Very few games elicit an emotional response from me like anything related to Final Fantasy VII does. The original game is undoubtedly one of the most iconic games of all time; I think most people can agree with that at least in some capacity. When the first part of the multi-part Final Fantasy VII Remake project was announced, I was elated – beyond excited that the game that I love would be updated with contemporary design more in line with the other games in its subseries.
All of those things were on full display when Final Fantasy VII Remake finally came out for PlayStation 4 in 2020, and it proved that Square Enix was in fact able to pull off such an ambitious release. It’s a good thing too because they’re in it for the long haul. With the announcement of two more entries on the way, fans were left to buckle down and wait for the subsequent sequels to see where Cloud and friends would end up next.
Because the Remake project isn’t just a straight-up retelling. There’s plenty familiar, sure, but the core of the story is that there’s going to be some things fans may not expect, and I’m here for all of that and more. More is coming soon in the form of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth – the second full standalone release that looks to continue FFVII’s narrative post-Midgar. With a release now penned in for February 29, it’s coming in hot, and that means it’s ready to be sampled by the masses.
So, sample I did, courtesy of a press event put on by Square Enix last week. It was exciting to think that I would be one of the first in the world to get my hands on the game that, until now, had only been shown off in a couple of brief trailers and some various screenshots.
Going in you could probably say they were preaching to the choir in terms of “How to Cater to a Final Fantasy VII Fan” (that would be me), but it works because there’s that level of familiarity. I'm not going in without a clue on what's going to be there. When I saw the two demos, I immediately connected the locations and part in the narrative that we’d be exploring.
The first demo takes place five years in the past away from the main story – enter Cloud and Sephiroth as they’re tasked with traveling to the town of Nibelheim to investigate the Nibel Mako Reactor and discover why it malfunctioned. Getting there isn’t just a straight shot, however, they’ll have to climb the mountain and fight through any undesirables on the way.
Upon booting the demo and a quick cutscene, the game doesn’t waste any time getting to playable Cloud and Sephiroth. Because this time you’ll be playing both characters together as allies and to facilitate that, the development team has expanded some of the feature sets.
You’ve got your basic attacks, magic, and abilities like before melded into an action-based ATB battle system. Materia is still important, of course, and the demo had a decent amount to choose from already. Sephiroth is such a joy to play as well - he's super powerful as one might expect, and it felt so good putting his skills to the test.
The new draw, however, comes from a new system known as Synergy Abilities, and it comes into play between Cloud and Sephiroth as something they can do together in battle. What this means is that by filling a special gauge by using unique abilities, they can trigger powerful team-up attacks. These abilities can be executed by multiple characters and more of them can be unlocked by increasing the party’s affinity level between them.
For example, in the demo Cloud and Sephiroth have a move called Double Helix, which has both characters dealing out multiple strikes with flashy finesse and poses.
All of these things round out the other mechanics such as traversal and exploration, which Cloud and his group will be doing a lot of in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. Aside from that combat showcase, the demo allowed me to take a look at those brief story beats, all culminating towards the end with a boss encounter with a very familiar Materia-based foe.
Whilst the Mt. Nibel demo was indeed more of a liner experience, I got to experience a wider breadth of what Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has to offer in its more open map locations as well. The second bit took me to the familiar fields outside the coastal Shinra base of Junon.
The story here involves the mysterious cloaked figures that Cloud and company have followed through the Mythril Mine. From here, Junon is visible in the distance, and it’s time to saddle up on a group of chocobos to take in the sights and look into the sightings of hostile creatures in the immediate area.
After a quick scene, I was able to get on said chocobo right away (as did the rest of the party including Red XIII), and the immediacy in which the wide map is available is staggering. Junon is huge in a way that Midgar couldn’t really replicate with its narrow streets and structured buildings. It’s not an open world by any means, but the zone itself is quite big and I found myself just casually pacing about taking it all in.
The chocobos are fairly versatile – they can go pretty much anywhere on the landscape and help make travel a little quicker. They exist beyond being just mounts too – they can be customized with various gear at the chocobo ranch and help search for hidden treasures. They’re certainly handy to have around, especially when Cloud can simply call one at will.
Other little things in the Junon area are just neat little things you can do like restore downed chocobo stop posts, which then allow you to pet a baby chocobo, and then there are the aforementioned beasts that scatter the map both in-game and by a specific target on the map menu.
Fighting these creatures is fairly straightforward – just approach them and a stream of objectives will appear. Should you miss some, you can always repeat the challenge akin to some of the hunt systems found in other Final Fantasy games. Like the first demo, combat is here in full force, with the ability to swap between characters in real time and get those Synerry Abilities rolling between characters like Cloud, Aerith, Red XIII, Tifa, and Barret.
This emphasis on exploration seems to be the dividing factor between Remake and Rebirth. If far more of the game is like Junon, I can absolutely see why they’re already saying it’s going to take 100 hours to do everything. Just the 70 or so minutes I did play felt like it was only scratching the surface of what was possible.
On the presentation side of things, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is in line with what we saw in Remake, but there’s a lot more going on. The bigger areas are really pushing the scale, and they look plenty beautiful with striking lighting and the high-quality character and environment models that go along with everything else.
There were some familiar tunes as well, and again the story content had some cheeky nods to the original FFVII. This demo too ends with a boss encounter, and including some of the more wacky elements from that game is so cheeky, but you know if they didn’t have them then it just wouldn’t be the same.
These kinds of things still work with the realistic visuals, and it’s really exciting to see what they do with other characters and locations such as the recently revealed Cait Sith and Gold Saucer in the full game.
With so much teased, I’m already sold (not that I wasn’t going in) – I’m trembling just chomping at the bit thinking about how much more there will be when we all finally get our hands on Final Fantasy VII Rebirth early next year. It’s safe to say that it’s already shaping up to be something truly special, and a more-than-worthy follow-up to the already stellar Final Fantasy VII Remake.
TechRaptor played Final Fantasy VII Rebirth at an event they were invited to by Square Enix.