I’d like to call myself an expert in Final Fantasy 7. Better than any other preview writer you’re likely to read, anyway. In the original, not only had I attained every character’s ultimate weapon and limit break, but I also vanquished both Ruby and even Emerald Weapon. The original’s massive boss with a whopping 1,000,000 HP. How I did this was by pulling off impossible tricks exclusive only to the original. The stuff that kids have completely forgotten about that I still remember looking up on GameFAQs as a kid.
There were things like the infinite regen glitch where if you popped open your original PlayStation disk loader, it would freeze the game. Then there was The Lucky 7 attack that stacked for a whopping nearly half a million in damage with my 64-hit combo with Tifa. Infinite elixirs? You bet. Knights of the Round into Mime? You do that with 7777 meant a downed Emerald weapon in minutes. You speak of it and I knew all of the little ways to play 7, because not only was it a fantastic story, but it was also a neat little easter egg-riddled masterpiece in terms of game design back then.
So when FF7 Remake came out I approached it with the same exact fervor as my 10-year-old self. I platinumed trophied both the base game remake and its Yuffie-focused DLC while defeating every single boss and miniboss along the way and attaining every single achievement and weapon in the game.
When I wrote at HeyPoorPlayer, I selected Remake as one of my choices for game of the year in 2020 (which we awarded it), because the game was not just an update of one of my favorite franchises, but also served as an improvement in every single way. It was something that hybridized the original turn-based RPG mechanics with hack-and-slashing live-action battles, story improvements in characterization, and a shocking twist that surprised most fans: that this was in actuality, a different storyline. One where certain characters lived. And destinies of how we know this story plays out are being defied from the original game’s fate… or so it seems.
All of this is to stress why it is that I’m ecstatic to share that we at TheWorkprint got to demo Final Fantasy VII Rebirth months before it debuts, right around New York Comic Con. Sitting in attendance was also the game’s director, Naoki Hamaguchi.
The game is a sequel to FFVII Remake, taking place just after the team of Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Barret, and Red XIII escaped the city of Midgar, Yuffie’s crossover story just on the horizon. Square Enix’s synopsis is below:
After escaping from the dystopian city of Midgar, Cloud and his friends set out on a journey across the planet. New adventures await in a vibrant and vast world – sprint across grassy plains on a Chocobo and explore expansive environments.
Now before we break into the preview, let me stress that this game is massive in scope in expectations and even its world building compared to the original remake. Anticipation for part two has been 3 years in the making, and from what I’ve seen (as a major Final Fantasy 7 fan) everything about it was impressive. Suffice to say, the kid from 25 years ago is absolutely fanboying out over the games fun newest features, as what can only be described in one way: an utterly amazing experience.
Mt. Nibel and the Cloud, Tifa, and Sephiroth Mission
The demo kicked off with one of the game’s biggest missions, where Tifa serves as guide at Mt. Nibel to a younger Cloud Strife, an unnamed soldier, and the greatest Shinra praised soldier in existence, Sephiroth. It’s a classic moment in the original game where a young Cloud Strife spends time with his idol. It’s also a major plotline in the game that sees the birth of Sephiroth as the villain and the demo? It’s an improvement on the original’s worldbuilding, which I think IGN did a great job of showcasing in this video above.
The demo was a linear mission of getting from point A to B while battling enemies and a boss enemy along the way. It’s here where the game reintroduces its combat features and showcases some new nuances such as a new interact with the environment button called ‘terrain actions’ that does things like move stuff around and hop over different areas. This new feature is an overall improvement to quality of life, as before, Cloud would automatically execute on these movements in the previous game which, rarely but still could, mess up your intended actions in-game.
There was also new Materia introduced in this stage. Items such as a boost Materia, that upgraded the level of your currently paired Materia (i.e. the ability to cast Thundara over thunder), precision defense (which increases your timing window for perfect blocks), and my favorite: lightning/wind. Which basically saves you a Materia slot in that you can cast both types of spells when this is equipped.
Atop of this, the world design in this stage was pretty fantastic. Playing it in graphics mode, the game is visually cleaner and really emotive in terms of expressions and even textures. We played the game in graphics mode and were thoroughly impressed with the improvements in CGI cutscenes that really test the limits of the PS5. Though the most exciting parts about the Nibel mission was easily replaying the game’s very fun combat.
Combat Remains Mostly The Same But With New Additions
When the first battles began it was a lot of refamiliarizing myself with the game. The base combat remains bashing on the attack button much like in Kingdom Hearts, but also, has special ATB bar driven abilities such as casting magic, using special attacks, and items. The game also introduces new abilities to help certain characters in the game’s utility, such as Aerith’s new teleporting ability WARD SHIFT, being an essential survival tool for the powerful yet fragile mage. Much like the original, everyone still focuses on their roles. Barret has range, Aerith magic, and Tifa/Red XIII deliver melee combos for stagger.
A hybridization of the original and KH mechaics, one of the things most high-level FF VII players love to stress is that even though hitting X or R2 to slow time to select these said abilities, fast run players can also quick ability slot skills to use them instantly with L1. I must stress this because top level players who like to do things like Tifa’s infinite staggers NEED to utilize these shortcuts for when battles are incredibly fast paced. And the games new battle mechanic basically encourages it.
