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Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

Part two of this wildly ambitious RPG trilogy is finally here, and it’s incredible

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game
29 February 2024

For many years a remake of Final Fantasy VII felt like the stuff of daydreams. The beloved original game, a launch title for the PlayStation, pioneered 3D graphics and blew the minds of gamers in the ‘90s with its size and scope. It also broke their hearts with probably the most shocking mid-game twist of any game in history.

But against all odds that remake did eventually happen. In 2020 the lovably blocky heroes of Avalanche and the city of Midgar in which the first part of the game takes place were stunningly reimagined for the modern era, with the original game’s turn-based combat blended with a thrilling real-time system that was incredibly fun to master.

The power of the PlayStation 4 meant that the cinematic intentions that Final Fantasy VII always had could finally be realised, and if you made it to the end (no spoilers here) you’ll know that this is no 1:1 remake, with major story moments signalling that things could potentially end differently this time around.

Which brings us on to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, the second part of this remake trilogy, which sees the pointy-haired Cloud Strife and co leaving Midgar for the next part of their adventure, on a mission to stop Sephiroth and ultimately save the planet.

High stakes, then. If Final Fantasy VII Remake was about capturing the oppressive nature of the dystopian city of Mako and the slums that the corrupt power company, Shinra, exploits for political gain, Rebirth is selling a grand adventure into the unknown, and it’ll keep you busy for months.

We’ve been playing this gigantic RPG for several weeks now. Here’s everything you need to know about the biggest game of 2024.

1 Rebirth goes open world

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

In the original Final Fantasy VII, leaving Midgar for the first time to see a fully 3D world map load into view was a breathtaking moment. The second part of the remake trilogy aims to recapture that sense of wonder with its sprawling open world setting. After an introductory flashback mission, the party heads out to the Grasslands, a vast countryside expanse filled with monsters, materials and secrets to uncover.

Square Enix has definitely been inspired by the last decade of open-world game design, populating its world with Ubisoft-esque towers that add new icons to your map when unlocked. In just about every direction there’s a different distraction, from scannable crystals that provide you with useful data about Summons you can use in battle, to inconveniently placed treasure containing useful items.

It can get a bit exhausting, but most of the time you aren’t forced to engage with any side content that doesn’t hold your attention, and unless the the stage of the chapter you’re playing through prevents you from doing so, you can fast travel to and from each distinctive region you’ve already visited on your journey to hunt down anything you might have missed or mop up unfinished quests.

Getting around is easy too, thanks to a healthy population of Chocobos that you can tame and ride, as well as a number of vehicles later on that players of the 1997 game will remember well.

2 The production values are incredible

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is an enormous game (we’re talking two discs and nearly 150GB of your PS5’s storage space hogged) and it really is a lavish piece of work. Cutscenes look fantastic and screen-filling bosses are often finished off with cinematic flair.

If you have any familiarity with the original game you’ll be wowed by how Square Enix has reimagined the varied locations that Cloud and the gang travel to. Remember Costa del Sol, the seaside resort that the team docks at after boarding a cargo ship from Junon? In the PS1 game it was little more than a quick sandy pit stop to advance the story, but in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, Costa del Sol is a bustling town complete with al fresco dining spots, multiple hotels and hirable segways.

You can spend hours in similarly expanded towns like Kalm and Cosmo Canyon, too, while the Gold Saucer, the theme park that towers above the Corel Desert, is a stunningly detailed paradise of trashiness, with its neon lights, futuristic walkways, haunted house hotel and attention-grabbing amusements everywhere you turn.

3 In combat, teamwork makes the dream work

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth builds on the combat of its predecessor, in which your party members use their respective standard attacks to build up an Active Time Battle (ATB) meter that allows them to use more powerful special abilities and spells, as well as access useful items like potions and grenades.

The giant-sword-wielding Cloud and martial arts specialist Tifa are melee characters who like to get right up close to the enemy, while Barret offers support from range with his gun arm and Aerith excels at magic, making her the ideal choice for a healer.

