Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review – Second Coming

A remake of Final Fantasy VII was the thing that made gamers around the world lose their collective minds when it was first announced ten years ago. Square Enix’s legendary RPG, the game that essentially paved the way for RPGs made in Japan to be loved by players all around the world, recreated for a modern era. It became a reality in 2020.

However, that was only the first part of what we know now as a trilogy of games. Following Final Fantasy VII Remake is Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, arguably the biggest AAA game release of the year so far.

There’s a lot riding on this second act, and remarkably, the development team has done it justice. This is one massive game that lives up to the reputation of the original masterpiece.


In some aspects, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is just jaw-dropping. The most notable of all is the animation work. You’ll see it at its best during the cutscenes whether that be cinematic action set-pieces or a bedazzling well-choreographed dance number. But what really strikes me is the animation work when characters are simply talking. The typical shot-reverse-shot camera work are kept to a minimal, and so is pre-canned animations. Just look at new party member Yuffie whenever she’s on camera, that girl is animated. I assume some folks were having the time of their life doing motion-capture, because it clearly shows.

Oh, and the facial expressions. You can pick up the subtleties of all the party members, so it hits home harder during emotional scenes as well as comedic/fun ones. Heck, Cloud’s stoic and aloofness doesn’t mean his face is left to default. And of course, the ladies in the party get a lot of screen time to show off their facial expressions. Have to balance out all the fanservice-y camera shots.

I love that some objects in the world has physics, just like with Remake. But in Rebirth, they’ve doubled down and embracing that it’s fun to have boxes and things get knocked over and fly around when it gets hit. But also, there are some interactions with NPCs where the physics objects are acknowledged.

The scale of the world is majestic, all the towns and villages are properly fleshed out with intricate details that make you believe this is a lived-in world and not just a theme park with set dressing. Well, except for that literal theme park which does indeed capture the look and feel of a theme park, with cast members and all.

The open world is varied and looks nice, as long as you don’t stare to check the details of it all. The draw distance here is very far but all I see are blurry textures and smushed up pixels. There’s also too many times where I thought some text that could be legible- say a poster on a wall or a certificate frame in an office- are just pixely squiggly lines, which is a shame.

Rebirth can maintain a decent 60 FPS-ish framerate on Performance Mode, but there are noticeable parts of the game where it chugs down and oddly it’s in a specific story-based mini-game rather than the battles, which do get intense with all the particle effects popping off in the bigger skirmishes.

The art direction really carries the game’s presentation in the graphics department. Because from a technical perspective I’m not as impressed. Maybe I’ve played too many AAA games recently that technical aspects of the graphics don’t wow me. Though I am always annoyed each time I’m going between a brightly lit area and a very dark interior, the game being temporarily too bright and too dark to navigate properly. And there’s one too many times I see textures flickering about.

What I have no complaints about FFVII Rebirth is the sound department. The voice acting? The English voice cast is stellar. The music? Absolute bountiful of good beats from a huge spectrum of music genres. From bossa nova to bubblegum pop. From bass-boosted remixes to heavy metal. From moving, orchestral pieces to whimsical numbers. From uplifting world music to tavern folk songs. And just a whole lot of jazz. Some songs returned from FFVII Remake, but that’s okay, there’s still fun to listen to.

On another note, I love that in almost every town there’s some people playing musical instruments. They’re not animated exactly like how each note is played- the devs aren’t that crazy- but the fact that we see the different instruments themselves that are producing these wonderful melodies is a nice touch.

FFVII Rebirth has a lot going for its presentation department. Though its technical aspects may seem to be not hold the fort as strong as I expected. However, it hasn’t hold back from the art, music and animation to shine.


Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is an action-RPG and the second part of a trilogy started by Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Rebirth continues directly after the events of Remake as Cloud, Barret, Tifa, Aerith and Red XIII leaves Midgar and heads into “the unknown journey”.

The core combat in Rebirth still plays like Remake. In that it takes a long, long while to get adjusted to and when you operate under its terms, it becomes really fun.

The defining aspect of the original Final Fantasy VII was the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, where party members take turns by waiting for a bar to fill up in real time. That aspect is still at the heart of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. You can dish out normal attacks and combos, but to perform any other commands- be it a weapon ability (Ability), perform magic attacks (Spells) and use items (Items), you’ll need to spend an ATB bar. That bar slowly, and I do mean slowly, fills up on its own. But you can expedite it by performing regular attacks regularly.

