With Final Fantasy VII Remake having released to great success and a greatly positive reception from fans, Square Enix probably could have just released more of the same for the next two parts of the Remake trilogy and been just fine. Considering how things are typically done in the AAA gaming space these days, that’s likely what everyone would’ve expected too. That’s not quite what’s being done with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, though. It’s not a complete overhaul from the last game, but it’s not really the same either. It seems the team behind this new iteration of Final Fantasy VII is doing its best to take feedback into account, and the result we saw during our hands-on time at TGS 2023 is a sequel that keeps what worked and then adds in most of the right areas.
The TGS demo came in two parts: a story segment focused on the time when Cloud and Sephiroth traveled to Mt. Nibel, and a more gameplay-centric segment focused on Lower Junon and the area around it. Starting with the Lower Junon area, one thing that players of Final Fantasy VII Remake will likely notice right away is how open the space feels. Of course it’s physically more open since Cloud and co. are running around in the wilds now rather than Midgar’s cramped, urban sprawl, but there’s also more to actually do out here. In Remake, players could wander around each section as they wanted between main missions; they could even pick up a minor sidequest or two, but that linear feel was present nonetheless. Here, that feeling is less pronounced.
There may be more to do out in the wilds in the full version of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, but the TGS demo primarily showed-off two: resource collection and “fiend” battles. Resource collection is exactly that: collecting resources/ingredients for item creation. What exactly is involved in that process isn’t clear yet, but it seems players will be able to create items and/or accessories in addition to buying them. There were a ton of ingredients lying around outside of Junon, so it’s likely that players will have a large selection of stuff to craft should they want to.
As for “fiend” fights, these all appeared to be part of a larger sidequest wherein Cloud and the gang have to locate corrupted(?) examples of different species and fulfill a set of objectives while fighting them. These objectives included pressing the enemy, staggering it and finishing the fight within a certain time limit. The ultimate reward for doing this isn’t known yet, but these fights are at least one good reason to explore the world rather than running straight to the next story objective. Other notable features shown in this portion of the demo included the ability to swap party members with a single button-press and the ability to ride chocobos (and customize their gear at chocobo ranches).
Switching over to the Mt.Nibel story mission, the main qualities on display here were the new Duo Arts system and Sephiroth as a playable character. Naturally, demo players also got a look at the younger versions of Cloud and Tifa as well as Mt. Nibel and its beautiful Materia formations. All were quite a sight compared to their original PS1 versions and are something fans are certain to enjoy in the full game.
Moving onto Duo Arts, though, these are combo attacks that come in two flavors: defensive and offensive. Defensive arts are launched while guarding, and are best used to interrupt an enemy’s attack and recover some momentum in a fight. They often won’t outright stop an incoming attack, but will get some damage in and take pressure off of the character getting attacked. Offensive arts are best used to either press an enemy or hit them for massive damage while they’re staggered. They don’t do as much as a limit break, but all are powerful moves that can decide a battle if used at the right time.
Then there’s Sephiroth. Playing as Sephiroth was a treat and something fans can look forward to. He’s not a one hit kill machine, but he does nonetheless feel extremely powerful. All of his attacks appear to hit like a freight train, and he’s quite visibly not taking the fights seriously. Even when executing his unique limit break, “Octoslash,” Sephiroth still doesn’t appear to be trying all that hard, executing the move effortlessly and just going back to normal like nothing happened.
This comes through in the story portions of the chapter’s boss fight too. The creature he and Cloud are fighting looks threatening, yet Sephiroth’s air and attitude makes it clear that he could take it out without any trouble at all, but then that would neither be fun nor would it be beneficial to the young SOLDIER 1st Class accompanying him. This is Sephiroth as fans have always wanted to see him, and it’s an absolute pleasure.
Based on what was shown here, those who enjoyed Final Fantasy VII Remake are going to enjoy Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. All the good from the first game appears to have been preserved here, and the developers have taken care to expand on things where necessary. Some new character moments are sure to delight those who remember the PS1 original and Sephiroth fans in particular are certain to enjoy the Mt. Nibel flashback. All that said, there’s probably nothing here to win back those who didn’t like Remake; it’s not different enough. For those who were/are on the fence, though, it might be enough to make it worth picking up once it launches on February 29.