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Many gamers are ecstatic that 'Final Fantasy VII Rebirth' is finally out

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Many gamers are leaping for joy this leap day. Come on, I had to make that joke today. That's because Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is finally out. It's the second title in a trilogy remaking a 1997 game that became a global phenomenon. And while we live in a world full of remakes, Sony is banking that the game will not only capture the old magic, but new consumer dollars, too. NPR's James Mastromarino reports.

JAMES MASTROMARINO, BYLINE: Final Fantasy VII Rebirth doesn't take long to introduce you to its grand, open world.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH")

BRIANA WHITE: (As Aerith Gainsborough) Just look at it all. It's so green.

MASTROMARINO: Like the 1997 game it's based on, it's about ragtag heroes fighting against an evil power company and a maniacal killer, Sephiroth.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH")

TYLER HOECHLIN: (As Sephiroth) I'm waiting.

MASTROMARINO: Yoshinori Kitase produced the original Final Fantasy VII in 1997. Here he is speaking through an interpreter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YOSHINORI KITASE: (Through interpreter) We've taken this widely recognized narrative and reconstructed it as a new story that reflects the destiny of the characters.

REBEKAH VALENTINE: I remember people just, like, clamoring to import it and get their hands on it.

MASTROMARINO: That's Rebekah Valentine, senior reporter for the gaming website IGN. She says the game was far more visually striking than its competitors.

VALENTINE: Everybody was moving about in, like, full, blocky, polygonal glory.

MASTROMARINO: And now, nearly 30 years later, that technological innovation has reached its apex with graphics that could rival a Hollywood movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) All right, let's get this show on the road, people.

MASTROMARINO: Rebirth director Naoki Hamaguchi feels like the new game's updated animation gives the creators a chance to do what they always intended to do. Here he is also speaking through an interpreter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAOKI HAMAGUCHI: (Through interpreter) Things like the emotions of the characters, down to the finer details of the worldview, which couldn't be noticed in the original work, are now depicted in great detail within this new title.

MASTROMARINO: That detail heightens the drama of the game's opening flashback scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) You killed my mom, my village, my home.

MASTROMARINO: I'll warn you now that I'm going to spoil something from the original 1997 game, which involves a famous character death. Here's producer Yoshinori Kitase.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KITASE: (Through interpreter) The biggest theme for us going from the original to Rebirth was deciding what kind of fate awaits Aerith.

MASTROMARINO: Aerith is one of the game's beloved playable characters. Her death shocked people in 1997, and Rebirth's makers are playing up the drama of what could await her in this game. Rebirth's also coming out at a shaky time for PlayStation's bottom line. Owner Sony just cut hundreds of gaming jobs.

VALENTINE: They kind of need to hit a home run with this one. And I mean, I've seen the reviews come out, and it seems like they probably have.

MASTROMARINO: Again, IGN reporter Rebekah Valentine.

VALENTINE: Everybody's remaking games.

MASTROMARINO: But, she says, no one's quite remaking them like the developers of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

VALENTINE: They're sort of playing with the idea of what a remake actually is, and I think there's some people who are a little worried about that who, you know, want it to be completely faithful and don't want things to change or don't want to question whether they can change. But I don't know, I think it's good to ask those questions.

MASTROMARINO: Rebirth director Naoki Hamaguchi says that he hopes this new version of the game will carry on a legacy to last the next three decades.

James Mastromarino, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOBUO UEMATSU'S "THE CHASE (JAZZ ARRANGEMENT)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

James Perkins Mastromarino
James Perkins Mastromarino is Here & Now's Washington, D.C.-based producer. He works with NPR's newsroom on a daily whirlwind of topics that range from Congress to TV dramas to outer space. Mastromarino also edits NPR's Join the Game and reports on gaming for daily shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition.