I’m not sure if there’s a good way to title the second part of a trilogy of games based on an original title that is the seventh in a series of games. But this one is called Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth.

Rebirth takes the characters and world reintroduced with Remake and does a better job of scaling everything. Instead of a single metropolis, Midgar, this time it’s a world tour. There is also an expanded list of playable characters, almost doubled Remake’s total, each again with a unique play style.

The expansive new world finally benefits from the PS5’s hardware. Rebirth it feels like a fantasy world and Square Enix successfully combined exploration in a Final Fantasy title with rich, densely populated cities and towns, rather like golden age RPGs. sure, Final Fantasy XVI it gave me a world to explore, but there wasn’t much to it. (Even if there were narrative excuses as to why.)

The golden saucer is a multi-story Disneyland with magicians and chocobo characters decorated throughout, theme park rides, travelers, holograms and shiny surfaces. Meanwhile, Cosmo Canyon looks like a treehouse that took a hundred years to build, full of tourists and hippies. There’s even a hippie circle where you can share your truth. (Oddly enough, there’s an Ayahuasca-esque vision sequence in the game that has nothing to do with Cosmo Canyon — which is a bit of a waste.)

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Review

Rebirth’s story follows protagonist Cloud and the rest of his group as they hunt down the antagonist Sephiroth, with the sinister mega-corporation Shinra wreaking havoc along the way.

Cloud looks increasingly confused as Sephiroth seemingly works its way into his head. It’s a slightly different path to the original game, adding an extra layer on top of the missing memories and its unusual origin. In fact, in the second half of Rebirth, not only is Cloud becoming more disliked, but I’m starting to dislike the rest of the group for not calling him out on his bad decisions and weird behavior. Childhood friend Tifa? You are an enabler. My anxiety about the main characters continues until the end, unfortunately.

The party hops between cities, boards ships, or finds different breeds of rideable giant birds that can cross mountains or shallow waters. It’s these areas outside of city centers where the exploration, battles, and side missions take place. So many side quests.

A remake there were some boring side quests – it seems like there were a lot of fetch quests to take up the play time. Rebirth suffers from it too – these aren’t quite Witcher-level side quests – and I think it gets worse when you’re playing a game whose story beats you roughly know as you will feel alienated by them.

As you enter new regions, new points of interest will populate your map. These can range from natural springs to artifact hunts (featuring the iconic mainstay of the Final Fantasy series), which can include holographic battles, a new tower defense game, and a card game that I was more than willing to invest too much in. a lot of time.

There are also plenty of items to pick up, reminding everyone of the collecting and crafting headaches of many current-gen games, from Baldur’s Gate 3 to Horizon to… most open world games to be honest. Fortunately, despite my anxiety, you don’t have to collect everything The game provided enough items just through my normal research to make the items I wanted. Particularly powerful accessories and items are usually locked behind an item that only the strongest monster in a certain region drops.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth ReviewFinal Fantasy 7 Rebirth Review

Square Enix

At least the lion’s share of side quests, games and challenges are optional. If you’re not interested in figuring out a route to a rocky outcrop to defeat a monster, then you really don’t have to be. You can just head to the next main objective and see where the story goes.

Rebirth doesn’t answer all the questions you might have about this remake trilogy. You will have to wait for the third part of the story and I also don’t want to spoil the story for the fans who have waited decades for this project.

There are occasional flashes… aside, to an alternate timeline where most of the original group dies in an accident, but the secondary character, Zack, another SOLDIER like Cloud, is still alive. His death in the original game was a major story beat, along with another: the death of core group member Aerith. Does she survive Chapter 2? Will this be Final Fantasy 7‘c The Empire Strikes Back? I can’t say, but there is one particularly satisfying final battle.

Some side missions held my attention. If anything, I sometimes got so distracted that I lost track of the twists and turns of the story. Rebirth benefits from a rich collection of characters from both A remake and the original, which helps add interest to what are sometimes just item-collecting quests.

