Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review — Victory Fanfare

Final Fantasy VII is a sacred moniker. It holds precious memories for many, ones on which a brand has been built and expanded upon. When Remake showed up, it found a way to reinvent what was iconic about the original without disrespecting it. That’s a tough thing to do. Figuring out how to do it twice is another thing, but after playing it myself, Square Enix and Creative Business Unit I have accomplished exactly that in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth; a First-Class experience.

Let’s start with what everyone is curious about, the story. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has the unenviable task of recrafting not only a beloved story, but filling it out properly into a 2024 video game. It’s also fighting with “second in the trilogy” syndrome, where you have to figure out how to tie up enough loose ends to make for a satisfying ending while leaving enough open for the third game’s finale. It’s a challenge.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth video review - Victory Fanfare [PS5]

In many ways, the story picks up exactly how it was delivered in Remake. It’s slow cooking, exactly how Remake felt to me. Rebirth starts from zero to sixty immediately, starting directly where Remake ended and with Cloud recalling his time with Sephiroth in Nibelheim. After this, you jump right into business as usual, trying to find Sephiroth to stop whatever his diabolical plan is.

Pacing is something that often is rushed in a game, specifically in terms of narrative. Too many games feel like they forget time management, needing to slap you in the face with multiple reveals because the story is about to end. Rebirth never feels that way, instead taking the scenic route to its final destination. Everything is earned, there’s no doubt of that, but the friends we made along the way matter most.

The moment to moment storylines are managed intentionally, feeding you bits here and there to keep you full yet hungry for the next narrative appetizer. I rarely felt like the story was lacking, even when it went off on random tangents as it continued on. It reminds me of a TV show, with episodes doing different things and the central story staring at you behind the scenes until it’s time to step into the spotlight. One second I’m trying to earn a beach outfit, the next, I’m back chasing Sephiroth. It’s strange, silly, and serious at the same time, and I love it. Rebirth is always leading you somewhere, and even if the direction isn’t always clear, it arrives precisely where it intends.

Something many will wonder is how Rebirth measures up to the original story. I won’t say much here in terms of spoilers (and I’ll be vague through most of our story discussion), but the heart of Rebirth shows the utmost respect to Final Fantasy VII. It doesn’t lose the original’s charm, and stays true to VII’s quirky nature. There are also a few surprises (Zack’s appearance at the end of Remake isn’t wasted). You’ll have to make your own decisions on how you perceive certain choices made in this reimagining, but it’s safe to say that Kitase-san and Hamaguchi-san know what they’re doing. I have questions, but some of these won’t be answered until we reach the end of this trilogy.

The stars of the show, and rightly so, are the characters. One of the reasons the Phase 1-3 Marvel movies worked wasn’t just the set pieces, but that you loved the characters. They may have had a villain problem – which Rebirth very obviously doesn’t with Sephiroth – but you became attached to Captain America and Rocket Racoon because of the connection you felt. Rebirth’s characters benefit from having been set up by Remake, and the connections you felt there are deepened here.

Part of that is how Rebirth treats the characters. As you traverse the world, Cloud is your default party leader. But, as you hit certain story beats, he’s either gone or in the background. This allows other characters to shine. A specific instance of this is Barret and the story of how his gun arm came to be. It’s a very quick moment, almost a “smack you in the face with a reveal” one like I mentioned earlier. Somehow, it still establishes such a genuine connection to Barret and his grief over what happened, and this flows throughout the entire game.

The journey is felt with each of these characters, and there are a lot of them. Where there wasn’t a lot of choosing in Final Fantasy VII Remake, Rebirth features up to seven characters, with Remake’s cast returning, and the addition of Yuffie and Cait Sith. There are also other background characters who never see the spotlight, Cid and Vincent Valentine, but even the small moments we get with them are well done and you’d assume they’ll be a big part of the third game.

