Game Reviews PlayStation

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Review – Almost Perfect

After what seemed like simultaneously forever and no time at all (135 hours, 58 minutes, and 27 seconds to be exact), I have completed Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, save for a couple of completionist tasks. I have completed the story, done every sidequest, and completed each of the seven total area maps. Even after all that time, it is genuinely a world I don’t want to leave. I’m not ready to put down Rebirth yet. I don’t want to leave that world yet. I’m not ready to leave Final Fantasy VII for the next three or four years. 

Throughout the entirety of Rebirth, I kept realizing there were good chunks of details from both the original Final Fantasy VII and Remake that had since slipped my mind. Granted, Remake came out in April of 2020, right when the world went to shit. Lockdowns had just started, and we had nothing better to do but play Remake. I thought, “Maybe I should go back and do another playthrough of Remake after this”.

Every so often, Rebirth would give you these flashbacks and glimpses that would remind you of terribly designed levels and crappy fights (let the record show I am not referring to the Hell House fight; that is one of the greatest and well-designed boss fights in gaming history) in Remake that quickly made me change my mind. Who am I kidding? I never want to play Remake ever again. Not after this.

Almost everything wrong with Remake, as I addressed in my review-in-progress, has been addressed and fixed in Rebirth. To the point where I don’t know how much further they can improve upon this installment for the final game in this remarkable trilogy. In my opinion, the things that held Rebirth back from being perfect are a mix of odd choices in story pacing, some mechanical things, and the choice to leave something out entirely.

Outside of comparing the execution of the story itself, I’m choosing not to compare Rebirth and its predecessor to the original at all. I did play Remake to completion as well, but due to my employer at the time, I was unable to review it. Since I have no written review of it to call back to, I will be making small comparisons here and there for context. 

While some story changes are definitely questionable and controversial, so many other things are done exceptionally well. The voice cast is perfect. The character design is everything I could have hoped for and more. The environments are gorgeous and nothing that my teenage brain (I didn’t play it until high school) could imagine seeing the way it’s being presented to me today. 

A small disclaimer

With the game being out for a little over a month now, and the original being out for quite some time, this review won’t be completely spoiler-free. I will not be talking about any story elements that are new to Rebirth, but I will be referencing locations, as they are the same (and come up in the same order) as the original.

I may reference characters who were not in Remake but are in Rebirth and were confirmed in trailers or previous showcases. Certain characters’ introductions are slightly altered to better fit the flow and atmosphere of the game, and to keep that experience fresh and new for those who have not played it, I will not be discussing those, either.

Large visual sacrifices for performance

In my review-in-progress, I stated that outside of the near-nauseating 24-30 frames per second frame rate, there wasn’t much of a difference between performance and graphics mode in Rebirth. I want to make it clear that I have been playing on a brand new Sony 4K television for the entirety of this playthrough, and my sitting distance is about 10 feet (approximately 3 meters) from said television. There are a lot of windows in the room where the PlayStation 5 resides, but because of the positioning of the house and the way the sun moves around it, I only kept one window’s blinds open by the cat tree (hey, the cats love to look out the windows). 

I switch between contact lenses and glasses as my vision is far from perfect, and even then, due to migraines, they don’t always give me perfect 20/20 vision. The reason why I’m giving all of this detail about distance and lighting is because I didn’t notice the vast differences between the two modes until I sat much, much closer to the television. I was attaching my controller to the charge cable getting ready to swap for a charged one, but for whatever reason sat on the edge of our large wooden coffee table and figured I’d screw around with the settings up close.

And that’s when it really hit me.

Once I saw the differences up close, it was hard not to see them from far away. Things still weren’t terrible at a 10-foot distance, but still a bit noticeable nonetheless. As I had previously mentioned, graphics mode had better textures, better lighting, and in crowded areas, more people. What I hadn’t noticed before was that everything did look a whole lot better, especially the characters themselves. 

In graphics mode, they were much crisper. Cleaner around the edges and details much more visible with fabric textures having higher fidelity. Certain colors seemed to appear more saturated, and it really gave me a true “next-gen” console graphics experience, aside from the framerate. Switching it back to performance mode, I could immediately see what they did to achieve the illusion of the game still looking good at a far distance while still achieving 60 frames per second.

The game essentially becomes quite pixelated. It’s not blurry per se but pixelated. Some of those improved textures and lighting elements are taken out, the extra people are removed, you tone it down to some kind of 80% buffering state, and you have performance mode. Performance mode is a Monet if you will. 

