Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review

Final Fantasy Rebirth Header

Final Fantasy VII Remake was undoubtedly a huge success, somehow pulling off a complete remake and partial rewrite of one of the most beloved games in history. There are a lot of dyed in the wool fans, not only of this franchise but of Final Fantasy VII in particular, and to say they are heavily invested would be an understatement. As good as Remake was, there was one key criticism that was always circled back to: linearity. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth goes a long way to address this core complaint. If anything, there’s been a sharp overcorrection.

First things first: this game is utterly spectacular. It looks and sounds incredible; while there were early complaints about the graphics with the Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth demo, the day-one patch helps address some of the worst issues. Don’t worry about what you’ve read or played before today; the full game looks incredible.

The visuals are also accompanied by the phenomenal orchestration that we have come to love and expect. Again, there’s not much to complain about here — they even went a step further and added a mini-game where you get to play the piano. But that’s where the game starts to feel a little, well, bloated.

Remake was notoriously linear — set in the sprawling city of Midgar, it was never going to be full of big, open fields. Rebirth quickly gets you out into the Grasslands outside Kalm and tells you to put one foot in front of the other and see what you can find.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Chocobo open world

This first sprawling area is choc full of things to do, from fixing chocobo stops to climbing towers to treasure hunting to scanning crystals to hunting summons. That’s not even including the side-missions where you wrangle chocobos, fix windmills or other such things that are totally normal for a mercenary.

Most of this is done at the behest Chadley (your cyborg friend from Remake), and it’s so overbearing that if you do it all in one slog it starts to feel like the game isn’t so much about Cloud, but a different blond with a limited emotional range whose name begins with the letter ‘C’.

But then you remember that all of this is optional; you don’t have to do it, it just adds to the experience. It’s the age old question of the ideal cupcake-to-frosting ratio. The answer, really, is that if there’s too much frosting for you, you can simply wipe it off and leave it on the plate. Not everything is for everyone — unless you’re reviewing the game, of course, because I still think that Fort Condor is bloody awful.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Chocobo minigames

Eating all that proverbial frosting rewards you with research points that you can trade for powerful and unique Materia, such as Fire and Ice, so these missions and tasks are well worth doing. It’s also worth noting that while the game alternates between open-world and linear chapters, such as a corridor through a mine to get you from Kalm to Junon, you can always return to pick up things you missed should you wish to do so. Since you can do things at your own speed this really helps improve the game’s pacing. Didn’t do everything at the Gold Saucer the first time around? No worries, you can come back to it later.

Another addition to Rebirth worth mentioning is the Folio and Synergy systems that augment character growth and combat. Folios are the quintessential upgrade tree for each character — level up or buy certain items to get SP, then use that to unlock new perks and the new Synergy Abilities. These abilities are charged through the course of a battle — usually costing three ATB charges per character — and when unleashed can help turn the tide of battle. Cloud, for example, can ride Cait Sith’s Moogle into battle, or Barret can hurl Tifa at the enemy, Advent Children-style. However, given how expensive they are, they’re only really relevant in boss fights as smaller skirmishes are over way before you can fire them off — even if you resort to using Haste and Cure six times.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Chocobo Synergy

These are joined by Synergy Skills, which help charge your ATB by using special actions where two characters work together, generally to block an incoming attack. Aerith can call on Cloud as a teleporting bodyguard to absorb a hit, or Barret can stand back-to-back with another character to help both fight more effectively. These are all nice, and welcome additions to the game, and it’s cute that using a Synergy Ability for the first time will improve Cloud’s relationship with whoever he works together with. Yes, even Cloud and Tifa get a kick out of coming up with a new, flashy, special move.

Onto the actual narrative and there’s understandable trepidation about what Square Enix is going to do with such a beloved title. Change is, after all, scary. Thankfully this middle chapter’s plot has been executed with such a deft hand, it is quite simply a masterpiece. The additional backstory fleshes out things that the PS1-era original simply couldn’t, the characters are beautifully written, and you just can’t help but buy-in totally to everything that’s going on. Bits of it are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, while others are tense, dramatic and heart-wrenching.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is a masterclass in how to retell a story. It is Final Fantasy for a new generation, and it is expertly crafted in many ways.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Chocobo Story

That said, the game still isn’t perfect. There are issues with loading times being that little bit too long despite the PS5’s usual game loading prowess, we had a few crashes while playing the game, and — a personal favourite of mine — world objects are curiously weightless. If you sprint into a room you should expect to boot the leather armchair into space, only to have it ricochet off the head of the nearest NPC. Cloud is strong as a SOLDIER, but that’s a little ridiculous, and it’s something that dents the game’s immersion.

While there’s certain things to quibble over, there’s so much more here that we could praise. The new Golden Saucer looks phenomenal, the new locations you visit are great additions and certain scenes play out so beautifully that it makes you excited to press on and see what happens next. That’s true of both this game, and of the years long wait that we now have for the concluding entry in this trilogy.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a beautifully crafted experience that fans old and new will absolutely love. It almost goes too far in correcting the first game's linearity with broad open areas stuffed with things to do, but there's also key additions to the combat, and the story running through this middle chapter is masterfully retold. Really the biggest problem you'll have once the credits roll is knowing that it will be far too many years before we can finish the trilogy.
  • Almost flawless execution of both pacing and story
  • Lots of excellent mini-games and side missions
  • It looks and sounds sublime
  • Plenty of dull mini-games
  • The game feels bloated at times
  • Weightless objects, slow loading and other immersion-breaking niggles
Written by
Barely functional Pokémon Go player. Journalist. Hunter of Monster Hunter monsters. Drinks more coffee than Alan Wake.