your sharps and flats), or if you’re using the chords, minor shifts. There are some great options for chords, by the way. I loved being able to flip over to alternate chords like a major seventh, it really adds a depth to the possible sound space.
But despite the wealth of options, I hit some stumbles with actually playing music on the piano in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, outside of its direction-driven minigame. The octave-shift is the most notable roadblock. If your fingers are manipulating the triggers and sticks, shifting to the face buttons for an octave up or down is arduous. I cannot believe Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and its piano minigame are the things that made me seriously consider back-paddles on a controller.
I’d also like to see some customization options, in terms of layout. Being able to shift the base key of the radial menu, or even lock in a spin wheel of a few selected options (i.e. G, C, D, Em) for ease of access, would make a world’s worth of difference. I also realize I’ve now typed multiple in-depth paragraphs analyzing one mini-game in a gigantic, content-filled RPG. But it’s a Wednesday and this is my hyper-fixation for the morning, so roll with me on it.
Gimme the beat Cloud, and free my soul
I’m not the only one who’s latched onto the piano, thankfully. It didn’t take long for Cloud’s improv sessions to flood social media. Some are, like “Dearly Beloved,” fitting. Here’s one user playing a pretty rendition of “Simple and Clean,” a certified banger:
Does it get more cursed? You bet it does. I’ll let you just hit play and have the same reaction I did when the notes hit on this next one.
So yes, anything is possible, even The Black Parade. Ahem. WHEN CLOUD WAS. A YOUNG BOY.
I’ve no doubt that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will absorb hours and hours of my time. But it’s the side content that does really draw me in. Even though I really enjoyed my time with Final Fantasy XVI, it did feel like it was missing that little extra. I needed Clive to get way too into a competitive card game. Really, you know Clive would bust out a guitar and sing “Push”. So let him!
The piano isn’t just a fun homage to the original, but fleshed out into a whole minigame and separate space for players to tinker around in. Will everyone stop here and spend precious hours playing “A Thousand Miles” instead of saving the world? No. But for those of us who will, there is the Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth piano. And I just think that’s neat.
As for the rest of the demo? Yeah, it’s good. It’s the flashback sequence from Nibelheim. It’s got some cool twists, and I love seeing this scene play out with the Remake trilogy’s graphics and production. I’m interested in seeing that all in-context later this month. For now, I’m going to while away the hours between now and then composing Cloud’s next hit cover.
The demo for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is live right now on PSN, and the full game goes live for PS5 on February 29.