The Cinematic Failures of Modern FFVII’s Combat

by April 11, 2024 0 comments

It’s the finale of Advent Children, and Cloud raises his Fusion Sword into the air and 6 swords split away from it to surround the airborne Sephiroth as Cloud flies up from below, initiating his Omnislash Ver. 5 Limit Break. He grabs the first sword and makes a lightning fast dash, slashing through Sephiroth and grabbing the next blade. He pivots and slashes through him a second time before reaching out for the third of his six blade– combat over. Victory. Cloud performs his post-battle animation and experience is rewarded.

Cloud goes on a date with his chosen companion at the Gold Saucer, holding the triangle button skips past all of the carefully crafted story sequences & emotional dialogue to reach just the necessary moments where there is a place for the player to continue inputting interactions from the controller. Whenever a cutscene is skipped the player is awarded with a 1.2x “scene skip” EXP & relationship score bonus – a benefit that that they cannot gain by any other means.

THIS is what it’s like to experience the modern combat of the FFVII series, and how blatantly obvious it becomes that those are terrible decisions when those same choices are applied into its pre-scripted cinematic moments. This is not an issue specific to just Remake or Rebirth either and as such, I’ll begin by looking at where a fundamental misunderstanding in what cinematic presentations accomplish and what types of issue impact a type of pre-scripted combat animations in Crisis Core Reunion.

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Diminishing Value Given to Depiction of Summons in Modern FFVII

Crisis Core Reunion redid the cinematics for all of its summon attacks to match the updated designs that were in-line with the modern Remake Project’s depiction of those entities (let’s ignore that Odin’s horse Slepnir still has 6 legs in CC Reunion while having 8 in Rebirth). Additionally, it also provides the option to allow the player to skip these CGI cutscenes which is a welcome control to allow players to just either jump straight back into the action or take a breather by watching one of the ultra-powerful entities show up and obliterate their opponent in a fantastic spectacle. This is great because anyone who played the original FFVII knows that there are times when you DO want to watch the Knights of the Round bash an opponent senseless, and there are times where that’s more of a means to an end so being able to bypass those long cutscenes at your discretion allows for that… except that all of Crisis Core Reunion’s new Summon animations are less than half as long as their original counterparts.

The inclusion of player choice to bypass a long scene already exists, so there’s no reason to truncate the scene itself. The only thing that this accomplishes is in its insistence on overclocking the cutscenes, is it hamstrings the carefully crafted weight to the build-up of actions taken by the summon entity in them. This inherently makes that a less cognitively rewarding experience which is something that it’s CLEAR that is known from a design standpoint, as this is why Ever Crisis‘ gacha mechanic is preempted with a long, drawn-out, multi-point interaction animation of Cloud facing off against an Iron Giant which has varied results but is also skippable. This is because dopamine is released in the anticipation of a reward, not in the delivery of one, which is why prolonged animations are intentionally implemented to reinforce habitual behaviour in players to want to keep using this system in every game that heavily relies on lootbox-like gambling for monetization.

Thus, by being mechanically identical in damage, these truncated summon animations are OBJECTIVELY WORSE at providing an equivalent cognitive reward of satisfaction to players in comparison to the originals – strictly from a basic human design standpoint.

This cognitive mechanism is also why Summons in the original Final Fantasy VII like Choco/Mog & Odin are especially memorable – because there’s an additional layer of anticipation for which of the two summon animations will play out. Despite the fact that Choco-Mog is the very first of the sixteen Summon Materia you ever get so you’re likely to have to watch that animation more than most of the others, and even though the flat non-elemental damage of “DeathBlow!!” & “Fat-Chocobo” are equally likely to defeat an enemy, the later only having a 1/16 chance to appear keeps it exciting AND is an incentive to keep using it and not tire of that same animation that you’ve seen more than any of the other Summons in the game. Odin’s “Steel-Bladed Sword” has the ability to instantly kill enemies – but there are a decent range of enemies that are immune to Instant Death and so “Gunge Lance” deals flat damage instead. Even when used against non-bosses, it’s always exciting to see which of the two animations will come up even if the end result is always that everything it hits is defeated. The payoff isn’t the damage, it is the anticipation of that reward – but it is ALSO the enjoyment of the presentation of its delivery.

