In the lead-up to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s release on February 29, 2024, I was lucky enough to sit down and play through the first four hours of the game, and let me waste no time telling you – it is phenomenal. Final Fantasy VII Remake was my Game of the Year in 2021, and if those first four hours are anything to go by, Rebirth will likely be my GOTY for 2024.
A Whole New World
While I can’t say much about Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s first chapter because it’s major spoiler territory, I can tell you that it leads on perfectly from Final Fantasy VII Remake. There’s no slow start here, no catching you up on the events of the first part; you’re expected to know the previous events and dive right in.
The story starts incredibly strong, immediately pulling you into action and tugging on your heartstrings. Seriously, 40 minutes in, and I was already tearing up. But that’s to be expected: this is Final Fantasy 7, after all. Even past this, I found myself experiencing all kinds of emotions during my four-hour session: sadness, excitement, anxiety, you name it.
Once the events in Chapter 1 come to a close, you’re thrown into the city of Kalm, where you begin to learn more about your fellow party members. After a tense conversation with Tifa, you’re given a brief moment of calm (no pun intended) to take in the city before Shinra’s hot on your tail once more, rudely interrupting Cloud’s date with Aerith. It’s a stark reminder that, for Avalanche, you can never get too comfortable.
It’s here where Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth opens up, and you escape Kalm into a vast area known as the Grasslands. After a visit to the Chocobo Ranch, where you get your very own Chocobo to ride whenever you want, you meet a familiar face: Chadley. If you don’t remember him, Chadley was an intern at Shinra’s Research and Development Division who tasked Cloud with helping him gather Materia data in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. And he’s back to requesting Cloud’s assistance here, this time, to activate Remnawave Towers.
Once switched on, these towers highlight points of interest on the map, reminiscent of a Ubisoft title. But you’re not playing Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed; you’re playing Final Fantasy, and, weirdly enough, the mechanic somehow works. And it works well. Several types of World Intel activities open up once a tower is switched on, such as Fiend Intel, which has you battling monsters, and Expedition Intel, which reveals the history of the area. But my personal favorite is the Moogle Intel. Yes – Moogles are in the game.
Moogles live in Mogstools in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, which are large mushrooms with doors. Head inside, and you’ll meet a Moogle Merchant who needs help – their Moogle friends are slacking off, and they can’t do business without them! It’s your job to round them up and get them back on track, which involves an adorable mini-game where you must avoid their tricks and herd them like sheep; think Goat Herding in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but cuter, obviously.
While I only made it up to the Grasslands in my preview session, it’s somewhere I can see myself spending many hours in before moving on. If you’re the type of player who likes to explore and collect everything possible, it is an absolute dream. And even if you’re not, you have the option to move on, so you can take as much or as little of it in as you’d like.
Move Over, Gwent – Queen’s Blood is Here
And then there’s Queen’s Blood, a card game that, despite only playing four matches, hooked me instantly. In Chapter 2, you’re given a starting deck and a tutorial on how to play. “Ugh, not another video game card game,” you might be thinking. Because I did, too. But Queen’s Blood isn’t just another card game – it’s actually fun.
The aim of Queen’s Blood is to score more points than your opponent by placing cards on a five-by-three grid with the hopes of taking up as much real estate as possible. Each of your cards occupies a number of squares on the board, depending on its type, and is worth a certain amount of points. Cards can even steal opponents’ claimed squares. The winner is the person with the most points in each row once all the board spaces have been filled.
Playing Queen’s Blood is just half the fun, though. There are cards to collect, too, whether it’s buying them from a vendor or defeating other Queen’s Blood players to win their best cards. If you liked Gwent in The Witcher 3, you’ll probably like Queen’s Blood. And it’ll probably hook you like Gwent, too. As soon as the full game releases, it’s over for all the amateur players in Gaia – I’m coming for the Queen’s Blood crown, baby.
Between playing the main story and completing side content, you can interact with your fellow party members. And sometimes, you’ll have a dialogue choice that raises (or lowers!) your relationship with them. A higher relationship means better synergy in battle, so your decisions matter.
For example, I was exploring Kalm when Aerith asked if Cloud wanted to go on a date with her. Instead of Cloud answering for me, I could choose to accept or decline, a decision that would affect Cloud’s relationship with her (obviously, I said yes). A short while later, I met Barret in a bar and reminisced about Seventh Heaven. I made Cloud offer to buy Barret’s first drink once the bar is up and running again, which, again, increased their relationship.
I didn’t play enough to experience the consequences of increasing Cloud’s relationships firsthand, but just getting these little glimpses into how these beloved characters interact with each other was truly so thrilling. After all, they’re all each other have while the world falls apart, and that’s beautiful in its own way. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth seems to do even more to make you fall in love with its characters, even after you go through so many emotions with them in Remake. I just know this game is going to end up breaking my heart into a million pieces. I feel it. But I don’t mind, either.
A Technical Masterpiece
Although I only played for around four hours, I can tell you that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is graphically one of the best games I’ve played on PlayStation 5 – on Graphics mode, anyway. You can choose between prioritizing graphics and performance, AKA framerate.
I messed around with the two modes during my time with the game and there was a huge difference between them graphically. Like, enough that I personally wouldn’t play on Performance mode, even if it meant playing with a lower FPS. I don’t know if it was because I was sitting so close to the TV, but there was too much of a difference between the two for my tastes. That said, I did play a preview build, so Performance mode could look better in the full release.
Graphics mode ran great in my experience, though. It didn’t stutter, and even the busiest fights were fluid. Spells were flying, and Limit Breaks were popping off, and I barely noticed a dip. Everything looked beautiful, even down to Cloud’s pores on his face. Seriously, the amount of detail in Graphics mode was, to be frank, astounding. If this is how it will look on February 29, we’re in for a real treat.
After being lucky enough to spend just a few hours with Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, it’s clear how much love, time, and effort Square Enix has put into the game. Based on what I played, if you liked Remake, I think you’ll absolutely love Rebirth.
Seriously, my only downside is that we have to wait a few more weeks for it to be released. It’s killing me.