Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth impressions — three things you're gonna love

In this spoiler-free Final Fantasy VII Rebirth first impressions article, let's look at three things players are going to adore about this PS5 exclusive.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth impressions — three things you're gonna love
Lee Brady

Lee Brady

Published

With the release of those Final Fantasy VII Rebirth trophies just around the corner, you must be dead curious: can Final Fantasy VII Rebirth live up to its weighty expectations? Will it be one of the best PS5 games ever made? Well, even after 50 hours of gameplay, I can't give a firm answer because I still haven't finished it. However, as you'll probably sense from my Final Fantasy VII Rebirth first impressions, I'm definitely leaning towards a 'yes.'

Lee

Three spoiler-free Final Fantasy VII Rebirth teases to get you pumped

At around Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's 50-hour mark, I can safely say I'm just about past the game's halfway point. I'm sure I could easily have blasted past the game's many features, side quests, and minigames, and just beelined for the story's ending in that time, but frankly, I refuse.
I've been waiting years for FFVII Rebirth to come out — I'm not just going to rush it because "it's my job" or "the people writing guides at IGN will have finished the game twice over by this point, seriously man." When I started playing, I had considered trying to match that (possibly imagined) IGN pace, and maybe I would have finished it all by now had the game really let me down in its opening hours.

However, there was a pretty key moment in the game's opening where, all at once, it hit me that I was really playing the Final Fantasy VII "remake" — the one people had been begging Square, and then Square Enix, to make for decades. It was then I decided: "Nah, I'm not spoiling this one." In writing my Final Fantasy XVI review last year, I played it so hard and so fast that it naturally diminished the overall experience. I won't be making that mistake again.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

So, while other outlets will likely have reviews ready for you, let me instead regale you with some spoiler-free first impressions of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's first half.

I'm going to describe three things I loved near-instantly about this game that you might be curious about. I know with full confidence that if you take your time like I have and let the game's luxurious quality wash over you, you'll love these moments just as much when Final Fantasy VII Rebirth launches onto PS5 this Thursday, February 29, 2024. Let's look at three things I think you'll love about this game.

Final Fantasy VII RebirthKalm.

1. The gorgeous locales of FFVII brought to life

First, let me recount in more detail that moment that convinced me to take my time and not upend my life playing Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.

Moments after replaying the Nibelheim flashback segment from the game's PS5 demo and enjoying all of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's climbing mechanics again, I was in control of Cloud in the town of Kalm back in the present day. Tifa, a little put off by Cloud's story (maybe because he insists she died in that flashback), leaves the room upset.

Cloud follows her through the upper landing of a rustic wooden hotel to find her on the rooftop, peering over the moonlight architecture of Kalm that surrounds the hotel. The scale of the town is enormous and absorbing, and I found myself stopping dead in my tracks to admire a clock tower in the distance and a metallic, futuristic-looking object in the middle of the town square.

FFXVAltissia from FFXV.

I immediately found myself becoming skeptical. Last year, I wrote a Final Fantasy XV review after playing that game for the first time. I remember feeling similarly swept away when that game took me to the city of Altissia — a beautiful, futuristic take on our real-world Venice that turned out to promise more gameplay than its game could offer.

When I landed in that town, I wanted my experience of it to linger for a long time — I wanted Noctis and pals to really stick it out and explore the city and its strange, beautiful culture. Unfortunately, an hour later, Final Fantasy XV whips you out of Altissia for good and you never look back. I felt dumbfounded by the experience, and as I looked out at the stunning European-infused architecture of Kalm, I felt past disappointments resurfacing in my mind.

"I bet this is all just window dressing," I wrote pithily. I figured sooner or later, perhaps after Cloud failed to comfort Tifa and fractured their relationship a little further, some cutscene would drag us from this place into the open world — somewhere less designed and with no culture to marvel at. Maybe we'd see some of the Kalm backstreets and sewers as we did so.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Well, I was partially right. Maybe two hours after Cloud and Tifa's rooftop conversation, I wound up guiding Cloud through Kalm's backstreets and its underground passageway until he and the gang had made it to the open world. However, before that, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth had proved my skepticism entirely wrong — Kalm was no window dressing. Kalm was, in fact, a beautiful, explorable, living, breathing, side quest-filled, modern-day JRPG city.

I was stunned. The game had done the opposite of rushing me out from the city — instead, it had plied me with little character moments and reasons to stay put. If you choose to explore the town, you'll find Barret relaxing in a bar, and you can chat with him and improve your relationship. Go past the market a little and you'll find a stage where, later, someone will be performing. Also, you can fall in the river and swim and find treasure chests and play Queen's Blood (more on that later)!

Kalm isn't like Altissia, either. Once you're forced to leave the city, it's only a short while before you're informed you can go back, and once you do, you'll find that the little stories of the citizens that live there have all progressed slightly. It feels like a real virtual place that really exists within this virtual world.

FFVII

What's more: Kalm isn't the only town that feels this robust, fleshed-out, and real. Soon, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth takes you to both tiers of Junon and the Crow's Nest — both of which feel stunningly fleshed out and real. Then, before long, you're in Costa del Sol — another absolute showstopper of a town. Later, you're in the Gold Saucer; a magnificent, pulsating theme park with themed areas and attractions.

Each town feels like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's developers are fulfilling a promise to each and every kid who ever once proclaimed that "this town is my favorite" that they would love that town all over again in the remake. Kalm sets the tone and scale perfectly, and 50 hours in the game has yet to disappoint with its dedication to truly recreate the magic of Final Fantasy VII's world.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

2. The genuinely great side missions

One thing that the modern Final Fantasy games have truly struggled with is how to make side quests interesting. I've written before about the tremendous side quest problem that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth had to face. One of the game's directors, Naoki Hamaguchi, felt confident this new game would be different. However, by this point, I had been burned too many times to take his word for it.

