Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth Review — Ahead on Our Way

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is a masterclass in modernizing one of the most important games ever made, even if its reach sometimes exceeds its grasp.

To say my feelings on Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth are complicated is to do a disservice to the concept. There’s so much here I love and the number of times I found myself yelling at the screen, hoping that the characters heard me is too damn high.

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Yet there are other parts of the experience that grate on me. Moreover, I can’t fully explain everything in this review or express those feelings simply for legal reasons. But that’s what we’re here to do, and so I shall try.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth Story — One That Transcends Time

Cloud and Sephiroth on Mt. Nibel in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

I first played the original Final Fantasy VII not long after its release in 1997. I then played it again at least a few dozen times. It was all I wanted to do, all I thought about. That was true even if I didn’t fully comprehend more than 30% of it. Now, all these years later, the story is as powerful as ever — more so, maybe, for those who never played the classic.

I found myself anticipating powerful moments, or seeing how they’ve been updated or changed in this reimagining. Short of discussing anything in particular, I can say unequivocally that Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth nails far more of the important beats than it misses. I don’t agree with some changes. But my main gripe is a lack of punch to the new title that the classic got away with.

Some of these changes are to keep the game at a “T” rating. If you’re a veteran of the 1997 original, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth hits the notes it needs to hit. I honestly can’t begin to think of how some things will affect newcomers in 2024. Part of the fun for me was the expectation.

I will say that the Rebirth‘s story is just as meaningful as the one players experienced years ago. The moments that choked me up as a kid still do today, and some struck me much harder with the benefit of age and experience. The recent loss of my father especially informed some of my responses to the roughest story beats.

In short, the story of Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is just as human, just as relevant, and just as moving today as it was on the PlayStation 1. Whatever updates it’s seen are respectful of the original game’s vision, even as they hope to expand upon it.

FFVII: Rebirth Gameplay — A Mechanical Masterpiece and Mismatch

Combat mechanics in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

Translating Final Fantasy VII‘s combat and world design to a modern setting with modern sensibilities and hardware is impossible. The turned-based combat, deep Materia customization, and massive open world all ask too much for even the PS5 to handle. However, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth does more than its level best to bring this world into the current age.

Combat is more complex than it is in Remake. There are tons of optimizations, important additions, and new characters to add to your roster. There’s more weapon variety, more Materia to master, and more ways to fight than ever before. The Synergy Ability system and the expanded combat repertoire make customization and combat more fun and frenetic than I could have hoped for.

In more than 60 hours playing Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, I know I hardly scratched the surface of what’s possible with combat. Between the new characters and returning ones getting new mechanics, there’s so much to learn.

Sephiroth and Cloud preparing a Synergy Ability in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

Sadly, the AI in Rebirth isn’t much better than it is in Remake. Any character you aren’t controlling doesn’t add quite as much to the fight until you swap to them. Micromanaging each character’s abilities in real time is frustrating at times. And while I rarely lost a fight because of my NPC allies, I always wanted them to be more competent than they were.

I could continue praising the combat in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, but I can’t really do so for its world or quest design. The open world doesn’t have the same “Wow” factor as a Red Dead Redemption 2 or Elden Ring. It’s not a poorly designed world. But neither does it go above and beyond what you might find in most other games of the genre. Activities are fairly bog standard, many of them reasons to start a fight or engage with some side content. I am glad that everything is in service of exploration, and there’s always something interesting on the horizon. I was just hoping for a bit more out of the world than I got.

The quests in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, especially the side content, are kind of a mess. Some of it’s incredibly fun or wacky (or both), but some of it’s just mechanically boring. Some quests follow the same structure, and they aren’t good the first time. So doing them again and again isn’t particularly engaging. I’m sorry to say this extends to some story missions as well. Though, those are generally better experiences overall.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth Music, Mania, and Memories

The first step into the open world of Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

One of the defining aspects of any Final Fantasy game is the music, and Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth delivers on every front. The iconic tracks are all here, and there are usually three or four different variations of each for different situations.

I caught myself praising a remix out loud more than once. And I was consistently impressed by how faithful the music is while still using the wider soundscape modern hardware allows. Honestly, I recommend heading onto your favorite music service and listening to some of the songs from the original FFVII and 2020’s Remake before you play Rebirth to appreciate it all.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is also a game that’s not afraid to be utterly ridiculous at every opportunity. The main story has a fairly consistent tone, but if you go off the beaten narrative path (and you really should), there are some downright silly things you can do. If you consider side content part of the story, Rebirth is a massive tonal mess.

That issue isn’t unique to Rebirth, however. Even Red Dead Redemption 2, which has probably the best world I’ve played, has optional content that makes the main story make almost zero sense. I’m looking at you, Valentine bank robbery side quest.

These incongruities aside, I think the best part of Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is the memories it helped me recapture and the new ones it made. Part of the fun for me was in trying to anticipate what was coming, but also in the surprises I knew had to be there. And surprises there are, indeed, whether they be boss fights, music tracks, or alterations and expansions on the story that I know I would treasure as much as the originals.

For me, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is the second step on a journey to the perfect Final Fantasy VII game. Everything is here from Remake, evolved and improved, but with a few rough edges that need addressing. There’s’ a lot left to do following the final scene, and I can’t wait to see what part three of this amazing trilogy brings.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth Review — The Bottom Line

Sephiroth standing in fire in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

Pros

  • A mostly faithful recreation of an iconic story that finds ways to expand on the source material.
  • Amazing combat that’s bigger, better, and more fluid than in Remake, and just as enjoyable.
  • S-tier music and minigames. So many minigames.

Cons

  • Suffers from tired open-world design trappings.
  • Tonal disconnects and uneven pacing.
  • A beautiful, if relatively empty, world.

Whether you’re new to Final Fantasy VII or played the original a hundred times like I did, Rebirth is more than worth your time and money. It’s a fantastic game and a worthy successor to the 1997 classic, even if it struggles with some modern game design foibles.

[Note: Square Enix provided the PS5 copy of Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth used for this review.]

9
Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth Review — Ahead on Our Way
Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is a masterclass in modernizing one of the most important games ever made, even if its reach sometimes exceeds its grasp.

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Author
John Schutt
John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.