Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Video Game Releases

Review: Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth

On Our Way into the Unknown

In 1997, we didn’t have to wait to learn the fates of our characters introduced in Final Fantasy 7, who escaped Midgar after escaping Shinra Headquarters. Final Fantasy 7 went on to do considerably well and is now one of the most iconic titles of all time. I’d say it did well. So well, in 2020, Square Enix released Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a pseudo-remake of the beloved classic that left players on a cliffhanger as Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Barret, and Red XIII escaped an unknown journey.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth picks up immediately after the party arrives in Kalm (the Intergrade episode introduced Yuffie and settled our heroes in an inn). Rebirth starts with Cloud recollecting a visit to his hometown, Nibelheim, with Sephiroth and the events that transpired there, which led to Sephiroth’s personality change and current trajectory. The Nibelheim Incident was revealed as a playable demo earlier this month, so I won’t go over it much.

The Unknown Journey Continues

The changes are immediately noticeable once things kick into gear and you control Cloud. No longer are you confined to the corridors, basements, and slums of Midgar. With On Our Way filling your ears with a warming sense of nostalgia, the unknown in front of you, and a party keen on saving the world, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth begins, and the sense of scope is abundantly clear. In minutes, I was in awe of the world around these characters. The original only offered so much; my imagination filled in any blanks, creating an ideal image of this world. In 2024, it is like the developers at Square Enix realized what I thought the world looked like as a child and replicated it with incredible detail.

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Introducing The Grasslands as the first open zone is charming as it contains a lot of greenery; Aerith is stunned to see so much life outside at first before Red XIII says despite the beauty around them, the world “may look that way. But in reality, it’s barely hanging on.” One look at the map, and you’ll see a lot of activities in each zone, too, but most of them are optional (although I recommend completing some of the tasks).

The developers previously discussed how The Witcher 3 inspired the new quest system in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. I was skeptical hearing this, but seeing the multi-step quests for myself showcased the influence I felt there. One instance has Cloud and Aerith parts for a wagon needed to revitalize a Chocobo Ranch, which feels like something out of Remake. Still, as you begin and head to your destination, you see the relationship between Cloud and Aerith grow through the new Bonds system because Cloud listened and decided to help.

Each zone has a handful of these missions, and I can confidently say that Rebirth’s structure blows Remake’s quests out of the water. It felt like a day and night difference in content, and I actively sought identifiable icons to enhance my experience. Another quest early on sees you chase down a specific Queen’s Blood card for the bartender in Kalm, where you learn not only the rules of the new card game available to you but also the questline ends with a heartfelt moment between Tifa, Cloud, and the bartender.

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Final Fantasy 7’s Familiar World, Fully Realized

Overall, Square Enix corrected many issues with Remake‘s linear progression through Midgar by introducing new elements with the help of Chadley. No longer chained to Midgar, Chadley appears worldwide to collect data from inhabitants, monsters, and familiar locations via Remnawave Towers, Fiend battles, Moogles, and various other activities.

Comparing Rebirth’s realized rendition of Midgar to the world of Valisthea from Final Fantasy 16, I can easily say that Midgar feels more realized and expansive than I anticipated. Both worlds feature some stunning vistas and sights, but Midgar’s backed by a heavy nostalgia. If anything, Midgar is fleshed out and packed with more things to see and do than ever before.

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Rebirth’s mechanics have been improved to allow Cloud to quickly hop over small and mid-sized obstacles and climb from one yellow handhold to another. This improved movement provides a sense of adventure to the experience. Chocobos are also available for fast travel, enhancing game exploration. However, to access Chocobos in each region, you’ll have to wrangle the specific breed for that region by completing a minigame. In most cases, stealth is your best friend to capture a two-legged companion — Junon’s Belle is a pesky opponent but, once caught, allows you to climb up walls, for example.

Each region houses shrines dedicated to summons. On your map, these are called Divine Intel. You can find shrines across each area, and by smashing a guide stone, you can follow a light that leads you to Sanctuaries to strengthen your summon materia.

