Action JRPG Review

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth – Review

The second part of the Final Fantasy VII Remake trilogy, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth lets us explore an open world, bringing notable gameplay changes to the series.

While there is an extremely brief ‘The Story So Far’ video, this is only a refresher. It is highly advised to play the first game and ideally Final Fantasy VII EPISODE INTERmission before this.

Mid-Game Not Midgar

Following the ending of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth soon finds Cloud and the rest of the team in the small town of Kalm, ready to start their journey to track down Sephiroth. This takes them all over the world, to a much more diverse set of locales than the previous game.

The plot of this segment of the Final Fantasy VII story nicely expands on the mystery of the men in black robes and Sephiroth’s plans. As the middle part of the story, it did feel like certain parts of the main narrative were left unanswered for the final game to wrap up, and the outcome of a major plot point is left somewhat unclear for now, but there was plenty along the way to enjoy. Even for those of us who played the original, it changes quite a few of the smaller details.

Cloud battles against a Chimera Mimic in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

There’s quite a lot of focus on getting to know the characters in this part of the story. Several chapters focus on visiting hometowns and exploring backstories. Some moments here are particularly hard-hitting, even for myself who already knew what was coming. Flashbacks in a later chapter depict the worst parts of their pasts. Expanded events, seeing the pain on their faces and hearing it in their voices thanks to modern graphics and the inclusion of voice acting make this far more impactful than the original. As well as this, sections where we take control of other characters are frequent, giving more focus to the rest of the party and not just Cloud.

I was expecting something a little different due to how Remake ended, but it more or less follows the story of the original game outside of some notable exceptions. With that said, it significantly fleshes out certain parts, adds new storylines, and adapts material from the wider Final Fantasy VII universe, from Crisis Core to the mobile games.

There is a rather unusual scene at the beginning that grabbed my attention. It only really picks this topic up again about halfway through the game, but it’s certainly interesting when it does. I can see some feeling a little annoyed at the tease that feels like it doesn’t pay off for quite some time, but it’s certainly worth it by the end.

Cloud and Barret - Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review

Better Than VII?

One key difference with the original is that the relationships between the characters are portrayed much more clearly. Tifa and Aerith are often seen having secret chats, we see the clashes between Red XIII and Barret, and Yuffie is often hanging off Cloud. Cait Sith’s appearance and how the team feels about his association with Shinra is handled well too.

Another way I felt it improved was by leaning into the comedic elements. It certainly helps to lighten the tone up from topics like human experimentation and mass murder. Yuffie’s playful energy often takes center stage here, but there are plenty of moments from fight announcers and Cloud being awkward with overly friendly people, to just simple things like seeing Red XIII riding a chocobo.

Overall, I felt like the story changes were for the better too. In particular, changes in Cloud and Tifa’s story make things much clearer than before. Even some of the seemingly insignificant new moments were great too. Getting to briefly know some Shinra soldiers both humanized the enemy and gave us an interesting moment where we see Cloud in a very different situation.

One thing that did stand out was some changes to Cid’s character. He’s certainly a lot more family-friendly now, coming across as an affable character with a different backstory from the original. Losing that rude personality makes him stand out a lot less in the party. He doesn’t feature too much in Rebirth, but it does make me wonder how they’ll handle his arc in the next game.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth really does a brilliant job as a remake. It takes the best of the original and improves it significantly while adding plenty more to love on top of it. Little touches like referencing the optional safe number despite writing that part out make it really feel like the original is being honored here too.

Blue Chocobo Ability in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review

Open World

The biggest gameplay change to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth from Remake is that it’s now open-world, at least to an extent. It allows you to explore the world map and a variety of towns. 

I found the open-world element to be somewhat mixed. 

It has some great parts. There’s an encouragement to explore the world with gameplay rewards to be found all around. It feels like there are activities everywhere and secrets to find. Side quests are dotted around as well, most of which I felt were more interesting than the ones in Remake, often due to adding in substories.

One highlight was that most regions have a unique chocobo to ride on which comes with its own ability. For example, the chocobo for the area around Nibelheim boosts you in the air via water jets. This lets you explore hidden areas, as well as just navigating around in a fun way.

On the downside though, running around to activate towers that show you where more activities can be found, heading to and defeating a slightly stronger monster variant, and finding lifestream springs to analyze by pressing the triangle button three times in a row was not interesting. While some of the activities are fun, the vast majority of them feel like padding.

I’d not say that the open world portions of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth are bad, and I’m sure that some will enjoy ticking all activities off the list, but it’s certainly far stronger when taking you through more structured story parts. Luckily, fast travel is an option for those who want to limit this aspect.

Chocobo Racing Minigame in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review

Minigames

While Final Fantasy VII Remake and the original game had plenty of minigames, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has really upped this. It feels like they’re everywhere. There are minigames for marching, shooting boxes while on a rail cart, floating chocobo through hoops, and far more. These are in the main story, side quests, and on their own.

Many of these are based on pressing the correct button when it flashes up on screen. Others are more about quick reactions or considering how to best tackle a course. I found most of the activities to be relatively fun, aside from some of the very simple ones which were mostly found in the open world.

Chocobo racing is a fan favorite and makes a return here, with the ability to find items around the world map to buy performance-boosting accessories. This adds an interesting element with special abilities able to change based on them too. There are several other chocobo-related activities too, but sadly chocobo breeding doesn’t make a return here.

Perhaps the most prominent is Queen’s Blood. This is a territory-control card game, in which much like Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad, there are people to challenge all over the world. I was surprised at just how fun it is to play, rank up, and expand my deck of cards. It’s not a simple game, with quite a few cards having very specific effects, but it feels very worthwhile.

Queen's Blood Card Game

Relationships and Systems

There are a number of other small changes. Most of them are around abilities, weapons, and similar systems. For the most part, these simplify things, such as using a grid system to unlock character upgrades.

The relationship system is an odd one. It’s most notably used to determine who you spend a certain event with at the Golden Saucer but may have other effects. At quite a few points, you can choose to speak to a character and choose a dialogue option based on what they say. Much like a dating sim, this then improves your relationship with that person if you choose the answer they like. This is a welcome addition and helps to get to know the characters more. There’s also a minor boost for using a paired attack with another character.

What is a little difficult to deal with is that the relationship can improve depending on which side quests you do. There typically isn’t any indication of who it will improve the relationship with before you start it though, so you can’t really aim to improve a relationship with someone easily. More positively, while not always the case, there are some narrative connections here so it can make sense. One example is an early side quest where you help a young lady who lost her mother, which boosts your relationship with Aerith who has experienced the same.

Aerith using her ability to gather livestream

Graphics, Performance, and Audio

I don’t feel like much has changed since Final Fantasy VII Remake in that production values are still great for the most part. Seeing Tifa jump off Cloud’s sword to flying kick a dragon in the face and other moments of spectacle add plenty of excitement to the experience, while more tender moments are portrayed well through detailed facial expressions and posture, along with some great voice acting.

That said, it’s not always perfect. Even in performance mode it can feel like there is an FPS drop when turning at times, leading to it not feeling smooth. Some assets load in with low resolution, then details come in later too. Pop-in isn’t too noticeable, but it is present. These issues mostly occur in the open world or larger areas.

Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith in Cosmo Canyon (Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review)

Verdict

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is another excellent installment in the three-part remake of Final Fantasy VII. While I can’t say the implementation of an open world was a complete success, the story, characters, and minigames make it absolutely worth playing.

FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Platforms: PlayStation 5

If you are looking for another JRPG, you may enjoy Final Fantasy VII Reunion.

Many thanks go to Square-Enix for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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