Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Is a Nearly-Perfect Sequel

Inverse Score: 10/10

Square Enix
Video Game Reviews

I knew The Gold Saucer was going to be a big moment in Rebirth, but nothing could prepare me for the cacophonous performance that broke out when I entered the gilded theme park: dazzling holograms, gyrating bodies, and a healthy dose of Terry Crews-esque Pec Popping. It was just one of nearly a dozen moments that had my jaw on the floor.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is a staggeringly huge game, both in terms of its actual size and its seemingly unchecked ambition. The world and events of the original 1997 game have been lavishly recreated and turned into an open-world theme park filled with wondrous sights, gripping emotional narratives, thrilling bosses, and more minigames than you can keep track of. The scope of Rebirth can be initially overwhelming, but the spirit of Final Fantasy 7 permeates every aspect of this experience, even more so than Remake. It’s quite simply the best Final Fantasy game in two decades and a push toward the future that the franchise needs.

The Ties That Bind

Final Fantasy 7’s world has been reimagined on a grand scale, with extensive new story segments.

Square Enix

Rebirth picks up directly after the events of Final Fantasy 7 Remake with Cloud and the party arriving in the idyllic town of Kalm before launching straight into a flashback set years earlier in Cloud and Tifa’s hometown of Nibelheim. The events of Rebirth still follow the path of the original Final Fantasy 7, hitting all the major beats from when the party leaves Midgar to the mid-game climax at the Forgotten Capital.

What quickly becomes apparent, however, is that Rebirth embellishes and adds to the story far more than Remake did, but that fact is the key to what helps the game overcome its predecessor. Side content is a major factor of Rebirth, and we’ll get to that shortly, but the gripping main story is still the beating heart of the experience.

Rebirth doesn’t shy away from tackling the larger themes that put Final Fantasy 7 on the map. The game’s commentary on environmentalism feels more prescient than ever, but the game doesn’t just bring the theme back, it comments on how these issues have only gotten worse (and ignored more) in the decades since Final Fantasy 7. Still, the story weaves through themes of surviving and overcoming trauma and carries forward Remake’s idea about defying fate and forging your own path. These various themes make Rebirth’s narrative rich, and they’re heightened by what the game does best: characters.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth even made me realize a shortcoming of the original game that I’d never even thought about before: party members had a relationship with Cloud but not with each other. That’s not true here, as the real emphasis of Rebirth’s narrative is on the bonds between everyone. Big moments like Barret’s relationship with Dyne have more emotional heft than ever before, but the little moments are equally important; things like Barret pretending to have the air knocked out of him when Yuffie fake punches him, or how Cloud asks Tifa and Aerith for a high-five after a victory.

The heart of Rebirth is the intimate character moments between its main party.

Square Enix

Rebirth is crammed full of delightful character interactions, which are mechanically represented by a new relationship system that ties into some of the game’s big moments, like an intimate conversation between Cloud and one other party member during a Gold Saucer date. There’s an incredible amount of care and detail put into each party member, and the development team made sure everybody gets their time to shine. Cait Sith, in particular, is a fascinating addition, a bizarre little dude spilling over with charm and personality who adds so much and hilariously plays off of the straight-laced Barret.

Those relationships carry over to the combat system, with the new Synergy Abilities that are all about party members working together. As characters use ATB commands, a Synergy gauge builds up, which lets you use powerful team-up attacks with unique effects, like extending the stagger time on an enemy or raising a character's Limit Break level.

It’s a dynamic addition to a combat system that already has a lot of depth. Party combinations are more important than ever, forcing you to think about who you’re teaming up with Cloud. There are more intricacies to the combat in Rebirth, but essentially Square Enix has done a fantastic job of making the whole system feel tighter and more satisfying. There’s more materia, more weapon abilities, tweaked movesets for returning characters, and both Red XIII and Cait Sith feel unique to play. Remake already had one of the best combat systems ever seen in an RPG, and Rebirth only dials that up even more.

A Whole New World

Getting to a new town in Rebirth feels like a big event, and each one is a joy to explore.

Square Enix

Rebirth’s characters and story already make the game feel narratively rich and vibrant, but the world itself elevates the game into something even more special.

