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Don't use a guide for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s dating choices –?it's better if you revel in the joy of the unknown

Play the game blind, and experience the thrill of authentic romance in FFVII Rebirth. Aerith, Tifa –?and even Barret – will thank you for it.

Cloud and Aerith nearly kiss in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth.
Image credit: VG247/Square Enix

When I think about it, the original Final Fantasy 7 was probably the first game I ever played with ‘dating sim’ elements. Back in the late 90s, I was yet to play Persona, and wasn’t yet a PC gamer, so I was yet to discover the stripe of CRPGs that preceded the dating-mad shenanigans of the likes of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

In my first run through of FF7, I didn’t even think about it. I wasn’t following a guide, so every dialogue choice I made just went with my gut. When you reach the Gold Saucer a little under halfway through the game, I made the assumption that everybody saw the scene I did - a cute little ferris wheel date between Cloud and Aerith. Later, I learned the truth - and in subsequent playthroughs, I augmented my choices in the earlier parts of the game to see scenes with all of the eligible cast members, (including Barret).

This was part of the joy of FF7’s dating system, I think. Either deliberately or simply through developer oversight, it was an obfuscated mechanic, the stat that determines your date and the events that adjust it a shadowy thing only visible to fans who fire up a save game editor or peek into the game code.

Yuffie, in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, holding her arms open waiting for an embrace.
You'd hug her, right? | Image credit: Square Enix

In the years since, a more plain and straight-forward way of implementing such relationships has developed. Conversations in games are more organic, which helps enormously. But additionally, titles like Mass Effect or even Persona make damn well clear when you’re doing something that’s going to change your relationship with a character through cues both subtle and sledgehammer. It’s now easier than ever to chase the specific partner you want for the protagonist without a guide. And, y’know, that’s a good thing. Games are generally more frictionless now – and the evolution of dating mechanics offers one excellent example of how that has come to pass.

But FF7 was born of a time with a different philosophy, and one that lasted for a while. The original Persona 3, made almost a decade after FF7, didn’t even really have proper choice. In that game, if you chose to advance a relationship with a girl sufficiently far, it turned into a romance. If you tried to befriend multiple girls, your lead would end up with multiple partners.

It’s only in the recent Persona 3 Reload do-over that those storylines have now been given platonic variants, players given a direct choice of how to proceed, as in later games. In the original FF7, an invisible mechanic leads to a different scene, and that’s that.

Aerith, in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, summons powerful lightning magic.
Aerith has a shocking personality. | Image credit: Square Enix

So it is that the developers of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth faced an interesting choice: should their dating system be true to the original, or should it go for something more modern? The answer is one that the FF7 Remake series dabbles in with glee: why not both?

In Rebirth, you really do sort of get the best of both worlds. The dating and affection mechanics are no longer hidden, with the game regularly offering you feedback on what impact your actions are having. This comes in the form of a Telltale-esque ‘will remember that’ prompt; you’ll be vaguely told that your relationship with Tifa, Aerith, Yuffie, Red XIII or Barret ‘has changed’, or even ‘deepened’. Icons displayed above the heads of these characters when in hangout zones give you a rough idea of what rank, out of five, your relationship is in. But beyond that, the game offers little feedback - not even in dialogue.

Basically, it keeps things simple. Unlike in a game like Mass Effect, your relationship with a character doesn’t impact options regularly: it changes the outcome of one single scene. And unlike in a game like Persona, there’s no visible rank counter ticking up to a maximum level. The counters that are surfaced are clearly deliberately vague: so by the end of the game, if you’ve been doing everything, you might indeed know that you’re in the top ‘bracket’ of affection with all five characters. But you’ll have no broader idea of who might be in the lead.

Over the course of the game, you’ll be making a constant stream of decisions that impact your affection. Some are actions in the story: making a certain choice, doing something well, and so on. Each side quest in the game is tied to one of the five - completing those side quests guaranteed to offer a boost to affection, with dialogue options and other choices during each quest potentially adjusting how much of a boost you get. Plus, of course, there’s the occasional dialogue option.

Aerith, in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, looks off to the side, wistfully.
"So, what are you thinking?" | Image credit: Square Enix

A few events seem designed to be a tie-breaker – story events that explicitly make you choose between two of the options, guaranteeing an affection rate boost with one or the other.

All of this sounds pretty explicit, right? But here’s the thing: it isn’t, really. Despite giving you so much more information and feedback right throughout the game, when I got to the night of the highly anticipated date at the Gold Saucer… when there was a knock at his hotel room door, I didn’t know for sure who would be waiting for Cloud on the other side.

Choice-based games have gotten pretty great at telegraphing the consequences of the choices you’re making. A lot of this is down to a desire to minimize player frustration. There’s nothing worse than making a choice and having it toss out a consequence that feels random, or worse still unfair. Sometimes it can be funny, too. But usually frustrating. I expect FF7 Rebirth’s dating mechanic will leave some frustrated in that sense; they might carefully make choices all game and then still not get their love interest of choice. But that’s life, you know? It feels true to the original, too.

Aerith, Cloud and Tifa, in that order, stand looking up at something we cannot see in FF7 Rebirth.
So, who's your favourite? Comment below.Image credit: Square Enix

Moreover, reader, I loved it. I loved not knowing. It just felt different. It just felt cool. And it reminded me of the wonder of discovering there were multiple scenes at all back in 1999. It’s the sort of feeling of uncertainty that a choice-based game hasn’t inspired in me in forever - probably not since playing Mass Effect 2, pre-release, and having no guides, no fellow players, and no clue as to if I was going to lose anyone or not.

Best of all, FF7 Rebirth does it right after the fact. Once the credits roll, you can open the menu and see detailed stats about how story actions impacted affection values in Persona-style relationship status menus. Opening chapter select and heading to the chapter of the date allows you to explicitly choose who you want your partner to be on the replay. Basically, it’s the best of all worlds. I love it - almost as much as I loved my choice of date. What? Who was it? None of your damn business. Play, skip the choices guides – and see who you get naturally.


Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is out now, exclusively on PS5. You can read our FF7 Rebirth review here.

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