More often than not, I was happy to be distracted because the art direction and environment design were just so gorgeous. Everything seems bigger and better than A remake, no more two-dimensional sky and horizon wallpapers. From the top of Cosmo Canyon, you can still see the fans of the Cosmo area, there for your study of flying birds.

There were some questionable graphical textures during my playthrough, especially in the overworld, but Square Enix launched a patch to fix most of that a day before this review was embargoed. Although I’m not obsessed with pixels or FPS, before the patch I found a performance mode (FF7 Rebirth again offers a high frame option and a high resolution playback option) a bit too blurry. I hope future updates will address this. Despite all that, it’s often the best-looking PS5 game since Horizon Forbidden West.

Once again, Square Enix has added a soundtrack filled with new tunes and even more remixes and reimaginings of the seminal MIDI originals from 1997. My pick: the new Cosmo region overworld theme that screams Beck. Musical reference also from 1997.

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Square Enix

This game is delightfully silly in places, intentionally so. It has a sense of humor that gets as ridiculous as any Like a Dragon side search. Segway? yes Ninja clones of the most annoying character yes a cat riding a giant bird yes.

The combat system takes what A remake introduces and adds additional co-op attacks and skills. There are synergy skills, instants, free attacks and defensive moves that combine your controlling character with party allies. Then there are synergy abilities (completely different) that stack up during battle as you use your more typical attacks and spells. These are more like special attacks that often ensure you can defeat tough enemies. Along with damage, they will offer an upgrade such as faster attack gauges, unlimited MP, or increasing character cap levels to even more powerful ultimate moves.

Final Fantasy 7 RebirthFinal Fantasy 7 Rebirth

Square Enix

It seems excessive at first, and I’m a possessive Polygon figure of Cloud in a dress for $150. The whole system (including push and stagger, elemental weaknesses, status effects, buffs, debuffs, limit breaks, and the active time-to-battle (ATB) gauge needed to do anything meaningful with your players) is a lot.

Even if you come from A remakeas i did Of rebirth the combat system can be overwhelming at first. While the game introduces these new synergies in simpler two-sided battles, it never offers a good enough explanation for its use in early battles. As I mentioned in my preview, there is a new air combat system, but aside from Cloud, I have no idea how to launch other characters into the air without using special synergy abilities.

Fortunately, the combat system as a whole, muddy learning curve aside, is fun. And extremely satisfying once you figure out the patterns and behavior of certain bosses. I’ll admit it: I died a few times. But I never felt let down by it.

I really enjoyed the battles in the challenges A remakeand Rebirth there are seemingly shy of a hundred of them scattered across battle arenas, holodeck battles, and rare monsters in the wild. I’m already hooked on the Queen’s Blood card game. The card games have their own side story, but the best parts are the card “puzzles” where you have to really figure it out how the more unique cards work for profit.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth ReviewFinal Fantasy 7 Rebirth Review

Square Enix

Other highlights, however, include a bunch of reimagined minigames beyond Queen’s Blood. So. a lot. Mini games. There is a new fort condor tower defense game, the cycling battle of A remakeholographic Super drill– stylized game, a Star fox-shoot-em-up style – in fact, the Super Nintendo seems to have heavily inspired the selection of games in the rebirth’Gold Saucer Amusement Park. There’s a lot to do, and while there are certainly repetitive elements, it feels like the game is giving them to the finishers rather than everyone else.

I completed all the side quests in two areas by playing the game on a new dynamic difficulty setting where enemies won’t decrease in level as you play but will increase, meaning you won’t start the game if you’ve grinded a few levels before. Of course, there is also standard difficulty. It will definitely be a challenging game if you haven’t played A remake. And don’t worry if you don’t have the original 1997 game: Rebirth ensures die-hard fans and newcomers alike can follow, with plenty of Easter eggs for the former if they pay attention.

Rebirth is the difficult middle chapter. A remake on PS4 showed that it was possible to imagine a PlayStation game for the modern era, with deeper battles and beautiful graphics, but perhaps not so heavy as to create FF7, the world. This is what Rebirth seems to achieve. Looking back at A remake now, entirely in the city of Midgar, it seems claustrophobic by comparison.