Big cinematics for summon spells not only build up that long anticipation into a big payoff, but they’re also partaking in cinematic storytelling about the entity itself at the same time which initially doesn’t happen anywhere else in the game. Rebirth changes this with integrating the Summons into the World Intel missions, but even despite the technical expansion, that one-off fluff text-based optional information doesn’t carry the same weight of narrative delivery, and it doesn’t add to the combat experience at all. Cutting down the cinematics undercuts the understanding of the summon itself, and the senseless truncation of summon animations between the original Crisis Core and the ones in Crisis Core Reunion demonstrate this most clearly.

Pacing Makes a Difference & Every Second Counts

In the original Crisis Core, Bahamut Fury is circling around an Earth-like world with a shattered ring around it before departing into a warp and arriving at the Planet where it’s summoned (This lasts about 6 second or 300 frames of animation). emerging from behind its moon. It roars, encircling the satellite with its 6 wing spikes before charging up and blasting a beam into the surface of the moon. (This initial attack occurs 33 seconds in to the animation). That blast spreads and then contracts slowly condensing into an even brighter point of light concentrated and gradually shattering the surface and then cracking through the entire moon, as the shockwave of fire spreads slowly behind it before suddenly in a flash of light, the front half explodes into a massive beam of burning plasma pouring down into the surface of the Planet creating a catastrophic explosion from space as the ACTUAL attack. (This occurs 6 seconds after the first attack, and persists for the same length as the 6 second build-up, giving the entire sequence a 45 seconds total length).

6 seconds for introduction, 10 seconds for arrival, 6 seconds for setup, 12 seconds for initial attack, 6 seconds to secondary attack, 6 seconds for the beam landing the hit. There is a clear cinematic pacing and balance here. You can see where there are moments to pause, it gives you time to digest the details and in under a minute, it delivers the entirety of the story context for the opening where Bahamut Fury is departing from a world with a destroyed moon that was left as a fragmented ring around its world. Whether it travels to another planet, or simply warps space-time in its immediate area to restore that damaged satellite is completely open to interpretation, but like all great summons, it has the perfect balance of majesty and mystery conveyed completely through the cinematic storytelling.

In Crisis Core Reunion, Bahamut Fury appears and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where it actually summons a moon into place. (There are literally only about 15 frames of animation or ¼ of a second including the fade-in from black at the start for you to be able to tell that the moon isn’t there and the circular hexagonal pattern is transparent before it dissipates, which is made especially confusing as this hexagonal design is classically used for Shield/Barrier magic in Final Fantasy). Then, rather than facing the moon, Bahamut Fury flies behind the moon, deploying its wing spikes on wires around the moon before firing beams down into the moon from behind, cratering a tiny hole in the back and bursting out through the surface on the opposite side to hit the planet below. (This entire animation is 18 seconds long).

4 seconds for introduction, 4 seconds for deployment, 2 seconds for charge up, 5 seconds for initial attack & charging the second stage, 3 seconds to actually deliver the main attack. Not only is every sequence essentially ⅔rds of the shortest sequence that Crisis Core offered, but NO stage has any significant variance in its pacing to give the sequence any weight. It’s more apparent to look at the times side-by-side [CC: 6, 10, 6, 12, 6, 6 || CCR: 4, 4, 2, 5, 3] This rushed animation doesn’t have an ebb & flow to the narrative, not to mention that it ALSO doesn’t carry the same weight. The moon is a needless barrier to the attack in the Crisis Core Reunion version, whereas it becomes the weapon in the original Crisis Core version. Additionally, despite apparently having the power for summoning in a new moon, Crisis Core Reunion doesn’t do this to replace the one it just put a hole through nor does it remove it afterwards, and it isn’t even fully obliterated like the original version. The narrative mystery it offers is more confusing than interesting, and it’s not as satisfying despite being visually upgraded.

