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Review: ‘Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth’ is Among the Franchises’ Best

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“The unknown journey will continue.” This was the promise made at the end of the first installment of the Final Fantasy VII: Remake trilogy. When the game came out in April 2020, Square Enix and Director Tetsuya Nomura embarked on the daunting task of reimagining one of gaming’s most iconic RPGs. Remake (and the later enhanced Remake Intergrade) received high praise from Final Fantasy fans, becoming one of the best-selling games from the franchise. This set the stage for its successor, Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, to become one of the most anticipated games of 2024. The expectation from fans to see how the story continued rivaled those set for its predecessor in 2020. And Rebirth did not disappoint in the slightest.

[Warning: Spoilers for the Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, Final Fantasy VII: Remake, and more below!]

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth presents a fantastic reimagining of the story we know

Rebirth picks up right where we left off in Remake, with Cloud Strife and his friends embarking on a journey across the planet after escaping from the city of Midgar. The story is accompanied by a massive open-world setting, where players visit new regions from the original game, including Kalm, Junon, Costa del Sol, the Gold Saucer, Gongaga, Cosmo Canyon, and Nibelheim, all leading to the game’s finale at the Northern Regions and The Forgotten Capital. 

For the most part, the story is a loyal adaptation of the original Final Fantasy VII story. Several additions to the original story expanded upon the lore of some of these characters and worlds, while incorporating new twists and rewrites to keep the story fresh and updated. This allowed newer players to continue the tale of the franchise beloved by many for the first time. It also gave fans of the original game new elements to explore and additions that expanded on the story they already knew.

Aerith Gainsborough, Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockheart Final Fantasy VII
Aerith Gainsborough, Cloud Strife, and Tifa Lockheart in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth

What makes Rebirth unique in its story is that while it is technically a sequel to Remake, the game acts as a standalone title. This works great for returning fans and newcomers alike. However, I recommend that you at least play Final Fantasy VII: Remake, the Episode INTERmission DLC from Remake Intergrade, Final Fantasy VII: Evercrisis and Crisis Core – Final Fantasy VII – Reunion to make the most of the story presented in Rebirth.

Infinite side quests, mini-games, and a massive open world to explore

To keep the game fresh for players, the developers took advantage of the world established in the original Final Fantasy VII game and developed an open-world setting reminiscent of the one in Final Fantasy XV. This is a huge step up from the progressively linear storyline in Remake, where fans could only explore Midgar and its sectors. 

While embarking on your main scenario, you will encounter many regions of the world of Final Fantasy VII, each with a unique style and detail worthy of praise. There are moments in the game where I would stop just to take in the beauty of the sights at places like Cosmo Canyon, Nibelheim, the Northern Regions, and Junon.

As is with most modern RPGs, the open-world setting comes with a considerable amount of side quests. These side quests will help expand more on the lore of each sector, as well as the backstory of some of the characters on the team, and build up an emotional relationship with some by the time you reach your date at the Gold Saucer.

Cloud Strife and Co. in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth
Cloud Strife and Co. in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (Square Enix)

There are also a considerable number of mini-games to play in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, almost 20 different games. Some will be a requirement to advance in the game, such as the Dolphin Escape, the Junon Shinra March, and Chocobo racing. But perhaps my favorite is the card-playing game, Queen’s Blood, which brought me back to when I would obsess about playing card games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon.

A multiverse of possibilities for Zack Fair and other characters

If you’ve followed my work here at The Cosmic Circus, you know that the topic of the Multiverse and its logic is one that I love to explore and explain whenever I get the chance. So when Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth introduced the Multiverse into the mix of this story, I was already invested.

The multiversal element to the story was first teased back in Remake, with the incorporation of the Whispers as the Arbiters of Fate to keep the course of destiny in check (essentially to keep the story on script as much as possible). When the Whispers are beaten at the end of Remake, this causes the main timeline of the game to branch into several different worlds.

The most significant world is the one inhabited by Zack Fair, a side character from the original Final Fantasy VII who is deeply connected to Cloud’s past. In the main timeline, Zack Fair died protecting Cloud from an ambush of Shinra soldiers, which sparks the events of the original Final Fantasy VII game; however, at the end of Remake, this changed with the defeat of the Whispers, and Zack survived.

This led to an incredible side story in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, with Zack taking care of Aerith and Cloud in his reality. There, he interacts with a version of Biggs that died in the original timeline but survived in this new world, while carrying the memories of the version from the original. 

Zack Fair holding Cloud Strife FFVII
Zack Fair in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (Square Enix)

While the whole multiverse aspect is still slightly unclear, my prediction is that if a character dies in the main timeline, as Zack and Biggs did, their consciousness is transferred to a new world where their story continues. This was evidenced when Marlene, in Zack’s world, said that if Aerith wakes up, she will die.

When Cloud and Aerith presumably fall to their deaths at the end of Chapter 13 in the main timeline, we then cut to see Aerith and Cloud from Zack’s world fully awake, with Cloud questioning whether or not they died. This could mean that their consciousness most likely traveled from the main timeline to this new one before it was sent back into the main timeline. There’s also evidence of this in Remake; when Biggs is revealed to be alive, he is shown to be waking up from a dream. 

Regardless, the multiverse plotline climaxes in the game’s final chapter, where worlds converge, and so do the characters from these different worlds as they join in alliances to face Sephiroth together. The team of Cloud and Zack in a united front against Sephiroth was easily one of the most hyped moments from the game. It was incredibly heartwarming to see Zack Fair and his living legacy, Cloud, team up together to take on Sephiroth. And while the worlds are now parted, the final line from Zack hinting at a reunion means his story is far from over.

High expectations for the next chapter of Final Fantasy VII

My expectations for the future installment of Final Fantasy VII are incredibly high, since Square Enix seems keen to elevate the standard with each new release in the Remake project. Starting with the title, based on all the hints given throughout Rebirth, there is no doubt in my mind that the perfect title for the third (and potentially final) installment in this project should be Final Fantasy VII: Reunion.

Vincent Valentine Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth
Vincent Valentine in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (Square Enix)

The title alludes to so many different elements that are set to be explored in the upcoming installment. This should include the reunion of Jenova’s Cells via the form of the robed men, infused with Jenova’s cells from Professor Hojo’s experiments. As well as the reunion between Cloud’s team and Sephiroth, and the reunion of worlds between Zack and Cloud.

In addition to developing the third project, Square Enix could develop additional content to complement the Final Fantasy VII story on the road to Reunionsimilar to Episode INTERmission. One idea for this extra content could be an episode exploring Vincent Valentine’s past as a Turk, possibly adapting part of the Dirge of Cerberus game. They could also make an episode based on Zack Fair’s time in this new world and expand more on the lore of the Multiverse.

Wherever the story may lead us, there is only one thing promised to us players: “No Promises Await at Journey’s End.”

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is easily one of the best

Rebirth definitely deserves the critical acclaim it has received. Among my top personal rankings, I could easily place this as the #1 Final Fantasy game of the modern era and among the top three Final Fantasy titles of all time. Everything from the character design, and the open-world setting, to the exhilarating score and the interactions with the characters come together to make one of the best Final Fantasy games to date.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is available for purchase on PlayStation 5! Have you played the game yet? What are your thoughts? Let us know on our Cosmic Circus Discord and social media @mycosmiccircus as well!

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