Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview: An Ambitious Next Step
While 2020’s Final Fantasy VII Remake impressed with its attention to detail and fleshing out the opening section of 1997’s FFVII into a full game, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth impresses with its sheer scale. By exiting the city of Midgar, Square Enix takes players out into Gaia, allowing them to fully explore and take in its wondrous world. Having played the first four hours of the game, it looks to be truly special and one that exceeds the lofty expectations that come with remaking one of the most beloved role-playing games ever.
The opening two chapters of Final Fantasy VII serve as a tutorial, reintroducing the players to both the gameplay and systems that return from the first game. Combat is as fun as ever, being able to switch between characters (even Red XIII, who is newly playable) and unleash skills while they do basic attacks on their own. I didn’t notice a ton of differences combat-wise, as it is opting to build on its already great base, although I did see that the synergized mechanic from the Intermission DLC returns. It all feels as great as I remembered the original playing, and I can’t wait to experience the full depth of the combat system when the game comes out on February 29, 2024.
The combat is familiar, but the thrill and sense of exploration are not. Once you leave the city of Kalm, which serves as your initial base, you are greeted with a true sense of wonder as you look at the incredible sights of Gaia. It’s almost intimidating when you first start exploring, as there are open fields, large mountains, and a ton of area to go in. Thankfully, the game is always pointing you in the right direction to continue the story, so you never feel lost or confused like you could in some classic RPGs of yesteryear.
However, it’s just as fun to stumble around in the unknown. Coming across potential side quests, which are just as well-written as the main game, and experiencing new enemy types to battle against is a total blast. While FFVII Remake felt like experiencing an updated version of a classic, Rebirth feels more like a totally new experience since you feel so differently getting to traverse the world rather than simply walking over an overworld. There’s a different rhythm to the experience, although one that is intoxicating since you’re regularly coming across a fresh experience and beautiful sights as the art direction is top-notch (even if there is some pop-in to be seen as you run around).
One of my favorite sections early on was a side mission that saw me recover a bartender’s prized Queen’s Blood card. This multi-step quest forced me to win multiple battles, not with fists but rather with my own deck of cards in a brand new strategy card game that is a total blast to play. Queen’s Blood revolves around card placement and is just as much about blocking your opponent’s options as your own cards. I can already tell there’s a ton of depth to the side mode, and I can’t wait to sink more time into it. It’s great to see the game furthering its side content with extra quests rather than just using them to throw you into extra battles.
As mentioned, exploration is a real thrill, and there are plenty of collectibles and reasons to veer off the beaten path. Some of these add extra lore to the world, while there are also fast travel points to unlock and Far Cry-esque towers to activate. For example, I followed the trail of a colorful bird and found rare crystals nearby. I can’t wait to see all of the little experiences and hidden areas that Square Enix has lovingly put into Gaia as it’s a real treat getting to experience this world I hold such regard for in a new and fulfilling way.
Of course, Final Fantasy is all about story, and it definitely delivers there. The early sections of Rebirth see you meeting some colorful new faces and even getting Chocobos for your whole gang. Riding the yellow birds is not just fun and opens up some optional races for you to partake in, but it is a must, given the size of the environment. When you’re not checking out every nook and cranny, you’ll want to be riding a Chocobo in order to traverse through terrain that requires speed or just to get there quicker.
Riding a Chocobo also allowed me to get to the final boss of the demo, which was an incredible battle against a giant snake named Midgardsormr (Midgar Zolom in the original). Once again, it was the scale of the enemy that left me flabbergasted as my team seemed outmatched by the gigantic foe. However, with some smart coordination, careful healing, and well-timed special attacks, I was able to eventually beat the foe on my first try (although just barely). It was a tense boss fight, one that felt incredible and could’ve been a lesser game’s final battle and left players completely fulfilled. It’s a true statement to have such a fight so early on in the game. If that’s what FFVII Rebirth has to offer just four hours in, I can’t wait to see what amazement will be in store later on when the story heats up, and Sephiroth once again emerges.
This is the Final Fantasy game that fans have been waiting for. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth makes an excellent first impression and is shaping up to be a fitting second chapter in its ambitious FFVII remake. A demo is now available on the PlayStation Store, so I recommend downloading it and checking it out, as your progress will carry over to the full game. JRPG fans are in for an incredible treat as 2024’s most anticipated game of the year is living up to expectations.
Disclosure: The publisher provided ComingSoon with travel and lodging for our Final Fantasy VII Rebirth preview.