Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Impression
Rebirth enjoys showing off its flourish and polish while revisiting and expanding more iconic moments from Final Fantasy VII.
The eagerly-awaited second part of the Final Fantasy VII Remake trilogy, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is set to release for PlayStation 5 at the end of this month. Taking place after the events of Remake, it sees the party venturing outside of Midgar into the open world in their pursuit of Sephiroth, an erstwhile war hero turned vengeful swordsman thought to be dead. Ahead of the game’s release Square Enix invited RPGamer to a press event for a hands-on preview of the game’s opening chapters.
Chapter 1 serves as a reminder of the game’s systems and tutorial to some new additions, taking place during a flashback to Nibelheim five years earlier as Cloud visits his hometown alongside Sephiroth. As Cloud recalls his memory to the group, he is interrupted by the excitable Barrett. Players are able to explore Nibelheim as Cloud, running into some villagers before visiting Cloud’s mother. The following day, Cloud and Sephiroth begin their trek to the Mt. Nibel reactor with a guide from the village.
Visually, it is a treat for long-time fans to see Nibelheim again, and the first time in this manner. The village seems bigger and full of life as children excitedly ask if that’s “him”. Yet there is an ominous pall that hangs over Cloud’s retelling, hinting at the tragedy about to unfold.
During the opening portion of this trek, players are introduced to some of the game’s new traversal mechanics. While Cloud could run through his environments in Remake, he is able to do much more in Rebirth, like vault over obstacles, by simply holding down the run button. Cloud is given ample opportunity to scale cliffs, slide down poles, and can swim, which was quite a surprise. Areas that would have served as a barrier in Remake are simply a minor inconvenience for Cloud here, giving way to hidden treasure chests and other rewards often hiding in plain sight. From the opening seconds, Rebirth enjoys showing off its flourish and polish while revisiting and expanding more iconic moments from Final Fantasy VII.
While players initially control Cloud, the tutorial chapter provides an opportunity to play as, and with, Sephiroth. Here players are given a glimpse of his raw strength through the use of his devastating abilities. The tutorial’s combat portion leads up to a boss fight and the introduction of Synergy Abilities, essentially group attacks between two characters. At the conclusion of this encounter, Cloud returns to Nibelheim as Sephiroth’s mental health continues to unravel, leading up to the recreation of some of the original game’s most iconic imagery and an explosive finish to the game’s opener, rivaling the firepower of Remake‘s opening mission.
After the flashback, Players are given an opportunity to explore Kalm, a village on the outskirts of Midgar. Reimagined here in Rebirth, Kalm is a beautiful, bustling town. It’s gorgeously designed and well-populated with non-player characters, vendors, and the like. It’s here that Cloud is introduced to a handful of Rebirth‘s new features: item creation and an incredibly addictive card game known as Queen’s Blood. Before long, Cloud and the gang leave Kalm in search of greener pastures.
While Remake peddled in industrial-themed hues and closed spaces, Rebirth revels in the opposite. The group emerges from Kalm into the Grasslands, a bright, beautiful, and truly massive area teeming with monsters, treasure locations, and more. Admittedly, the size of this region was a bit intimidating at first. Luckily, Cloud and the gang quickly come across Chocobo Bill and are able to recruit the help of a Chocobo to mosey across a marsh that’s home to an infamously dangerous snake-like creature.
Before that though, expect to encounter a friendly face from Remake when Chadley appears to once again offer his services. Chadley has beefed up his game since leaving Midgar, offering a host of things for players to do in the Grasslands: take on monster hunts; uncover treasure at Lifestream springs; unlock the powers of the summons by solving simple memory puzzles; and much, much, more. It seems entirely optional for those who would prefer to get on with the story. However, the tangible rewards (exclusive materia, items, and the like) coupled with the additional world-building snippets from Chadley, make them absolutely worthwhile for player utility and enjoyment.
On that note, the brief smattering of sidequests provided during this preview felt meaningful as they contributed to a developing sense of what this world is really like, with bits of tertiary storytelling acting as connective tissue. It’s a nice bit for those who choose to engage. It is hinted that the Grasslands are just the first of a handful of these open-area zones, meaning players eager to complete all of Chadley’s missions are going to have plenty of things to do.
The excellent combat systems from Remake have returned and naturally been refined. If the party is able to initiate combat first, a First Strike bonus is granted. Each character has their own Folio, where skill points can be spent to unlock latent powers including synergy abilities. The weapon levels and skills system have been streamlined with auto-upgrade settings as well. Rebirth doesn’t blink at adding more of what was appreciated in Remake — and then some.
The stunning graphical style of Remake has been upgraded as well, demonstrating the PlayStation 5’s power. The cutscenes in these chapters are beautiful to look at, as are the characters. During a few close-ups I found myself noticing the pores on Sephiroth’s face. These scenes are complemented with excellent visual and audio direction. A handful of scenes in Kalm are heartfelt and dramatic, with the relationships between characters feeling naturally established. The returning voice cast continues to do excellent work, with exceptional performances already from Britt Baron as Tifa and Briana White as Aerith. The production values are rounded off with what appears to be another set of dazzling music, boasting great iterations of classic tracks. It seems there is a lot of juice left to squeeze from the original soundtrack.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth seems intent on delivering an expansive and stirring return to the world of Cloud and his cohort. The first two chapters give a strong sense of the scale and scope of what the developers aim to do here. Brimming with life and things to do, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth just might end up delivering an experience that rivals the grandeur of the original. We’ll find out together later this month.