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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth (PS5) Review

March 22, 2024 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Image Credit: Squaresoft
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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth (PS5) Review  

I’ll admit, I have a real love/hate relationship with the Final Fantasy franchise, and find Final Fantasy 7 to be fairly mixed. I can appreciate the original game but really enjoyed the Remake from a few years ago. It had some small issues but on the whole it was great. Rebirth is a bit of a paradox then since it is better in some ways and worse in others, creating a somewhat uneven experience.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth pretty much starts off where Remake ends. With, Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Aerith and Red XIII finally leaving Midgar, to stop Shinra and to put an end to Sephiroth. Along the way, they meet new allies, face new enemies, explore new regions of the map and so on.

Right from the get go, this is a very different game from Remake, at least in terms of the foundation. While Remake did have a few more open areas to it, generally speaking, it was a fairly linear game. Each of the bigger areas might have a few side quests or mini-games to do, it was usually just about getting from point A to point B, while seeing Midgar realized in stunning detail.

Rebirth is not like this. For one, while it still does have the main story objective for you to do, it is much more of an open-world game. There are literal tower that you can climb, to turn on, and once on, they reveal more activities for you to go and complete. It is THAT type of open-world game.

There are 6 regions for you to explore in Rebirth: Grasslands (right outside of Midgar), Junon, Corel (Gold Saucer also), Gongaga, Cosmo Canyon and finally Nibel. Each region generally has the same things to complete: at least four towers to turn on, 12 combat challenges to do, three summon crystals to find, four Lifesprings to find and four Protorelics to uncover. The last region, Nibel, gets a bit of a short shrift here, but it’s only condensed a bit, mainly because the plot actually has to get going.

All of these are “side” things but a few of them are pretty necessary. It’s necessary for you to hunt down all the towers, so they unlock more of the map. Or it’s necessary for you to hunt down the summon crystals, to lower the summon fights difficulty (necessary to get their Materia), I would even say it’s necessary to find the Lifesprings stuff, since it nets you a bunch of crafting materials every time you do it. The combat assignments and Protorelic stuff isn’t more ancillary but still can be helpful. Believe me, I’ll get into the Protorelic stuff below.

Combat in Rebirth plays a lot like in Remake but with a few changes. The big addition here is a the Synergy system. This is broken down into two parts.

The first part is that as you use build up and use certain ATB commands, you’ll basically gain a Synergy pip. When two characters have the same number of pips, usually three or more, you can use a Synergy ability, that you’ve unlocked from the Folio (skill) menu. These are basically team-up attacks between two characters that in addition to doing a fair amount of damage to an enemy, also confer a bonus for a period of time. These bonuses include temporarily increasing the ATB bar from two segments to three, granting unlimited MP or increasing your limit break level.

The second part is with the Synergy Skills. Now R1 allows you go guard against attacks but it also brings up the Skills menu. You can partner with another character with the press of a button and it’ll either be an offensive attack, or a defensive move. Each character kind of has their own preference when it comes to this stuff, Cloud can do different types of attacks when paired with characters for offensive, while on defense he can counter ranged attacks and retaliate with a melee one. Or Cait Sith can team up with certain characters for attacks, while his defensive skill is being a body guard for one of the weaker characters.

Honestly, I never used the Synergy Skills much. They always felt too slow to get out and use effectively. I also never quite got the timing down to guard well in this game, so that didn’t help matters. The Synergy Abilities, on the other hand, I found a lot more useful. You can build up the ATB bars pretty quickly, if you are playing well, so you can have access to fun abilities to further enhance your characters during a battle.

The rest of the battle system is largely unchanged from Remake, although now you have access to playing with Yuffie, Red XIII and Cait Sith. Yuffie is a very quick character, able to clone herself and do damage close in but also ranged. Red XIII is much more of a melee character, that can enter a special state when he takes enough guarded damage, which increases his damage output. Finally, Cait Sith is a bit of an interesting character. He’s pretty short ranged, dealing damage with his megaphone, but can summon the Moogle to take a lot of damage and increase his mobility by a lot. Then he can use the randomized luck stuff, like dice rolls and slots, to deal damage or help the party.

The main combat loop is largely the same though as from the prior game. Deal some damage, Assess (scan) the enemy, figure out its weak points or best how to Pressure them. Once Pressured, keep up the attack until they are Staggered. When a foe is Staggered they will take increased damage for a short while wherein you will really want to lay down your powerful moves and spells. Rinse & repeat until the foe is vanquished.

