Ever because the launch of Closing Fantasy VII Remake again in 2020, followers of the unique have been questioning how the subsequent installment of Sq. Enix’s reimagining of the landmark 1997 recreation would deal with the numerous iconic setpiece moments, reveals, and twists but to return. The Nibelheim Incident, which facilities round Cloud’s consequential return to his hometown 5 years earlier, has been an particularly fertile floor for hypothesis. The unique recreation and its many spinoffs revisit this mission quite a few occasions to point out off the various views of the important thing gamers. It’s an overused analogy, however The Nibelheim Incident is basically FF7’s equal of the Rashomon homicide scene. With every barely totally different retelling, we inch just a little bit nearer to the reality.
FF7’s save-the-world story wasn’t revolutionary in 1997, and it definitely isn’t at present. However the palpable sense that one thing is “off” with Cloud and his mentor-turned-nemesis Sephiroth elevates it into one thing way more memorable and enduring. For a lot of the sport, the destiny of the planet kinda takes a backseat to discovering out what the deal is with these guys. On the identical time, with Closing Fantasy VII Rebirth, the builders at Sq. Enix face the daunting activity of attracting newcomers to the second chapter of a trilogy, those that could primarily know Cloud and Sephiroth as cool badasses with enjoyable hair from the Tremendous Smash Bros. Final roster.
So after I booted up the sport at a latest media preview occasion, I used to be delighted to see that Chapter 1 of Closing Fantasy VII Rebirth instantly begins with Cloud telling his model of what occurred at Nibelheim. Rebirth throws you in on the deep finish and delivers excessive stakes proper up entrance—and it’s precisely what longtime followers need and newcomers want.
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Sephiroth and Cloud ascend Mt. Nibel as jagged peaks loom forward.Picture: Sq. Enix
Déjà vu over again
I’d performed a smaller phase of this part at a preview occasion just a few months again, however that slice was extra combat- and traversal-focused. True to the unique recreation, the total model of Rebirth’s Nibelheim incident is a sluggish burn, a comfy night with mates winding down after the frantic escape from Midgar. Current-day Cloud narrates over this prolonged interactive sequence the place you play as his youthful self, and his storytelling is punctuated by interruptions from Barrett, Tifa, and Aerith. Many of those exchanges are taken beat-by-beat from the unique recreation, and it’s good to see them return right here to inject some levity and sense of camaraderie into Cloud’s suspenseful and gloomy story.
Rebirth’s tackle Nibelheim largely sticks to that of the unique FF7. (Largely.) The explanation for Cloud and Sephy’s mission stays the identical—they’re despatched to research a malfunctioning mako reactor at Mt. Nibel, and cope with any monsters alongside the way in which. We get a clearer sense of Sephiroth’s renown and superstar—we’re largely informed, not proven this within the unique—as townsfolk breathlessly gossip about him and jostle for pictures. As earlier than, you get the prospect to manage Sephiroth in fight throughout the climb, and he’s absurdly sturdy and enjoyable to play.
Ascending Mt. Nibel capabilities as a light-weight tutorial for Rebirth’s new traversal mechanics, together with leaping and climbing. It’s nothing difficult, but it surely does convey that Mt. Nibel is harmful sufficient to require a information’s help higher than the unique recreation did. Talking of guides, we get fairly a bit extra of younger Tifa on this part of Rebirth (Nibelheim is her hometown too, in spite of everything), full along with her lovely cowgirl outfit. And there are some very intriguing penalties of that, which I’m not going to get into right here.
On that notice, Chapter 1 of Closing Fantasy VII Rebirth is a veritable bonanza of jaw-dropping spoilers for folk who haven’t performed the unique recreation. Regardless of understanding precisely what was coming at sure moments, the impeccable visuals and environmental design blew me away. And, as was the case with Remake, when Rebirth’s soundtrack is firing on all cylinders, it’s the stuff of real-deal goosebumps in your arms. Because the flames attain larger and the music shudders like a terrified coronary heart, instantly I’m 11 years previous once more, sitting cross-legged on the ground subsequent to my older brother in entrance of a CRT with a skateboarding sticker on the aspect, unable to say something however whoa.