There are exceptions to this rule. Unique Abilities (not to be confused with weapon abilities- why don’t they just call them Skills and avoid this confusion altogether?), Limit Breaks and the new Synergy abilities don’t use ATB.

And there’s another wrinkle to the combat system: You can issue commands for your party members, but each of them can be controlled directly, each with their own playstyle. On their own by default, the AI doesn’t do much, they won’t do anything more other than just attacking and blocking. Though enemies will usually aggro on the party leader- the character you’re controlling.

So what does all this combat mechanics translate into? FFVII Rebirth demands you to always, and I do mean always, switch around each party member in the heat of battle. This is reinforced more so with the new Synergy abilities. Specific ATB-consuming moves will generate a pip of the Synergy bar, and you’ll need two characters to have spend a good number of these before you can see Barret and Aerith strike a pose with sunglasses on os have Tifa and Red XIII go down on all fours before trampling on foes. They’re very useful- the buffs are game-changers.

The game doesn’t quite communicate this need of constantly changing characters as clearly as I expected, but once you do, the combat clicks.

I have to mention this because I played the updated demo of Rebirth and was felt overwhelmed by it all. I played Remake all those years ago and remember being at least competent at it but I couldn’t beat that boss in that Rebirth demo. I was missing something.

About 10 hours later, it finally clicked again, and I think there’s going to be a good number of folks who’ll have to go the same experience I had.

If there’s a flaw of FFVII Rebirth, it’s this. If you’re missing one particular crucial knowledge about how the combat system ticks, you’re not having fun. Constantly blocking isn’t a good strategy at first, unless you’re good at just-blocking/parrying and even then the ATB fill is too little for the risk. You can’t use items without an ATB bar so if you’re low on HP and with no bars, well, good luck.

But that’s where the Materia system comes in. These equippable orbs lets you do various moves but also can provide passives. Some of them addresses the things I just brought up: there’s a Materia that boosts ATB gain on blocking. There’s also a Materia that gives you one free item use that recharges after a number of normal ATB usage. And more. These behave like it was in Remake.

What doesn’t behave like Remake is the new skill tree. Instead of having each weapon a Crystarium system, now each character has a Sphere Grid of sorts. It’s called Folios, and you unlock Synergy abilities, specific stat boosts and passives and more in here. Folios are gated by the new Party Level, seperate from the levels each character has.

That said, weapons in Rebirth don’t get redundant just like in Remake. The way they do this this time is having each character have a Weapon level. As the Weapon level increases, all of that characters’ weapons improve in stats and maybe even pick up a new Weapon Skill passive slot that behave sort of like the Materias. You still learn new moves from each new weapon, enticing you to use them at least until it is mastered.

I do love how a lot of FFVII Rebirth’s progression are based on past Final Fantasy games. They have to replace the FFXIII one with the FFX this time, which I think is for the better. At least it’s not the one from FFXII, though a Gambit system of sorts would alleviate some issues with the combat- more ways to automate your party members.

In the original Final Fantasy VII, you get to explore the world map right after leaving Midgar. And in Rebirth, the zoomed out world map exploration is now zoomed in, as it becomes an open world, filled with various open world activities. It’s open world design that follows the Ubisoft style rather than the Bethesda one.

Thankfully, it’s not one massive, contiguous open world. Just like the source material, the world is divided into various regions, each of them being their own open world map. The early regions you visit like the Grasslands and Junon look massive based on how big the map screen is, but rest assured that later regions are more tightly designed.

FFVII Rebirth has figured out how to make an open world Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy XV had an issue that for all the hype about the game being bros on a road trip, the road trip is just you going around a loop on the main continent of the world doing side jobs and visiting the same town over and over again until the game railroads itself into a linear experience.

FFVII Rebirth feels like a genuine planet-spanning journey. A good road trip. You’re always moving to a new location to progress the story, but between here and the main story objective waypoint, there’s a huge open world to get distracted by. The game is designed to funnel you into the next story, but lets you take your time should you want to get the hang of the combat or just ticking off open world objectives.

