Anticipation is on the rise for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and with good reason. The second installation of the remake series for FFVII sees the crew of Avalanche finally escape Midgar, reimagining the pixelated world map of the original and breathing new life into a story that has shaped gamers around the world for decades.
Gamepur had the privilege of joining Square Enix for an early preview of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth ahead of its launch on February 29th, 2024. After our first short glimpse of the story in October, I was extremely excited to dive back into what the team behind Rebirth would have to offer – and to say I was blown away would be an understatement.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Integrates Suspense Into Gameplay
I have been a die-hard fan of Final Fantasy VII since my childhood. When Remake released, I was quite critical of the game, mechanics, and narrative changes. I wasn’t prepared to see a story I knew front-to-back modernized. I wasn’t sure how I felt about changes to certain characters and their personalities. I’m very glad I struggled with these elements, as it has allowed me to appreciate the Rebirth‘s changes in a completely different way.
The first thing I noticed when starting this demo was how beautiful Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is; gone are the almost plastic-like skin shaders of Remake. The characters’ faces are tender and expressive, and the overly wet, oily visuals have been exchanged for complex textures.
We started in Nibelheim, in a flashback told by Cloud and Tifa. For anyone who has played the original FFVII games, or taken on FF7 Crisis Core Reunion, this flashback sequence is an emotional roller coaster. Revisiting a younger, less insane Sephiroth is complicated by the knowledge that not everything Cloud remembers is how it occurred.
However, what staggered me, was the way the development team at Square Enix integrated critical moments of narrative with actual game mechanics. The low, anxious pulse heartbeat audio accompanied by the slow, manual turning of a valve using the bumpers on the PS5 controller, the way Cloud slowly stumbles out into the burning town after Sephiroth loses his mind, create a complex atmosphere. I was simultaneously aching to jam the analog stick forward to run and captivated by the painful suspense the devs had managed to convey. It was an agonizing, magical torment that left me shuddering and misty-eyed by the time the chapter concluded.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has done something extremely difficult to achieve. It has transported the player into the position of the character, providing both an immersive gameplay and cinematic experience that captivates the audience entirely. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I held the controller in my hands.
An Open World Loaded With Opportunities to Dilly Dally
In our first preview of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, we had a chance to sample a few aspects of the open-world maps players will be able to explore. This included Chocobo riding, fixing Chocobo stops, battling enemies, and collecting hidden items on the map.
In this demo, I had another opportunity to go exploring through the Grasslands outside of Midgar, and the map is loaded to the brim with content. Players can explore ruins, find caches, and collect materials that spawn in the grassy fields.
I was admittedly nervous that the map would be nothing but a space to grind levels. Mercifully, I am delighted to say that not only are these sprawling maps an amazing place to explore, but they add a level of wonder and lore to the world that wasn’t possible in the original game. I could see myself dumping hundreds of hours into these roaring hills and beautiful vistas, finding every possible surprise tucked between buildings or hidden inside rocky outcroppings.
A Bigger Team For More Choices
The addition of Red XIII and Yuffie is a huge plus for fans looking for a more diverse breakout in combat teams. While I love the dynamics of Barret, Tifa, Aerith, and Cloud – the fighting style of Red XIII is unique and adds much-needed variety. Red sports a “Rouge” fighting style, getting in close to deal damage while staying fast enough to dodge attacks from opponents.
In my first demo, I wasn’t able to add Yuffie to my team (I was embarrassingly trashed by the boss in that gameplay), but her inclusion only makes me more excited to see what role she will play in the story moving forward. I am hoping she’ll provide another melee, distance combat option who is a bit faster at dodging than Barret.
These first few glimpses at Final Fantasy VII Rebirth have me convinced this will be a stand-out game in the series. There is even the possibility this might be the best project from the franchise yet, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game will hold for fans. I can confidently say, be excited, pre-order your copy, and make sure you have those tissues handy before launch day. This game is going to be brilliant, and I am ready to sink hours into every inch.