Kalm is a much more charming and complex metropolis in Rebirth than the unique recreation.Picture: Sq. Enix
A complete new world
After Cloud offers his mates the rundown of what occurred with Sephiroth in Nibelheim, we resume the present-tense story within the metropolis of Kalm. And golly, what a glow-up. In 1997’s FF7, the city was little greater than an RPG fuel station—a spot to select up some potions, low-cost tools, and a fast snooze on the inn. There was by no means a lot purpose to return when you’d progressed to different locations. This time round, its cobbled streets, overgrown flower containers, and rabbit-warren format ooze a tranquil attraction that’s worthy of the identify.
Cloud and his friends have a brand new slate of double and triple assaults this time round.Picture: Sq. Enix
You gained’t spend too lengthy right here in Rebirth both, but it surely does provide an opportunity to get acquainted with a number of new gameplay additions. Probably the most notable of those are get together relationships and get together degree, which let you strengthen your bond together with your teammates by means of dialogue selections and elective actions. The unique FF7 had a much less fleshed-out model of this that culminated within the notorious Gold Saucer date, and it’s good to see that the devs are discovering new methods to let gamers spend extra time with their favourite characters.
The innkeeper at Kalm will introduce you to Queen’s Blood, Rebirth’s reply to card video games like Witcher 3’s Gwent and FF8’s Triple Triad. I can already inform a great deal of persons are going to be totally obsessive about this minigame, although I sadly am not considered one of them. (Completely satisfied for you guys, although!) This part additionally presents a short rundown of ability timber, weapon upgrades, and merchandise crafting. I stay unconvinced that Closing Fantasy 7 wanted a crafting system, and I didn’t discover a lot event to make use of it throughout my demo. I can see the way it could also be helpful for some elective fights in a while, however I hope it’s extra of a “take it or depart it” mechanic.
However we are able to’t keep in Kalm for lengthy, and it’s quickly time for our merry band of weirdos to hit the highway searching for adventures, pocket cash, and finally Sephiroth. Rebirth’s model of the unique recreation’s huge open world is greater and extra stunning than I’d hoped, with loads of nooks and crannies to discover. You’ll achieve entry to each menu-based fast-travel and chocobos just about instantly after leaving Kalm, mercifully slicing down on the ponderous backtracking of the 1997 recreation. As an alternative of huge swaths of empty house for random encounters, now there are small farms, hamlets, and ruins between cities and dungeons. This makes Rebirth’s open world really feel like a pure enlargement of scope fairly than only a concession to the expectations of followers. After hitting up the Chocobo Farm, you’re free to probe for some time, however when you’re able to return to the primary story, a Ghost of Tsushima-esque inexperienced Mako path will seem to nudge you towards your vacation spot. It’s a considerate design selection that avoids the immersion-breaking “map recreation” vibes which have turn into a bit too commonplace in open-world design.
Holding down the fundamental assault button for Purple XIII will permit him to do a steady “Sonic spin” assault.Picture: Sq. Enix
Naturally, when you get out into the massive broad world, you’re gonna be doing a little combating. Closing Fantasy VII Rebirth provides one other layer to Remake’s real-time fight system, and I’m nonetheless not completely certain how I really feel about it. You’ll have greater than three get together members to select from at any given time, and every distinctive duo or trio can staff up for a singular particular assault. On paper, this feels like Chrono Set off, which is terrific. In observe, it kinda seems like one factor too many to maintain observe of. Remake’s fight had a satisfying cadence of managing cooldowns to tug off magic spells, heals, and particular assaults. However within the early hours of Rebirth, even mundane fights have a noticeably stop-start really feel to them. I’m hoping to settle right into a stream finally, however I’m additionally curious if this all would possibly really feel higher in basic, turn-based mode as a substitute. (Fortunately, it’s an on-the-fly toggle within the full recreation.) Quibbles apart, I’m nonetheless having fun with the heck out of the fight and the demo left me hungry for extra. Professional tip: Purple XIII’s unusually Sonic Spinball moveset is extraordinarily enjoyable to play.
The large query heading into Rebirth and its unnamed successor is: can it recapture—and even exceed—the magic of the unique recreation? That continues to be to be seen. However, thus far, the primary three chapters are a helluva good signal for what’s to return.
Closing Fantasy VII Rebirth launches February 29 on PlayStation 5.
Pre-order Closing Fantasy VII Rebirth: Amazon | Greatest Purchase | Goal