There’s a permeable sense of grandeur and flair to each location, making it feel like a brand-new experience even if you’re intimately familiar with the original game. The first time you step out into the open area of the Grasslands feels freeing, with verdant green hills spilling out in every direction, wildlife teeming around, and cities rising in the distance. Rebirth has some of the most wonderfully detailed towns I’ve ever seen in an RPG. Junon is a glistening monument to Shinra’s vanity, highlighted by slums underneath the city that never see sunlight. Cosmo Canyon feels like Final Fantasy’s version of a spiritual retreat, teeming with Planetoligists teaching their religion and wandering souls hoping for guidance. Every location is utterly teeming with activity, and arriving in a new location feels like a major event, opening up a wealth of opportunities.

Rebirth isn’t exactly open world, but more of an open zone game, similar to something like Dragon Age: Inquisition. There are six major regions to visit, and each one is host to a major town as well as a self-contained zone filled with optional activities. Like many open-world games, seeing all those icons on a map can initially be overwhelming, but Rebirth feels like it hits a nice sweet spot with side content.

Synergy is a fantastic addition to Rebirth’s combat, adding dynamic new options that allow for a wealth of character combinations.

Square Enix

The zones are large but not overwhelmingly so, and Rebirth makes sure its world is as easy to get around as possible. Each zone has a Chocobo that you can capture, opening up new traversal options and a way to get around at a blazingly fast speed. You can also instantly fast travel to every single activity on the map and every point of interest. Rebirth packs its world with interesting things to do but takes liberal steps to not waste your time backtracking, which is undoubtedly a good thing in this case.

Variety is the name of the game with Rebirth’s side content, as the experience is packed to the gills with mini-games, side quests, optional battles, hidden treasure chests, and more. The original Final Fantasy 7 was well-known for having a wealth of mini-games and little touches that shook up gameplay, and Rebirth has taken that idea to heart. But so much of the side content feels meaningfully included or even ties into the main narrative or party members in crucial ways.

Nowhere is this more clear than with the dozens of side quests, which feel like a direct response to criticism of Remake. Every single side quest in Rebirth is tied to a party member, with one or two characters playing into its story. These quests often introduce unique mini-games or enemies, but also provide crucial character development that build on Cloud’s relationship with his friend or helps shed more on their backstory. It’s a brilliant way to make side quests feel more important and truly adds to the sense of Rebirth being this massive journey that changes its characters.

Rebirth’s mini-games are a mix of short one-off experiences and surprisingly in-depth offerings.

Square Enix

Apart from side quests, Rebirth piles on loads of mini-games, many of which are surprisingly engaging and have some surprising depth. Chocobo Racing takes smart cues from Mario Kart and results in being a fun racing distraction, Fort Condor returns and has more tactical depth than ever, Queen’s Blood is one of the best card games I’ve ever seen and even has a story that runs through the whole game.

What’s interesting about all of these side activities is that Rebirth never forces you to do any of them. The game is clearly designed with its story and side activities being two separate halves, despite their connective tissue.

By and large the side quests and mini-games help enrich the world of Final Fantasy 7, adding personality and even more quirkiness. The only real issue is I wish the game signposted its design a bit better. That largely comes down to the narrative’s pacing, and how side content ties into that. Any of Rebirth’s side content can be done at any time, and it’s clear the development team intended players to return to locations later on in the game. But it’s easy to get sucked into the open world elements and spend a half-dozen hours before seeing the next story beat, which can hurt the overall pacing. It’s ultimately not a huge detractor because, again, Rebirth never forces you into that content, I just wish it did a little better job of pushing you along the track of its story.

Looking to the Future

Rebirth opens up some new questions, leaving a lot on the line for the third game in the trilogy.

Square Enix

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth makes Remake feel like the prototype, simply a stepping stone for what was to come. It’s a game bursting at the seams with memorable moments and fantastic characters. Despite the shift to more standard “AAA” open-world elements and mechanics, there’s a wild and reckless spirit that Rebirth embraces, an eagerness to push the envelope of what it means to be a Final Fantasy game, just like the original did in 1997.

There will likely be plenty of fan debate over story changes and additions, but you simply can’t deny how well-realized Rebirth’s world feels, and how endearing its characters are. If the forthcoming third game can tie everything up successfully, the Remake trilogy might end up as one of the very best gaming has ever seen.


Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth launches on February 29 exclusively on the PS5.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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