After all the tedious hunting requests of Final Fantasy XV, the belabored fetch quests of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and the abysmally repetitive A-B structured quests of Final Fantasy XVI (see also: Crisis Core Reunion), I felt well within my right to be skeptical. I made a promise to myself that if I found the side quests too tedious while playing Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, this time I would simply just ignore them and focus on the main story.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

This was a promise to myself I ultimately never needed to keep. Somehow, against all odds, the devs have cracked it: the side missions in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth are not only the best in the series but also some of the best I've ever played in any RPG. It turns out Mr. Hamaguchi was completely right to be confident; the contrast between this game and previous attempts is night and day.

What makes Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's side missions so special? Well, it's very evident Mr. Hamaguchi wasn't exaggerating when he said the team had been studying The Witcher 3 "extensively." While I won't go as far as saying FFVII Rebirth's side quests are as good as side quests in The Witcher 3 (they're missing one vital ingredient), the devs have taken on board two vital lessons for side quest design: variety and story development.

FFVIIQueen's Blood rocks.

Where Final Fantasy VII Remake had us interacting with some cats in town or killing rats in the wasteland, FFVII Rebirth has us instead hunting down treasure with our Chocobo, hunting for items using only descriptions of the landscape, or playing Queen's BloodFinal Fantasy VII Rebirth's take on the Witcher 3's Gwent — to win back someone's missing card.

There is variety here that has been sorely lacking from this series' side missions for some time now, and that variety isn't just limited to the side missions. Main missions have additional minigames and extra objectives attached to them that reward you for really committing to all the little games and ideas the devs have thrown out there. As you move between the main mission and side missions, you'll feel the gameplay tangible differ so things never feel too repetitive.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

However, more ingenious here is how carefully the devs have weaved story development into all of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth's side missions. Basically, every quest Cloud decides to take on is one that he shares with one of his party members. For example, if Cloud agrees to go picking flowers for someone, Aerith joins him and the two spend the quest discussing the flowers they picked in the last game and confessing their innermost thoughts to each other in those moments.

This twist helps keep even the most mundane-sounding side quests interesting. An escort mission in which you follow a dog into several monster battles might sound pretty annoying, but it's made joyful by Cloud sharing that experience with Barret. It gives Cloud a chance to open up about his past and his life as a mercenary, and the context of the mission gives Barret a chance to confess his fears about becoming a controlling dad to his daughter Marlene someday.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Final Fantasy VII's biggest strength has always been its characters, so making the reward for engaging with these side missions be little conversations that let us get to know them more intimately feels like a masterstroke.

This genius is, of course, something that The Witcher 3 did first with its character-heavy side quests. Plus, The Witcher 3's third secret ingredient is the flexibility of its story — it doesn't have to conform to the expectations of Final Fantasy VII's existing narrative, so side quests can have a far deeper impact on that game's story development than anything you do or say in FFVII Rebirth.

Still, what is here in FFVII Rebirth feels generous and allows the world to feel rich without boring us or sitting us down to lecture us with backstory and lore. Plus, while these little story developments don't reshape the world, they do build your stats toward the big romantic dates near the end of the game. How those play out, I've yet to find out, but I am beyond curious how that's going to be handled.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

3. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth feels like a PS2 game in the best way

Lastly, and most generally, I want to make you aware of one Final Fantasy VII Rebirth selling point that you won't find on the back of the box: it's genuinely very funny.

Watching this Scooby Doo-esque cast of characters try to get any plan to work at all is an absolute treat. Wild horses couldn't tear me away from the screen during the entire Starboard Junon segment. Watching Cloud and the gang go undercover and recruit wacky soldiers for a big dance number makes for such a surreal experience, with some of the absurd gags here easily on par with the visual joy of the Like a Dragon series.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

More than once, I thought to myself while playing Rebirth: "Man, they just don't make 'em like this anymore." You just don't get games too often with an area like Costa del Sol, where some characters are pulling for a moment of relaxation while others couldn't feel more uncomfortable and out of place. It constantly reminded me of PS2 games like Persona 4 or the quirkier side of Metal Gear Solid 3 — games I love because they gave their characters room to breathe and grow.

Even small flourishes, like the repetitive canned dialogue of the background NPCs (my immediate favorite from the start of the game: "A twister like that hits, I can kiss my house goodbye!") or the wacky voice given to one joke tournament boss — it all feel so old-fashioned to me. There's so much evident love poured into the game by the devs, and it serves as a constant reminder: Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is an experience to be treasured and not rushed.

That's a big reason why I'm taking my time with it, and I recommend when you pick it up that you do exactly the same. Games as rich and as warm as Final Fantasy VII Rebirth don't come around often, so cherish that experience as best you can.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Summary

Suffice it to say, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth feels like a true gem of a video game — one which, in my 50 hours with the game, has more than delivered on the dream of a Final Fantasy VII remake. While it might still falter by the end, I still feel confident in recommending it to anyone willing to give it a shot. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is truly one-of-a-kind — a tremendously beautiful video game the likes of which we might not see again for a long, long time.

Lee has played 55 hours of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth at time of writing and has yet to complete the story. A digital PS5 code for the game was provided to TrueTrophies by Square Enix.
Platinum
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Shadow x Sonic Generations), one eye on the past (PS1, PS2, and PS3 games), and his secret third eye on junk he really likes (Final Fantasy, Sonic, Kingdom Hearts). A PlayStation fan since childhood, he loves nothing more than to scrutinize PS Plus and PS5 player data.
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