Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s multiverse is tearing PS5 players apart

PS5 players are divided about Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's multiverse — and so are Jack and Lee here at TrueTrophies. Has Square Enix crossed the (time)line?

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s multiverse is tearing PS5 players apart
Lee Brady

Opinion by Lee Brady & Jack Ridsdale

Published

Now that those Final Fantasy VII Rebirth trophies have been out for a full month, it seems the internet at large has decided it's time to address some mixed feelings regarding the ending of the recent PS5 exclusive. In particular, a popular conflict has surfaced surrounding the notion of a Final Fantasy VII Rebirth multiverse. Those multiverses are a big trend in movies, and it seems people are convinced the tend has infected one of the best PS5 games of 2024.

Two takes on Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's ending and the FFVII multiverse

Before we go any further, it's worth noting that from this point onwards there will be spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's ending.

If there's one consistency in the reaction of PS5 players after reaching the end of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, it's this: general confusion. The final two-hour stretch of the game is, for the most part, portrayed with an ambiguous, dream-like tone — a tone that makes it incredibly difficult to discern the outcome of most of the game's key events with any degree of certainty.

FFVII Rebirth

This was almost certainly done with intention on the developers part, but of course, it has led to a significant difference in opinion from PS5 players on how Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's ending should have been handled. Some fans have argued that the game should have stuck closer to the original game's sequence of events, while others argue that the introduction of a split Final Fantasy VII Rebirth timeline has muddied the game's narrative with too much multiverse nonsense. Meanwhile, some fans remain satisfied with the new twists and turns of the story.

For those who are completely unaware of what a "multiverse" is, it's just the term used to describe stories set across varying timelines, each of which carries its own sequence of events. It's a cornerstone of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (at time of writing), and its received both praise from fans (because crosses those timelines often allows for creative ways of delivering fan service) and criticism (because the nature of multiverse stories mean that any one outcome can be undone in another timeline, nullifying a story's stakes. Also, they come with extra sci-fi jargon).
So, in a microcosm of that divided opinion, TrueTrophies Staff Writer Lee and TrueTrophies Black Ops member Jack are here to deliver their hottest takes on Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's use of a "multiverse narrative." Lee will be speaking on behalf of those who are generally satisfied with the changes, while Jack — who is kicking things off just below — will be letting loose on just why he thinks the introduction of a multiverse into FFVII's story utterly disrespects the original game.

JackR

You can (not) redo Final Fantasy VII like this

There's no denying that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a great video game. The crunchy, satisfying combat of Remake returns with some brilliant tweaks that make it even more dynamic. Its open world is beautiful, and despite using some tired tropes borrowed from Ubisoft's toybox, is largely a joy to explore. It even introduces a staggeringly huge variety of minigames, the vast majority of which are fun and surprisingly deep. After years of struggling to find Final Fantasy's identity in the world of triple-A action games, Square-Enix has finally hit upon a formula that works.

The endearing cast is also rendered in loving detail. Through stellar voice acting, animation, and dialogue writing, you will fall in love with Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Barret, Yuffie, Red XIII, and Cait Sith hundreds of times over during the game's extensive runtime. The script is full of wit, warmth, and charm, playfully crafting realistic and tender relationships between the ragtag group. These relationships even play into mechanics, with affinity rankings affecting in-combat synergy abilities in a stroke of game design genius.

Multiverse FFVII

All of this makes it all the more disappointing that Rebirth falls flat in its plot. In a timey-wimey multiversal twist, the ending of Final Fantasy VII Remake revealed that the three-game project was more of a sequel to the original game than a remake. In Rebirth, the scenario writers attempt to have their cake and eat it too, by presenting a story that largely hits the same beats as the original, with subtle changes throughout that fundamentally change many of its events.

Even players without experience of the original will know that this game is leading up to FFVII's iconic moment — the murder of Aerith at the hands of the villain Sephiroth. In the original this death is sudden and seemingly without meaning, driving home an intense feeling of loss. In the game's ending it's hinted that this was a noble sacrifice, allowing Aerith to save the world via the Lifestream, but we're forced to play through many grief-filled hours before this payoff is delivered.

Without getting bogged down in the mechanics of Rebirth's multiverse, the game concludes with an ambiguous ending where, via interconnecting realities, Aerith appears to be both dead and alive at the same time. We sort-of see the death — the impaling is removed, as that would be too violent — but moments later Aerith is fighting by our side again, playfully throwing out her regular battle quips. It is impossible to feel any emotion over this development, as the audience's predominant feeling is confusion over what we're seeing.
The Rebirth writers have traded in emotionally resonant storytelling for a mystery box narrative, where the original game's real-world stakes are replaced by interdimensional shenanigans. This narrative may be exciting to some players (hell, I love the TV show Lost, so it should be for me too), but it betrays the legacy, and indeed the themes of the original. How can one shed a tear over a character's death, when another version of them can be pulled in from an alternate dimension at any time?

We know from the Kingdom Hearts series that Square Enix's writers are in love with convoluted, dreamlike narratives but there appear to be cynical reasons for these choices too. The enigmatic ending opens the door for years of fan theorycrafting in the interim between Rebirth and the series' third and final part, supposedly drumming up more hype for the forthcoming game. Then there's mobile game Ever Crisis, a money-gouging gacha that sheds further light on some of Rebirth's more obscure subplots.

We'll have to wait for Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 3 — my guess is the subtitle will be "Remember" — to find out where these plotlines lead. But in the meantime, I encourage all fans experiencing FFVII for the first time through the Remake trilogy to go back and enjoy the real Final Fantasy VII story in all its polygonal, poorly-translated glory.

