Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview – Junon Area

In my previous preview of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, the demo showcased the first chapter which depicts the events of Cloud’s Nibelheim flashback. The experience was a largely faithful retelling of the events of the real Final Fantasy VII and featured some impressive combat sequences, and even Sephiroth was playable.

While there were some hilariously sloppy examples of yellow paint hand-holding, it showed that these remakes can be enjoyable when they follow the source material closely. The demo previewed has since been updated and now includes a demo of what the open-world experience in Rebirth will be like.

The featured scenario in this demonstration is not really an accurate depiction of what the final game will be like since it is highly controlled and curated by the developers. Sadly, the landmass offered is substantially gated off from full exploration, the party already has a flock of chocobos to ride, and equipment is locked.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth seems to be pushing Unreal Engine 4 to its absolute limit. The sense of scale and level of detail rendered in the region is dazzling.

The variable rock formations and massive industrial fixtures penetrating the parched drylands play into the ecological themes of the game. Scanning the horizon, you’re likely to see stray chocobo chicks scurrying among the debris of Shinra’s past.

The chocobos look very faithful to their original concept art. Feathers are especially convincing and every character has their style when mounted. Aerith classily rides sidesaddle, while poor Red XIII looks utterly ridiculous as he tries to hold reigns with no thumbs and a hunched posture.

Approaching Junon proper, there is a clear view of the iconic Highwind airship. Below in the lower Junon fishing hamlet is a suspended shipyard which is completely new since you could never see the underside of upper Junon. At the docks, there is an arena where players can face a challenging boss who hilariously tries to kill Yuffie.

The main draw of this demo is to finally try out Red XIII and to test out how the old party members differ from their play style in Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Admittedly, going into this demo is a lot to process all at once. The mechanics in Rebirth take getting used and expect to fight old muscle memory when clashing against massive condors and fish demons.

The amount of combat options available is outrageous since the party size has grown dramatically and now that there are synergy attacks, the foes have also diversified too.

The boss of this demo can imprison characters in a bubble and will be inactive unless players set them free by attacking them. This can happen frequently and complete diligence is required. Efficient play won’t be button-mashing at all.

Red XIII is a close-range DPS fighter who also has decent magic stats. He comes with comet materia and has a counter-attack ability. He can’t take as many hits as Cloud, but he is fast on his feet and has a long-distance dodge maneuver.  He fights as fans would expect in a game like this and proves helpful in a scrap.

Chadly can be found in one of the many chocobo farms and he still offers VR battle challenges like before. This time he offers combat tutorials for gamers who wish to understand the deeper mechanics of the systems as well as various challenges to showcase the foes that will be in the final game. Chadley’s AI waifu also makes an appearance and offers hunts to partake in too.

There is also an item synthesis mechanic where players can combine items to make more powered-up versions of consumables. Most of these are collectibles found while exploring and it is worth your time because healing benches are going to be much further apart and with more dangerous threats between them.

If there is any room for concern in Rebirth, it is the level of interactivity in the vast expanses of the environment. At times it evokes memories of Final Fantasy XV with its “look but don’t touch” approach to its world. It’s undeniably beautiful, but there are so few ways to interact with anything.

Everywhere there are dilapidated trailers and cozy-looking houses, but Cloud can’t go inside any of them. What is the point of having doors if you can’t open them? This was one of the joys of the real Final Fantasy VII: if you saw a door, you could open it and it would lead you somewhere.

Despite some nit-picks, Rebirth is shaping up to be an impressive game. It has the potential to be 2024’s main event due to the absurd density of content it promises. So long as the story sticks to landing, it should end up becoming the game of the year.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is set to launch on PlayStation 5 on February 29, 2024, in North America.


A youth destined for damnation.

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