Red XIII is a playable party member from the start in the sequel and has a useful ability that allows him to increase his damage and speed by successfully blocking attacks. And later on you add Yuffie, a nimble ninja who plays a much bigger role in the remake trilogy than she did in the original Final Fantasy VII.

You can cycle freely between party members or issue commands to each of them from the ATB menu. Either way you’ll need to make use of your full arsenal to take advantage of different enemies’ weaknesses. Constantly switching to different characters can make battles feel quite chaotic, but once you settle into their unique rhythm they’re a real thrill.

The big combat addition in this entry is Synergies, which allows party members to team up and perform even more powerful attacks in tandem. Some synergy abilities are available all the time; Aerith calling another party member over to provide cover, for example, or Cloud launching Tifa towards an enemy using his sword. But after you’ve used a certain number of ATB abilities you can trigger special synergy moves unlocked by spending skill points.

These are often tied to specific party members and deal huge damage. They can look pretty spectacular too.

4 There are mini-games galore

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

For all that the original Final Fantasy VII was concerned with weighty themes and the ever-present threat of environmental cataclysm, it also made sure to keep the player entertained with a variety of often very daft mini-games. Rebirth doubles down on this and then some. We genuinely lost count of how many there are here, from a meditative piano rhythm game to Final Fantasy’s answer to Rocket League and Chococo racing with a Mario Kart-esque drift mechanic. When not slaying beasts you can expect Cloud to be sneaking past Chococo patrols, snapping (or posing for) photos and chasing high scores at a shooting gallery. And there are so many more.

Then there’s Queen’s Blood, but to call this one a mini-game would be doing it a disservice. It’s a fully-fledged deck building card battler with its own narrative and new players to challenge in virtually every town and settlement you visit throughout the game. And in one particularly memorable scene, Queen’s Blood also features in the main quest, but we won’t go into details. Let’s just say that one party member will go to extreme lengths to get in on the board game fun.

5 You’ll want to spend time with these characters

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

Final Fantasy VII Remake was a game about a gang of misfits learning to trust one another and by the end uniting around a common goal. At the start of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Barret and Red XIII already feel like a classic RPG party, and it makes them great company for the many hours you’re going to spend with them.

Barret, who for much of the first game doubts Cloud’s loyalty, is fully on side in Rebirth, and he gets some of the best lines, plus a pretty affecting character arc, while Cloud’s general awkwardness around Tifa and Aerith, who both adore him, continues to be hilarious. And there are some great additions to the cast too, like the infectiously enthusiastic Yuffie and the feline Cait Sith, whose accent we’d rather you discover for yourself. Let’s just say you won’t expect what comes out of this talking cat’s mouth.

You get to play as most party members in and out of combat throughout the game, but most of the time you’re controlling Cloud, and your actions can affect how different characters see you. It might be a dialogue choice, or completing a specific side quest that earns their approval, and without saying too much, there are a couple of moments in the game where your relationship status with each character decides how a main story beat unfolds, so if you like one of them in particular, be sure to put the work in.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: final verdict

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review: 5 things to know about this incredible game

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve got this far without talking much at all about Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s story. That’s partly because that would demand a whole article’s worth of words on its own (things get pretty weird), but more so because we’re very wary of spoiling anything.

If you’re familiar with the original game then we don’t need to remind you what happens at the end of Disc 1, which is also where this part of the remake trilogy takes us up to. If you want to find out the fate of a certain flower enthusiast, you’ll just have to play the game.

What we can say, though, is that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is one hell of a road trip, boasting a fantastic cast of characters and one of the most compelling battle systems in any game.

The giant open world and abundance of side content that comes with it is a bit at odds with the urgency of the central plot, and there are definitely some pacing issues, but the highs of this epic globe-trotting adventure outweigh any of our issues. This is a must-play for anyone with even a passing interest in the Final Fantasy series and easily one of the best games on PS5.