Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Review: The intense, emotional rollercoaster ride we were hoping it would be

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth delivers on an emotional level that I was not ready for (Image via Square Enix)

Ahead of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s launch, I’ve had the opportunity to play through the game in its entirety. Once I started, the game completely took over my life - any time I wasn’t streaming, working, or resting, I was exploring the world of Gaia. It’s such a huge change from the grim darkness of Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s Midgard. There’s so much more to it than the hopelessness that gets crushed into the citizens of the slums.

This review will contain no spoilers of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, so have no fear of that. I can tell you that it’s incredible and has never been far from my thoughts since I put it down. This is the most emotional game I’ve played in a significant amount of time and it has affected me deep down.

It stirred memories of me being in high school and FF7's first release on the PSX. Although I still preferred to play Final Fantasy 6 at the time, this game captured my attention for years to come. Many of those wonderful moments play out again for me in ways I didn’t expect.


Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth continues from where FF7 Remake left off and improves it

Kalm is but one of the many places you can visit (Image via Square Enix)
Kalm is but one of the many places you can visit (Image via Square Enix)

While I enjoyed Final Fantasy 7 Remake a great deal, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is an improvement in every conceivable way. From combat mechanics to ways the party can grow stronger to the various mini-games scattered throughout the world, Square Enix delivered on the presentation and mechanics alike. I said as much in my 2023 preview of the game, but I didn’t really understand until I got hands-on with the full build.

Without going deep into the story, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth takes place directly after the events of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The previous game ended with an incredible battle that had significant consequences not just for the citizens of Midgard but beyond. The party is, however, free of the shackles of the city and is free to explore the world. Sephiroth is still out there, and the hunt continues.

Even in flashbacks, Sephiroth is incredibly dangerous (Image via Square Enix)
Even in flashbacks, Sephiroth is incredibly dangerous (Image via Square Enix)

Players will go on an unforgettable, emotional journey across the world of Gaia as they search for ex-SOLDIER. I won’t discuss the various story beats you will encounter because I want to preserve those first-time moments for your own playthrough, but I can promise that fans of the franchise will not be disappointed.

Cloud can also grow emotionally closer to his allies in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. As they experience situations together, complete side quests, and chat with one another, that bond level can grow - or decrease, as I found out later in the game.

The world of Gaia is open and ready for you to explore in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. Many of the story beats are going to feel incredibly familiar to you if you played the original game, but there are some really cool surprises along the way. If you want a peek before the game launches, you can even play the demo on PlayStation 5.


Goodbye Weapon Skill Trees, Hello Folios and Synergy Abilities

Synergy Abilities and Synergy Skills are great ways to mix things up in combat (Image via Square Enix)
Synergy Abilities and Synergy Skills are great ways to mix things up in combat (Image via Square Enix)

I was not the biggest fan of the Weapon Skill Trees in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, so to see it simplified in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth was such a treat. Now, instead of navigating a Final Fantasy 13-esque series of skills, each weapon has skill slots. As you pick up new weapons and increase your weapon level, you can slot in new options - this goes for every character.

Don’t worry, though - fans of skill trees aren’t going to be left hanging in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. There’s a new system that gives players lots of options to grow and make unique builds - the Folio System. This gets introduced early and will be a lengthy skill tree that gives you more options as your Party Level increases.

There are some truly dangerous foes out there (Image via Square Enix)
There are some truly dangerous foes out there (Image via Square Enix)

This is where you find new Synergy Abilities, Limit Breaks, and other stat growth. Synergy Skills are awesome new team-up moves the party can use together by activating them in your menu. Using ATB commands that have a specific icon builds your synergy, and when two characters have enough, they can use these.

I’m a huge fan of Synergy Abilities in Final Fantasy 7. They really shake up combat, allowing players to use more than just Attack, Dodge, and ATB abilities. There’s a huge variety of them to choose from as you go through the Folios of each character. On top of that, the animations just look amazing. There also exists Synergy Skills that can be activated with a button press combination - these are more reactive, counter-hit abilities.


