PLAYCENTRAL NEWS Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth pulls off a masterful move – TEST

By Ben Brüninghaus - News on 05.03.2024 16:53 Uhr
© Square Enix/PlayCentral-Bildmontage

The fear of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was great. Bigger than some people might want to admit. And that is completely understandable. Because this is THE GAME from childhood that many of us today’s gamers grew up with.

“Final Fantasy VII” has shaped many childhoods and it is always dangerous to encroach on the past for nostalgic (and financial) reasons.

The fear of “Final Fantasy” fans

This is especially the case with video games. The past is difficult to reproduce. Contemporary graphics are often not enough given the oversaturation of games that we have on the global gaming market today.

And in the case of FFVII, this is a particularly difficult undertaking, as the classic is considered one of the best games of all time.

Many gamer fans who made their first attempts at gaming with the PlayStation were served a real RPG board from Japan right in their early years. “Final Fantasy VII” echoed like boxer Muhammad Ali’s whistle.

“Final Fantasy VII” was a feast for the eyes even back then. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

Excellent characters. A dynamic character constellation. A sophisticated combat system. Latest 3D graphics. And a specially created world that is still relevant today.

This is something that experienced developers in the global gaming industry have rarely achieved. It’s no wonder that Square Enix has decided to give fans what they really want after years of begging. A renewed immersion in the world of Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockhart and Co. – Final Fantasy VII is getting a remake.

It all starts with Final Fantasy VII Remake

The big master plan was in place: The development studio didn’t just want to publish a remake game, but three full-fledged parts.

The main game is split into three separate parts. It’s too big to fit into a single game in today’s modern gaming world. But could this work?

Things got exciting with the release of part 1: “Final Fantasy VII Remake” was released in 2020 and Square Enix could breathe a sigh of relief, the reviews were positive.

“Final Fantasy VII Remake” is visually a real stunner. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

The game was well received. Newcomers liked the new graphics and the new combat system. And what about the long-time fans? They were once again allowed to go into battle with their favorite heroes. Everyone was happy. But until the end the question remained: Will it stay that way?

A vision becomes reality

While the first part “Final Fantasy VII Remake” refers entirely to the first 10 to 20 percent of the original, in which we are solely in a closed, linear environment, the second part “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth” opens now finally the gates to the open world.

We enter the big, wide world of Gaia. And yes, we are now actually invited to explore the entire planet, as happened in the original. Is that to be believed?

But please wait a moment: Isn’t it a risky undertaking to make an entire planet freely accessible? And what should that look like in the end?

Original: The big world map

The “Final Fantasy” series has always relied on an open game world, which we can explore more and less freely in the main offshoots of the series.

It was no different with “Final Fantasy VII” in 1997. The moment we leave the great Mako city of Midgar, a whole world opens up for us to explore. We were literally overwhelmed by this openness, but in a positive way.

Back then, Squaresoft solved the game design with an all-encompassing world map that moved the game from a linear environment into an open game world. This world map has always been an integral part of the series, it is now simply legendary in the gaming world.

The world map was simply awesome. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

At its core, however, this world map was not particularly large. It was much more like traveling between cities, where we were served further, linear storylines. And along the way there was something to discover here and there.

And yet there is the premise: In the original, “Final Fantasy VII” contains a huge world map that connects all continents. The entire planet is part of the game and is completely accessible. We can travel between places and visit them. Just like we can explore the world itself.

But how on earth would Square Enix do something like that in this day and age? How do you want to reproduce this feeling of freedom? And is that even possible now that video games have become so much more demanding?

Fans around the world struggled with those questions and the fear of disappointment until the very end. Until now.

In the remake: the semi-open worlds

The unique feeling conveyed by the original refers to a gigantic adventure of which we ourselves are a part. A journey that is second to none. The original did this quite well with the world map and other elements. It was clear that there was no way the developers could do without a similar element.

So what can you do to convey the overwhelming feeling of this wonderful, long journey into a modern gaming environment?

Semi-open worlds: The perfect solution? © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

Square Enix has made a masterful move: they have done what most studios have failed to do to date.

They have created a gigantic world of interlocking, semi-open worlds, each of which functions uniquely and tempts you to explore with secrets down to the last corner. All of this connected together creates a big whole, the planet Gaia as a game world.

While the big studios of the world fail to fill their loveless, open worlds with life, Square Enix scales everything down in detail and packs the medium-sized environments with motivating tasks. This creates a unique feeling that we as players want to “see everything in the world”.

The semi-open worlds awaken the spirit of exploration in us and so the most important challenge that the studio faced from the start is already ticked off for us before the game actually starts. With this approach, Square Enix has made the ideal decision for game design. The foundation for an unforgettable adventure has been laid.

Linear Levels feat. half-open worlds

Here Square Enix is building an important bridge to bring back the feeling of back then. In the end, these semi-open worlds are quite similar to the world map from back then.

This is the first region, the grassland region. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

Even in the original, we can initially only enter part of this world. The game takes us step by step across the individual continents on the large world map. And that’s a good thing so as not to overwhelm us and to ensure a smooth flow of the game.

