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  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth - A Saucer Gold (Review)

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Released: February 29th, 2024

Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Systems: PS5

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is operating on another level.

If Final Fantasy VII Remake made anything clear, it’s that it was very specifically not a remake of Final Fantasy VII. Its title instead referred to a quasi-meta narrative about rebuilding an iconic world on every level. Having gotten away with an audacious curveball once, Tetsuya Nomura and his team of professional desecrators lost their damn minds for their second crack. 

The result is madness and brilliance, both of which run unchecked.

An absolute car crash of minigames, mechanics, systems, and nonsensical narrative diversions, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth comes off like it was supposed to be the last videogame ever made and they had to stuff everything in while they could. Every little plot point, every new location, every step forward is taken as an excuse to cram in a distraction or simply do things in the most extra way possible.

Playing the original in the 90s, I’d have never imagined that one day Don Corneo’s forgettable NPC character models would become rapping hype men in a sarcastic remake that turned Fort Condor into Jumanji, and they’d be amazing

The liberties Rebirth takes with its source material are so extreme as to render it almost unrecognizable, and this is compounded by its very frequent moments of unmasked parody. Rebirth, like Remake, loosely follows the original plot, but this time it’s more confident about going off the rails as much as possible, which it does frequently, and usually funnily.

An entire card game with all the hooks of Gwent and all the absurdity of a horror anime subplot. A political storyline between warring nations to go along with the existing narrative additions. Dog Rocket League. Constant jokes at the expense of the game’s characters and tone. The strange doesn’t stop. 

A close comparison to Rebirth’s humor and love of deviation is Yakuza, but using an ostensible retelling of one the most beloved games in the world to be as wacky and experimental as possible adds a whole other layer of remarkable. Its use of that existing canon to fuck with a familiar audience is a piece of brilliance all its own. 

This game’s so good at what it does that it took a pivotal moment from the original game, changed things so they looked subverted, and then pulled off the original scene once my trust was rebuilt. Even then they do it in such a way that it has much more of a punch.

Much of that extra punch comes by way of the brilliantly realized characters, all of whom are both fantastic company and terrific fun to play with. One thing Rebirth has over the original is its development of the party as true friends. Much space is given to showing characters interacting in their down time, and everybody is given multiple humanizing moments. 

Similarly, the trek through VII’s world has a real globetrotting feel unique to itself. Split into multiple overworlds, the story takes us from Kalm through to the Temple of the Ancients, with each region boasting a very distinct appearance. By the time you’re more free to travel back and forth between regions, you really feel like you’ve personally trekked half the world looking for that naughty little tit Sephiroth. 

All praise aside for a moment, Rebirth’s sense of freedom often runs a little too wild. With every new location bringing with it a multitude of minigames, indulgent sidequests, and a bunch of open world busywork, content overload to the point of exhaustion is a frequent issue. While there are some fantastically fun diversions, there are also plenty of half-baked ideas that aren’t fun at all. Yes, the full-fledged card game is a hoot, but do we really need the shitty carnival shooting range?

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth thinks we need everything, and it’ll make sure you play it all at least once. Personally I don’t like Dog Rocket League very much, and when I’m forced into it for story progress, I’m going to resent it. All too frequently does Rebirth get in its own way, derailing a good story at pivotal moments to audition for the WarioWare series or add a waffling new scene that goes nowhere. 

Pacing issues present themselves when the game goes overboard with turning every little sequence into its own full length production with boss fights, song & dance numbers, or pointlessly mazelike “open” maps full of so many twisty paths that doing all the boring open world busywork is a grim navigation puzzle. 

When you’ve already got a game with dozens of hours of additional content, I question the inclusion of radio towers of all best forgotten gameplay tropes… but that’s Rebirth for you. It’s a minigame delivery vehicle just as much as it is anything else, a game that could have more accurately been named Queen’s Blood: The Chadley Chronicles.