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Examining a summon crystal will reveal its memory matrix. A series of points will appear in order, and you must memorize their positions and necessary timing. The points will disappear, and you must make inputs at the correct times to replicate the matrix. If you succeed, you will weaken the summon in its combat trial and strengthen its corresponding materia.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s gameplay loop is much more satisfying, and I aimed to reach 100 percent completion in each region. However, I can see that these activities will likely not be as exciting for everyone. Party members offer insight into the ongoings you’ll encounter and even flesh out existing elements of the world, like introducing remnants of the Old Republic of Junon and how old technology was ditched after Shrinra came to power in each region.

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You’ll also have access to the Item Transmuter, a piece of technology from the Old Republic of Junon that Cloud receives early on. This device is how you craft items and new gear for your party. At first, you can prepare the basics like Potions, Hi-Potions, Ethers, and various healing and support items, providing you EXP that allows you to raise your crafting level for better items and gear.

New items, like Mist Potion, allow you to heal the entire party, and items like Mixed Potion can also be crafted, restoring both health and magic. As long as you have the necessary items (which are plentiful on the map), you can craft items freely as you please. Sometimes, you’ll also craft critical items needed to progress the story.

Everyone Is Out For Queen’s Blood

Final Fantasy wouldn’t be Final Fantasy without a proper card game. You’ll play Queen’s Blood in Rebirth and probably lose hours to the addicting loop. Players have access to various decks comprised of 15 cards; each card has a power number attached to it, a pawn level, and a Tetris-like shape on the card. These cards are all based on monsters and characters within the series, and Queen’s Blood is played on a three-lane board with two players starting on opposing sides.

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The idea is simple —gather as many points as possible in each lane by overtaking your opponent. You place cards only where your coloured pawn is located, and the Tetris-like shape on the card indicates where the said card will add extra pawns around it in other spaces. You aim to block your opponent from having too many pawns in one lane.

In some cases, cards like Cactuar can add extra power to a space, while the Toxic Rat can destroy an adjacent card, removing points from an opponent. Placement is essential to ensure you have leverage against your opponent, so you must have a proper deck at the beginning (thankfully, you can shuffle cards at the start).

Initially, the gameplay appears straightforward, and it is possible to quickly progress through matches by laying down cards to spread pawns and rapidly cover the grid. However, opponents can steal your position on the grid by laying cards to overlap their pawns with yours, resulting in a loss of advantage. Adopting a more measured approach and gradually moving across the board is advisable.

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And the best thing about Queen’s Blood is that it’s breezy, as matches last no more than five minutes and move briskly. I struggled against the first three opponents in Kalm, but once I understood the mechanics after losing a dozen times, the mechanics finally clicked, and I was on my way to back-to-back wins against a crybaby and a woman in a box fort.

Let The Battle Begin

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s combat’s a high point, and it’s better than ever with the addition of Synergy attacks. Many combat elements introduced in Remake appear in Rebirth with a ton of finesse that is undoubtedly a series highlight.

Rebirth’s combat primary objective is to weaken your enemy and have them enter a Staggered state. This makes enemies vulnerable to your attacks and increases the damage you deal. Additionally, you can upgrade your characters’ abilities as you progress through the game to access better attack options.

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Cosmo Canyon

The combat system in the game allows the player to use both Square and Triangle buttons to attack. This, in turn, charges up the ATB gauge, giving access to powerful individual attacks. Depending on the attack, the ATB gauge may fill up the Synergy gauge, granting access to combined attacks between party members. As the player takes damage and staggers their opponents, the Limit Break gauge fills up, allowing the player to use an even more powerful individual attack. Using Assess is crucial in discovering enemy weaknesses and building their Stagger in battle.

Folios are also new to Rebirth and serve as the in-game skill tree system, reminding me of the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. Characters unlock new skills and stats based on their relationships. In Remake, stats and abilities were previously tied to weapons and pulled stat bonuses depended on which weapon you were equipped with.

With the addition of Folios, each character has Skill Cores they can unlock with SP and include various new Synergy Commands. Your party level is vital in unlocking new Skill Cores, so interacting with the team and completing side quests is crucial to growing your party’s skills and abilities.

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Aerith and Barret’s Synergy Attack

In battle, as you use Abilities, you can permanently learn them. The Abilities of each Character demonstrate their strengths and proficiency in their respective playstyles. In the Main Menu, players can view the current Weapon’s Ability of each Character as they navigate through the Materia & Equipment section. Cloud’s Focused Thrust is learned from the Buster Sword, for example.

