Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Final Fantasy VII’s Most Iconic Flashback Is Better Than Ever

The church in the slums, the Gold Saucer date, the slap-fest atop Junon’s Sister Ray cannon—Final Fantasy VII has a heaping helping of memorable setpieces. And few among them are more iconic than Square Enix’s own Rashomon—the Nibelheim Incident.

Three Things We Learned From The Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Demo

Share SubtitlesOffEnglishShare this VideoFacebookTwitterEmailRedditLinkview videoThree Things We Learned From The Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Demo

Here’s the setup: After leaving his hometown to join the elite military force known as SOLDIER, Cloud Strife returns to Nibelheim accompanied by the legendary warrior Sephiroth. They’re investigating problems with the nearby Mako reactor, when things go very wrong very fast. Throughout FF7, we see this inciting incident from multiple perspectives, learning new information each time. What happened at Nibelheim is foundational to our understanding of Cloud and a major reason why FF7 is still so beloved more than a quarter-century later.

Pre-order Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Reimagining FF7's Nibelheim Incident

In a recent demo of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, the second installment of the three-part remake out February 29, I got an amuse bouche of Square Enix’s reimagined version of this sequence. Accompanied by trail guide Tifa and a faceless Shinra grunt, Cloud and Sephiroth ascend Mt. Nibel to the reactor, demolishing monsters along the way. In the 1997 version of FF7 this climb is the only chance you get to play as Sephiroth, and his immense power relative to Cloud is communicated via his Big Boy HP stats and ability to hit for 9,999 damage with every swipe of his sword.

Rebirth communicates Sephiroth’s strength in more subtle ways, but they’re still impressively badass. He’s got a fully realized moveset that feels distinct from Cloud’s, and can warp short distances in the real-time fights to avoid damage or set up combos. He and Cloud also have a cheek-to-cheek tandem attack that’s probably already inspired countless horny fanfics. You definitely come away from this reimagined sequence feeling like Sephiroth is not someone you’d want to mess with.

Beyond the pyrotechnics, the storytelling in Rebirth’s riff on the Nibelheim Incident really shines, adding a level of nuance that just wasn’t possible with the low-poly block monsters and text boxes of 1997. The first thing you’ll notice is that something about this version of Cloud Strife is off. It’s not just that he’s younger. It’s not the pie-eyed innocence, although that’s also jarring. What’s discordant here is the easy charm, the natural self-assurance. Teen SOLDIER Cloud is, quite simply, adorable. The Cloud of FF7’s present tense has none of these qualities—not yet, anyway. He gives aloof responses, has a habit of telling people to “stand back” so he can “handle” things, and is palpably scared of girls.

Longtime Final Fantasy dweebs will immediately clock the reason for this disconnect, which I won’t spoil here. But I can easily see how Cloud’s clear personality shift would be compelling to folks who weren’t already familiar with the game’s complicated lore. The entire sequence is cleverly and lovingly handled, and I can’t wait to see more examples of this in the full game.

Exploring the outskirts of Junon

The second part of my demo consisted of open-world exploration and monster hunting in the area near Junon, and golly, there was an awful lot to take onboard in a half-hour or so. The real-time combat gameplay has been expanded since Remake to include tag-team attacks and more powerful versions known as Synergy attacks. You’ll also have more playable characters to choose from, including Red XIII, whose low-slung center of mass and speedy moveset make him a fun pairing with combo monster Tifa.

During fights, you’ll see members who aren’t in the active party bopping around in the background. As far as I could tell, they’re not really contributing to the fight, but it makes more sense than everyone disappearing and reappearing, I guess. It wasn’t exactly immersion breaking, since I was mostly concerned with remembering the controls and fighting styles of each character, but I could imagine eventually getting annoyed by Barrett doing pointless sprints on the periphery while I’m getting my ass handed to me in a tough brawl.

One of the biggest questions heading into Rebirth has been how the game would handle FF7’s expansive world map. The environments remain true to the aesthetics of the original while expanding the scale to account for the shift from the top-down overworld map of the OG PlayStation era to a seamless third-person experience. You’ll have access to fast travel via the in-game menu, as well as chocobos to speed up exploration. So far, so good. Though I’m glad to see every member of the party get their own noble chicken-horse to ride as a matter of principle, I did run into choppy visuals, whiplash camera movement, and a jumble of choco-butts while I was wandering around or turning suddenly. Hopefully the final release will smooth that out.

The Junon section of my Rebirth demo felt far more cluttered than the Nibelheim stuff. All at once I was buffeted by a Cyberpunk 2077-esque barrage of notifications about activities like monster hunting, following chocobo chicks, and crafting. Combined with new HUD elements, the overall presentation felt a bit crowded and cluttered compared to that of Remake. The full game will likely benefit from integrating these activities into the experience more gradually, rather than overturning the toy box all in one go.

If there’s one thing exactly no one was asking for, it was adding a crafting system to FF7. (Final Fantasy XV’s magic-crafting system managed to be both deeply broken and boring as hell.) Even so, I’m excited for Rebirth’s generally more-is-more approach to this story. In the classic original, Cloud’s doomed world is a wonderful place to get lost in, and that certainly seems to be the case in this modern reimagining as well. I may not become a master potion-maker anytime soon, but I’m awfully excited to hop aboard my chocobo and go find some trouble.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth releases on February 29, 2024 for PlayStation 5.

Pre-order Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Popular Articles