At times I’ve had to stop playing through a sense of attrition. Other times I’ve skipped sidequest cutscenes because I just didn’t need to hear some nurse sing badly or learn about a Chocobo pulling its groin or whatever - it was all just too tiringly inane to be withstood. 

There’s so much sidecorn that, by the time I got to the Gold Saucer, I felt too minigamed out to be as excited for FFVII’s prime hub of optional fun as I should have been - something Barrett almost literally says when the party arrives. Every town I’d been to was a hub of optional and not-so-optional silliness that the Saucer lost a lot of flavor. 

Then there are the genuinely awful minigames, like the one where you catch some fucking horrible Moogle kids with creepy Pikaman torsos, by far the most angering shepherding game I’ve suffered. 

Problem is, Rebirth is also full of so much bizarre brilliance that its most aggravating moments are well worth it. Even the worst side content is likely to have some genuinely funny cutscenes or memorable moments attached. Outside of when it forces you, the game works hard to make itself as constantly surprising and amusing as possible. It’s such a wild ride that I can’t stay away for long.

I said of Remake that it felt like Square Enix was finally nailing the hybridized action/RPG combat it’s fumblingly iterated on since the 2000s. The sequel nails it further, adding Yuffie (also seen in Intergrade) and Cait Sith as party members. The blend of real-time combat and command inputs is as dazzling as ever, with an impressive depth to each character. 

Party members’ unique actions make them individual combat systems unto themselves. Cait Sith’s whole deal involves working on summoning his Moogle to open up various new attack options, while Yuffie can switch to a ranged mode and embellish her projectiles with elemental damage. With Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, and Aerith bringing their own previously established abilities, the diversity is absurdly rich. 

By the time I was finally reading the credits, I was truly excited whenever combat started, as I’d become absorbed in perfecting each character’s build. There’s a huge amount to swallow between character abilities, new weapons, and a mountain of Materia, but once you unlock the Soothing Breeze Enemy Skill you’ll have a crutch to allow you to keep bashing stuff until all the features make sense. 

Eventually combat clicks, as it did last time, and it’s beautiful. 

Speaking of beautiful, it goes without saying a big budget Square Enix game pushes the graphical boat out. Character and enemy design is particularly fantastic, and I’ve made a huge deal in my personal and professional life of how stunning Cait Sith’s model looks. A lovely soundtrack remixes a bunch of classic tunes very well, and because this game is always extra, there’s even a full-bore Oscar Bait song pathway through that is sung to Mariah levels of fucking belting

Vocal performances overall are as lovely as ever, doing a great job of making every single character likable or at least fun. Cloud’s actor alone does justice to the bonkers spoof this game is, his dry delivery proving a dorky and lovable contrast to a world that’s not taking anything as seriously as he is. 

Look, this game is fucking hilarious. I can keep reviewing it as a straight game but I love Rebirth so much because it liberally takes the piss out of Final Fantasy VII and plays with its fanbase constantly, emphatically sending the message that this game doesn’t belong to anybody but the mad artists in charge. If it wants to add a gratuitous dance battle scene, it will. You better like it, because it’s happening.

Rebirth is frequently messing with expectations on a meta level that brings Metal Gear Solid to mind, only it does a comparatively more subtle job. In fact, I’m legit surprised to see no direct breaking of the fourth wall or jokes about PSOne discs. It would have fit into a game that couldn’t even let Loveless remain background lore. No, that’s now a virtual reality… y’know what? 

Forget it. 

If I described every bit of extrapolated chicanery I’ll be here all day. 

Not even the kitchen sink was left out of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. 

I thought the brilliance of Remake would historically hinge on how its sequel handled one of gaming’s greatest non-spoilers, but I never thought it would be full of so much baffling amazement that my old concern no longer mattered. Rebirth is totally bananas and I’ve surrendered to the ride. While its obsessive drive to always be different can prove exhausting, it so often does different with such style.

My opinion doesn’t matter. For better or worse, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is going to be whatever it wants to be, and what it wants to be is anything it damn well pleases. Against all common sense, that audacity absolutely works, and I can’t wait to see how the next game gloriously screws things up.



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