While graphics mode obviously looks a whole lot better, the absence of an adjustable motion blur option with 30 frames per second is flat-out insufferable. I understand some people like playing games like that, and by all means, more power to them. It gave me a headache and I just couldn’t adjust. If there was some kind of adjustable motion blur setting to help with the choppiness of the camera, it may have been passable. 

Despite being in performance mode for 95% of the game, I did still suffer a great deal of framerate drops in cutscenes as well as the arena portion of the Gold Saucer. But only specifically in the arena portion of the Gold Saucer, which seems odd considering how graphically demanding the rest of the area actually is. At one point in the Cosmo Canyon, without touching any settings, the camera began to act up and get really choppy. The only thing that seemed to fix this was closing the game completely, and restarting the PlayStation 5.

I frequently ran into issues with the game’s auto-exposure feature, as well. This refers to switching from a sunny outdoor environment to a dark indoor one, for example. This was incredibly inconsistent; sometimes it worked seamlessly, but other times it barely worked at all. I’d be left unable to see, often left with a black or white screen, running in circles, and sometimes having to switch environments a couple of times to get it to work properly.

One other small graphics-related thing that bothered me was the inability to zoom out on the game’s character skill tree. Rebirth introduced a kind of diet sphere grid, if you will, in which you used skill points (shown as SP in-game) to expand on party members’ skills, stats, and weapon abilities. Even after over 100 hours, my first instinct every time I opened it would be to zoom out. I wanted to get a better look at the bigger picture and zoom in on the area I wanted to take a closer look at and upgrade. 

Any available upgrades you could afford with the SP points you had would have a flashing ring around them, but you could not by any means see everything without zooming out. You’re forced to scroll around the screen in every direction. It may sound like a minor inconvenience, but it’s quite frustrating when you think about it. 

One of gaming’s best soundtracks reimagined

Final Fantasy VII is already highly regarded for having one of the greatest soundtracks in not just the Final Fantasy franchise, but in video game history. With the introduction of Rebirth bringing in more iconic music from the original, and over 400 tracks recorded for the game, (“Salmon’s Theme” has no business going as hard as it does), it’s both a trip down memory lane and a wild ride.

Each of the incredibly thought-out mini-games in Rebirth has its own mini-soundtrack, and certain fights and areas have this Bebop jazz ensemble of songs. There is seriously something for everyone on this soundtrack. With the seven-disc soundtrack now up for pre-order on Square Enix’s store, it’s a no-brainer for anyone who is a fan of the franchise’s music and has $68 to spend. It is slated for physical and digital release on April 10th.

Rebirth’s soundtrack may honestly take the number two slot in my top three favorite Final Fantasy soundtracks of all time. Just the reimagining and rebirths (no pun intended) of so many classics with the addition of new tracks is undeniably remarkable. It’s a soundtrack I find myself constantly wanting to listen to, and never getting sick of. Final Fantasy XI’s soundtrack remains the GOAT for me, and I don’t know if anything will ever top Naoshi Mizuta’s eleven-year span of bangers for me. But Rebirth comes very, very close.

While the soundtrack is very good, Rebirth is not without some sound design flaws. For starters, the music itself is incredibly overpowering and way too loud in relation to everything else. I had initially turned the music down to 60 in the settings, and while that was okay in exploring the open world, in cutscenes it still felt like everyone was trying to talk to one another next to the DJ booth at a club. I eventually settled for 40 which was the closest I could get to a sweet spot, but even then, some cutscenes had odd mixing.

In some cutscenes, even at 40 volume, the music was overpowering voice lines, and in others, it wasn’t loud enough. There wasn’t much of a correlation of what type of songs would do this, either. To me, it felt completely random. I’m not an audio engineer, so there could be something that I’m missing entirely, and I’m all ears for any insight on the matter.

More than just the music

The other issue was, for a lack of better terms, the random object problem. In Rebirth, far more than Remake by a long shot, you could run into objects and move them around or send them flying. Objects like tables, chairs, random plants, et cetera. Maybe I’m just amused by the simpler things in life, but I found running into said objects and sending them flying quite entertaining. Depending on the object, sometimes I’d have a good laugh. It’d be twice as funny if a party member caused it to happen.

