(he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.
Playable instruments in video games are one of the medium’s more delightful traditions, an acknowledgment that the word “play” has more than one meaning, each of them equally fun. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s titular ocarina, the town tunes in Animal Crossing games, and the assortment of instruments you can play in Guild Wars 2 — all very badass ways to shirk copyright law and stick it to the man by making Link play “Freak on a Leash.”
In 1997, Final Fantasy VII was one of the trailblazers of in-game instruments, with playable pianos you could find in the game. And, as the demo for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth showcases, this is just one of the many things the sorta-remake has revisited and made better than ever.
Echoing the original game, during the Nibelheim flashback, you can go to Tifa’s room (kind of rude, as the game will tell you) and play her piano, which will bring up an interface very similar to The Last of Us Part 2’s guitar-playing minigame. The pair of radials will allow you to play notes and/or chords with your controller’s thumbsticks, each one representing one of Cloud’s hands.
As with The Last of Us, this is a very good way to intuitively play some simple little tunes, albeit a little less gracefully — mimicking a piano on a gamepad is hard and it makes that game’s guitar simulation even more impressive. That doesn’t mean it’s not made for excellent meme fodder or earnest renditions of other Final Fantasy tunes:
I personally stuck around Tifa’s room long enough to pluck out the notes for the main Final Fantasy VII theme, and smile at my sense of accomplishment. I’m sure I’ll return, Tifa’s privacy be damned. There might be a snowstorm coming; perhaps I’ll decant a bottle of wine and spend a couple of hours making Cloud Strife play Britney’s “Everytime,” like that one scene in Spring Breakers.