In “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth” they took a similar path, except that the world map was divided into successive regions, which we can now go through and experience step by step.

Several regions then form a continent and the continents form the entire planet.

At its core, this masterful move allows them to stick to their basic premise: sending players on an unforgettable journey that involves exploring the entire planet.

Fantasy takes on a whole new meaning in “Final Fantasy”. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

And in doing so, the responsible development studio proves that they have understood the core of the original. If that hadn’t been the case, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth would have been a real disappointment. That was the fear that many in the “Final Fantasy” community held in their hearts.

Great expectation can result in great disappointment. Now we can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the second remake part with all its ups and downs. Isn’t that a great starting point?

What’s new in the second remake part?

“Final Fantasy VII Rebirth” relies on a mix of old and new content. We have already seen much of the current gameplay in “Final Fantasy VII Remake” and “Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade”.

There are action-packed fights that can be played in a classic tactics mode. There are also pimped-up character models of our favorite “Final Fantasy” characters and many role-playing elements such as collecting experience points and other elements from the first part.

When it comes to characters, Square Enix manages to create a first-class gameplay flow. We are “sent into the race” in turn with all the main characters and that ensures a lot of variety in the everyday gameplay of Part 2.

Worldbuilding at its best. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

And on top of that, there are completely new game elements that differ sufficiently from the first remake part. They give the second part a certain finishing touch.

A new crafting system!

For example, there is the completely new synthesis. What a positive surprise! Final Fantasy finally has a fully-fledged crafting system, which I would have loved to see in one or other Final Fantasy installments in the past.

This means we can now produce and upgrade our equipment ourselves. There is its own synthesis experience system. And sometimes we can only complete orders that we can view on the bulletin boards of a given city if we deal with the crafting system. This means we can even craft key objects. Everything fits together wonderfully.

The synthesis system even shows what the items look like. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

New weapon skills installed!

And one, in my opinion, extremely useful innovation concerns, for example, weapon skills.

Each weapon now has selected weapon skills that we can select in the equipment tab, similar to Materia. The old weapon system has been revised and fits wonderfully easily into the equipment system.

Useful Updates: The devil is in the details. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

Useful Updates: The devil is in the details. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

But the biggest innovation for gameplay is probably the synchronized actions and skills presented in “Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade”.

This means that very specific combo actions can now be carried out in which two characters interact with each other.

We can first unlock these via a kind of group synchronization sphero board and then execute them in battle when the characters have collected synchronization points. First of all, you have to collect group XP, which we guarantee through the successful completion of side missions and activities.

Overall, the new synchronized actions and skills are a pretty cool addition to the combat system. However, the question remains whether one or the other player doesn’t feel overwhelmed at a certain point when the gameplay in combat involves too many different features that we have to take into account in real time?

But since it’s a very, very long gaming experience (plus, minus 80 hours), we at least have enough time to internalize the new mechanics.

Exploring the Planet: World Reports

And to once again build a bridge to the regions. There is now some new type of field research that we can do with our old buddy Chadley. Chadley is at our side again with his combat simulator. But this time we’re helping him even more than in the first remake part.

The division of world reports. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

He has prepared countless world reports for each region. Sometimes we have to activate towers, sometimes we have to look for special enemies and other times we have to get to the bottom of the core of the planet itself.

These usually involve 20 to 30 tasks in the local region. And that’s a lot. But this new game element delivers what it promises.

The secrets of the world Gaia. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

All of these tasks bring us closer to the wonderful world of Gaia. We really learn a lot about the living world. And since we have a special incentive to complete these tasks, this is by no means too much of a good thing.

But not too little either. They’ve hit the happy medium here and that’s part of the masterful move to credibly “sell” the semi-open worlds in the regions.

Tried and tested in its best form

In addition to all the innovations, there is also the tried and tested, which they were able to shine with in the first remake part.

The original plot receives an update. We see the basic story from the original and there are many useful additions such as new stories and storylines for the main and supporting characters.

There are top-notch cutscenes in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

The characters are close enough to touch and portrayed sensitively. They have more character depth than ever before. This makes it easy to bond with the characters and empathize with them as they go on their adventures as a group of friends.

And the locations are much more vivid and believable than they should have been. Midgar in Part 1 already left us with astonished faces. In Part 2 the cities are smaller on average. But if we consider how huge all the regions together actually are, it’s hard to believe that the developers were even able to implement this fictional world on such a scale.

I’m lost for words on the new Gold Saucer! © Square Enix/PlayCentral image montage

As players, we often feel overwhelmed by the locations and the visual feast for the eyes that come with them. For example, the Gold Saucer amusement park is a very good example of a dreamlike visual production.

The game has so many great facets that you could write an entire book about. But let’s come to my conclusion today on page 2.

Hauptberuflicher Jedi-Meister, nebenbeschäftigt bei Popkultur-Fetischist: Star Trek, Star Wars, alles mit „Star“, verspeist Spiele-OSTs zum Frühstück, Großmeister der Bärenschule. Inquisitor. Mag das Ende von Mass Effect.
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