This isn’t just a problem when arbitrarily deciding to rescript these moments, but even when it mostly keeps the animations as a 1:1 to the original, the change to force things into this needlessly frantic pacing undercuts the narrative weight of what’s happening – because having a build up is critical to how you’re able to convey different concepts that are otherwise impossible to achieve in a rush, AND it misses out on a key purpose of having Summons AT ALL in a more Active action-oriented version of a Turn-Based Combat system.

Summons & Limits in the Player-Initiated Ebb & Flow of Combat

One of the most critical roles of Summons that differentiates them from other types of magic is that they provide the player a momentary reprieve from the active rush of non-stop combat, in exchange for the satisfaction of watching a god step in and absolutely pummel a frustrating opponent with overwhelming force. This was true of the original Final Fantasy VII with it’s ATB, but nothing in the whole of the Remake Project achieves this quite as well or with the absolutely peak cinematic spectacle of its Final Fantasy predecessor – FFXV.

This is extremely important to highlight, as the active combat mechanics of FFXV were in many ways the direct design precursor to what was gradually refined into the ATB combat mechanics of FFVII Remake & Rebirth, but especially in how it established the mechanism of ONLY giving the option for initiating a summon attack under particularly oppressive circumstances. This is because the presentation of the Summon’s presence is designed to serve explicitly as a way to alleviate from the otherwise unbroken stress of exceptionally difficult combat.

This role that Summons play in combat related to player stress is important to consider when looking at how the remastering of Crisis Core Reunion also made numerous updates & quality-of-life improvements to the combat system of the original PSP version of Crisis Core which were overall a MASSIVE improvement to the underlying mechanics of the original game to allow it to feel like a more modern title. However, even as the summons & limits were less trapped under the DMW’s fickle RNG and given player control, the benefits that the summons retained to that end meant that they were less rewarding as a reprieve against difficult bosses, because they were cut down to all be relatively small moments of relief that matched other interruptions, which came at the expense of how satisfying they feel, but also undercut how well they work in their own narrative purpose.

Aside from offering even LESS of a breath of fresh air, cutting down cinematic length destroys storytelling details that requires time, and the first Crisis Core summon Ifrit is a perfect example of this. Ifrit burns away the sky and slowly continues building up more & more heat – first exploding, and then punching the ground to erupt into a sea of flames all around himself, before charging out of the inferno and gaining speed until the added heat of friction from that movement through the air obscures him entirely into a white-hot searing fireball building heat from multiple sources – heating the environment from his own body, setting fire to the surroundings, releasing an explosive shockwave, creating friction with the air – ALL of which come together to deliver Ifrit’s attack in a total of 54 seconds. In Crisis Core Reunion that sequence is 16 seconds long, where Ifrit bursting out, searing away the sky, AND punching the earth (which doesn’t create flames around him) are all only 1 second long each. There’s no time to build up an accumultion of each source of heat from each action to feel oppressive like the original. After bursting out in an explosion, the scene follows him charging towards the enemy from the front, so the flames never turn bright and obscure his body so the final attack is just an angry flaming punch – not Ifrit’s whole body becoming a living atmospheric-reentry-like fireball obliterating everything he barrels through with an inescapable searing heat.

This underlying cinematic design issue was less pronounced in Remake, as the early summon attack animations for the available summons in the first of 3 games for the Remake Project were generally shorter & more simple overall. While there are changes, like how Ifrit no longer has his classic overheated charging attack but rather just bursts up columns of Hellfire from the ground while screaming at the sky, others were expanded upon like how Fat Chocobo was now its own individual entity and had an entourage of Moogles to lift him into the sky. These alterations were balanced and the lack of matching was offset by making the summons MORE than they were in the original Final Fantasy VII. No longer were Summons just a momentary once-and-done glorified magic attack, but now they actually joined you on the field of battle like a passive companion explicitly when moments in combat were seriously in need of external assistance – just like FFXV‘s enormous Astrals would.

