When we last left Cloud and the gang, they made a bombastic exit out of Midgar and were on their way to find Sephiroth. If you were playing the original Final Fantasy VII, this would be around the five to six-hour mark on the first disc out of three. For Final Fantasy VII Remake, it would take over 30 hours to reach this point and the game came to an end promising the adventure would continue in Rebirth.
The way Remake concluded left things ambiguous as to how faithful the next parts would be moving forward. The arbiters of fate are seemingly out of the equation and the story has a meta element that has strong implications that things are not what they appear to be. In all probability, Rebirth may end up rewriting history as the story unfolds… or does it?
The demo to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is impressively substantial and lasts several hours. It showcases the sequence in the story where Cloud has a flashback and recounts the events of the Nibelheim incident to the party while they’re resting in the Kalm Inn.
This sequence seems like it might be an entire chapter slice from the main game. There are lavish cutscenes galore, mount Nibel is vast and has breathtaking vistas. Gamers who played the original would know that this sequence has a whole village to explore, a cavernous dungeon, and even some moments out of a horror game.
This demo is very faithful to the events in the original. Cloud can go visit his mom, sneak into Tifa’s house, and even partake in a surprisingly deep piano minigame. Sadly, there is no stealing her underwear anymore as mandated by Square Enix’s ethics department.
Nibelheim, unbelievably detailed and rich with little world-building flourishes that make it feel lived-in, benefits greatly from being a PlayStation 5 exclusive. More objects filling the scenes and larger crowds of NPCs contribute to the impression that care was put into every nook and cranny.
The first thing Remake veterans will notice is that Cloud has more mobility than he ever had. The circle button makes him vault over objects and climb ledges. In some instances, while exploring the lengthy mountain path toward the old reactor, Cloud will also be able to jump.
This new feature will likely be useful in the full game where players will have a huge world to explore that will emulate the sense of vastness of the world map of the original. Its implementation is a bit sloppy and can be best described as a half-assed Assassin’s Creed parkour system. Cloud’s animations while jumping don’t connect realistically and he lacks the appropriate weight.
Cloud won’t be alone for this trek to inspect the incidents surrounding the reactor at Nibelheim. In tow will be Tifa, sporting a sexy ultra miniskirt and cowboy hat. Sadly, she won’t be fighting and neither will the two Shinra troopers who are with Cloud on this expedition. However, Sephiroth does participate in the brawls and the demo lets players get a taste of his insane power.
The battle system is a lot like the INTERmission DLC mechanics but unlike the guest party member in that module, Sephiroth is fully playable. His combat prowess is surprisingly deep considering how brief he is playable and he may get more play time in some kind of VR training sim like in the side missions in Crisis Core.
Unless you intend on replaying the demo multiple times, it is going to be tough to see how far Sephiroth’s combat mechanics can go. Thankfully, the demo is charitable with materia found along the path up Mount Nibel and players can experiment a little bit with Cloud’s build. Sadly, all gear was locked and there were no new pieces of equipment to be found in the demo.
Combat mechanics have been tweaked and things are slightly different, so be ready to adjust some muscle memory. The synergy abilities are the new addition to Rebirth and they add a lot of depth to how Cloud can dominate the battlefield. These moves are kind of situational but every foe in the demo reacts to them in an interesting way which could lead to a lot of experimentation.
The Rebirth demo does include a large boss battle and it climaxes with an awesome display of power. It almost goes by too fast before you realize all the new tricks that Cloud can do. The final game shows a lot of promise with where the battle system can go since this new iteration of Final Fantasy VII manages to balance thoughtful strategy and the intensity of real-time action.
Nibel’s scale and the reactor are impressively rendered. The remakes are justified solely by the jaw-dropping visuals. Character materials are more convincing, and anatomy feels anatomically correct. However, Sephiroth’s hair defies physics, unlike Cloud’s, which realistically moves as coifed spikes. Sephiroth’s long, flowing locks act as one massive billowing tuft.
Apart from minor nitpicks like the inability to open Nibelheim’s houses and the overused mechanic of yellow-marked interactable objects, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth shows immense promise. Final Fantasy VII Remake laid a strong foundation with its impressive visuals and novel combat, Rebirth seems poised to surpass its predecessor in every facet, becoming a truly groundbreaking continuation of the classic story.