But sometimes these items would just stick with you, or the party members, and keep tumbling and tumbling. I think the best example I could use would be Costa del Sol. You could be on the wheelie or just running through the narrow aisles of the markets, and knocking over all sorts of things, and those things just keep toppling over like Katamari; you might stop to talk to a shop vendor, and those things are still moving and making a whole bunch of noise. This happened plenty of times in Lower Junon as well, overlapping dialogue and making it hard to hear.

By far the most frustrating part concerning audio in Rebirth was the NPC dialogue. Just like in Remake, you had subtitles on one side of the screen that showed what random NPCs in open areas were saying so you could pick up on little tidbits that were being said as you walked around any populated areas. I will give this game mad kudos for – sometimes you’d stumble upon really random NPC conversations that would tie into main or side story quest details you otherwise would have forgotten about. 

Without spoiling anything, there is an NPC conversation that takes place in the hotel lobby in Cosmo Canyon that directly calls back to a quest in Costa del Sol. It’s not something I ever would have expected follow-through on, nor did I need it, but I really appreciate the fact it was there. 

The two major problems with Rebirth’s NPC dialogue were overly repetitive lines and overlaps. The first comparison that comes to mind is the Citadel in Mass Effect 2. There’s a lot of bystanders and random conversations, like the gunnery chief at the entrance (“Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space!”), the poor Krogan who thinks there are fish in the Presidium, and the Salarian video game store employee to name a few. You can stand around them and over x amount of time, they would cycle through a few lines. You’ll know them after hearing them a couple of times, but they would be spaced out enough to where it wasn’t annoying, and you could escape it.

That is far from the case in Rebirth. This absolutely drove me up the wall. One of the more annoying areas I can recall is the gym outside of Costa del Sol. There were several lines of NPC dialogue, but because they all happened without any real time between them, you memorized them very quickly, and if you got up to grab a drink, you’d roll your eyes at least twice by the time you got back to the couch. It felt incredibly forced and unnatural. It really ripped me out of the immersive experience and made me want to leave the area and go out into the wilderness where I knew NPCs wouldn’t be talking around me.

Not only were they not timed correctly and recurring too quickly, but sometimes they overlapped to a point where it was overwhelming and unbearable to listen to. On the ship trip to Costa del Sol, there were a couple of times when so many NPCs talked at once, that it was genuinely impossible to discern what any of them were saying. To make matters worse, the subtitle box overflowed incredibly fast, so you couldn’t even try to catch it all if you wanted to. And this wasn’t a one-time thing – in these areas where it occurred, it occurred this way every single time. 

If I had to take a guess, this is some kind of audio mesh issue that was somehow missed or not addressed. It’s a shame because the voice acting in Rebirth is one of the greatest parts, even with the random conversation amongst the NPCs. The developers did a great job making the towns and areas feel lively and truly populated, and it’s a shame the audio fell short.

Funner than Remake in almost every way

As I mentioned before, Remake was something I thought I wanted to go back to after finishing Rebirth but was constantly reminded of it throughout the playthrough and how much I actually didn’t. One of the first major changes I noticed in the second game was that there weren’t too many weapons. What I mean by this is specifically getting overwhelmed by getting new weapons for each party member too quickly before you can master the weapon ability tied to said weapon. 

I remember this being very frustrating and annoying very clearly in Remake, and it felt a lot smoother and more natural in terms of where you found new weapons in Rebirth. The only time I felt you got a weapon too quickly was for Cait Sith, but Cait Sith didn’t have a lot of abilities to begin with, so it worked out in the end. In addition to this change, I felt Rebirth had better accessories to accommodate your needs, especially when met with a restrictive amount of material slots (like the various material earrings, for example). 

Another vast improvement is going from this illusion of an open world to actually being an open world. Remake had a lot of really bad level design, bless its heart. I’ll never forget (or forgive, for that matter), Chapter 6 in Remake. The layout was terrible, and I got lost for hours. I remember my husband telling me, “Yeah, it’s bad, I got stuck too,” and he offered to help me find the way out. He had also gotten stuck the second time trying to help me get out. It was frustrating. I wanted to throw the whole level away.

Then there were the minigames in Remake.. There weren’t very many, and they weren’t very good. You had darts, the bike minigame (which was mandatory in the story), Whack-a-Box, and then pull-ups and squats. While I know all of those except for darts made it into Rebirth, the bike minigame was a game at the Gold Saucer, which kinda made me laugh and made me think the game was poking fun at itself. Pull-ups and squats were turned into the crunch-off (more on that later, and why it’s a bigger problem than you may think it is), and Whack-a-Box turned into Desert Rush, which I hated four times as much as Whack-a-Box.  