Of course, these performances wouldn’t land without the stellar cast behind them. Cody Christian as Cloud, Briana White as Aerith, Britt Baron as Tifa, and John Eric Bentley as Barret are outstanding in their roles, giving passionate voice overs to our favorite characters. Max Mittleman was limited in his role of Red XIII in Remake, but explodes onto the scene in Rebirth with a sensational rendition. Suzie Yeung is every bit as bubbly as her counterpart in Yuffie, and the big bad himself, Sephiroth, is haunting and intimidating thanks to the voice of Tyler Hoechlin. You can’t have fantastic characters without fantastic voice actors, and all of them prove their mettle.

Another area that allows these characters to show their personality: the side missions. These are very similar to what you’ll remember in Remake, but are generally more expansive, especially in what you learn about each character. Different storylines often mean something to different people. One mission is about helping a little girl get flowers to make a flower crown her missing mother used to make for her, which affects Aerith where it doesn’t Tifa.

This leads into relationships, where what you say and do changes how that character feels about you. Sure, plenty will use it as the means to an end for the date at the Gold Saucer like in the original, but the amount of insight it lends to each character and their views and actions is tremendously detailed. Besides that, they make the world feel alive, showcasing these smaller side characters and giving them a voice. It’s personal, and a big reason you feel a palpable connection with both the characters you play as and the ones with which you interact.

If that’s not enough character for you, the planet itself consists of several. That being, the multiple open-world locations to explore. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is not set in a traditional open-world, but instead chooses to give you several large areas to explore. Think Mass Effect, but if each location was on the level of an actual open-world. Seriously, that’s how big these are, and I’ve played plenty of games that don’t match this scale. It works perfectly for Rebirth, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy that style of game, while also allowing the flow to take you from place to place, offering variety and new story bits along the way.

Gaia (the planet) is divided into several regions, with Cloud and co. beginning in the Grasslands. From here, you’ll head to Junon, Corel (which houses Costa Del Sol and the Gold Saucer), Gongaga, Cosmo Canyon, and Nibelheim. You’ll also head to the Cetra Temple later in the story, but that isn’t an explorable region. CBUI smartly crafted several linear levels to tie areas together, like traversing mythril mines in between the Grasslands and Junon, and the cruise ship that takes you from Junon to Corel. Again, this game simply flows better than most, engaging you in the right moments before putting you back into the open-world.

I want to call out the Cetra Temple specifically as a mission, because I’m amazed at the amount of creativity as a whole that has gone into this game. It’s a more linear level where you switch between two parties, but with one simply fighting through and the other utilizing a new, puzzly mechanic to move forward. This is in one of the final chapters of the game; I don’t expect even a location this differently designed, let alone an entire new mechanic to use. It’s top-notch design, something CBUI deserves a lot of credit for.

As mentioned, all of these areas are massive, with a lot to explore. Side missions will have you venturing further out, but the main quests you’ll have here is World Intel. Chadley (your buddy from Remake) is looking to help create new materia and more, so he has a few activities for you to do. Some of these things you’ll come across naturally, but usually you’ll go after the Remnawave towers to reveal the activities around. While none of the World Intel tasks are a chore to do, after the first few completions they began to feel repetitious. The good news is they are easy side-hustles, done in mere minutes and rarely force you to go far off the beaten path.

One thing that stands out in the open-world is the variety. Rarely are you staring at the exact same space for very long, and traveling to different places makes for an engaging experience. There are rocky hills, grassy valleys, sandy deserts, and dank jungles, along with areas teaming with rivers and swamps. This is only a bit of what you’ll find, as sites like the Gold Saucer, Costa Del Sol, and Upper Junon are sights to behold. Great gameplay can sometimes overcome stagnant environments, but marry that gameplay to exceptional level design and you’ve got a phenomenal game. The set pieces can be truly breathtaking as well, although as we’ll discuss, performance mode can cause a lot of muddy textures and pop-in.

