All You Love and Then Some
Courtesy of Square Enix, I’ve gone hands-on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth for over an hour. I experienced the same demo presented at TGS 2023. Watching that demo made me eager; playing it got me hyped.
Rebirth is the second entry out of three planned Final Fantasy VII remake titles. Following the events of the first entry, Cloud and company embark into the further regions of the planet. Rebirth features all the best aspects of part one’s gameplay and presentation, evolved combat mechanics, expansive areas to explore, more side content, mini-games, and various means of transportation.
Satisfying Combat Just Got Spicier
The hybrid real-time and turn-based combat system is back with new abilities and team dynamics. With several of Cloud’s friends along for the ride, you can experiment with your lineup between battles. I tried fighting alongside Tifa and Aerith during my demo and later with Aerith and Red XIII. A lot of the fun of combat for me is determining whose abilities best complement each other.
Regardless of my lineup, I never felt punished for trying new things. The reward was discovering new combos most effective toward particular enemy types. The most prevalent new addition is Synergy Attacks. When one party member’s limit gauge fills, you can unleash a brutal attack with a fellow member, resulting in beautiful animations dealing massive damage. I was already into Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s unique spin on combat, and these new features add more depth to that satisfying loop.
Final Fantasy VII Goes Open World!! (Sort of)
They’re more like hub worlds akin to games you’re likely familiar with, such as God of War. During my demo, I explored a small slice of a much larger explorable area leading to the industrial city of Junon. Along the way, I discovered valuable treasure and resources, environmental puzzles, Chocobo Chicks that led me to rest spots, and multiple fiends to bring down, all while riding around on my trusty Chocobo.
It’s not a new idea, but hub worlds versus full-blown open worlds have been refreshing for me in recent years. I’ve never been able to get into Final Fantasy XV, mainly due to its open-world gameplay. I prefer spending time with VII’s characters anyway, but focusing on smaller, meticulously designed spaces usually pays off.
I’m embarrassed to admit I couldn’t figure out the puzzle, but seeing as everything else you do in the game is rewarding, I expect the same for completing them. YES, you can pet the Chocobo Chicks. Rebirth also includes an item crafting system enabling you to create what you need while on the go. I get tired of collecting limitless resources in games for minimal purposes. Fortunately, everything I went out of my way to collect while exploring was helpful, notably in crafting potions.
Each fiend battle plays like a mini-boss battle and features a set of optional combat challenges. The more you complete, the greater the experience gained. I didn’t get a chance to try out any vehicles, but from the recent trailer, it looks like some pretty sweet rides are out there. I’m dying to take the Segway for a spin.
I also missed the supposed “mini-games” in the recent trailer. Between Chocobo races and boxing in the old graphics style, plenty of escapades exist.
It’s A Bold Strategy, Cotton
One of my favorite aspects of Final Fantasy VII Remake is the bold choice to reimagine the story. The first entry sets the expectation, and Rebirth seemingly takes it further. At the start of my demo, Sephiroth was in my party and playable in a flashback sequence.
His abilities seem to revolve around parrying and ranged attacks. His Synergy Attacks with Cloud are particularly sick. If playing as Sephiroth is merely the onset of Square’s reimagined narrative, I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Rebirth.
A notable part of the flashback’s gameplay were multiple paths featuring parkour. In part one, some sequences across Midgar had Cloud and the gang leaping around, but there’s even more in Rebirth.
It’s kind of funny to watch Cloud climb up and down cliffs and shimmy across narrow caverns. Maybe it’s the slight stiffness of how it feels to play. It’s functional and makes sense, given the nature of the more expansive hub areas, but it’s not as smooth as general traversal and combat.
Hey, Good Lookin’
To no one’s surprise, Rebirth is graphically exceptional. During my demo, I played in graphics mode. The framerate seemed to hover between 30-45 frames without significant drops. Rebirth will launch with a framerate option as well.
I’ve only played Rebirth for an hour and couldn’t be more excited to play the full game. I barely scratched the surface of a single hub area, the combat’s even more interesting, there’s a ton of goofy activities to try, and I can’t wait to meet new characters and see how the story’s evolved.
Final Fantasy Rebirth launches for PS5 on February 29th, 2024. For more on Final Fantasy, stay tuned to COGconnected.
***Travel, hotel, and access to preview event provided by Square Enix***