Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Hands-on Preview

It’s been over 3 years since Final Fantasy VII Remake was released, and for many, it was a promise fulfilled that looked to further the story of Cloud and the gang as a trilogy. It was, without question, a well-received effort, and the wait for the next entry has become unbearable.

Ahead of its February 2024 launch, I got the chance to play almost an hour’s worth of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth gameplay during Tokyo Game Show 2023, and needless to say, the hype is definitely real, with the next few months being an excruciating wait as we slowly approach its release.

Related – Read our Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Interview with Director Naoki Hamaguchi

The Final Fantasy VII Rebirth demo we tried was split into two parts: the first of which was The Open Wilds of Junon and The Fated Mt. Nibel Mission. The Open Wilds of Junon featured a story-focused party mission that had Red XIII as a playable character and showcased many of the new features, such as synergy abilities. In contrast, The Fated Mt. Nibel Mission had a playable Sephiroth (nuff said). It’s pretty exciting stuff, so let’s review them one at a time.

The Open Wilds of Junon opens up with the party doing some light exploration on Chocobos, and yes, even Red XIII hops on for an awkward but silly ride. It’s immediately noticeable that Chocobos in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth aren’t simply for navigation, as they have a couple of commands that players have at their disposal. Players can use the scour or scent commands to interact with the environment, offering curious players a chance at rewards or even a challenge with fiends in the immediate vicinity.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth chocobo screenshot 1

While I didn’t get to explore much of the open fields due to a trickling time limit, it was clear to see that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will allow players to look around and navigate a much wider area than the Remake. There’s much to see and even more to uncover, as players can even unlock a Chocobo customization feature by following a baby Chocobo while wandering about.

Straight to the battle I went, and it was against the dreaded Terror of the Deep, which can trap party members in a bubble that can render them useless unless they are freed. I’m quickly introduced to a new feature in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth which is the Synergy Ability. Director Hamaguchi talked about this in a recent interview, saying that they are strategic abilities that can activate when a special gauge is charged up, allowing players to pull off powerful attacks against foes and will differ based on your party composition.

Additionally, we finally get to see Red XIII in action, and he plays pretty much like a melee fighter would. Red XIII requires players to get up close and personal with the opponent, slicing them with his sharp claws. He has a unique system called the Vengeance Mode, which charges up as he blocks enemy attacks. Once full, he can unleash special offensive or defensive abilities that give him quite a unique skill set that can cater to offensive or defensive-minded players.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth synergy ability screenshot 1

The Fated Mt. Nibel Mission in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is pretty much a Sephiroth special, and we’ll admit that Cloud is pretty much relegated to a side snack against the silver-haired main course. Sephiroth’s movements and swordplay are slick and fit for a master swordsman. He slices enemies with thrusts and rapid swings, making his normal attacks as interesting to watch as his special abilities.

During the demo, Sephiroth isn’t simply a companion, but can actually be controlled. He’s as awesome to control as you’d expect him to be, and his abilities are ultra-flashy. Sephiroth can also perform a Synergy Ability with Cloud called Double Helix, resulting in a flurry of slashes that can dispose of enemies in an explosion of light and effects.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth sephiroth synergy ability

During my Mt. Nibel ascent, I was introduced to some rock-climbing traversal as well as a simple puzzle that required me to move around what was basically a giant vacuum to clear the air of deadly Mako gas to proceed to the next area, which culminated in a battle against the Materia Guardian, a boss that is highly mobile and will require players to focus on attacking its legs to cripple it for major damage.

Outside of these new features, battles generally play out the same way as the Remake, and that’s not such a bad thing. The departure from a fully turn-based affair, which was introduced in the remake, was a divisive approach but ultimately something that was generally lauded and resulted in fast-paced gameplay with strategic sprinkles in between.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth sephiroth menu

With almost an hour of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth gameplay under my belt, it’s clear to see why this entry in the upcoming trilogy is highly anticipated. Outside of the thrilling combat sequences and focus on more exploration compared to the Remake, the mystery surrounding how the story will unfold is certainly one of the biggest questions. Will Aerith see a different fate? What is Zack’s role in the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth story? Why do we have to wait until next year?

Whatever the case may be, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is coming in hot and ready for the limelight as it launches on February 29, 2024, for the PS5.

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