Even better, you’ll explore a lot of it on choco-back, with the amazing chocobos being the perfect transports. I’m really happy that they also have plenty of variety, with each region’s chocobo offering a specific skillset, like being able to climb a cliff in Junon with longer talons, or bouncing off the mushrooms in Gongaga because of their gliding capabilities. Fast travel is also well designed, with plenty of chocobo-stops, World Intel, and specific locations marked on the map for your convenience. It’s fast too, with the PS5 SSD throwing you to your choice of locale in seconds.

You won’t be able to go far without getting into a fight, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is the franchise at its best. If you’ve played Remake, you know the combat there is fantastic, and it makes an S-tier jump in Rebirth. As a quick refresher, combat in Rebirth follows a quasi turn-based and real-time system, where regular attacks are performed in real time and casting spells or abilities uses the “paused” ATB system. There are improvements everywhere. Somewhere a dev looked at combat and said, “how do we make this more impactful?”. Maybe it’s the sound, maybe there are slight tweaks in the movement, maybe it’s the particle effects, but in any case every Buster sword swing from Cloud makes you feel like you’re taking on the foe yourself. Launching your Braver ATB attack has never felt better.

In Remake I tended to spend a lot more time only using Cloud, partially due to my affinity for the character, but also his ability to brute force through obstacles. I’m not saying he can’t do that in Rebirth, but it feels a lot more useful to bring in your friends. Parties are still three deep, so Cloud has the option of two buddies to take into combat scenarios. Each of them have their benefits, along with their drawbacks, and it’s best for you to figure them out. Clearing the game once also allows you to build three party teams without Cloud as a member too.

Aerith is valuable as your healer and as a magic caster, but with the right materia, you can make those skills available to anyone. Barret joins her in the long range category, but with an emphasis on damage and is tanky. Red XIII is going to be best up close along with Tifa, but Tifa’s ability to stagger is appreciated, even if she can’t take as much damage. Yuffie has the benefit of melee and ranged attacks with her Juji Shiruken, and Cait Sith… let’s just say I have no idea where his odd range of abilities falls in terms of specific use. You have a reason to try different lineups, especially with a wide variety of enemies.

Speaking of the enemies, they’re even better and more varied in Rebirth. This extends to even the lesser enemies, with ogres, frogs, big grasshoppers, and the like. They all have different ways to come at them as well, meaning a slash from Cloud might not be as effective as a bullet from Barret or a punch from Tifa. The grand puzzle underneath it all is exhilarating, and it makes even the smaller fights engaging.

From that statement, you can assume the boss fights are tremendous, and you’d be right. Quite a few are outright spectacular, highlights of an already stunning game. Several have multiple layers, and it’s up to you to use what you’ve learned to take advantage of your enemies’ weakness. Grandiose summons and their respective Simulator battles return as well, offering an extra dosage of challenge to those seeking it.

One of your new tools, a mechanic introduced in the Yuffie Intermission DLC for Remake, is the Synergy Abilities. These are tag team super moves (with a ton of style) unlocked by using standard ATB charges, but you’d be remiss to simply use these willy nilly. Pressuring and staggering an enemy are still paramount to winning battles, and Synergies are more than flashy attacks. Some give a bit of health back, some an extra ATB bar, others even unlimited magic use for a time, and more. Strategizing your best use, rather than throwing them out the second you have them, is an important part of an eventual victory. Limits may still be the ultimate power move, but Synergies are a close second.

A system that’s been reworked are the skills, which are now the folio. Reminiscent of the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X, this system will let you choose bonuses along with new Synergies. Some are as simple as another 200HP, with others having percentage boosts, like 10% extra healing when receiving it. There is a caveat to your leveling beyond just the character: your party level. Accomplishing missions together raises that, which unlocks further “grids” for you to choose from. There’s nothing revolutionary here – it works – but it’s worth keeping an eye on to make sure your current party has their respective Synergies unlocked.

Guarding is something else that returns from Remake, but with a twist. There are unlockable “Synergy Skills” available in the folio, and these give special abilities to use in tandem with another character when guarding. I’m going to be very honest with you; I totally forgot about these most of the time. A lot of them require more precision timing than a usual parry or dodge; partner that with my tendency to be straight up aggressive, and you have something that doesn’t benefit me. The right players will get the right use out of it, but I’m not sure they add all that much to the game beyond an occasional boost to your defense or a counterattack.