This worked decently in the first game, because Remake had a limited cast of characters and even INTERmission Yuffie’s only secondary companion Sonon was still mostly an NPC, so the presence of Summons on the battlefield alongside you feels noticeable. It’s worth it to expend ATB charges to have them attack rather than your main characters, because they possess abilities that you don’t. Additionally, you had a very low amount of summon Materia overall until near the end of the game, so it doesn’t feel like you’re being overly artifically limited by the game in making use of a tool that you have clear access to… but NONE of that works any more in Rebirth because those “beginning of the story” constraints are gone.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All Summons

In Rebirth, because the combat updates for every character, having access to an overwhelming amount of summon materia, the presence of backline characters, multiple party configurations with unique synergy attacks all diminish the value of having a summon on the battlefield who essentially just shows up to deliver a glorified Synergy attack on a countdown timer. It’s not a reprieve to the normal combat at all, and especially with Neo-Bahamut (Bahamut Arisen), the most important facet of FFVII‘s ultra-powerful summons is missing – the isolated showdown against a frustrating enemy.

In the original FFVII, Neo Bahamut rips up the earth from underneath its opponents, pulls them all into the sky all the way above the clouds, and then just hovers there… quietly staring at them before charging up what you know from Bahamut will be an absolutely DEVASTATING Gigaflare beam attack… but the beam is just shown obliterating the ground beneath them and sends their bodies falling down to the earth as they pass through the destructive beam themselves. It is a BRILLIANT bait-and-switch to the normal attack delivery, and that makes genuinely unforgettable.

The delivery of Bahamut Arisen’s Gigaflare in Rebirth could not be more forgettable, because it carries absolutely no weight in comparison to the sea of Synergy Attacks and other things that have been added to make Rebirth’s combat system genuinely better than what Remake offered. The issue is that while the Summons were more integrated into the world, there was no consideration put into making them more relevant in a combat system that offers SO MUCH MORE. Not being able to utilize multiple summons in big boss battles feels strange now. There’s a decent chance that you may not have even used all of the summons in battle – despite unlocking all of them. All of the spectacle of the summons is wrapped up in Chadley’s Combat Simulator where you’re fighting AGAINST them, but you don’t even get a fraction of that power on your side by having their materia and using it usually feels like an afterthought.

In Final Fantasy VII, summons are the quintessential middle finger to an enemy that you don’t feel like dealing with, and that’s a fantastic tool to have because it’s succeeding at its core purpose of alleviating player stress by offering them a form of control. This is where a system having the summon become available to intervene when AI circumstances detect that the player is probably having a bad time don’t really address what makes them great. If I’m tired of being turned into a frog, I’m more than happy to burn the MP cost to have Neo Bahamut stare them directly in the face and then drop them out of the stratosphere. Those cinematic moments that offer a long one-on-one setting to build-up the attack between the Summon & enemy are DEEPLY cathartic, and thus extremely memorable & rewarding to players as a stress relieving tool.

Despite the advantage of the Remake & Rebirth summons being active models in combat, they don’t take ANY of that cinematic advantage that they have over the Crisis Core & Crisis Core Reunion CGI cutscenes to deliver these one-on-one moments between the summon & the enemies. The random placement of enemies all around the field means that there’s no way to give them an easy face-to-face, and so their ultimate attacks are mostly a focus on the summon itself rather than on its confrontation with the enemy – which is why you’re using it in the first place, because it’s basically just a damage tool… but even though the relief is even MORE pronounced with Summons that offer extreme utility like status effects or protection – even that has been monumentally undercut from Summons.

What was once one of THE most legendary summons in FFVII, Phoenix feels like an outdated utility in Rebirth where it takes spending 2 ATB to cast Arise during the tiny window of time when it’s there, when you can instead use a Synergy Skill to get 0 MP cost, and cast Arise twice instead for the same 2 ATB from a character at any time in a battle. If a Summon is going to be artificially constrained into a once-per-combat occurrence anyway, let Phoenix trigger Arise/Reraise with its final attack like it always has, because that utility as a stress relief is a critical element of its design, and it should never feel like a missed window of opportunity.

