Preview: Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Has A Promising Open World
Image via Square Enix

Preview: Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Has a Promising Open World

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth continues the story of the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy VII Remake, which was released in 2020. In the highly-anticipated sequel, Square Enix expands beyond the walls of Midgar as Cloud and his gang explore a vast open world in search of Sephiroth. With Final Fantasy VII Rebirth setting its sights on a more ambitious scope, it seems like an opportunity for the remake RPG to deliver on the same reimagining treatment that we experienced with part one.

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Editor’s Note: This preview was based on a special Final Fantasy VII Remake build made for media to experience, and its contents may differ from the final version.

The Final Fantasy VII Rebirth preview demo I played was split into two sections. In part one, the story follows a younger Cloud and Sephiroth as they team up with Tifa to investigate a Mako Reactor on Mt. Nibel. Imagine my surprise when it was revealed that Sephiroth is a playable character in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth! The powerful 1st Class SOLDIER has two modes in combat: Retaliation and Slash. In Retaliation, Sephiroth redirects and reflects attacks that come his way when timed correctly. Square Enix delivered on capturing the fan-favorite character’s power in this session, as I was able to quickly fly around the screen to unleash absolute terror against enemies with his blade. The Retaliation stance offers an interesting defensive contrast, which allowed me to slow down battles when I needed to counter stronger enemies.

Screenshot of Sephiroth gameplay in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview demo
Image via Square Enix

One of the first things that became apparent to me in the demo is how much combat in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth improved compared to 2020’s Remake. One of the stand-out mechanics is the new Synergy Skills feature, which sees you combining attacks with other members of your party. Not only does this add cinematic moments to combat, but it makes you feel more connected to the characters. Each Synergy Ability has a unique combination, and the ones I saw are oozing with personality. For example, the demo featured a duo ability that has Sephiroth leading Cloud into battle as the two pair their attacks together. The special attack thematically has a doe-eyed Cloud listening to his mentor’s every word as he is still learning the ropes. This Synergy system adds a lot of personality to the game and gives you more options to strategize with your team in instead of just spamming one character in combat.

Although the Mt. Nibel mission was more linear, it was very similar to many sections in Final Fantasy VII Remake in that it included dynamic level exploration, hidden chests, and puzzles. As I followed my guide Tifa up the mountain, I found myself constantly wandering off the beaten path to find items and to take in the breathtaking landscapes. The demo quest ended with Cloud and Sephiroth being attacked by a giant Mako Guardian. In Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, Square Enix has expanded further on Remake’s boss fights by making these encounters more dynamic. For example, after dishing out enough damage to the giant creature, the Guardian jumped to the ceiling. To knock it down, I had to switch to Sephiroth and use his ranged attacks, as he is better at reaching greater heights than Cloud. Using his iconic blade, I then unleashed a flurry of slashes on each leg of the boss until he was sent tumbling down to the ground.

Compared to Remake, I felt like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth really encourages you to use your entire team. Whether it was the returning ATB charge abilities, spells, or the new Synergy Skills, I had to utilize every tool in my combat arsenal to come out on top of the Mt. Nibel boss battle. However, the Synergy system really was the star of the demo for me. After saving up enough energy, the one-click combo moves injected these epic moments into the battles I faced while also giving me a glimpse of the character’s personalities and relationships with one another. It also just opens a lot of strategy options in combat, and I am interested to see how it’s further developed in the final version of the game.

Screenshot of Sephiroth cutscene in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview demo
Image via Square Enix

The second demo I played took place in an open-world section of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. In the quest, Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Barret, and Red XIII set off on their journey to reach Junon. Final Fantasy fans who love Chocobos are in for a treat, as the adorable birds play a big role in Rebirth. With the click of a button, Cloud and his friends are able to call a Chocobo mount to their location instantly. The riding system in the game feels very fluid and allows you to cover a lot of ground quickly. Although the demo had a main quest marker, I quickly wanted to explore every nook and cranny of the map.

Thankfully, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth‘s open world seemed filled to the brim with side content. On my adventure to Junon, I stumbled upon Fiend Sightings. These are high-level enemies and mini-boss fights scattered throughout the map. In each encounter, there are a handful of objectives you can complete in the battle, such as Staggering Enemies or Defeating Every Enemy in a set time. The more objectives you complete, the better rewards you get. If you fail any objective, you can actually go back and re-try any fiend encounter you have defeated. Fans of Final Fantasy XV‘s Hunts will feel right at home with the new creature mechanic.

