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Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth review: Square Enix’s genre-defying magnum opus Dot Esports

Perish the thought that splitting FF7 into three separate parts was a bad idea as the unfathomable scope and sublime quality of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth positively shines throughout its 100+ masterful hours of flawless fun and reminds us all that patience is a virtue.

The much sought-after FF7 remake was finally revealed in 2015, and it took five agonizing years for the first juicy installment to release. While it titillated the senses and took the bold decision to tinker with the sacred source material, its obvious padding and desire to make Midgar a full-length, standalone entity made the first entry solid but slightly undercooked.

In hindsight, 2020’s part-one remake feels like a prologue compared to the monstrous proposition of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. While we had the chance to play an early preview of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, this was only a taster of its offering. With Rebirth, Square Enix has harnessed the power of the lifestream to put together this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Junon too shabby

cloud, aerith, and tifa together in final fantasy 7 rebirth
Everything is brought to life in true detail. Image via Square Enix.

After a fairly linear opening chapter to set the stage, welcome back players, and give a Barret-sized slap on the back to newbies, FF7 Rebirth opens up to reveal its multi-faceted world featuring beloved biomes.

Kicking up dust in Mt.Corel while being blasted by a scorching backdrop, joyfully skipping around to the infectious Gold Saucer jingle, or looking at the astronomical and satirical-sized Junon cannon will leave you enamored. Gone is the isolated setting of Midgar as Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth takes off the handbrake and has us jet-setting across iconic settings. For FF7 fans, the nostalgia factor is huge.

Seeing my favorite legendary locales beefed up and looking so glamorous in 2024 is something I couldn’t imagine as a kid. The Costa Del Sol is no longer just a few backstreets with the odd building and beach; it’s a giant resort fleshed out with minigames, shops, and quests galore. Junon’s depressing recesses are out, replaced with a vibrant, energetic living community with a huge cavernous overhead.

Square’s production budget and decades of industrial expertise truly shine across all of FF7 Rebirth’s regions—does anyone do JRPGs better?

Materia girl

aerith, tifa, and yuffie in final fantasy 7 rebirth
Every character shines, as does the game itself. Image via Square Enix.

It’s not all about the old, though. A wealth of new content gives FF7 Rebirth a luxurious makeover: reinventing antiquated mechanics and content for the 21st century and even improving on some of part one’s inadequacies.

Movement is upgraded, with Cloud and co able to auto-mantle most surfaces and ledges freely without needing a prompt. New tag-team Synergy attacks reward you for using ATB commands with each of your active party to smartly discourage you from focusing on your favorite—adding another layer to the already deep combat.

Don’t worry; there’s still a ridiculous plethora of interchangeable Materia to cycle through, customize, and level up, alongside tons of weapons and accessories to manufacture and sculpt your bespoke squad. I still find it a pain to constantly swap out your best Materia when forced to switch to other characters to suit the scenario, but it’s more than manageable.

Each region in the World Map is not only run ragged by fiends and foes to battle in the wild but has more side quests and activities than Yuffie has tantrums. Unlike 2020’s remake, the majority of Rebirth’s optional content is a delight, with my favorites featuring the team turning into frogs and the return of old, amusing headaches.

Minigames also need their own mention here, as while the popular Gold Saucer amusement park has plenty of bite-sized challenges from Chocobo Racing to virtual fighting, you won’t go too long through the main game without encountering your next distraction. The Queen’s Blood card game also gives The Witcher 3’s Gwent a run for its money and is probably my favorite main FF minigame yet.

Whereas other open-world titles are non-stop content trains passing through stagnant wastelands with less life than a petrified party member, FF7 Rebirth’s countless hours are teeming with energy, identity, and a catchy remastered soundtrack that will resonate with you for weeks on end.

A heartwarming homecoming

sephiroth in final fantasy 7 rebirth
Sephiroth’s only just getting started. Image via Square Enix.

You might think that being a fan of the original discredits my opinion on FF7 Rebirth—I think it’s the opposite. I’m hyper-critical, and the direction of the heroes and story give me more of an anxious heart than a mid-fight “10,000 Needles” prompt with a Cactuar ever could.

So when I tell you that part two takes an already bunch of lovable misfits and gives each of them a platform to develop and bloom before your eyes, you know I’m telling the truth. After a tense conclusion in part one, which saw Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Barret, Yuffie, and Red XIII battle the maniacal Sephiroth as he bids to destroy the planet, they continue in their journey to stop Sephiroth, thwart the evil Shinra Corporation from siphoning the planet’s natural resource—Mako—and ultimately save the world.

Part one became too entrenched in the dynamic between the same couple of duos and didn’t dig as deep as it should have, but Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s extreme runtime of 50-100 hours+ provides full chapters for characters to connect with you.

Red XIII is now playable, and his cathartic Cosmo Canyon portion of the game is a masterclass in storytelling; Barret’s sad background is explored; we delve further into the unraveling descent into insanity of Sephiroth; and the Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith love triangle blossoms. But, the bleak but beautiful plot knows when to dial back the drama in favor of those quirky “Final Fantasy moments.” One, in particular, had me howling with laughter, and it’s this kind of zany display, amongst others, that I can already tell will become meme-worthy.

While we won’t be discussing certain characters’ fates, Square made it clear from the outset in 2020 that all bets are off. The emergence of Whispers—the Arbiters of Fate—should dispel any preconceived notions you have about Rebirth’s chunk of the overall narrative—expect the unexpected. 

As a result, the already rich tapestry of the Final Fantasy 7 universe interweaves new threads, and it’s evident that the core narrative of the original is now syncopated and beats to the tune of Rebirth’s deviating drum. 

Remember, this is a remake, not a remaster, and as such, Square’s free license and penchant for creativity make for some healthy tweaks and twists, showcasing revisionism at its finest—even if die-hards may take umbrage with its boldness.

Your 2024 game of the year

It’s not often you write over 1,000 words and have virtually nothing bad to say about a game, but that’s Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. It’s a masterpiece, a work of art, bonafide breathtaking brilliance.

Anything I felt was a shortcoming with the 2020 remake has been rectified in Rebirth and blown away as if caught in an Aeroga spell. 50 hours in, I’ve not even come close to reaching my Limit Break yet. If Square Enix needs another four or five years to deliver the final iteration and bring down the curtain on the FF7 remake trilogy, Rebirth is proof that good things come to those who wait.










Pros

  • A spellbinding rollercoaster of a story
  • The best soundtrack in the business
  • A cast of characters like no other
  • Snappy, varied, cerebral combat
  • A slew of side content to ensnare you for hours

A copy of this game was provided by Square Enix for review. Reviewed on PS5

Andrew Highton

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