Speaking of Materia, there are now Double-loaded Materia you can use in battle as Lightning and Wind combined into one orb or Fire and Ice in another. These new orbs effectively allow you to double up and save space on your gear for supportive Materia types.

Additionally, you can discover and purchase new support Materia, which allows your party to use their Abilities and Skills without the manual input necessitated by actively switching party members. These Auto-Cast orbs serve a specific purpose – to help you streamline enemy encounters and focus on controlling one character if you choose to do so.

Using these in the second half of Rebirth is beneficial to taking on bosses without micromanaging your entire party. In one situation, I was tasked with taking down a fiend for Chadley, and it was a particularly tough encounter that I struggled to finish because I had to shuffle around continually. Equipping the Auto-Cast orb on Aerith with a Cure Materia and another paired with Lighting on Barret, I was able to focus on focus on putting pressure on the fiend before ultimately staggering it and whittling it down.

Synergy Makes The Dream Work

Synergy Skills changes its name depending on which the player actively controls the character. For instance, when Aerith and Cloud perform a Synergy Skill together, it takes the name of Bodyguard when Aerith is on main, and it is called Spell Blade when Cloud is on main. You can see the available Synergy Skills in battle by pressing R1 and a button combination which activates the skill.

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Alternatively, Synergy Abilities can be executed once the Synergy Gauge has been filled. The Synergy Gauge is under the ATB bar and increases every time the character uses Abilities in combat. Both characters must have their Synergy Gauges filled to perform a synchronized attack on enemies. Switching between characters you want to use together is recommended, as these skills take time to replenish.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth offers a more structured storyline compared to its predecessor. Rebirth provides a deeper insight into Sephiroth’s motivations and Shinra’s environmentally damaging practices as you enter the open world. While the final objective may not be entirely clear from the outset, Square Enix hints at potential revelations that players uncover as they progress through the campaign. This creates an immersive role-playing experience rather than a series of predetermined encounters.

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Technical Issues Follow Cloud and Party Away From Midgar

For everything Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth did to correct the issues Remake introduced, technical problems persist. While Intergrade introduced several improved instances of better IQ, less pop-in, and better graphics, Rebirth took a few steps back, struggling to deliver the experience many are hoping for. In some situations and scenes, the graphical aspects come to life and look stunning – those are generally left to close-ups and cutscenes between characters. The open-world exploration and transition to indoors or caves leave much to be desired.

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Gold Saucer’s Battle Square

Quality mode feels like a mess, and I couldn’t handle more than 10 minutes of open-world exploration before racing to the options menu to switch to Performance mode. Sure, Quality mode looks better, and I have an OLED television yearning for an experience to take advantage of the screen, but Square Enix struggles with technical finesse. Performance mode isn’t much better, but the framerate is much more consistent but at the cost of a blurry and often soft image.

Pop-in and texture streaming are two issues that followed Cloud and Party away from Midgar. For every excellent look scene in Rebirth, you’ll get the occasional hiccup where low-resolution textures take you out of the situation. In some situations, you’d move through a section with much detail only to look around the other side of a boulder with low-quality textures extending to the ocean, rock faces, and other items you interact with.

The art direction is incredible, though, and the character models are the best I’ve seen for a Square Enix title. When things look good in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, they look perfect. Yet we’re entering year four of the PlayStation 5 era, and some titles struggle to use the platform consistently well.

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A Summon Trial

It isn’t the most egregious issue, but the technical problems do not help when immersing yourself in this world. Square Enix promises a patch is on the way that improves the visuals before launch.

A fanbase divided

Fans of Final Fantasy 7 likely made up their minds with Remake when it launched. Some fans don’t like Square Enix’s path, while others find it exciting. The key reason the fanbase is divided on the topic is that while the title outright calls it a remake, it’s more of a sequel to the original.

Fort Condor returns in a big way
Fort Condor returns in a big way.

While we’ll always have the original game available on multiple platforms and with tons of mods to make it feel like a modern title, the remake doesn’t share the same sentiment. Final Fantasy 7 Remake took the Midgar section of the original game and fleshed it out to fit a 40-hour playthrough.

In my opinion, a lot of the changes worked, but there are a few that I don’t feel hit the mark as intended. Expanding the story felt necessary in 2020 and is critical to telling a new story in 2024.

