Games I Play: Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth

I recently finished the second game in the unbelievably ambitious Final Fantasy VII remake series of games, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth. In a way that only Square Enix can, the naming is of course ridiculous but how was the game? I’ll save you reading the rest of the post if you want: I absolutely loved it. Let’s get in to why!

Rebirth picks the story up where Remake (and its DLC, Intermission) left off. Talking at length about the story of Final Fantasy VII would probably be silly given that it’s one of the most popular video games of all time. However, Rebirth does give more depth to it, introduces new and interesting characters, and does some other things you should probably find out for yourself. Compared to Remake, the interactions between your party members actually felt like a step up while the story is a bit more dislodged and spread out due to how the game is structured.

Speaking of structure, that’s probably the big new thing: Rebirth is a semi-open-world game where Remake was more linear. I often hate open world games with their incessant use of map markers, towers, and collectables. Those are all here in Rebirth, too, but since I’m very fond of the original Final Fantasy VII it felt much more rewarding running around its world. Yes, there are some mundane quests and towers to activate, but there’s also fun exploration and the most beautiful vistas I’ve seen in a game in a long time. The AI boy Chadley is back and this time he desperately wants you to visit all map markers to gather intel. While he’s just as annoying as he was in Remake, at least it gives some context to the “go here, do that”.

I was particularly impressed by how each area really looks and feels different. Different biomes, different verticality, different modes of transportation—it all felt alive. The jungles of Gongaga became a personal favorite, perhaps because of the catchy song that’s playing there. In fact the entire soundtrack is spectacular. The arrangements mingle perfectly with the new track and Nobuo Uematsu’s original compositions feel more “powered up” than “changed”.

Battles work the same way as in Remake and the battle system has grown on me since the last time. The skill ceiling is very high and it rewards you putting in the work (which I didn’t do and sometimes had to put the difficulty to Easy so I could relax). Materia is still great and the new playable characters all feel unique in battle. I tried to stick to my core trio of Cloud, Yuffie, and Red XIII but whenever the story called for controlling someone else it turned out way more fun than I thought it would.

Beyond the core gameplay, Rebirth is absolutely riddled with mini-games. If you’ve played the original Final Fantasy VII this does probably not come as a surprise. Indeed, I consider the existence of an abundance of mini-games as a core feature of the Final Fantasy series. Here Rebirth really delivers the goods. I was completely hooked on the new card game Queen’s Blood, spent way too much time at the Gold Saucer, and cleared just about every mini-game related challenge in the game. Some people would have you believe it’s a bad thing with these “distractions”, but those people are sad and miserable humans that don’t like video games so it’s best just to ignore them.

There’s a lot more to say about this game, but I’d rather get to the point: Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth was a fantastic experience and you really should play it. If you have fond memories of the original, even better. It also improves on Remake in almost every way and is both a respectful and imaginative take on one of the best games ever made.

Things I liked:

  • A gorgeous and compelling re-imagining of old pixels and polygons from 1997
  • Spectacular soundtrack
  • A metric fuckton of mini-games, almost all of them fun to play
  • Great characters, both old and new
  • Challenging and deep battle system
  • The open areas were very cleverly laid out, with plenty of secrets to discover
  • Thinking “yeah, they probably didn’t keep this from the original” only to be proven wrong

Things I didn’t like:

  • Gathering lifestream essence in a late part of the game was a clunky chore
  • Activating towers felt unnecessarily tacked on
  • Chadley’s a bit of an annoying dork
  • Story pacing is a bit wonky—but then again, it also was in the original

So, one more time for the people in the back: the game’s good and you should play it. Now the long, painful wait for the third and final part begins…