The later portions of Rebirth especially feels like there was an emphasis placed on over-balancing the benefits of ANY powerful content (compare its endgame “Genji equipment” to what Crisis Core Reunion rewards you with). This type of design… is antithetical to the entire point of Summons. They’re SUPPOSED to be over-the-top in both their power & cinematic presentation as a reward to the player for everything it takes to get them, AND as a relief to the overall stressors in gameplay. Rebirth takes more effort to obtain Summons and EVERY ONE of those Summons offers less relief & reward than any previous FFVII game.

The summons now have none of the cinematic impact for what OUGHT to be ever-increasingly impressive scenes from the original FFVII. They offer you no ability to intentionally initiate one to have a moment of relief with a cathartic break from the endless ATB management grind while they beat the tar out of the opponent for a bit. Instead they only show up when you’re already under pressure to just meandering around with you like a lost child unless you spend your own ATB actions to make them actually DO something at all. All-in-all, they’re nothing but an absolutely massively diminished value overall as a gameplay feature, let alone one that still necessitates its own limited single materia slot per character. Cait Sith’s Moogle Magic is probably the most interesting implementation of a Summon’s abilities as a viable utility, but the RNG element to which attack gets used feels like it’s designed to be able to have multiple summon materia equipped – which isn’t possible, and the time sink for reusing that escalates constantly for massively diminishing returns on its value.

Worst of all, unless you Summon as an interrupt on a low HP character who’s about to die or use the Self Destruct Enemy Skill on the character who summoned it to kill yourself in exchange for triggering the Summon’s instant departure – you cannot reliably ensure that the Summon’s iconic ultimate attack will even land during the absolutely CRITICAL moment when you stagger an opponent when it’s most important to hit with high damage abilities. This makes using and working around the summon’s departure MORE stressful as an added timer to manage – which is antithetical to the entirety of the new combat system AND to the purpose of a Summon ONLY aiding you during a stressful moment of battle in the first place.

This makes even their limited utility feel… deeply unsatisfying. This necessitation of optimizing for forcing players into active combat as a sense of “challenge” brings up how this overall cinematic element that is critical for Summons and that’s meant to be natural part of the ebb & flow of Final Fantasy combat to allow players to enjoy the combat experiences rather than being exhausted by them has been completely gutted from the ALL of the core design of Rebirth‘s combat in its entirety at the expense of all of those things it’s supposed to add.

Limit Breaks, Synergy, & the Inescapable Sprint of Active Combat

When you initiate a Summon, everything on the battlefield freezes. It is one of the VERY few true in-game combat interrupts that the game offers that’s only a few brief moments long, with the only other being the Assess screen. Pressing X to pick commands from the menu slows but doesn’t stop time, and you can even see an enemy’s Stagger Bar moving down if you’re not doing that efficiently.

This is part of a sacrifice that was made for balancing the Active Combat System so that it didn’t incentivize players to disproportionately utilize the Menu system as a way to optimize the combat gameplay over what the Active Combat could achieve. In order to offset this, Limit Breaks’ cinematic attacks were still initiated where the character was and they could totally whiff, but they had a fairly generous range, and also gave the character invulnerability while using them, so that the animations wouldn’t be interrupted by the real-time events still taking place around the character… however the issue is that this rewarded players for NOT being selected on characters using Limit Breaks, because this meant that they could be using another character to charge their ATB more quickly during that unstoppable animation sequence. This is the EXACT combat equivalent of directly rewarding players for skipping animated cutscenes that I made at the beginning of the article. It’s a TERRIBLE design.

Even in Remake with bosses like Sephiroth & Weiss, their explicit aggression towards the player-controlled character, as well as the character-AI’s ability to never initiate an Ability until they’re within range of the targeted enemy meant that using Abilities ONLY on characters you weren’t controlling meant that they were less likely to miss and FAR less likely to be interrupted by enemy attacks. So, especially as difficult increased in Remake and carrying over into Rebirth, the Active Combat for Modern FFVII was giving multiple reward incentives towards explicitly switching off of characters performing carefully crafted cinematic animations, whilst simultaneously diminishing the rewards for all of its player-controlled cinematic moments – even as it added more animations, Hard Mode gameplay further encouraged this cinematic averse exploitation with even larger net rewards.