And as I want to drive home with this review, the original is always available for those who don’t mesh with Square Enix’s direction with this trilogy of games.

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The first several chapters of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will feel familiar with new details connecting everything. Visiting Kalm in a new light or exploring the nooks and crannies of Junon’s underbelly gives me immense joy, and I see the iconic scene where a dolphin helps Cloud enter Junon is even more wholesome. Revisiting familiar story beats I’ve replayed a hundred times with a new coat of paint is a weird feeling.

Many story beats will likely resonate with most people interested in Rebirth. I know I had some reservations about how the story would play out. Still, Kazushige Nojima delivers a solid follow-up filled with familiar moments that fans of the original will surely love. It helps that Square Enix is putting a lot of resources into the project because there are large chunks of Rebirth where you can see the work elevating the source material.

With that in mind, there is still a weird juxtaposition between the overall tone of the situation and the various minigames you’ll encounter across the continents. Granted, many of the same minigames were in the original, and they were a lot of fun even then – the Gold Saucer’s meticulously recreated in Rebirth, and it’s even improved upon.

However, it’s still odd having the party head to this debaucherous tower in the middle of a desert to relax when the world is at risk of ending. A recent replay of the original game had me feeling uneasy about the decision to detour to the Gold Saucer. Still, as I get older, I understand that you can die at any moment, and it is well worth taking time to enjoy yourself because life is precious, and it could disappear at any time. It also helps that we have a case that embodies their characters well.

Many of my concerns were quickly alleviated thanks to incredible performances from a cast that was having a great time working together.

Cody Christian’s perfectly cast as Cloud and is a highlight, and I was worried his tone wouldn’t be able to showcase the goofy side of Cloud that surfaces once the story moves past the Steel underbelly of Midgar. Briana White’s Aerith performance is filled with heart, respect, and adoration for the character, and it is excruciatingly hard not to fall for her warming personality. John Eric Bentley’s Barret quickly becomes the papa bear of the group, with his gruff exterior falling to the wayside so the caring and loving father can soar. Max Mittelman’s Red XIII is a beacon of knowledge regarding the planet and wants to be included. Brit Baron’s Tifa and Suzie Yeung Yuffie’s rapport with the rest of the cast helps drive home this family dynamic as the pair serve as Matriarch and younger sister.

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If it wasn’t for these actors voicing these characters, I don’t think Remake would work as well as it does. The original FF7 is a vital video game that shaped my tastes at a young age. These characters mean the world to me and many worldwide, so entering the second act of such an iconic video game, I did have some concerns. In the future, I’ll cover the story beats in a spoiler cast episode of Creature Cast, so I won’t dive into how much has changed. Still, I rolled credits, feeling satisfied with how the developers skillfully balanced the legacy of this entry with several new ideas that I appreciate being added.

The one lingering question remains how Square Enix handles a specific moment at the end of the story. I’m not looking to cover it in-depth in this review, but I will say revisiting my first heartbreak as a child recently still hurts. People are waiting with bated breath to learn what happens to Aerith in Rebirth and whether or not the writers deviated from the original thread. You’ll have to discover that on your own, but I humbly ask you to focus on the journey until the final chapters – your party helps many people and builds relationships while doing so.

Verdict

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is incredible. I struggled to complete my review because I had so much fun working through each region in a nearly 100-hour playthrough. I dread waiting another four years for the finale but put my faith in Square Enix’s hands. If Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth indicates what to expect going forward, then I believe in the vision. The ending will be divisive for many people, but it means as much to the developers as it does to fans, and because of that idea, I walk away content with where we left off.

Editor's Choice

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Video Game Releases
Review: Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Summary
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is incredible. I struggled to complete my review because I had so much fun working through each region in a nearly 100-hour playthrough. I dread waiting another four years for the finale, but I put my faith in Square Enix's hands if Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth indicates what to expect. The ending will be divisive for many people, but it means as much to the developers as it does to fans, and because of that idea, I walk away content with where we left off.
Liked
An expansive familiar world finally realized
An assortment of activies to flesh out the lore and world to interact with
Excellent performances across the board
Enhanced combat mechanics make Rebirth's combat shine
Didn't Like
Performance issues, blurry and low res textures are apparent