When we previewed Final Fantasy 7 Remake before its release in 2020, it seemed clear that Square Enix wanted to show off the new active combat system and the game’s visuals. It was, by and large, an opportunity to see how this remake captured the spirit of the original, with some key changes. What wasn’t apparent at the time was how much the full version of Final Fantasy 7 Remake was going to subvert fan expectations with a story that deviates from its predecessor.
Knowing what fans know now, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has a slightly different set of expectations surrounding it. In our first preview of the game, Square Enix showed off the new synergy abilities as well as offering a chance to control Sephiroth during the game’s memorable Nibelheim sequence. It was standard for previews – an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the mechanics and check out a key sequence. Even though we were more aware of what this trilogy is trying to do, there still weren’t any hints about unexpected twists and turns.
We Played as Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7: Rebirth
Square Enix offers a preview of Final Fantasy 7: Rebirth, including an opportunity to play the Nibelheim section as Sephiroth.
For our second preview of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, and presumably the last before the game’s launch at the end of this month, the scope of the playable experiences was larger but the story hints were still kept secret. Rather, this second preview highlighted how Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is seeking to capture the scope and scale of the adventure the original Final Fantasy 7 sent players on after Cloud & Co. Left Midgar.
Sephiroth’s Big Revelation in Nibelheim
First, as an appetizer, the Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth preview included a longer version of the Nibelheim flashback, which we now know is the start of the game. Cloud recounts the events in a playable sequence that is as faithful to the original’s version as can be. Sephiroth discovers the truth about his parentage, Cloud struggles to reconcile with his place inside his own memory, and, yes, Tifa makes an appearance in her cowboy outfit.
It’s a big chunk of setup for the coming conflict that diehard Final Fantasy 7 fans will enjoy immensely. Getting to play as Sephiroth is a bonus and though this is part 2 of a trilogy, it’s been a few years since Remake, and so a helpful tutorial will help players get reacquainted with the game’s sublime controls.
Character Moments Now Have Choices
When Cloud finishes his flashback, the game shifts to present day in the town of Kalm. Here, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth offers its first taste of a sprawling town, complete with shops, sidequests, and brief character interactions. While interacting with party members, Cloud is sometimes presented with responses that differ in tone.
At a glance, it might seem like these choices are superficial and only influence the immediate conversation, but they will tie into the bonds that characters form with each other and seemingly influence the story. The devs told us that these choices will play a role in a segment of the game later on, but it wasn’t clear what that might be.
Even if these choices don’t have a major impact on the story, it’s still something to give players more agency in the story Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is telling. The original was linear but as Remake has taught fans, this new trilogy’s narrative isn’t necessarily written in stone. Not to mention, fans have personal favorites among the various characters, so now they will be able to strengthen their bonds with those characters through these dialogue choices.
Queen’s Blood is Final Fantasy’s New Card Game
Alongside a brief run through the town, the Kalm section also introduces a card game called Queen’s Blood. It’s a little like Gwent from The Witcher 3, but there is a chess-like positional element that adds more strategy to the proceedings. The end goal is still to have a higher total on each row than your opponent, but there are different ways to influence that end total and to block an opponent from “scoring.”
It feels like we only scratched the surface of Queen’s Blood but it certainly seems like a mini-game that plenty of players will be sinking tons of hours into. There will be new cards to collect, NPCs to challenge throughout the game, and even quests that revolve around Queen’s Blood. If this deceptively simple card game is just the tip of the iceberg, then those 100+ hour completion estimates for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth seem realistic.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s Massive Open Areas
In our first preview for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, we had the chance to see a small portion of an open area in the game that, while not completely open world, offered a chance to explore on a scale not seen in Remake. But that open area now feels extremely small compared to the Grasslands in our second preview.
After being forced out of Kalm by Shinra forces, Cloud and the party head out into the Grasslands, where there is a ton to do. There is obviously a main story marker to direct you towards the critical path, but every few seconds a different thing would catch my eye. There were different enemies to fight, sub areas to explore, chests to find, and more.
None of that exploration feels tedious either, thanks in large part to the addition of chocobos as mounts. Players can easily traverse large sections of the Grasslands and look for points of interest, avoiding the pitfalls that come with too much reliance on fast travel. The area feels BIG, and that’s without being able to fully explore the Grasslands due to time constraints.
Staggeringly, the open Grasslands feel like they open even more as players continue to explore it. After meeting fan-favorite Chadley, Rebirth players will be shown towers on the map, which activate new objectives throughout the Grasslands. It’s not a fully open world, but it’s as close to one that Final Fantasy has offered in its history.
Combat is still as fast and frenetic as it has ever been, and those synergy abilities add a nice wrinkle to the strategy. After spending a considerable amount of time with the more character action-focused Final Fantasy 16, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has a lot more of that JRPG DNA running underneath its design systems, and being able to fully control Red XIII was a real treat.
Still, for all that excitement this Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth preview generated, there are still questions lingering about how this game will follow or subvert fans’ expectations. The Square Enix developers told us that the choice of Rebirth as the subtitle is to highlight that this game is delivering something new, but how new is unclear. There is a certain sequence in the original, for example, that everyone is curious to see how Rebirth puts its own spin on.
Luckily, the wait isn’t long at all for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and if this preview is any indication, the dev team has taken the baton of Remake and ran with it. But rather than simply giving fans more of the first game’s formula, the team is taking feedback into account and injecting Rebirth with a lot of the exploration elements that the original game had. It’s a recipe that is sure to add up to something bigger and more expansive, and hopefully just as emotionally devastating as the original was.
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is the highly-anticipated continuation of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The story will continue to follow Cloud Strife and may even see appearances from Zack Fair.
- PlayStation 5
- February 29, 2024
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth releases February 29, 2024 for PS5. Game Rant was provided travel accommodations for this preview.