I’m talking about Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s new feature called Synergy Abilities. These are powerful, yet almost limit-break-lite power moves that combine a special attack between two members of your party in creative ways. The potential combos grants better reprieve midbattle giving more options in combat for specials. What’s nifty, is that this combo gauge build-ups by utilizing a character’s ATB bar driven abilities, essentially rewarding players in utilizing unique skills throughout the battle and finding balance in switching between characters.
What’s nifty is the new synergy system where two characters can combine their powers to unleash powerful attacks on enemies by holding R1 and then using the relevant corresponding button to activate. The build up to using these make for some fun formulas in exploiting enemy vulnerabilties that cap off with a powerful damage blast.
The New Characters
We got to play as Red XIII. A quadrapedal friend who wasn’t exactly playable in the original remake. Red XIII’s attack styles are very similar to what you’d expect out of a four-legged jungle beast, close-range melee almost like Tifa but with all of its flips and claw swipes. A breakdown of his base kit, limit break and synergies abilities are:
Red XIII’s Base Abilities:
- Sidewinder – Red XIII leaps into the air to deliver a punishing blow from above!
- Sentinel Stance – this guards against attacks and greatly increases the Vengeance Gauge in the process. If you press Square, Red XIII will also deliver a powerful counterattack. It’s a tremendously useful ability that lets you turn the tables on enemies very quickly!
- Stardust Ray – this unleashes a devastating attack over wide area. It uses 2 ATB charges, but boy is it worth it!
- Crescent Claw – Red XIII slashes at a foe. If you do this in Vengeance Mode and deplete the gauge, you’ll dramatically increase the potency and range. Plus, it makes feels super satisfying when you do it.
Red XIII’s Limit Breaks
- Bloodfang – Red XIII charges forward in an animalistic rage, bathing in foes blood and restoring HP and MP.
- Howling Moon – Red XIII howls to the moon above, activating a longer-lasting Vengeance Mode.
Red XIII’s Synergy Abilities
- Red XIII and Aerith: Planetary Roar – Aerith channels her magic through Red XIII’s howl, unleashing a ranged attack across a wide area. This also raises the characters’ Limit levels.
- Red XIII and Cloud: Savage Assault – Cloud and Red XIII channel their burning anger into an enemy. It also raises their Limit levels.
- Red XIII and Barret: Overfang – Barret sends Red XIII flying toward an enemy at high velocity. It also raises their Limit levels.
What’s easily the best moment of the game was getting to play as Sephiroth himself. Whose stats and Materia far outlevels Cloud’s. He also unleashes devastating damage abilities and even a cool team-up attack with Cloud in their synergy. The stage sees the level off with an epic boss battle against the Materia Guardian and using Sephiroth and Clouds skills are fantastic to say the least – in what’s easily the most entertaining battle of the demo. A breakdown of Sephiroth’s skills are:
Sephiroth’s Base Abilities
- Zanshin – Sephiroth sends rending waves of energy at his foes.
- Hell’s Gate – Sephiroth descends from the sky and impales an enemy with his sword.
Sephiroth’s Limit Break
- Octaslash – Sephiroth attacks an opponent with a lightning-fast flurry of eight powerful strikes!
Sephiroth’s Synergy Ability
- Sephiroth / Cloud: Double Helix – Sephiroth unleashes an elegant flurry of strikes and Cloud does his best to follow suit. This raises Cloud’s limit level and gives Sephiroth unlimited MP. Naturally, he’s equipped with some pretty high level materia, so this is a chance to really go to town with those spells!
Junon and The Expansive New World
In terms of it’s world, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth takes the party outside of Midgar. Into the outskirts of Junon for the demo, specifically. The open world is massive compared to remake, with landscapes that span lengthy areas of mountainous terrain that you can travel through. There were limitations set to travel limits in this, but even then, this section of the map was massive.
This segment of the game introduces you to the world of Junon, starting with the outskirts before leading into the place itself. It kicks off with riding Chocobos who get their own gameplay here in some basic rider mechanics. Which was funny, seeing Red XIII struggling to ride a giant bird, a decision made by the legendary Final Fantasy developer Tetsuya Nomura.
Chocobos in this section can swim and even discover hidden sections while digging excavation sights for special items, especially when given a prompt in riding across the plains. If you can find a Chocobo wandering around and follow it, there is also the opportunity to repair a Chocobo stop to make fast travel across the plains easier. You also get awarded a Golden Plume. Which are currency that you can spend at the Chocobo ranch to literally pimp your ride. At ranches, you can buy your Chocobo a new outfit including leggings, a saddle, and helm when trading in Golden Plumes.
As for world exploration, there was plenty of items you could pick up across the map. They changed the game so that you can pick loose materials up in bundles. Along with added a new gameplay element with transmuation, which basically lets you take said bundles of resources and crafts them using transmutation formulae to create new items such as your basic health potions or phoenix downs for revival. As you level up your ability to craft, so too, does the rarity of the items you can produce.
The chapter culminates in a boss battle featured where a giant leviathan serpent like creature emerges to test the party’s ability. It also features an introduction of a very beloved character in the franchise in a funny little segment with a dolphin.
I already pre-ordered this game but my goodness does this preview make me want to play it all the more. There wasn’t a single problem I had with it and given all the fun expectations to come including The Golden Saucer and Cloud’s inevitable Lucky Date – along with big announcements regarding Matt Mercer as Vincent Valentine – I can say that this game will be absolutely hyped up as my choice for Game of The Year next year.