Navigating and traversing the open world is a bit hit-or-miss though. You can now jump and leap over ledges in Rebirth, but you can’t just jump over any kind of cliff, or climb over any kind of wall. Portions of the world map are linear routes that you must follow to get to your desired destination. Maybe there are ledges with yellow paint all over them. Maybe there’s a grappling hook point to swing across. Maybe you need a chocobo to get pass this obstacle. Maybe it’s just as simple as finding what is a walking trail that will lead you to the place you want to go.

When I’m just exploring, it feels so fun to discover where all these routes will take you. But when I decided to go tick all the open world activity boxes, it becomes a nuisance just to get to the objectives. There were too many times I have to stop myself and try to think where the game designers want me to go rather than me having the freedom to carve my own way around the world. And it can get annoying in regions where you basically have to follow a specific route to reach a certain part of the map. I love exploring the jungle, but dread getting to all the open world activities.

There are also odd choice when it comes to the open world design. Some regions won’t open up fully until you complete a specific side quest. Some side quests can’t be completed until you done some open world activities. And sometimes, the progression blocker in the side quests or the open world activities are not clearly explained. I spent too long figuring out how to help my bro Johnny with his problem only to discover that I should just progress through the story a little bit.

That said, FFVII Rebirth picks up some good design choices from other open world games to not make this feel like unnecessary bloat. A lot of points of interests will have animals appearing to guide you to them ala Ghost Of Tsushima. You don’t climb the towers the same way every time. And there are extra mini-games that you can find when out exploring the world.

And on that point, FFVII Rebirth has an abundance of mini-games. It has a collectible card game. It brings back Fort Condor (but unlike in FFVII Remake Intermission DLC, it’s not a collectible card game- it got demoted into a smaller mini-game). You can play mini-games that’s definitely based on Fall Guys and Rocket League. Shooting mini-games. Racing mini-games. Smashing boxes mini-games. The dreaded workout mini-game is somehow back. And plenty more mini-games when you reach the Gold Saucer which like the source material, plays host to so many mini-games. You can be easily be distracted by the sheer amount of mini-games on offer, and each of them don’t feel like throwaways. There’s a level of care and effort being put to them to make them fun.

Almost all aspects of the game feels well executed. However, all of of the mechanics and systems feel familiar. I’ve named dropped a couple of other games. And that’s the problem of modern AAA games, they have to make a game that caters to just about everyone that it becomes this generic slush of conventional mechanics and systems.

The one thing Remake had was its blend of action gameplay and turb-based commands, and that’ not new anymore with Rebirth. There’s nothing I can point to Rebirth as introducing something innovative. The saving grace is that’s all done wonderfully well to retell an ageless masterpiece of a video game.

The main story, like in Remake, will unfold in a linear fashion. I like that during these sections, there’s usually one half that plays closer to the source material, and then another half where we get to use specific gimmicks or take control as someone else than Cloud where the party composition is locked. It’s a nice way of making players spend time controlling as other party members (which as mention before, is a must if you are to master the combat system), and a nice change of pace.

And on that note, given this is the “unknown journey” after the events of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth balances the new unexpected changes and the old, expected plot beats rather well. For fans of the original, I bet you’ll be pointing at the screen a lot when a moment you remembered is recreated or improved. But you’ll also be on the same ride with the new fans who will go “what’s going on???” in some parts of the game. I checked a walkthrough of the original FF VII and compared to what happens in Rebirth and aside from one missing location (which I’m guessing is put aside for the next game, it makes sense as there’s still two unplayable party members), it follows the main beat closely. There are many minor changes, like a card tournament arc.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth continues to improve on its unique blend of action-RPG combat. The open world aspect helps you feel more immerse in the world- you’ll definitely feel like it’s a planet filled with life that’s worth saving- even if it can be unwieldy to navigate at times.


Square Enix claimed that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth can be a 100 hour game should players try to 100% it. In my experience, I reached the ending at 90+ hours, having done almost all of the open world content, almost all of the side quests, and make an attempt to try most of the mini-games.

But if you think most of the content here that gobbles up your time are padding, you’d be wrong. It’s not that there’s so much content to consume. It’s more that the there are higher difficulties that requires mastery of the mini-game that will consume your time, and you. Chocobo racing is really intense at higher difficulty levels, take that word as someone who played too many racing games.