Combat in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has vastly improved over the previous game

Combat in this game feels so much more enjoyable (Image via Square Enix)
Combat in this game feels so much more enjoyable (Image via Square Enix)

The characters returning from Final Fantasy7 Remake play exactly as you remember them from the previous game. In fact, many of their ATB skills come back, which I appreciate. After all, they did have access to them in the last game. There’s no explanation for everyone's levels dropping, but it didn’t matter to me.

Combat is still fast and furious, but, as you can see, there are plenty of new options for combat. It feels like you build Limit Meter faster, and you have reaction abilities, Synergy Abilities, and lots of new Materia to explore.

Though I did keep Cloud as my party leader for the whole game - or as much as possible - there are times you must control other characters. You can make whichever party member you want the main character and control them instead. That’s such a huge change, and it makes the rest of the party feel more important, more useful.


The world (of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth) is your oyster

The world is vast and beautiful (Image via Square Enix)
The world is vast and beautiful (Image via Square Enix)

Sure, you can just push the story forward in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, but why would you want to? There is much to see and do in the world of Gaia. Each region has its own flavor of chocobo to pick up, sidequests to complete, and mini-games to experience. The world is beautiful - even the most dour and depressing areas offer something majestic to admire.

It’s worth your time to explore the whole of each region, but one thing I noticed and obsessed over is that some parts of the map simply cannot be explored. No matter how hard I tried in my 100 hours of gameplay, there were just areas I couldn’t get to. That’s perfectly fine, but it frustrated me in the early parts of the game as I tried to figure out if I could somehow return to those spots.

That doesn’t change that the world and the many ways you can explore it aren’t incredible. Each time I reached a new region of the world, the first thing I did was explore as deep and far as I could. There are hidden bosses, interesting lore information, and plenty of secrets in the wilderness. So, sure, you could just skip all that stuff, but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to.


Mini-games, mini-games, everywhere

Queen's Blood is an amazing way to kill time and practice strategy (Image via Square Enix)
Queen's Blood is an amazing way to kill time and practice strategy (Image via Square Enix)

On that topic, there are so many cool things you can do in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. I think one of my favorites I didn’t spend enough time doing was Queen’s Blood. It’s essentially a collectible card game where you have three lanes and are trying to score the most points in each lane.

Some mini-games uncover some very interesting secrets, but I won't reveal them in this review. Throughout Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, you will uncover a wide assortment of mini-games - each with its own great reward.

The story of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth can often be quite heavy, so having things to take a break with is important. Whether you want to race chocobos, play the piano, or help out Moogles, there’s plenty going on. Although, on that topic, while I love that you can collect and play piano music, I do wish the UI was designed for it just a little differently. I found it awkward to look at the left side of the screen constantly, but maybe that’s just me.


Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is visually stunning, paired with an unforgettable soundtrack

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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s graphics are nothing short of gorgeous. It is a breathtaking game in every sense of the word, and I found myself stunned every time I went to a new area. Each biome felt fresh and made sense.

The character designs were fantastic, and the world itself was remarkable. Yes, they are still using yellow paint markers to denote where you can and can’t climb, but it makes sense. I’d rather have that than aimlessly try to climb a pile of rocks for 15 minutes only to realize that it’s impossible.

The various remixes and reimaginings of the Final Fantasy 7 OST were also in full effect. I was blown away by several pieces in particular, but I’ll leave those for you to discover. However, I would have loved to hear an excerpt from my favorite Final Fantasy concept album in this game - Mega Ran’s Black Materia.


In conclusion

FF7 Rebirth is a must-play game (Image via Square Enix)
FF7 Rebirth is a must-play game (Image via Square Enix)

Even when I thought I knew what was going to happen in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, or I was completely sure of the next story beat, more often than not, I was surprised. With familiar faces returning and completely new characters popping up to influence the series of events that unfolded, I was never disappointed.

There were moments I wish were explained better, but I feel that was done to breadcrumb and leave a trail for the next game. My emotions were certainly stirred by the writing, character development, and storyline for Rebirth. I cannot recommend this game enough. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is, by every metric, a masterpiece.


Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is a masterpiece and worth the dozens of hours you'll spend on it (Image via Sportskeeda)
Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is a masterpiece and worth the dozens of hours you'll spend on it (Image via Sportskeeda)

Platform: PlayStation 5

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5 (Code provided by Square Enix)

Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Release date: February 29, 2024

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Edited by Adarsh J Kumar
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