Another side quest I discovered involved the Choco Bus stops. Throughout the map, there are little baby Chocobos that chirp at you. If you follow them, they will eventually lead you to a Chocobo Bus Stop sign that has been knocked over. Fixing the signs will reward you with the Golden Plume Choco Currency, which can be exchanged for armor and items. Another reward? You get to watch Cloud kneel on the ground and pet the baby Chocobo. Yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds! Even better is that the signs you fix can become fast travel points, which really speeds up traversal.

Screenshot of Cloud petting a Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview demo
Image via Square Enix

Chocobo aren’t just simple mounts in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth either, as Square Enix has given them some interesting extra features in the sequel. I was walking around the outskirts of Junon when my mount suddenly stopped in its tracks after smelling nearby treasure. Following my Chocobo’s scent then led me to a chest that was hidden in the overworld. I also stumbled upon a Chocobo Farm, which allowed me to customize the armor pieces I had on my mount. I don’t know if the apparel actually has an impact on stats or is purely cosmetic, but Rebirth is going a long way to really flesh out Chocobo.

While traversing Final Fantasy VII Rebirth‘s open world, you will also find resources scattered around the world. After picking them up, you can then use the material to craft new items. During my playthrough, I was able to quickly craft potions and items that buff my character’s damage on the fly. If you aren’t the biggest fan of crafting, the system is really accessible and can be done with just a few clicks. You are also able to pick up resources while riding your Chocobo, which gives you another reason to explore every inch of the map.

Speaking of accessibility, Rebirth has a nifty feature that lets you switch between pre-set teams with a simple click. At the start of my open-world demo, I was given the option to choose which team I wanted to take out into the overworld map. Just like the Synergy system, Square Enix has again continued to encourage players to use every member of their team by making it as easy as possible. Given how important each character is to the Final Fantasy VII story, the new team accessibility options are a welcome change that makes team-building everyone can engage with. And given just how unique and epic Synergy moves are, you will want to use as many different combinations as possible. One of my favorite moments in the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Demo was Cloud teaming up with Aerith to use her magic to create a fireworks-like move.

Screenshot of Chocobo traversal in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview demo
Image via Square Enix

The second part of the demo ended with us eventually arriving at the seaside village of Junon, where Cloud encounters Yuffie. The hilariously sweet scene is short-lived after the terrifying boss, the Terror of the Deep, reveals itself. This section’s boss was much more difficult than Mt. Nibel’s Materia Guardian. I was really having to use every member of my team to take on the sea creature. Whether it was Cloud’s Triple Slash, Tifa’s uppercut, or Aerith’s healing, this was a team effort to bring the boss fight down.

As someone who recently re-played Final Fantasy VII Intergrade in preparation for this preview, it became really clear to me just how much more improved combat has become in Rebirth. In every encounter I’ve experienced so far, this is a much more challenging game that really puts an emphasis on utilizing multiple characters’ abilities during the flow of combat. Although Remake had a robust combat system, it was all too easy to just stick to playing as Cloud the entire game while letting AI control your team. If this preview demo is anything to go by, we are going to be using every member of the Final Fantasy VIII Rebirth cast a lot, and the sequel is all the better for it.

I ended up walking away from the demo feeling very confident in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. It is in every way an improvement over its predecessor while still living up to the gorgeous high-definition reimagining that Remake gave us. It’s just bigger and better. While I was salivating every second, I got to play as Sephiroth, the biggest grin I had on my face came when Cloud and his friends were just riding around on their Chocobo in the dusty open world region heading to Junon. The most important aspect of the original 1997 Final Fantasy VII was the cast. And in this regard, Rebirth has really gone to great lengths to make the beloved characters the star of the show. I can’t wait to take an adventure with them when the game launches next year.

Screenshot of Terror of the Deep boss in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Preview demo
Image via Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will release on PlayStation 5 on February 29, 2024. The exclusivity arrangement ends on May 29, 2024.

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Image of Brent Koepp
Brent Koepp
Based in California, Brent is an Editor at Siliconera and has been a journalist since 2010. When he's not playing JRPGs or catching 'em all in Pokémon, you can find him spending time with his wife and two dogs.