Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Revitalizes The Original’s Jump To A Grand AdventureGames Features Final Fantasy VII Rebirth
It’s a little hard to fathom that it’s been nearly four years since the release of Final Fantasy VII Remake and its bold first step to “remaking” the seminal Square role-playing game. The first installment ended on a somber yet hopeful note, showing Cloud Strife and his allies departing Midgar in pursuit of Sephiroth and the mysterious entities that seek to prevent them from defying their fates. For those who remember the 1997 original, stepping out of Midgar for the first time was a profound moment, revealing that the opening hours were just one small corner of a larger world. And that aspect is something that the upcoming sequel, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, leans further into with its reimagined take on the original game’s second act.
I recently got to play over an hour of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, which introduces a larger world to explore while revisiting familiar storylines with a new perspective. The demo I played focused on two scenarios: the Mt. Nibel flashback sequence, which centers Cloud’s memories of his first mission with Sephiroth, and an open exploration zone with the crew traveling to Junon. I really admired the 2020 remake, and so far, Rebirth has me really intrigued for what’s to come with the follow up.
What made 2020’s remake such a novel approach to revisiting the original game was that it not only recreated those iconic moments with impressive cinematic flair but also expanded upon them in ways that showed that Remake was, in actuality, a continuation of the larger FFVII mythos. Much like Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Rebuild series, Remake leveraged the original material to tell a more nuanced story about how the party of heroes is tied to fate, and question whether they can forge their own destinies. The 2020 game was a surprisingly subversive “remake” that introduced a lot of intrigue and mysteries while setting the stage for Rebirth.
FFVII Rebirth picks up right after Remake, with Cloud and his party of rebels seeking answers in the world beyond the steel city. Rebirth continues with the tactical action-RPG mechanics from the previous installment but with some refinements and upgrades that really showcase the party dynamics at work. The first section of the demo we got to play was a portion of Cloud and Sephiroth’s fateful mission in Mt. Nibel, at a time when the would-be enemies were instead allies in the Shinra Corporation’s SOLDIER program.
The original game’s flashback sequence was a memorable moment because it gave us some background on Cloud and Tifa’s relationship to Sephiroth, and depicted the chilling events that occurred before the game to set them at odds. That aspect is expanded upon in Rebirth, which now turns the sequence into an extended dungeon crawl with Cloud, Sephiroth, and Tifa learning about Mt.Nibel, the history of Materia, and debating whether Mako Reactors are causing more harm than good. Much like Remake, Rebirth builds upon plot beats and areas that were only brief moments in the original game, making for some intriguing storytelling that fleshes out the world further.
This section also revitalized one of the original 1997 game’s most memorable aspects — the chance to control Sephiroth in combat. Even knowing the character as an antagonist, it was thrilling to take control of him, and this segment showcased his power and skill in ways that the original game only teased. This sequence also showcased Rebirth’s newest feature, the Synergy Attacks, allowing team members to use paired special attacks against enemies. Taking a cue from another Square classic, Chrono Trigger, these team attacks showcase a bond between party members, all the while unleashing devastating and visually stunning attacks against enemies.
The following sequence I got to play took place in the Open Wilds of Junon, which picks up with Cloud and his party traveling to the coastal city and Shinra military base after fleeing Midgar. This section focused on Rebirth‘s open zone exploration, which allows the party to freely ride Chocobos (yes, even the quadrupedal party member Red XIII will ride one) and explore a large map filled with activities, hidden battles, and other events to engage with. Rebirth‘s interpretation of the lead-up to Junon contrasts with the original FFVII’s take on world map traversal, which showed a large version of Cloud walk along a somewhat crude version of the geography.
To be clear, Rebirth is not a fully open-world game. Much like Remake, the sequel’s story is set in chapters that feature various set-piece locations and large zones to explore freely. The Junon zone showcased great storytelling, with the lower-class Junon citizens living in the lower levels and the surrounding areas in a dilapidated or ruined state. This zone also featured several points of interest and characters to meet on the road, most of which were entirely optional. In addition to meeting up with a Chocobo trainer to customize your ride, one of the more surprising things to take on are Fiend hunts, which are special battles that require certain conditions to complete – such as finishing in under a minute or stunning your target before they pull off an attack.
The Junon open zone was my favorite part of the demo, and it got me excited for what’s to come with the full game. It did well to showcase the added scope of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, which leans more into the adventurous aspects of the original game’s second act. One minor detail that I really loved was that when exploring these open zones, your entire party is with you in full view. Those not in your core battle team will hang back in reserve (still showing up in battle), but they’ll be around to banter with Cloud and others. This aspect greatly contrasts the original game, which weirdly felt lonely and isolating when exploring the world map and dungeons. It’s a cool feeling to know that Cloud and his allies are together for the adventure for the long haul.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has a tough act to follow with Remake, which managed to live up to the outsized expectations of a FFVII remake that many fans longed for. Rebirth is building off of a strong foundation, and its approach to expanding upon the original game’s big jump to a wider world shows great promise. But much like other sagas, the second story tends to be the darkest and most tragic. With the reputation that FFVII’s second act has garnered in the 26 years since its release, I’m very intrigued and equally anxious to see what will come with Rebirth‘s new take on the mythology’s most infamous events. For now, though, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is building off the success of the first installment while leaning further into the grand adventure, and that’s gotten me excited for what’s to come in this familiar, yet still fresh, take on a classic revival.
Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is set for release on February 29, 2024 for PlayStation 5.
Alessandro Fillari is a freelance writer and content creator living in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him on Twitter.