The Avalanche rebels, an ancient, intelligent dog, and one mercenary leave the megacity of Midgar behind and enter the open world. Behind them are lost homes and friends, ahead are the energy company Shinra, which is draining the life force of the planet itself, a crazy superhuman who has set out to destroy all life, and a whole lot of adventures. Sounds like a plan. Welcome to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

Game Final Fantasy VII Rebirth
Genre action/RPG
Platforms PlayStation 5
Languages English
Developer Square Enix
Publisher Square Enix

Approximately nine years ago, Yoshinori Kitase, Vice President of Creative Business Unit I at Square Enix and brand manager of Final Fantasy, embarked on what is perhaps his most ambitious project yet: a remake of Final Fantasy VII. And it’s an unusual remake, as the significantly expanded and reimagined game has grown so much that the developers were forced to divide it into three parts. The scale is such that the director of the new trilogy, Naoki Hamaguchi, does not want to hear about a similar restart of the eighth part.

For example, Final Fantasy VII Remake, the first part of the trilogy, which takes 40 to 80 hours to complete, retells only a six-hour episode from the original game.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is even bigger. If you really want to, you can still complete the story campaign in about 40 hours and counting, but that’s assuming you don’t pay attention to side quests and various optional activities at all. The full game will take three times as long to complete, which is not surprising, since in Rebirth players finally have the opportunity to go beyond the walls of Midgar and explore the almost-open world around them.

After the partially deserved criticism of Final Fantasy XV, Square Enix decided not to risk a full-fledged open world and instead divided the world into seven separate large regions. This was the right decision, because it allows you to eat this huge elephant piece by piece and not get lost in the process, which would be easy to do in a full-fledged open world, given the plethora of challenges, side quests, points of interest, communication towers, and many other icons that dot the game map.

And while there are no questions about the story assignments, and we will talk about the story itself separately, the optional content is partly disappointing because of its imbalance. In some regions, there is too much of it.

The tasks of destroying powerful monsters, searching for ancient relics or hidden sources of mako energy at least challenge the player’s skills, open access to new recipes for creating items, or simply add another article to the in-game encyclopedia, but the frankly filler quests “chickens ran away from grandma” and “help this character gather the necessary resources” are frustrating, as are the tasks of finding and taming the chocobo birds, which are mandatory for each region.

These activities are usually incredibly slow and kill the momentum, and it’s a shame to skip them, the rewards here are not always as pleasant as they were in Final Fantasy VII Remake, but they are also useful. The more tasks you complete, the higher the level of the group – this is a separate progression scale that determines what levels of skills and talents are available to your characters on the skill tree. So, old lady, where did your chickens go, show us.

In addition, you never know whether another side quest will become a key point in the personal storyline of one of the group members, because the characters and their stories in Rebirth are perfectly written. This, by the way, is another reason to feel uncomfortable with so many additional activities, here we have a personal drama, the war is coming, Sephiroth plans to exterminate humanity, and you send me to look for mushrooms and play arcade boxing. What is this?

The fact that the process of exploring each region is different due to the peculiarities of the landscape and unique varieties of chocobos that run at the speed of an F1 car, overcome vertical rocks, can push off water, or simply float in the air for a long time saves a little.

And what else I won’t complain about is the card game Blood of the Queen. What started out as just another mini-game gradually gained its own storyline and made me actively move between cities in search of opponents, card boosters, and new pieces of the puzzle that tells the story of the game’s origin and the mysterious death of its creator.

The combat system of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was largely borrowed from the Remake, but there were some changes. The battles here are also in real time, and when choosing skills and spells, the game slows down, but does not stop! The player can control one character at a time, but you can switch between the three members of the group at any time.

With regular and special attacks, characters accumulate ABT (Active Battle Time), which is spent on creating magic and applying other skills, as well as using items. Activating certain ABT skills fills up the Synergy bar, which allows characters to perform a paired attack that deals more damage to the enemy or gives certain bonuses to the characters themselves.

By the way, it should not be confused with Synergy Skills, which can be activated at any time via R1+Action Buttons, which is a separate story. In addition, there is a limit scale that accumulates over time and allows you to make a powerful attack, as well as summoning divine entities, finally not only in the allowed places, as it was in Remake. For those who find active combat too dynamic, the developers have added a “Classic” battle mode that automates the basic actions of the characters, giving players the opportunity to focus on choosing specific teams.

Enemies, as usual for Final Fantasy, are protected from some types of magic and vulnerable to others, which must be used to “pinch” them first, that is, to knock them off balance. In this state, the enemy can be knocked down faster (yes, there is a separate scale for this as well), which will disable them for a while and make them vulnerable. It sounds complicated only at first glance, but the system is actually quite simple and easy to use.

The same cannot be said about the default camera, which forces you to regularly turn your head in all directions and receive unexpected pokes in the back from an enemy you didn’t see. Too late, I learned that it can be removed, which I advise you to do.

However, even with a suboptimal camera, most battles will be fairly easy, with only mythical monsters and some bosses posing a real challenge. With everyone else, everything is simple – scan to find out vulnerabilities, accumulate AVT, hit with the right attack, repeat, remembering to block or dodge enemy attacks and switch between characters regularly, since they will hit with basic attacks most of the time and will not accumulate AVT, well, unless you put matter on them to automatically create spells.

And here we come to another interesting issue – the inlay of matter. Matter is the crystallized life force of the planet and also the source of magic in the game, so the arsenal of spells available to characters depends solely on what kind of matter you have inlaid into weapons and armor. By regularly using magic, you increase the level of matter, thus opening up access to higher-level spells, and, interestingly, at any time outside of combat, you can completely change the set of matter on a character and even transfer it to another. You can also drop talents, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

And while there were no doubts about the visuals (problems with texture loading remained on PlayStation 4) or the combat system after the Remake, there were… concerns about the plot of Rebirth, because the Remake seemed to significantly change the plot compared to the original source.

Well, having played Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, I have to admit that the Remake was almost a verbatim quote. In the second installment, the developers are very free with the original material. They changed some of the order of events or their very essence, introduced new characters and gave the old ones more screen time, added new episodes, disappeared some regions, and filled in some gaps that existed in the original game.

A separate plus for the unreliable narrator Claude, closer to the middle of the game you will ask yourself if everything you see on the screen is real. Because Claud, whose nervous system is degrading due to Mako’s poisoning, is glitchy. In fact, almost all of the changes have definitely benefited the game, with the exception of, um, the main plot twist, so to speak.

It’s interesting in itself and promises a very bright conclusion in the final part of the trilogy, but… how to avoid spoilers here… it has a certain effect on the *very* moment, and, one might say, somewhat devalues it. I’m sure that many players will argue that the updated plot spoils everything, that it used to be better and that’s it, but I hardly agree with that, my only complaint about the plot is described above, and everything else has improved.

Special respect for the episode with the voice of Red XIII, which previously, due to the lack of voice acting, could only be appreciated by those players who know Japanese, because it was completely lost in the English localization.

In general, despite the disadvantages that are not just present in the game, but literally striking, I can safely call Final Fantasy VII Rebirth a good example of how remakes should be made. Square Enix was able to tell the already known story in such a way that it could contain surprise, sincere joy, and no less sincere sadness. A titanic job has been done, and the only thing I really regret is that we’ll have to wait another four years, if not more, for the final part.