Minigames galore

Listing and going through all of Rebirth’s minigames would take up way too much time, so I’m going to talk about two of them: Queen’s Blood and Fort Condor. While it is my understanding that the latter was playable in Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade, I never got around to actually finishing Intergrade. I barely started it and then never got around to going back to it. So unfortunately I cannot speak on how this version differs from the previous version, if at all.

What I can say about Fort Condor though, is that it’s incredibly well done. The way it’s integrated into the story is done in a very creative way, and its story arc, while a part of a much bigger picture, is really fun and wholesome on its own. If you’re the type of person who enjoys strategy, even on the more casual side of it like Clash of Clans (I used to be way into it back in the day), you will most likely have a blast with Fort Condor.

Queen’s Blood. I could probably write an entire piece on Queen’s Blood alone, so I’ll start by saying this: Square Enix, sweetie, what are you doing? With all of those random mobile games you threw at us and then quickly took away, did you maybe think that THIS WAS THE SOLUTION TO YOUR MOBILE GAME PROBLEM? 

Why the hell isn’t Queen’s Blood a standalone mobile game? Are y’all okay? Are the Queen’s Blood designers being held hostage and told not to make a standalone mobile game? Queen’s Blood designers, if you’re not okay, please blink twice, we’ll come and save you. I’ll come save you by myself if nobody wants to come with me. 

In all seriousness, I am so curious as to why this isn’t its own standalone product. Square Enix took it upon themselves to make an actual physical trading card game with packs from each mainline Final Fantasy, so why not this? If they were to make a mobile game out of Queen’s Blood starting with cards from VII/Rebirth, and then expand outside of VII after that? Gold mine. It is so well made and executed; I’d give Queen’s Blood on its own a perfect 5/5.

I will admit that for the first several hours, I didn’t quite get it. I read the instructions over and over but admittedly these things can come to me a bit slower than others. Once I did get the hang of it though, I wanted to do nothing but play Queen’s Blood. I saw a lot of folks complaining about it on Twitter, and the common thread was that they didn’t really give it the chance it deserved. A few of those people also hate the Triple Triad, but if I pretend not to see them, I don’t have to acknowledge them (blasphemy, I tell you).

While I can see the argument that “card minigames aren’t for everyone,” and that this feels “forced down your throat” because there is a chunk of the main storyline that makes Queen’s Blood mandatory, it was that part of the game that helped me really understand and find the fun in it. Like Fort Condor, Queen’s Blood does have its own storyline, and is quite rewarding and fun to follow. 

Square, seriously, Queen’s Blood mobile game. We want it.

I find it a bit strange that people are complaining Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth has “too many minigames,” especially huge fans of the original. I’m not going to shame anyone or gatekeep them if this is their first experience with Final Fantasy VII, but the minigames have always been a part of the franchise, especially in VII.

I’m not defending every single minigame by any means. As I said, Desert Rush to me is awful and makes me want to throw my controller through my television. The piano minigame, however, is difficult for me to judge. As a former concert pianist, it caused me to grind my teeth and triggered my TMJ. But on the contrary, I don’t really know how you translate piano into a controller minigame, and I think Square Enix probably did the best way of doing it. 

And don’t get me started on the Moogle minigame. To make a long story short, I feel like those were a last-minute thought and thrown in there just to be there.

It feels very good, with minor hiccups

It is no doubt that Rebirth is Square Enix’s best-developed game to date. It’s not just the really big changes and insanely noticeable things that make Rebirth so good, either. To me, it’s the addition of the little things. Things like having three party presets you can flip through, not needing to demount your Chocobo to collect resources, the way the reactive triggers on the DualSense feel when you’re controlling your chocobo’s speed, and the fact the game’s timer in the pause menu stops after a couple of minutes, so you always know how long you’ve really been playing.

The big change of going to the open world and adding more diversity to dungeon maps did sometimes give me the anxiety of not knowing where to go first. For this review, I wanted to get as close to Platinum as possible (with modern Final Fantasy games it tends to require two playthroughs) in one go, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any items or areas. In certain situations this made me fear I chose the wrong path to take first, and if that path would send me down a path of no return. In Remake, that was really never the case. It was all very linear.

To keep things interesting in the open world, while you have the same objectives, you have a bit of variety in them. For example, there is a Protorelic objective (I’m not going to go further into explaining it outside of its title) in each area, but each area has a different way of completing the objective. The first area is a bit of a combination of things, the second is a series of Fort Condor games, and the third is some trials of the sort… And so on and so forth. 