Going back to earlier about side content, there are also side quests for you to do in Rebirth. A lot of these boil down to “Go here, collect this item/kill these enemies” but it does help flesh out the world some. It also helps that four of the six areas that you get to explore are a real joy to spend time in. They are pretty wide open areas, using the Chocobo (or other vehicles) to get around in, is fun, and they are interesting. The other two areas, Gongaga and Cosmo Canyon are pretty bad. Gongaga is a big forest maze, filled with mushroom jumps that barely make any sense. Cosmo Canyon, on the surface, seems interesting, until you realize you have to use these gliding paths to find anything and it becomes very frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating, it’s time to bring up the mini-games and other side stuff. There are about 20 different mini-games in Rebirth and while some are great, some are tedious, if not outright bad. Great ones include Chocobo Racing, the Piano stuff, and Desert Rush. Bad ones are the “Glide de Chocobo”, Gears and Gambits, and Cactaur Crush, to name but a few. I’m sure everyone’s mileage here will differ but a lot of these mini-games just aren’t fun and the fact that almost all of them have “hard” variants that are required for the platinum trophy, means that I’ll never get a platinum trophy.

While this is a side thing, one activity that I should point out specifically is Queen’s Blood. This is a new card game for you to do that requires you to create a deck, battle against other players in the world, unlock new cards, and unravel the mystery of the game. This is less of a mini-game, and more of its own separate campaign, complete with a story. At first, I didn’t quite understand it, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually, and will begin wiping the floor with the other players.

Remember I mentioned the Protorelic stuff? Well, that’s were a good chunk of the bad mini-games falls into. Now, half of these are basically just “Go to this area, and fight some enemies” which is fine. But three of them, specifically the Junon, Corel and Cosmo Canyon ones, are tied to three of the more awful mini-games: Fort Condor, Cactaur Crush and Gears and Gambits. There is kind of a cool payoff for finding these items, but man, is it annoying to do, even on normal mode.

On the topic of annoying, I’ll bring up the Materia system. Now, in function, it’s pretty much the same as before, you can buy general material from vending machines, while you have to craft specialized material from Chadley (by doing the side content), or buying some Materia from a few specialized vendors.

Now, here is a practical example of this dreary system. Pretty early on, you are able to craft a hybrid “Fire and Ice” Materia from Chadley. This gives you access to both fire and ice spells, which you can rank up the more times you use the Materia. Later on, you can also get a “Wind and Lightning” Materia, which is the same thing, just with those elements. However, you only get ONE of these Materia for your entire playthrough of the game. Just one Fire & Ice, and one Wind & Lightning. Why is this? Who thought this was a good idea? From the second you unlock these Materia, they should be added to the pool of items that the vending machines sell, so you can buy 7 of each, slap them on each of your characters, and get on with it.

By having this system, it just included a LOT more busywork than is necessary. I mainly had both these Materia with Cloud, since he is the guy I had in my party 90% of the time, but there are some story sequences where you play as the other characters, including having boss battles with these characters. So when I’m forced to do a long section where I play as only Red XIII and Barret, I have to go into the Materia menu, and find those two Materia, and slap them on someone. Then when I regain my main party, re-put on the Materia I had taken off earlier.

I think my overall biggest problem with Rebirth is that while it is a grand adventure in the big ways, it doesn’t respect your time in the small ways. Like, the big story beats work, the battles are (mostly) enjoyable, and it is on a scale that Final Fantasy 16 could only dream of. However, it gets too bogged down with non-fun stuff, even if you are trying to mainline the quest, parts of the game are a real slog.

I legitimately got stuck during the Cait Sith part of the game where you have to explore Shinra Manner. His gimmick is that he can roll around inside vents to traverse floors and also summon the Moogle to help him chuck boxes around. There are puzzles where you have to throw boxes at certain switches to open doors or allow for travel between vents. I got stuck about halfway through it, faced with a lock vent I had no idea how to open. I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out what to do, ready to open a guide, before I realized that you could throw a box from the third floor, to the first, to open the lock. This wasn’t telegraphed at all in the game and a hint would have been nice.

While I didn’t get stuck on it, there was an earlier section where you control Barret after he confronts someone from his past. After the confrontation, you are being chased by Shinra solders and helicopters, where you (as Barret), are sitting in the back of a pickup truck, that you don’t control, as it drives around a desert. Your goal is to keep the truck operational, blow up the guys on motorcycles and the helicopter shooting at you. I died twice to this thing, before I was allowed to get through it. The game routinely stops your progress with superfluous stuff that could either be eliminated, or at least made a lot easier.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
While epic in scope, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth manages to make a lot of the small moments work as well. Combat is improved over Remake, there is oodles of side content for you to partake in and a large, open world for you to explore. However, parts of the pacing are a bit off and there are some real quality of life things that aren’t implemented well. Still, even more than Remake, this is an accomplishment for Square and is mandatory for almost any fan of their games. Now, they just have to get a remake of Ehrgeiz going.