Synergy Abilities all have unique animations of the characters teaming up that you only get to watch play out with all the cinematic camerawork if you remain selected to one of the two characters who is involved because they happen in real-time. This means that there is no interrupt to safely execute it and regardless of whether you’re focused on the characters or not, those Synergy attacks can be stopped by EITHER character taking enough damage from enemy attacks that hit the area when they’re used to KO them – which suffers even MORE from the enemy aggression problem especially on higher difficulties. On top of that, because it involves two player characters, this means that the best way to optimize the game’s excruciatingly slow ATB generation AND prevent the odds of that attack from getting interrupted is… to swap control to the 3rd character to attack at the same time, and not watch the animations of the two characters interacting AT ALL.

On top of all of this, Boss enemies can be hit by countless attacks that will deal no damage when they reach an arbitrary HP% that places them into an invulnerable state waiting for a cinematic transition before reenabling their ability to take damage. They essentially get the same phase-change invulnerability that players get for Limit Breaks, except that you HAVE to watch their cutscenes, even as you’re stuck skipping over all of your own. Not only that, but because both the Limit Break & Synergy Abilities don’t lock the enemy into an animation-length attack phase when they’re initiated, if the enemy dies to VERY the first hit on a massive combo attack… – you don’t even get to see the satisfaction of pummeling them into the ground with your own Limit Break even if you CHOOSE to watch it. Instead, you get to watch the character swinging around wildly and attacking the empty air for a few moments until the victory screen cuts in to interrupt and close out the fight.

That is the game delivering the ABSOLUTE ANTITHESIS of a cinematic conclusion to a fight, like watching Cloud Omnislash Ver. 5 into thin air at the end of Advent Children.

These aren’t things that HAVE to happen. These are parts of design choices & oversights.

Correcting the Problem & Restoring Cinematic Combat

There are COUNTLESS ways to be able to implement changes to the system that allows for all of those things to play out in full cinematic glory in a satisfying way that is intentional and aligns with the work that the teams have done. If the game detects that the final enemy is defeated, it could instead automatically shift into the perspective of any character performing an animated attack like a Synergy/Limit Break and just play out the remainder of the sequence showing all of the hits and conclude at the end of the animation. Limit Breaks could be given the same interrupt that calling a Summon gets, especially since casting “Stop” on a Staggered enemy freezes the depletion of the Stagger bar more than any of the ATB Synergy Abilities anyway, it’s not even overpowered from a gameplay perspective to have those take place outside of real-time. These things all just prioritize actually SEEING those spectacular cinematic attacks that you chose to use in combat, rather than making the gameplay reward you for ignoring them – which it should NEVER have done.

The original Final Fantasy VII is a game that is LITERALLY defined itself in Hollywood cinematic language for its presentation. It is a core element of the game’s narrative design extending into the combat. Limit Breaks are a representation of the character reaching the absolute amount of physical & emotional trauma that they can endure and retaliating with full force at the very peak of their capacity being pushed beyond what they can normally do as a result. It’s the adrenaline-fueled retaliation of mothers saving their children from death just as much as it is the triggering of the berserk state to force someone with PTSD into an overpowered blind rage. They represent real-world experiences that are fundamental to the story and carry into the combat just as much as the Synergy Skills & Abilities represent the character’s relationships to one another – and a combat system emphasizing players SEEING those things is how the storytelling is made to be more than just the sum of its parts.

Failing to mechanically implement ways that encourage those not ONLY punishes players who want to watch them, and thus undercuts those moments from feeling like equally valued story, but it also means that the work that cinematic teams put in to those animations don’t have time to shine and be appreciated by ALL players. Random encounter battles aren’t as memorable without those emergent moments occurring in tandem with the cinematic brilliance that was placed into them. That’s fundamentally the opposite of what FFVII delivered in a way that other games never had in a fully cinematic experience, and is something that the final game in the series NEEDS to be able to do if it’s going to fully deliver on the goal of creating Advent Children-level cinematic experiences when taking on its overwhelmingly powerful bosses.

Nothing makes that more clear than looking back on where we first saw the cinematic presentation of Diamond Weapon fighting against the Knights of the Round – FFXV: Kingsglaive.

