Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Interview Reveals Naoki Hamaguchi Personally Targeted 90 Rating, Cites Ghost of Tsushima as Open World Inspiration

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a critical success, receiving universal acclaim from the world over. We gave the title a perfect score, remarking on its excellent open world, preserving the essence of the original game while adding new surprises, and an emotional roller coaster of emotions all around.

We had the opportunity to interview director Naoki Hamaguchi during the meet and greet for the Philippine launch of the event, where he was able to impart some unique insights into the creation of the game and answer some of our burning questions.

final fantasy vii rebirth director naoki hamaguchi philippines

As a 20-year veteran in the video game industry, Hamaguchi-san was inspired by the Final Fantasy franchise to be a game creator. In his words, “Final Fantasy VII Remake made me grow as a creator. Serving as a director for this title has allowed me to give back to the franchise. It felt like fate. When Kitase-san told me that I would be the director, I wanted to do my best.”

After congratulating Hamaguchi-san on a successful launch, we asked how he and his team reacted to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s positive reception and if this added much pressure for them to complete the trilogy. He has this to say:

I’m thankful for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s positive reception. There were rumors in social media that the team was aiming for 90 or over for the ratings in Rebirth, but it was my personal goal. When FFVII Remake came out, it did not achieve an aggregate score of over 90 [in Metacritic], so the team wanted to do better for Rebirth. I didn’t want to pressure the team to get over 90 in ratings, so I’ve set that as my personal goal.

“Because of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s positive reception, there might be some pressure on the team. However, I feel that this empowers them to give the final title the send-off it deserves. I’m heartened that reviews had good feedback with the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s gameplay. I believe that this gives the Final Fantasy franchise more possibility in the future not only in its story and characters, but their gameplay.”

When we asked what Kitase-san and Nomura-san felt about Final Fantasy VII Rebirth‘s positive reception, Hamaguchi-san replies, “As I’ve been travelling for the launch tour, I haven’t personally spoken to Nomura-san or Kitase-san, but I’ve received a message from Kitase-san congratulating me on the positive reception of Rebirth.


The team that Hamaguchi-san has been working with was a team of predominantly new blood with some veteran leadership roles that included Nomura-san and Kitase-san. We asked if having a fresh set of eyes was an advantage to the creation of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. With this, Hamaguchi-san answered, “The entertainment industry has changed a lot as there are many young developers that are able to provide the ‘entertainment’ part. I feel that the new team has done a good job to give that aspect to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.”

“However, the veteran team members like Nomura-san have steered us in the right direction instead of creating something like a fan-made remake. We wanted to keep the important essence and messages of the original game, so having the veterans in the team allowed us to go the right way that respects the original vision but adds new exciting elements to the game with the ideas of the new members.”

“I feel that we have the perfect balance of the wisdom of the original creators and the passion of the new creators to bring Final Fantasy VII Rebirth to life. This way, the original fans are also happy with the game and how it turned out to be.”


If there was a crowning achievement in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, it was the burgeoning open world. Giving freedom to the players was critical, and it matched Hamaguchi’s aspirations of what he wanted the game to be, so he was sure that the decision to implement this design was the right one.

“It took 4 years to create this volume, and I feel we were able to achieve this because there were no doubts in the design, with the objective of providing more freedom of choice to the players.”

“The most challenging aspect of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is defining the world map. It was only about moving from one place to another, it would be a negative thing. I needed it to have enough area but also give the right amount of content so it’s not too empty, but still have the freedom to have an adventure. That was the very first challenge that the team had, so we dedicated a lot of time to define how big the world map will be. Because we had already defined it, development went pretty smoothly.”

“There are a few games that inspired Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s open world. Unlike Zelda where everything is available from the very start, Ghost of Tsushima is one inspiration where the other part of the map becomes available once you proceed with the storyline. This is what gave me the idea to define how big the space will be. And because Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has a lot of characters and a lot of content that players want to enjoy, The Witcher 3 does a very good job with having the side content serve as a way to depict character development.”

Touching on the difficulty of the game, Hamaguchi says that “I wanted to make the Midgardsormr fight extra difficult, so we can convey to our players that they can explore the map and its features like transmutation, and by exploring, it adds to character development along with leveling up. If you’re able to overcome this boss, you’ll learn that exploring the world map and leveling up will make you stronger.

“We also hear from the players that the difficulty setting of the Junon area is different between the demo and the main game. This was deliberately changed to allow demo players to think up of more strategies and freedom to set up their combat style.”


Combat, in particular, received some good upgrades in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, especially when pertaining to each of the characters. While the basic actions and commands did not change, the team has made the action more enjoyable by tweaking the mechanics per character.

