Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is basically a Chadley simulator

Final Fantasy 7 and its compilation media have introduced some of my favorite video game characters. There’s Cloud Strife, the emotionally cagey but endlessly awkward dude who just wants to be cool. His childhood friend, a sullen-eyed Tifa, brings a sense of kindness and warmth to the most dire of situations. Hell, even the villains are charming in their own ways. I wouldn’t want to be a generic Shinra lapdog, but maybe I’d go and be one for Rufus, whose cutting-edge sense of style somehow makes me forget he’s the CEO of an evil company.

Then there’s Chadley, an unfortunate character whose design looks like if you combined 9S from Nier: Automata with a Boy Scout.

Chadley made his series debut in Final Fantasy 7 Remake when he recruited Cloud to collect battle intel by undertaking virtual fighting challenges. As we learned in Remake, Chadley is a humanoid robot created by Shinra’s Professor Hojo. Although he worked for that evil and cruel scientist, Chadley seemed harmless enough and Cloud could actually help free him from Hojo’s programming toward the end of Remake, turning him into a fully independent being. Now, he’s back in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and ready to help Cloud and Avalanche’s cause.

In Remake, Chadley served as a perfectly adequate character to talk to every now and again. Cloud could talk to him when he needed to, but he now plays a pretty big role in the larger world and gameplay in Rebirth. Toward the beginning of the game, he tasks Cloud with surveying each region by visiting different geographic locations — like a special spring or a cave dedicated to a summon — and scanning them with a device to collect data. Given that exploring each region and all the points forms a major part of the game, this forces players to interact with Chadley and hear his boring chatter frequently.

An image of Chadley talking to Cloud on a mobile communication device. It shows a feed of Chadley’s face as he talks. Image: Square Enix via Polygon

The scanning device Chadley gives Cloud doubles as a communications device that he can call Cloud up on at any moment. Chadley doesn’t talk every single time Cloud scans a new location, but he jabbers on about all kinds of random knowledge. If Cloud slashes a rock to find a Summon Sanctuary, he will give you background information on a god’s mythology. If Cloud scans a Lifespring or a tower, he might talk about any local regional phenomena. He frequently pops in with basic facts about the region, and then dips out. And his excited, pubescent voice doesn’t hold up well over long stretches.

Chadley functions as a living encyclopedia, but his prattling isn’t all that helpful. Something that I appreciated about Remake was how the developers showed us the way of the world. Little tasks, like going to another neighborhood, took additional quests to secure documents like ID cards and helped give a sense of Shrina’s tight grip on the city. We learned about the city by how it felt to play and the stories of characters. Now, Chadley is just used as a way to dump a bunch of decontextualized lore into a giant world. Sure, It’ll make great fodder for fan-run wiki pages down the line, but it doesn’t make for a compelling way to show us the larger world.

Luckily, there is at least one thing you can do to lower the overall Chadley levels in the game. The young savant largely talks through the built-in speaker on the PlayStation 5 controller, and you can mute it in the game settings. Unfortunately, this just means he’ll talk through the screen, but it at least minimizes any potential Chadley jump scares through the controller.

Overall, Chadley comes across as the annoying familiar that was never needed in the first place. The game has plenty of other, more interesting characters. Personally, I’d be more interested in learning more about what Red XIII has to say about a given desert landscape, or hearing what Barret thinks about the gods, rather than getting an encyclopedia-like entry on each topic via Chadley. So while I appreciate learning more about the larger world, I think I’d be better off without him.