Release Date: February 29, 2024
Genre: Japanese role playing game
It has been a long time coming, but Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will soon be here. This sequel promises to deliver the same mix of nostalgia and fresh ideas that made Final Fantasy VII Remake so successful. And coming off the darker Final Fantasy XVI, Rebirth also brings a much-needed lighter tone.
At an event occurring during New York Comic Con 2023, I went hands-on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and played two separate sections — one showcasing the plot and another the combat. While my time was a little over 90 minutes, I got a good sense of what to expect from this highly anticipated PS5 exclusive. As things stand, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth seems like another winner.
Here are my initial impressions of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.
Similar but different
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth picks up with you leaving the city of Midgar and entering the larger, mostly uninhabited world of Gaia. Protagonist Cloud Strife and his companions head to the military city of Junon and experience what the world is like beyond Midgar’s fortified walls.
That’s largely in line with how events played out in the original 1997 title, only this time, the area surrounding Junon is a vast landscape filled with jagged rocks, steep mountains, small villages and plenty of monsters to battle. This portion is a taste of what the full game will offer — namely huge explorable maps brimming with various sidequests and activities. While not exactly open-world, it’s easy to see that Rebirth will have a grander scope than Remake.
I played a brief flashback sequence featuring a younger Cloud during his initial days with the SOLDIER organization. This portion not only features the game’s antagonist, Sephiroth, but also allows you to play as the legendary character. I’m not sure if this is the only part where you can play as Sephiroth. If it is, it’s a pure showstopper.
One of the more notable (and adorable) parts of roaming the world was running into baby chocobos that urge you to chase them. If you do, you're led to abandoned bus stops you can then use to fast travel across the various environments. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can pet the chocobos.
Final Fantasy VII Remake’s combat mechanics combined the best aspects of turn-based and real-time combat — delivering something both tactical and immediate. Combat largely feels the same as before, which is certainly a plus. While Square-Enix didn’t mess with something that already worked, it saw fit to introduce new aspects to spice up battles.
The new synergy system lets you utilize combo attacks involving two or more characters. I found this a good method to stagger enemies faster, which in turn makes them susceptible to receiving more damage. Similarly, Synergy Abilities are effectively Limit Break two characters can perform. Like Limit Breaks, Synergy Abilities are over-the-top cinematic attacks that unleash a massive amount of damage on foes.
As before, you’re able to switch between the characters in your party on the fly. In the demo, I used Cloud, Red XIII and Aerith — though I could have also swapped in Barrett and Tifa.
Sticking with one character won’t get you far given the variety of enemies you’ll fight. Red XIII is great at handling ground-based foes but can do little against airborne opponents, for example. If an enemy is weak to magic, Aerith is your girl (though Cloud can also dish out some spell attacks). Battles are dynamic, with the situation changing from moment to moment. Because of that, you need to remain vigilant and ready to change characters at a moment's notice — which makes encounters exciting.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was made exclusively for the PS5. Because of that, it features spectacular graphics. That’s saying a lot considering how Remake was a visual feast on PS4, but Rebirth is a true graphical stunner. If you have an OLED 4K TV like my beloved LG CX, your eyeballs will thank you.
The Junon segment, with its sun-washed craggy roads and arid peaks, appeared almost photo-realistic thanks to the exacting amount of detailed lighting and textures. Similarly, the flashback sequence also impressed me with its moody green lighting and haunting caverns. And of course, all the characters and foes came to life in vivid detail. I can’t wait to see what other visual wonders this game has in store.
I should note that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has two graphical modes: one favoring performance and the other visual fidelity — which was the only mode I was allowed to check out at the event.
Though you get rich graphical quality from this mode (high-res textures, enhanced lighting), the inconsistent frame rate was a bummer. I didn’t receive a definitive answer at the event regarding exact frames per second, but the demo clearly wasn’t running at a locked 30 fps. Since this was a demo and not indicative of the final product, perhaps this will get fixed before launch.
So far, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is shaping up to be a worthy sequel. The ending of Remake suggested we’d get something radically different from the original 1997 story, but so far, it seems Rebirth won’t stray too far from what’s expected. That said, the demo provides glimpses that could upset or completely alter well-known events. If that’s the case, then I remain optimistic we’ll get something unexpected.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth won’t arrive until February 29, 2024, meaning we still have many months to wait between now and leap year. If this game is as good as the one before it, then the wait will be worth it.