“Some users may have already noticed it, but for Cloud, his dodge now has a hit-box, so we’ve tried to incorporate these small changes in Rebirth to give the characters more possibilities during combat. I’m really happy that the players have made comments about the combat system and how it is more enjoyable than Remake.”

With such precision and care for the combat aspect, one other thing Hamaguchi was very careful about was depicting the same amount of character development for both Aerith and Tifa. He felt that if he favored one side more than the other, it would lead to unhappiness from the players.

“In the original, we didn’t have enough scenes to know more about Tifa – her emotions, how she felt, and how she developed as a character. By adding some scenes in the Gongaga area, it shows that Tifa is kind to everyone and everyone respects her, but she also has her own struggles and conflicts.”

“I’m really happy that a lot of players love Tifa in Rebirth, not just Aerith.”


When asked about the elements of the original Final Fantasy VII that were preserved with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth‘s many changes and revisions, Hamaguchi-san gave a thoughtful answer:

“Rather than changing the main storyline, we wanted to add details that we were not able to express before so the players could come to new realizations and find new information.”

“You might have noticed some changes in the game, such as the addition of the Whispers and Zack. The idea is not to change the story but to enhance it. If we only keep the main story, everyone can expect how it will go, so there’s no surprise element. We wanted to add some changes and give players a sense of anxiousness of not being able to know what’s going to happen, also adding excitement to the game.”

“As a fan of the original game, it is difficult to nail down exactly what part we wanted to keep. However, there were iconic scenes that have been engraved into my memory, such as Rufus’ ceremony, Red XIII/Nanaki finding out about his father’s fate in Cosmo Canyon, and the showdown between Barret and Dyne. The level of detail of the storyline might have changed, but we wanted to preserve these iconic moments and convey the same emotions.”

Speaking of Barrett, this was actually one part of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth that Hamaguchi-san wanted players to experience the most!

“If you’ve played the game, you’ll know that Marlene isn’t actually Barrett’s daughter, and that there’s a very dramatic storyline between Dyne and Barrett. The Corel Prison part of the game is where players will feel more empathy towards the characters, and the minigames available in that area are made to depict Barrett’s inner conflict and emotions. Depicting these emotions is what I want players to experience in the game.”

final fantasy vii rebirth zack

When asked about the return of Zack Fair, whose demise was continuously implied through different iterations of the Final Fantasy VII lore, Hamaguchi-san comments, “When you try to remake a game and make it an entertaining game, having the exact storyline as the original would lack the excitement and surprise. I was looking for an essence to add to the story, and Zack was chosen to be this essence because in the original, there wasn’t much story about Zack, but in Crisis Core, he had a huge character development.

“If there was one thing that the users would be convinced would be enough, Zack would be that character. He would give the players more to look forward to and see how the story would unveil itself.”

Hamaguchi also briefly teased about what to expect from the third game, saying, “I sort of have the image of the next title in my head, but I can talk a bit about it now. I’ve already shared the plans with the team, and I feel that the next game will be another different experience from Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. While I want players to look forward to that, for now, we can concentrate on Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.”

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Sephiroth

Finally, as with many new players experiencing Final Fantasy VII Rebirth for the first time, Sephiroth is an important character, and with this being their jumping point, what can they experience with him? Hamaguchi-san has this to say, “The relationship between Cloud and Sephiroth is definitely complicated as the main storyline revolves around chasing after Sephiroth throughout the plot. Having Sephiroth come out in the beginning of the demo allows the players to be more familiar with him, and it adds to the experience of knowing who you’re chasing after.

A lot of players and media have expressed that their favorite character is Sephiroth, so players have expressed that they wanted to play as him more. I couldn’t say it before, but since the game is already released, I can say that as part of the endgame content through Chadley’s VR. You’re able to play with Cloud together with Sephiroth, but the difficulty is much higher.

Hamaguchi-san has some final words to impart to Final Fantasy fans all over the world who are inspired by the game, and for fans in the Philippines: “There are a lot of shapes of entertainment today, not only gaming, but the aim is to give people the will to live today and tomorrow. If the title that you created allows people to have this feeling, it is great, and if you don’t forget this, you’ll also be able to create something that has this effect on people.”

“This is my first time in the Philippines, and I’ve gotten to walk around the city and the malls a bit, to see people playing the game that I created, I feel very happy about that. I’m very satisfied with what I was able to create in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and I hope that the players can see what happens at the end of the game.”

Thank you so much to Naoki Hamaguchi-san for sharing his experience in creating this fantastic title!

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is now available exclusively on the PS5.

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