Too much of a good thing isn’t always beneficial, but it seems Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is hell-bent on proving naysayers wrong. Square Enix’s highly-anticipated sequel to Final Fantasy VII Remake has teased plenty of thrills to come, including refurbished combat elements, an expanded map, the ability to play as characters like Red XIII and Sephiroth for the first time, fast travel, and more side content.
It’s one thing to know or see it through an external lens, however, and another to experience the second game in a planned trilogy of games remaking the seminal 1997 PlayStation original, Final Fantasy VII. The forthcoming adventure continues to be a collision of its retro and modern roots, building upon the 1997 formula to introduce new mini-games, and sprucing up the remake shine by upsizing the world, but all of this is just scratching the surface.
A final six-hour preview for regional media offered a look at its scale, and it only warrants the excitement over the game’s impending release. Not only is Final Fantasy VII Rebirth brimming with content, but it injects a spiffy dose of variety that makes combat, and especially exploration, a delightful time.
Fluid and satisfying, combat in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth receives a boost in the form of the Synergy system. Party members are now equipped with synergy skills, which are executed in tandem with another party member. When the Synergy Gauge is full, charged with every use of a standard ability, synergy abilities can be unleashed, rewarding players with a full-out tag-team assault and glorious character animation.
Depending on the pair, synergy abilities will vary and feature interaction lines that are unique to them. This addition, coupled with existing elements like the transition between real-time and strategic action, brings a dynamic, refreshing edge to gameplay, encouraging individuals to vary their lineup.
Admittedly, it can be a little overwhelming at the start, considering the game’s fast-paced and frenetic nature. Paying attention to on-screen happenings is already challenging enough for some, but the immense gratification of executing a synergy ability makes the experience worthwhile.
Like its predecessor, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth allows for character-switching in battle. Each party member, active or otherwise, offers a kit that excels in different aspects of combat, and the distinction in their styles is prominent. For instance, new roster addition Red XII is a close-range specialist, but his aggressive flair feels different from Tifa’s brawler sensibilities.
In any case, combat proves to be as crisp, tense, and fluid as ever, with players still able to customise their party, gear, skills, Materia, and the like. Summons, dictated by the equipped Materia, also make a welcome return in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, even if they seem to only activate their Ultimate in drawn-out battles or boss fights.
And while combat is a huge draw, the variety of side content elevates its appeal factor to greater heights. The original game was beloved for its addictive, endearingly silly mini-games, and its modern-day counterpart will double down on the fun, which the second chapter gives a good idea of.
The first time-sinker is Queen’s Blood, the in-game card title that now joins other trading card games in the Final Fantasy universe, like FFVIII’s Triple Triad. Here, players take turns to place a card (out of a starting hand of five cards) on the board in one of the three rows, which adds a corresponding point to that lane. New positions will be added over time, opening up tiles with emerald pawns where cards can be placed; however, they can only be played in positions equal or higher than their rank, indicated on the top-left corner of the card.
Upon an overlap, the position rises in rank, allowing players to summon more powerful troops. An opponent’s position can be claimed in the same way, with the game coming to an end when both players pass their turns consecutively. The one with the higher score, of course, wins the match.
It’s plenty addictive, especially for card game enthusiasts, offering a healthy dose of strategy and unpredictability. Similar to how Gwent works in CD Projekt Red’s highly-acclaimed role-playing game The Witcher 3, Queen’s Blood has a side questline of its own that invites players to challenge other NPCs, customise their decks, and grow their collection. There’s even lore included as well, which according to game director Naoki Hamaguchi, extends to the main storyline.
Because the map is a whole lot bigger than in Remake, there’s now more room for exploration and environmental traversal. From lush greenery and wildlife landscapes to city architecture, the vast world of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a beautiful one that brims with life and energy. This visual polish is accompanied by a host of side activities perfect for the easily-distracted, starting with the World Intel quests.
Assigned by Chadley (as before), this feature now involves activating decrepit towers, analysing Lifesprings, and examining summon crystals. The first is achieved with the simple press of a button, but the latter two introduces more variety to the process and makes use of different mechanics.
For instance, the Lifespring missions incorporate a hold-and-release feature, while the latter combines memorisation skills and timings. Essentially, it tasks players with remembering the position of three keys along a circular path, and lining them up correctly when the bar passes by the spot. Register enough data, and Titan, the all-too-familiar summon that can be fought in a simulated space, becomes easier to defeat.
Then, there are excavation missions. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will introduce a crafting system in the form of Item Transmuter, allowing for creating potions on the fly. Completing these expeditions unlocks new recipes, which should prove familiar to all genre veterans. While some may find crafting lazy or uninspiring, there’s no denying its usefulness in a pinch – more so if there are already existing resources to spare.
Between the new additions and returning features like Mercenary Quests, the sequel demands a lot of time and dedication. Fortunately, its impressive fast travel system makes it a breeze to move from one location to another, as long as they are certified for fast travel like Chocobo Stops. There are two options included: by foot or chocobo, although there seems to be barely any difference between the two.
Chocobos, as a staple of the franchise, will likely be the main mode of transportation. These feathered companions are swift on their feet and can locate hidden treasure with their sensitive noses, but more importantly, are just really cute.
Before that, though, players will need to get through a stealth sequence (there’s quite a bit of sneaking in the game, more than expected at least). After arriving at the chocobo ranch, they are tasked with tracking down and taming a chocobo without alerting it. Completing the segment unlocks access to the trusty mount and various customisation options, serving as a nice callback to the original.
A quick tip for chocobo lovers – when a baby chocobo (chickobo?) appears, follow it to a rest stop, fix the broken bench with a cushion, and you’ll be able to sit down and restore all stats.
In a similar vein, Moogles, as another series mainstay, also get their own mini-adventure. Stepping into the Mogstool brings up a herding challenge, where players have to lead and guide Moogles to the cozy house. Despite how easy it may sound, be assured these flying creatures will make individuals work hard for their reward.
Through it all, nothing is more constant than the presence of Cloud’s company. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth shines the spotlight on character affinity levels, which can be raised by completing character-specific side quests, such as going on a date with Aerith.
Spending six hours in the sprawling, breathtaking world of Square Enix’s soon-to-be-latest proved to be highly delightful and scintillating, filled with layered variety that offers lighthearted reprieve outside of the fast-paced, exciting combat system. As open-world fatigue becomes commonplace in the gaming scene, it’s impressive that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth manages to contain everything within a non-bloated scale. 29 February cannot come soon enough.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth releases 29 February on PS5.