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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth: A Final Preview

Cocobo interaction, minigames, and a revitalized open environment.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is very similar to Final Fantasy 7 Remake. This second game in the reinvented trilogy feels more like an extension of its predecessor than a dramatic rethink. However, Rebirth is packed with various new ideas, and a recent three-hour playable presentation hints Cloud and co’s future voyage will feel more like a genuine sequel than a full-priced expansion.

During the hands-on demo, I got to go through the first two chapters of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. The first portion recreates the Nibelheim Incident flashback from the original game, which is a crucial piece of Sephiroth’s background and exposes the major motivation for his villainy. This scenario is nearly identical to what you remember from Remake: a straight journey across a modest area, enhanced by outstanding fighting and character work. This structure appealed to me in Remake and continues to do so in Rebirth.

However, it is not until chapter two that Rebirth begins to reveal how things have altered. Your company is let free from Midgar’s constricting alleys and tunnels, and they find themselves in a vast open landscape of rolling grasslands and towering forests. The demo does not specify if the continent is made up of huge fragmented zones or a genuine, seamless open world, but the sizable region in this sample chapter feels far more expansive and authentically natural than the locations featured in last year’s Final Fantasy 16.

These zones appear to be barren at first, however this quickly changes after detecting and activating a scattering of’remnawave towers’. Following the open world tradition, these towers plot a range of activities on your map that can be completed as a diversion from the main storyline. I didn’t have enough time to thoroughly explore these side jobs, which included hunt-style battles and item salvage. I get the idea that these mini-quests will not be Rebirth’s most intriguing element, but they should be an upgrade over the repetitive side storylines in both Remake and FF16. At the very least, the side content promises worthwhile rewards: for example, scanning and fighting monsters in the environment will strengthen the returning combat simulator, unlocking new summon materia – magical orbs that summon god-like allies during battle.

Red XIII is now a fully playable sidekick, operating as an agile fighter capable of building claw swipe combinations. He also possesses a Vengeance gauge, which fills with each successful block and can eventually be activated to increase his attack power and dodge speed. But a new character isn’t the only thing added to the combat; in addition to the character combo synergy abilities, which return in an improved form from Remake’s Intermission DLC, there’s now a skill tree system that allows you to build out a character’s strengths beyond their Materia choices. Remake felt like a golden spot for Final Fantasy combat and character development, so it’s unclear whether Rebirth has overloaded it with too many features, but for the time being, I like what I’ve seen and am eager to learn more about its tactical depth and breadth.

While the original Final Fantasy 7 is most known for its frightening stabbings, magnificent airships, and strange weapons, one of my favorite aspects of the PS1 classic is its collection of ridiculous minigames. With stuff like the motorbike pursuit and the Honey Bee Inn dance number, Remake proved the new trilogy’s commitment to a varied diversity of gameplay styles, and I’m glad to see Rebirth has a whole new slate of quirky curiosities to entertain us. Queen’s Blood, a collectible card game in which you place cards in three lanes to obtain the greatest score, aims to win over Triple Triad aficionados. Out in the fields, you must outwit Chocobos in a funny stealth routine that involves skirting between patches of long grass and throwing rocks as distractions. And, once you’ve snuck up on and caught a chocobo, you may of course participate in some chocobo time trial racing.

None of these activities are masterpieces of gameplay design, but that’s not the point; the strange deviations from the normal explore-fight-upgrade loop were what made the original Final Fantasy 7 so memorable, and I’m glad Square Enix recognizes that. Not all of the new experiments succeed, though; I’m hoping the one in which you drive a slow, heavy vacuum around to suck up deadly mako fumes is a one-time occurrence.

Rebirth aims to carry on in style with this excellent remake of one of history’s great RPGs.


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