Multiverse FFVII

Lee

A multiverse of trashy respect

As I watched the finale of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth play out, I’ll admit that I watched it all with the same glassy-eyed glare that I’m sure most of you had. That said, I at least can be perfectly honest in admitting that it was also the same glassy-eyed glare with which I watched Aerith die in the original Final Fantasy VII.

I’ll also admit that I did cry over Aerith’s death, but not while playing the game. I cried over her death years later, thinking over the events with a few years of separation from the play experience and enough time to expand on those characters’ lives in my head. While the story is affecting and gripping even in its blocky PS1 graphics, I can be honest in saying those characters didn’t become real to me until I had let them grow a little in my heart and in my imagination.

The first time I watched the infamous scene play out, my literal thoughts were: “Oh, here we go. This is it. This is Aerith’s death.” My reaction was one of appreciation for the decisions the game designers made in killing off a pivotal party character. My thoughts were a mix of the cold and the pragmatic, and sure, there was sadness, but it was the sadness that comes with thinking of any death. It wasn’t grief by any stretch of the imagination.
I felt that grief later; realized in retrospect that I loved the colorfully sketched outline of these polygonal pals. Time had allowed me to warp my relationship to these moments, to the point where they had become greater and more personal than they had honestly felt in the moment. It took rewatching the scene on YouTube and hearing Aerith’s beautiful song play as her Materia plink-plonks away for me to shed real tears for her death.

What I’m getting at here is that the weight of Aerith’s death is one that I wager many of us felt later, in conversation, or in reflection, or after years of lionization. That the specific execution of her death is remembered for its iconic imagery, but not for its ability to move us directly to tears. That, in fact, in the moment, her death isn't even something we can feel or know for certain — a feeling that haunts us right to the end of the game, when she appears once more in the Lifestream. We simply choose, at some point or another, to believe that Aerith is dead. That moment isn't in the game — it happens in our heads.

Multiverse FFVII

Now, because I had been through this experience all before, (and all rather recently I might add; I only played and beat FFVII for the first time in 2021 at age 29), I was quick to catch my lack of an emotional response to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s ending, and similarly quick not to dwell on it. Time will tell whether this moment carries emotional weight for me. If I can afford that time to the original Final Fantasy VII, then I can do the same for Rebirth.

All that was left for my mind to reckon with then was simply this other stuff — the wibbly-wobbly multiverse elements. I’ll admit, my initial gut reaction was like many people’s — it was sheer intolerance. However, I quickly softened when I remembered one simple truth: the people making this game care more about Final Fantasy VII than any of us.
After all, that’s why we’re playing a sequel to the original Final Fantasy VII with Remake and Rebirth, not a straight-up graphics-only remake. These people respect Final Fantasy VII almost too much to insist on messing with the actual template of the original game. What’s more, they also respect your version of Final Fantasy VII too. The one that’s in your head — that one that made you cry over Aerith’s death. Or the one that made you doubt her death in the first place.

To respect the original game’s integrity, these developers decided that the smartest thing to do — the only thing they could do — was not remake Final Fantasy VII. So, in Final Fantasy VII Remake, we see the characters of the original game wrestle against the shackles of their own story. Then, in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, we see the story slip even further into the realm of fan fiction as the supposed canonical follow-up to Final Fantasy VII sits as just one option in a sea of splintered timelines and dying worlds.

This “multiverse” — it’s merely the result of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s writers reckoning with the fact that Final Fantasy VII can no longer mean just one thing to any one person. With time, we all warp the story wherever we want it to go, and there’s no solution that can make sense of that. So, the characters rip up the rulebook, and what happens?

Multiverse FFVII

Well, now we can’t even say for certain that Aerith dies, just like we couldn’t say for certain she did in the original. Even as her body sank to the Lifestream below, there was always just enough uncertainty to make us doubt it. The dreamlike imagery, the choice color of the water, and the untrustworthiness of Cloud’s mental state as he delivers his longing monologue — it all opens doors; doors that the writers of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth simply do not have the right to close.

So, enter “the multiverse” — which, to be honest, isn’t really a multiverse at all. It’s merely just an acknowledgment that everything that comes after Final Fantasy VII is fan fiction, and Rebirth is simply premium fan fiction. To some, that reads as cowardly, or galling, and that’s fair, but equally there is no alternative. While these artists were alive and could make a decision, they chose to honor Final Fantasy VII, both the work of art and the work within your head, as best they could.

Multiverse FFVII

That’s not to diminish the fact that the writers still wanted to do something with Final Fantasy VII’s world. They still want all the things you want — the world big enough to live in, the characters real enough to have a conversation with, the main events all rendered in crystal clear graphics as fast as popular technology can run them. They just also wanted to make it clear, from their position, that it isn’t their place to show you exactly what happens in Final Fantasy VII.

Personally, I respect that. Ten out of ten — I’ll circle back in a few years to see how you conclude the fan fiction, guys. Extra points if you could avoid any stories where Cloud suddenly becomes the new Sephiroth, all of those theories are hyper trashy. Also, for what it's worth, I don't think the name Final Fantasy VII Reunion is off the table, even if Crisis Core rushed out the gate with that. Just some advice from one Whisper to another.

Well, where on the spectrum do you land when it comes to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's multiverse-like elements? Let us know down in the comments, and if you'd like to read a little more opinion about the game, why not check out Lee's Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review here.
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Shadow x Sonic Generations), one eye on the past (PS Plus Premium games), and his secret third eye on junk he really likes (Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games). Then he uses his big mouth to blurt out long-winded opinions about video games.
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