Final Fantasy VII Rebirth PS5 Hands-On Preview – Square Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase is talking to press before our hands on with the second chapter of its Final Fantasy VII Remake project, reminding us how beloved the original game is more than 25 years after its initial release, He’s definitely right about that. I have fond memories of the seminal PSOne RPG, and still try to play it every now and then; a testament to its enduring popularity among players of my age, although it’s great to see younger players jump on the bandwagon.
I’ll admit that I didn’t have much luck with FFVII Remake. I played it during a preview event back in February 2020, was rubbish at the new combat system, and never took the plunge for the full game. That’s something I’m looking to rectify asap however, as my time with FFVII Rebirth was nothing short of brilliant and convinced me to take the dive.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth PS5 Hands-On Preview
The first section of my hands-on with FFVII Rebirth took place during the Nibelheim flashback sequence, where Cloud recounts his time with Sephiroth to the group as they take a breather in Kalm Town. This section should be familiar to anyone who played the original, and it was great to see the light banter between Cloud and co in the truck on a rainy day recreated with full voice acting.
However, unlike the original game where Sephiroth is controlled by the AI during battles, you actually get to play as him this time around. Soon enough, I was thrown into a battle with a couple of enemies (no green dragon this time around), with the silver-haired SOLDIER legend fully at my command. His exorbitantly long sword, the Masume, is absolutely lethal in combat, and dodging with the circle button sees Sephiroth whip around the battlefield almost instantaneously.
Needless to say, it’s not long before I cut a bloody swath through my enemies and hop back into the truck to arrive in Cloud’s hometown.
Nibelheim retains its picturesque, sleepy town vibe only this time it’s much larger and is bustling with locals chattering amongst themselves, with the whole place buzzing with excitement as we arrive. The game looks absolutely gorgeous too, although that’s probably obvious by this point to anyone who has seen it in action.
I’m free to wonder around town for a bit, nattering with the locals and also catching up with Cloud’s mum. Eventually we get down to business and head out into the mountains to hit up a malfunctioning Mako Reactor, with Tifa as our guide. Here I’m able to sample a lot of the combat as Cloud, who is more than capable of dishing out some serious punishment to the various foes that attack us.
Combat is largely similar to Remake, which is no bad thing. Square is your bread-and-butter combat attack, circle dodges, and R1 blocks. It’s easy to get into a rhythm of evading and counter-attacking, and hitting X to access your spells and specials once your ATB gauge is cooking feels seamless and intuitive.
Attacks like Braver, fire and more really add a punch to the regular scrap and light up battles with vibrant colours, not to mention being extremely satisfying to pull off. You can also get a drop on your foes by pressing the attack before they see you, which is a nice touch.
Many of the foes I battled against were clearly inspired by the enemies from the original game, and it was great to traverse the mountains as before, albeit on a much grandeur scale. By far the biggest event is when Cloud and Sephiroth tackle a boss (fans will recognise it, though I won’t comment further) and you switch between both during combat in an effort to drop the beast. It’s a thrilling battle that really makes use of your full repertoire, and Sephiroth absolutely shines in his sheer combat prowess.
The iconic sequence where Nibelheim is set ablaze is recreated here with stunning visual fidelity, and packs more an emotional punch now thanks to the power of PS5. I won’t go into specific details but long-time fans will totally eat this up to say the least. That one scene you’re probably think of is here, and is recreated brilliantly.
Back in Kalm, I’m introduced to some of the new mechanics in Rebirth. One of these is your Party Level, which can be increased to strengthen your bond with your teammates by completing challenges and completing side tasks. For example, during some down time Aerith asked if Cloud fancied seeing the Clock Tower in Kalm Town, which I did, although Shinra quickly came after us and we had to skip town.
Clearly, the relationship with your party members is paramount in Rebirth, as Friendship Bonds are also an important role, which are shaped by the various actions you partake in during your quest. There’s also a new card game you can take part in around town, Queen’s Blood, which I will admit I was rubbish at at had no clue how to play!
Moving on, and Chapter 2 acquaints us with the open-world after Cloud’s party leaves Kalm. This area is known as the Grasslands, and allowed me to venture off at my own leisure, battling foes and seeing some of the sights, including the Chocobo Ranch.
Along the way I also get to try out the new Synergy Attacks, which complement your standard battle actions with specific teammates. For example, Cloud is able to harness Aerith’s magical proficiency to attack foes, which adds a new dimension to scraps.
The great thing about this area is that, unlike the original where you simply traversed a map screen punctuated by random battles, the world of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is fully open to explore. It’s peppered with things to see and do, from travellers, abandoned buildings to loot, beautiful vistas to soak up, rippling waters, and more. It looks gorgeous too, and makes exploration an absolute joy.
I also had a blast humming along to the iconic soundtrack, with familiar tunes given more weight and nuance while still retaining everything that made them so memorable in the original Final Fantasy VII.
From my four or so hours with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, it’s clear that Square Enix is crafting an ambitious sequel that looks set to include meaningful character development, a real sense of exploration, and recreate iconic sequences with the love and care they deserve. With gripping combat and gorgeous visuals, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has everything going for it right now to become of the 2024’s standout titles.
Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is out on Feb. 29, 2024 for PS5. For more hands-on impressions of the RPG sequel, be sure to check out PSU’s Garri Bagdasarov’s own preview here.