That said, you can beeline through it all. The open world and side quests are all optional. But if you put in the time, the rewards are a game-changer that will make you get out of more from the combat.

As mentioned previously, there are so, so many mini-games. But there’s also a lot of combat challenges. There’s also a super boss to hunt for.

The story, being the mid-act of FF VII, has a good start point, various mcguffin hunting (as per the source material) and resolves at a good point to setup the final act. It captures the spirit of FFVII, and the PS1-era RPGs made in Japan in general, where there is just so many story arcs and down time to alleviate the rising tension as the story continues to keep building up by introducing so, so many things to the plot.

And the development team found smart places where they can expand from the source material. I don’t think anyone is complaining, especially the thirstier side of the fandom, that we hang out a little longer on Costa Del Sol.

It’s remarkable to see this kind of storytelling in a video game again. Don’t worry too much about the new things they’ve added to the main plot- unlike Remake, Rebirth does a better job of not making them a distraction from the story.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is so big in content that I don’t think the next game will even try to top it. A lot of it lends to the more uplifting tone of the first half of the game where you’re just exploring the world. The next entry will have stakes going way high I don’t know if adding more massive open world maps (or reusing the ones seen here) would have the same effect. But that’s a problem for the developers to figure out. For now, FF VII Rebirth is peak video game content in terms of variety and execution.

Personal Enjoyment

As established before, I’m no big FFVII fan. And it took a while for me to remember the intricacies of the game’s combat (say 5-10 hours) to really start enjoying it. But when everything clicks, it’s been one hell of a ride.

Figuring out how to make each party composition work, being excited at what new Folio nodes open up after the Party Level levels up, tinkering with the materia loadout. It’s all good fun. While I do miss the direct intensity of the character-action combat of last year’s Final Fantasy XVI, but I feel much more at home with Rebirth as unlike in FFXVI, this game has a proper party, where each character matters during combat.

Though since I’m no big FFVII fan, I do feel that there’s maybe too much fanservice being dished out. The game doesn’t do it directly, and nothing deeply intimate happens here, but the amount of time the camera panders to the male gaze makes me a little uncomfortable. Tifa and Aerith doing cute poses together or making pouty faces as the camera zooms in? That’s fine.

It’s when the camera sneaks in some shots where the ladies are in but not their faces is where I find a little uncomfortable at times. It’s a really minor nitpick, and at least there’s a good number of shots where Cloud and Sephiroth are really, really close to each other so the fanservice isn’t limited to just the ladies.

Overall, I don’t regret putting the 90+ hours in Rebirth. There’s plenty of laughs, plenty of emotional moments, and it makes care more about the party members than I thought. If you didn’t vibe with Barret, Red XIII and Cait Sith before (assuming you didn’t play the original FF VII) like I was, you’ll likely may have a change of heart like I did after playing Rebirth. This is the bit where they start to grow as characters.

Also, Square Enix didn’t forget about Final Fantasy XII this time. There is a Gambit system somewhere, plus a loveable goober that acts more like their FF XII rendition. As one of the handful of FF XII enjoyers, that’s bonus points for my personal enjoyment with Rebirth.


Final Fantasy VII Rebirth exceeds in expectations. This game transitions into an open world format with grace and has successfully recreated to memorable arc of a long journey most players had experience more than 20 years ago catered to modern gaming conventions.

Rebirth doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but executing a game this big and having it feels so pruned and polished is something to be celebrated. As with the current climate of the games industry, there’s no way a game this big and ambitious can be made anytime soon. This could be peak AAA video games as we know it.

What will happen at journey’s end is a question we ask when we cross that bridge. For now, let’s enjoy the fact that we’re two-thirds in to this reimagining of a timeless classic, and the new flavour it brings is just as good as the original. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a triumph of video game remakes.

Played on PS5. Review code provided by Bandai Namco, the distributor of the game in Southeast Asia


Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth exceeds in expectations. This game transitions into an open world format with grace and has successfully recreated to memorable arc of a long journey most players had experience more than 20 years ago catered to modern gaming conventions.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a triumph of video game remakes.

  • Presentation 8.5
  • Gameplay 9
  • Content 9.5
  • Personal Enjoyment 9

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