Now for something you have to make sure is on your Rebirth to-do list: mini-games. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has gone full Yakuza, not just in its weird tones, but by dropping a bunch of mini-games into the mix. Some might not see a place for these, but some of them are the best parts of Rebirth. I mentioned World Intel earlier, and several of those are just okay, like Moogle Mischief. But, as soon as you hit Costa Del Sol, you’re greeted with a plethora of fun options from then on. There’s motorcycle racing, poly-brawling, a shooting gallery, Red XIII Rocket League, and so much more. The dev team definitely did their due diligence, because they know we all love a good mini-game, and they’ve stuffed Rebirth full of them.

That’s not even mentioning the best card game of them all: Queen’s Blood. This is a card game that is super simple, but as you continue acquiring new cards, it gets addictive. Queen’s Blood is available as soon as you reach the open-world, and in every new port you arrive in, there are new players to challenge to gain status as a player. Coasta Del Sol even has challenges set up as pre-determined puzzles for you to solve. We’ve made a handy guide on how to play Queen’s Blood right here, trust me when I say you’ll be hooked.

Perhaps what made me fall in love with this game even more is its beautiful soundtrack. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is not only a visual masterpiece, but also a musical one. The game features a stunning soundtrack that captures the essence of the original game, while also adding new compositions and arrangements that complement the modernized gameplay and narrative. Rebirth’s soundtrack delivers in every moment, both during gameplay and in cinematics, drawing on your emotions when things are heartfelt and driving home the intense battles.

The official soundtrack features over 400 songs, covering a wide range of genres and styles, from orchestral, ambient, and folk to rock, techno, and metal. Various elements, such as piano, guitar, violin, choir, and even rap are incorporated, creating an absolute feast for the ears. You can even add your own soundtrack or play music from the official one via a piano – a fully playable instrument you can find around cities in Rebirth. The official theme song, No Promises to Keep, composed by legendary Nobuo Uematsu and sung by the talented Loren Allred, is a beautiful and melancholic ballad that evokes the feels whilst enhancing the overall emotional impact of the game. You already know it’s going on repeat when it releases officially on streaming services.

Although it’s a PS5 current-gen exclusive, Rebirth is built from Unreal Engine 4 and offers both a quality and performance mode. Quality mode obviously aims to deliver the best possible image quality, with a dynamic resolution that targets 4K and often achieves it with temporal reconstruction. The mode also features higher level of detail, ambient occlusion, anisotropic filtering, and particle effects, but at the cost of playing the game at 30 frames per second.

Performance mode, on the other hand, prioritizes a smoother gameplay experience with a velvety 60 frames per second by sacrificing some visual fidelity. The only issue here has been how blurry the textures can be. It extends everywhere, but for example, looking at your party’s faces is especially jarring. Square Enix did release a pre-launch (day one) patch that improves upon the quality of graphical assets in performance mode as well as overall frame rate stability. Even so, I don’t know that I’ve seen much of a difference. The faces are a bit better, but still not of the highest quality.

A big culprit is the open-world, with assets popping in or not loading all the way in some instances. There are still some gorgeous locales, and the open-world isn’t ugly by any means, but this dip in quality is a bit disappointing. That said, I have to give them credit for still delivering some of the most astonishing cutscenes (both in-game and FMV) I’ve ever seen. The good news is, in a fifty hour plus playthrough I’ve run into no technical bugs or glitches aside from these visual hiccups.

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David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

An avid enthusiast of both tabletop and video games, finding endless joy in exploring different realms of entertainment!



Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Review Guidelines

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is not only a worthy successor to Remake, but to the original title. With an incredible and multi-layered open-world, outstanding combat, and a heartfelt story that takes you on a beautiful scenic route, Rebirth reaches heights you’d need one wing to touch. Rebirth is special; First-Class in a way only the best Soldiers can be.

David Burdette and Henry Viola

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