The Chocobo stops you unlock in each region have these adorable baby chocobos that lead you to them when you get near, and in each region, they have different colorings and butt-shells (I have no idea what to call them, but that’s what I’ve been calling them). I don’t know who designed the baby chocobos in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, but whoever they are, I hope they get all the praise because they are the cutest and the best. I pet every single one of them. And you reader, should do the same. I cannot trust someone who does not pet all the baby Chocobo, and neither should you.

Most of the side quests in each area have a way of tying in with the main story, even if it’s really small details like following up on the whereabouts of a minor character. There are only two side quests I didn’t really like, and even then, one of them had a really good payoff (I won’t spoil which one it is, but it is in the Gongaga region). They all had good depth to them and added a lot to the side characters, and often to the party members themselves. In fact, your actions in some of these side quests can contribute to your relationship meters (another new element going into Rebirth from Remake), which if you played the original, you know contribute to who your date at the Gold Saucer will be.

The dialogue is really good and has a great balance of seriousness and humor. Most importantly, humor that doesn’t feel forced. Oftentimes in video games, especially longer ones with multiple party members, a lot of the humor can feel unnatural and awkward. I didn’t feel this at all in the many hours of Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth. In fact, my one complaint is that there wasn’t nearly enough idle banter, similar to the Mass Effect series.

Rebirth also presents the player with more dialogue choices, which again contribute to the individual relationship meters with each party member. Each of these significant moments had three dialogue choices, but unfortunately, the timer on this was very short, and there was no setting to change this (more on that later); so if you needed more time, you either needed to panic choose an option, or you were shit out of luck. More than once I felt I didn’t have a full understanding of what each choice and the consequences of each one were before I actually chose.

While a lot of people have been complaining about the combat from what I’ve been observing online, I’m not exactly sure what the big fuss is. I find the combat in Rebirth improved tenfold from Remake. It feels smoother, and without the constant stress of frequent weapon switching and ability learning like its predecessor, I felt I could actually devote more time learning the game and actually maximizing different party member combinations and weapon abilities.

To make that even more interesting, Rebirth introduced synergy abilities. Expanded upon the skill tree mentioned earlier, synergy abilities are abilities that are used between two party members (each synergy ability is unique to two specific party members) with an additional bonus. For example, Cloud and Tifa can team up for an attack that temporarily lowers all spell MP costs to zero. Tifa and Yuffie can team up for an attack that temporarily divides the AP charge bars into three instead of two, and so on. Repeatedly using these and leveling them up also contributes to that party member’s relationship meter.

With the game being open-world, it only made sense to add some kind of crafting mechanic, and to me, it worked. It was a crafting mechanic that wasn’t overly complicated and was just complex enough to be interesting. Collect materials out in the wilderness, craft things to gain experience, and learn new recipes. In Rebirth, the crafting mechanic allowed you to craft your own equipment, and then craft enhanced versions of the equipment in addition to items like potions and ethers. This really came in handy when you couldn’t fast-travel back to a town, or the final chapter when you may have been short on some things before the last hoorah.

The game gives you a lot to do without being overwhelming, and for that, I applaud Square Enix. It wasn’t like Final Fantasy XVI where I felt the side quests truly disrupted the flow of the main story because of how bland (gameplay-wise) they were in comparison, and how they felt like a cheap add-on to add more time to the game. There’s a good balance of action and cutscenes, which in a story-rich game like this, can be very hard to do. And while achieving this near-perfect balance is incredibly difficult, it again does not come without slight imperfections.

This of course is pacing. While the order of locations is identical to the original, the way it is executed is not. Having your visits to Costa del Sol and the Gold Saucer back-to-back with the changes made is draining. Like the original, you have your visit to North Corel in the middle, and while I did like the bits of the story there, it felt short in comparison. In addition to feeling short, it felt like a palette cleanser for going into the Gold Saucer, which feels odd, as the other two should serve as a palette cleanser for darker parts of the game’s story.

Costa del Sol in Rebirth is different from your journey to it even. In the original, you hitch a ride on a Shinra cargo ship and this time, it’s a cruise ship. Without giving away too much, there are mandatory minigames that need to be played in order to progress the main story and make it to Costa del Sol. Once you make it there, you’ll be hit with a handful more. And then, of course, there’s the Gold Saucer. I mean, it’s the heckin’ Gold Saucer, I don’t have to say much more than that. It’s pretty much Vegas! The minigames are fun, and I enjoyed them, but doing those two areas back-to-back just felt frustrating.