The Summon magic in the 3rd and final title for the Remake Project also includes entities like Hades, Typhon, & Bahamut ZERO who have extreme emphasis on the visual presentation of their attacks. There absolutely HAS to be a massive step up in the portrayal of their cinematic presence, but also in the design consideration afforded to cinematic moments in combat as a whole that allows them to feel significant beyond what they were in Rebirth. In tandem with that, the combat systems needs to allow players to be able to WATCH the characters doing cinematically scripted attacks that THEY INITIATE just as much as the ones that happen during the transition cutscenes between phases against a major boss like Jenova or Sephiroth. It has to be at the forefront of the design rather than being a forgotten afterthought.

The spectacle of a good-looking fight is as much of a reward as winning the fight itself, and that’s something that has rarely if EVER occurred spontaneously across my nearly 200 hours playing Rebirth, but I have an almost countless number of experiences of seeing interrupted Synergy attacks getting 1-2 characters killed at once, whiffed Limit Breaks because the enemy teleported after the attack was initiated, triggering a Limit Break on an inactive character for invulnerability rather than any actual utility inherent to the Limit Break itself, and initiating an all-out-barrage against a difficult boss in a final attack …only to not even be able to see half of the hits land because the battle cuts the INSTANT that their HP reaches 0 in real time.

No one wants to see an important fight against something like Ruby Weapon conclude with King Arthur showing up and unfurling his cloak to raise Excalibur into the air while staring at an empty battlefield as the transition into a victory scene cuts off the crescendo of the ultimate summon magic landing its final blow. No one wants Knights of the Round to be reduced into a 10-second-long animation of all the knights crammed together hitting a rapid back-to-back montage-cut barrage, because there’s a concern about pushing the player back into pressing buttons again as efficiently as possible. Those moments are a fireworks show not a desperate sprint into another checkpoint.

Let. Them. BREATHE.

Allow players to control an ebb & flow to combat by utilizing cinematic animation as a TOOL, rather than treating it like a barrier that has to be bypassed at all costs the way that it has been thus far.

Make summon animations as enormous & bombastic as possible, and just let players hold triangle to skip to the big cut scene IF THEY WANT TO, just like they can everywhere else in the game. It’s the endgame now, so let things be insanely overpowered, with a presentation that’s wildly over-the-top, and most importantly – one that’s INTENTIONALLY rewarding in its cinematic presentation both in AND out of combat. Let characters have multiple summons and use them as more than as just a way to tip the balance when they’re in a pinch. The Summons don’t have anywhere NEAR the beyond-towering colossal majesty of LITERAL gods like the Astrals of FFXV to carry that type of weight any more – even though they did comparatively for the significantly less powerful versions of the party back in Remake.

They didn’t get weaker, the party got stronger, and so Summons need something MORE to show off that proportional strength as something that’s impressive and rewarding as an asset at the player’s command… and so do the individual characters with their own Limit Breaks, which are just as important to the underlying representation of who they are as characters & how they overcome what they ultimately struggle with above all else. On top of that, ALL of those things need intentional prioritization in the combat system in a way where essentially ALL of the modern FFVII titles have fundamentally fumbled with that core element of cinematic design & implementation in a multitude of ways.

While Crisis Core Reunion managed to significantly refine & improve upon the combat system in Crisis Core, and most recently Rebirth managed to massively expand & improve on the core combat system from Remake, the modern adaptations of Final Fantasy VII have all failed at retaining these cinematic elements of the combat that the Compilation titles & original were well known for because of the extreme limitations around combat presentation necessitating emphasis in this way. Even as the graphical fidelity and overall visuals have pushed the mundane moments to all seem more cinematic than ever, it’s made the intentional cinematic moments of a more versatile combat system the weakest they’ve ever been.

It’s impossible to overcome this pervasive issue and deliver TRULY cinematic combat in the places where it’s been missing into the final game of the Remake Project without assessing where, why, & how the cinematic presentation of modern FFVII titles have dropped the ball, which is hopefully what I managed to convey here.

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