Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview
After a long-anticipated wait, Final Fantasy VII Remake launched in 2020 to much fanfare, including from Player2 where we scored it a B+. Starting out as a supposed remake of the original PSX titan, by the credits it had become obvious that the aesthetics and battle system weren’t the only things that had been significantly overhauled, as the ending of FFVII Remake threw out everything players would expect from the daring escape from Midgar. Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that this was the best possible choice Square Enix could make in that situation. A faithful remake to the scope of the original games post-Midgar overworld would be perhaps one of the most excessive projects undertaken by any game studio given how much ‘filling in’ would need to be done to ensure such an epic adventure didn’t wind up feeling anaemic compared to its contemporaries in the genre. Courtesy of Bandai Namco Australia/NZ, Player2 was given the chance to play through just over an hour of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth earlier this week. This time was split across two vertical slices of the game, each of which highlighted new and returning gameplay features in different contexts.
Firstly was a battle focused section set on Mount Nibel, in which Cloud and Sephiroth make their fateful ascent to the Mako Reactor at its peak guided by a young Tifa, culminating in a boss battle with the fearsome Materia Guardian. While familiar, there were a number of new elements in here which took combat to a new level. The most noticeable addition are those of Synergy Skills and Synergy Abilities. The former are special dual attacks characters can perform and will differ between pairs, as the demo shows Cloud and Sephiroth able to unleash Voidshatter and Counterfire when controlling Cloud and Dualblade Dance when controlling Sephiroth. Later on, more combinations are available based on party configuration. Alongside this are the Synergy Abilities, a more effective attack akin to a team Limit Break. In the demo, Cloud and Sephiroth utilise their Double Helix Synergy ability to take down the Materia Guardian quite literally. For many longtime fans, a playable Sephiroth is a dream come true. That said, it feels like he is showing restraint so as not to show up Cloud too badly in front of Tifa. Having not played FFVII Remake since reviewing it before launch, it took me a little while to get back into the swing of combat, but the mixture of real time hack and slash alongside the menu driven selection aspect across multiple party members is still top notch – it’s almost balletic, and rewards skilful play above all.
The second, and slightly lengthier demo section occurred on the outskirts of Junon, an early Disc Two area in the original game which has been expanded into a debris strewn wasteland courtesy of Shinra and their nearby city itself, an industrial weapon complex of a city built atop an old fishing village inhabited by impoverished citizens doing their best to get by under Shinra’s tyranny. As the first real taste of the ‘open world’ areas expected in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, this ticked a few boxes for me in line with other JRPG genre contemporaries. Firstly, the area itself isn’t overly large and therefore stripped of detail – there is plenty of environmental storytelling going on here for players who are paying attention to the ‘mise en scene’. The true evil of Shinra and its prioritisation of profits over people and the planet amp up the themes of the original game and much like Remake, ring truer in 2023 than ever before. This section also introduces freely rideable Chocobos and crafting pickups which ‘litter and glitter’ on the ground, reminiscent of the Xenoblade Chronicles series. Alongside regular battles with low level enemies like Orcs which punctuate traversal, there are also Fiend Sightings, more challenging foes that require players complete certain Combat Objectives during the battle. The most basic of these challenges tasked me with defeating enemies under a time limit, staggering them and pressuring them, most of which are easy enough achieve. The final Fiend in this section saw me fail to meet a very specific requirement; preventing a flying enemy from using an attack before it could take flight. While it’s hard to say if these challenges will hold up over a much longer playtime, they were a nice way to avoid the standard ‘mash X’ field battles of other JRPG titles, especially as they become more exacting and demand players engage with the combat on a deeper level.
While exploring the Junon outskirts, I came to suspect the use of large inter-connected areas, rather than one giant open world with end to end traversal is what Rebirth has in store, understandable given the locations the game is tackling – even outskirts of Junon have been filled in in great detail and reflect what the exterior of such a city might look like more realistically as opposed to the bland overworld of the original game which merely served to throw random battles at the player. The final battle of this section serves two excellent reminders; first, that monster design remains top notch in Rebirth, most notably it’s great use of colour and distinct anatomical features to create foes that are both intimidating and memorable. Secondly is that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously – Rebirth still knows when to play it cool and when to be a bit goofy which is endearing. I certainly wrapped up the demo with a smile on my face and eager to take on another 90 plus hours. Once again, Player2 has to thank Bandai Namco Australia and New Zealand for giving us this opportunity, we hope our readers are as excited about the upcoming release as we are!
Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth was played in Graphics Mode on a PS5 system courtesy of Bandai Namco ANZ and Square Enix.