The demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Rebirth dropped last Tuesday after the special State of Play dedicated to the game and fans have been playing it since. Like other demos, it is just a snippet of the actual product, with functional mechanics to showcase what the game has to offer. But unlike other demos, a new chapter will be added on February 21 which hopes to showcase world map gameplay.
As I expected, the core of the gameplay from Final Fantasy VII Remake remains intact, with added traversal options, major additions to the combat system, and a world that is both familiar and fresh. At this point, the game feels like it is all a Final Fantasy VII fan wanted and more. Despite not having played Remake in over a year (and in the PS4 too), I immediately acclimated to the controls, and despite gameplay additions, I barely felt the need to adjust which to me is great.
Spoiler warning to those who, for some reason, haven’t played Final Fantasy VII or any of its many spin-offs.
The demo features a chapter called “Fall of a Hero in Nibelheim“, and it is Cloud’s narration of the Nibelheim incident where Sephiroth loses his marbles and slaughters the town’s residents. In the original game, this happened immediately after the group’s escape from Midgar (where Remake ended), while staying in a town named Kalm. Cloud narrates that he and Sephiroth had been sent by Shinra to the town to investigate the old mako reactor because the residents were concerned with the uptick of monsters in the area. Guided by Tifa, the team reaches the reactor, only to discover that Shinra had been keeping experiments there, most notably a specimen named “Jenova”.
Disturbed that a Shinra experiment bears the same name as his mother, Sephiroth stays in the old Shinra Mansion in the town to find out everything he needed to know about the experiments made in it, and his connection to it. Sephiroth realizes that he himself is a product of this experiment, loses his mind, and begins to destroy the town and kill its inhabitants.
We all saw how Remake expanded on the Midgar section of the original game (which was barely a fraction of the overall story) into its own title with expanded locations, dialogue, and story. The Rebirth demo shows that it will be more of the same, which is great, and if the gameplay trailers are any indication, Square Enix outdid themseles with this one. I have played Final Fantasy VII countless times, on most platforms where it was available. As an FF7 superfan, I have gobbled up most of the spin-offs and expanded media related to the game that was released. I knew what was coming and more. But my old ass still got chills seeing the Nibelheim incident on my PS5.
With that aside, here are my impressions.
- Rebirth introduces the Synergy Ability in its combat mechanics. This allows you to attack using multiple team members, in this case, Cloud and Sephiroth with a very devastating (and very “bro”) attack. The ability reminds me of that scene in Advent Children where the team helps each other fighting Bahamut Sin. Given that the Remake’s (and by extension, Crisis Core) combat was heavily influenced by Advent Children, it seems that Square Enix pushed things one step further and translate into video game form the gang’s team combat.
- The demo also featured a very small taste of the various mini-games that can be seen in Rebirth in the form of the piano mini-game in Tifa’s room. Just like the guitar playing mini-game in The Last of Us Part II, it was fun playing around Tifa’s piano, even with the mistakes that at times added to the hilarity of the moment, which was in contrast to how serious and foreboding the atmosphere was. The mini-game is moderately challenging, but easy enough for those who just want to try and fool around with it. If there is something that Square Enix is really good at is mini-games in their titles.
- Facial animations seem better than Remake’s because certain emotions during cutscenes were depicted beautifully by facial expressions. Sephiroth, in particular, deserves special mention, especially during his rampage. Tifa too, when the cutscene showing the gang in an inn in Kalm, showed some facial expressions that will certainly catch the eye of fans who knew the whole story and context.
- I personally liked them putting subtitles for the crowd. It helps people to catch up on what was being said around them.
- I love the new traversal options. The game is still linear, but Cloud can easily leap over barriers and jump down from certain ledges now.
- I enjoyed the demo a lot, but I also noticed some iffy character models, and some rocks seemed to have a lower resolution. But graphical hiccups have never been a deal breaker for me (unless it was really bad), but it can bother people who consider it as so. But then again, I grew up playing with sprites and then polygons.
- For a demo, the length is more than adequate. The game mechanics are more or less complete and functional, and while it is possible that it was taken from an earlier than the final build, it has to be pretty damn close to the final product. Not only that, but there will be an additional section being added to the demo on February 21, 2024 which will show part of the Junon section of the game which will hopefully showcase the world map section of the game.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will be released on February 29, 2024. Until then, fans can do re-plays of Final Fantasy VII Remake and Crisis Core, to pass the time.There will be an additional segment added to the demo to really draw people further to the game. I can’t wait to get my hands on this title!