Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a Modern Gaming Marvel

1997’s Final Fantasy VII is my favorite video game ever made. 2020’s Final Fantasy VII Remake was a masterful adaptation of the first five or so hours of the original game, while still adding and expanding on certain aspects, even going so far as to shift the genre from turn-based action combat to that of real-time action combat for the modern-day gamer. 2024’s Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, while a continuation of Remake, is a different beast entirely.

In an age of gaming sequels that tend to borrow a lot from their predecessors, maybe adding a few new features or assets and feeling like a fresh coat of paint over the old (namely The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or Marvel’s Spider-Man 2), FFVII Rebirth reconstructs the room before applying the paint. Breaking free of the steel-studded city of Midgar, Rebirth mostly abandons the wide-linear level design found in Remake in favor of an open-world approach in an attempt to mimic the same feeling found in the PS1 original adventure. No two environments spanning the open world of Gaia are the same, with the game bringing players into the massive world through seven distinct regions that are able to be seamlessly traveled through.

Avid Final Fantasy fans may remember that this isn’t the series’ first rodeo in open-world game design, with 2016’s Final Fantasy XV being developer Square Enix’s initial foray into the genre. However, chief complaints of that title were that the game world was too barren, and interesting components were often few and far between. Well, Square Enix has certainly course corrected hard in the opposite direction for Rebirth as the game never STOPS giving players things to do. Between general side quests that add richness to our main characters, various “World Intel” missions that players can complete to totally cap off a specific region, fun battle challenges, and a slew of minigames, including the intense and gripping “Queen’s Blood” card game that many (myself included) would accept as a separate game on its own, players will find nothing but continual content to keep them satisfied. Seriously, even in the final chapters of the main story, players are introduced to even more side content that just keeps chugging along. The developers have made statements that completing everything in the game would amount to over 100 hours of gameplay, and they certainly weren’t exaggerating.

Though, that isn’t to say that all side content is created equal, as I found myself vexed a few times while exploring the regions and having to do the same tasks over and over again to fully complete them. Some spots in the game allow main story beats to break up the World Intel progression, but there are more than a few times where one region of exploration bleeds right into the next, which could put off some players due to how overwhelming it can be. It’s at this point that some may say that the game actually offers TOO MUCH to do, but it’s important to remember that all of the side content in the game is completely superfluous and optional, and it’s up to the player how much they choose to engage with. That being said, the game certainly entices players to prioritize side content with either good rewards or with satisfying character moments that help round them out and make the impact of the overall story that much greater. This is especially evident in the newly included “affinity” feature that’s incorporated into the various sidequests of the game which allows Cloud to gain a deeper connection with one of his companions, determining the outcome and suitor of a certain date scene in one of the later chapters of the story.

Speaking of the story, let’s touch on that for a moment. While I’ll refrain from spoilers, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth takes the story from Cloud and Co’s departure from Midgar to the Forgotten Capital, which is the end of the original game’s first of three discs. Still on the hunt for the malevolent Sephiroth after defying fate in Remake, the gang now embarks on a globetrotting adventure to find out what his plans are and put a stop to them. Throughout, we’re introduced to several different locations such as the martial-law district of Junon, the breezy vacation resort of Costa del Sol, and the wondrous, yet overzealous amusement park of the Gold Saucer, as well as a few more.

Much like locations, the list of playable characters also expands from Remake’s quartet to include the likes of the spry and energetic ninja Yuffie Kisaragi, whose boundless energy is a joy and allows for much needed levity in intense scenes, Red XIII, who returns in playable form this time (as opposed to being relegated as a guest party member in Remake) and has one of the more compelling story moments in the game, and the zany fortune-telling cat Cait Sith, who despite the long-standing gripes that many OG fans have with him, actually sticks out as one of the more charming characters and is a highlight during this journey.

A huge marketing push for the game also featured the mysterious and questionable incorporation of Zack Fair, and what role he would play here. Though Zack got some considerable time in the limelight in 2022’s Crisis Core – Final Fantasy VII – Reunion, the PS5 remaster of the original PSP game, he was never a major player in OG FFVII’s story. While I won’t spoil Zack’s entire role in this review, I will admit that segments where he was featured were some of the more intriguing bits of the game, and though they were somewhat sporadic and broke up the pacing of the story to a degree, I’d be remiss not to mention him and his importance to this iteration of the story.

It’s in some of these segments with Zack that despite the whimsical and fantasy nature of the world and its characters, Rebirth doesn’t shy away from grounded, more mature tones in its storytelling. Each and every character, playable or not, has a past, and tangible issues that they have to grapple with. The game isn’t afraid to mix fun, comedic moments with heavier, dramatic ones, all the while reminding the player that there’s an impending doom that the party will soon have to face.

Though that is the case, the story also tends to make use of unique gameplay bits in its storytelling, copying methods from the original’s blueprints to often “gamify” certain segments with fun and engaging minigames, some of which long-time fans may remember. Standout moments such as Rufus Shinra’s welcoming parade or riding on the back of Mr. Dolphin in the seas of Lower Junon not only return from the original but are exemplified in this rendition, leaving a lasting impression on the overall experience.

But the main bulk of the gameplay certainly comes in the way of the combat. Final Fantasy VII Remake already brought players a satisfactory experience in the Action-RPG combat realm, albeit with a few grievances such as lackluster options for airborne enemies and a struggle to meaningfully build up each individual character’s ATB gauge for use of various abilities. Rebirth, thankfully, remedies these issues with the inclusion of Synergy Abilities and Synergy Skills that two characters in combat can perform together. Synergy Skills are great additions to combat that, with the quick press of a button, can have two characters perform a move to easily help them both build ATB without the cost. Synergy Abilities, on the other hand, are big, flashy, more cinematic team-up moves that encourage the use of regular abilities to build up charges in order to be used. Not to mention, repeated uses of both of these new features plays a role in the aforementioned “affinity” feature as well. While it all sounds like a lot to manage, it surprisingly flows together in a chaotic beauty that makes these characters and the player feel unstoppable, all the while blowing Remake’s already stellar combat out of the water.

There’s genuinely so much more that I could talk about with this game. From its stellar soundtrack of over 400 individual tracks ranging from ones redone from the OG game to brand new original tracks that all wonderfully accompany the journey at hand, to the gorgeously rendered cutscenes and direction that make the cinematics feel as though you’re watching a movie, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a triumph in every regard. There were moments that by its completion had me wondering not only how this was accomplished in just under four years time since Remake, but how a video game could even achieve some of the feats it did. Whether you’re new to the series, or you’ve been a fan since 1997, this game is sure to leave you satisfied yet intensely eager for the upcoming Part 3 of the Remake trilogy. In the words of Barret himself, “There ain’t no gettin’ offa this train we’re on!”

Eric Noon

Hi! My name's Eric! I'm a transfer here at Rowan University and a Writing Arts major! I'm a big fan of storytelling and love to watch shows, movies, play games, and read all to get more into the world of stories! I find it fascinating and am always looking for a new recommendation! I also love talking to people and making new friends! In the past I've been the editor-in-chief of the student-run magazine, "Seascape," at my community college, OCC, and have always been an active participant in writing workshops and creative writing courses!