This game is most definitely meant to be played over time. Having received my review code only three days prior to the embargo lifting, I had to get through everything as quickly as I could. So yes, that meant sitting on my couch and playing as much Rebirth as humanly possible in as little time while still being a functional human.

As mentioned previously, I do not review games unless I complete them and explore everything they have to offer. The reason I’m bringing this up again is because it’s quite possible that the pacing issue I do have could be a non-issue for you if you’re taking your time. The game wants you to explore. The game wants you to dive into the world. And the game definitely wants you to stop and smell the roses. 

Accessibility? I don’t know her

My absolute biggest gripe with Rebirth is that it is yet another Square Enix title with the absence of accessibility. I would think that by now, in the year 2024, we would have a standard of what accessibility features should be expected in every video game. It’s not ridiculous to expect even the most basic of accessibility features in every game. With Rebirth using Unreal Engine 4, it’s hard for me to believe that the assets and resources don’t exist for them to even add the bare minimum.

The first thing I noticed, which can be a controversial topic, is colorblind support. As someone who is a huge advocate for colorblind support in gaming and the workplace in general (I helped get colorblind support put in Final Fantasy XIV!) I have noticed the colorblind community can be pretty split on it. Some people say it does help, and others say it doesn’t do anything at all. 

The thing I haven’t seen folks disagree on though, is that studios typically don’t ever consult colorblind players on how to actually improve these things. So first and foremost, as an industry, we really need to change that. If we want everyone to be able to play, and we want to stand by that, we need to include the people we’re trying to help in the process of creating the resources we’re creating to allegedly help them.

Like Remake, this game also has a silly set of gym mini-games with Tifa. Instead of pull-ups and squats, there are three rounds of sit-ups. The mechanic is similar to the previous iteration, but it does introduce a new element. When a yellow glowing ring appears, you’re supposed to repeatedly smash the appropriate button to keep crunching until the circle fills up. If a green glowing ring appears, you’re to hold the button down halfway until the ring is full, and then completely depress it.

Two problems with this: The instructions don’t tell you “a yellow glowing ring,” or a “green glowing ring.” They simply change the color of the word glowing. Second, during the minigame itself (when the game mixes the two mechanics), there is no way of differentiating between the necessary actions to be performed outside of color. I noticed this immediately and decided to take screenshots of the instructions and text two of my closest friends, who are colorblind.

I asked them to tell me the difference between the two if they could notice one. One told me “They do look different, BUT, I don’t think I would have noticed had you not implied they were.” The other said, “Those look the same. It surprises me that studios think they can address colorblind issues without colorblind people. I can’t even tell the difference between green and yellow on our reader boards at work, and I’m a leader [manager] there.”

But that’s just scratching the surface. There are so many other small, basic accessibility features Square Enix could have added to this game to make it playable for so many more people, and easier to play for those who I am sure struggled due to their absence. The closest thing Rebirth had to any kind of accessibility was being able to change the FOV (field of view) on the in-battle and out-of-battle cameras. 

For those unaware, adjusting the FOV can help immensely with motion sickness. If adding this feature was to help those with motion sickness, it was a half-assed effort. If it was truly a concern, graphics mode would have also shipped with an adjustable motion blur option. This was the opposite problem Final Fantasy XVI had; it shipped with too strong of motion blur that couldn’t be turned off, and they later patched in an adjustable motion blur that could be turned off. Why wouldn’t Rebirth be shipped with that feature on day one?

Another set of features I found odd to be missing was the inability to turn off the adaptive trigger resistance, as well as turning off repeated button presses. Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth has a lot of combat and minigame situations where you have to mash buttons (sometimes with trigger resistance) very quickly to proceed with the story. This is very common to turn off in most games, and I’m shocked this was not an added feature. Knowing a lot of gamers with arthritic conditions, these mechanics can cause a lot of pain. I’m sure this can also cause unnecessary barriers for gamers with fine motor control.

There is not a single setting in sight to change the size of any of the fonts or UI elements, either. With so many small things going on on the screen, anyone who has any type of vision impairment or issues with eye strain would have incredible difficulty making everything out at a reasonable distance from the screen. 

Rebirth does a really nice job of keeping all the tutorial and reference material organized for you under the “manual” section in the pause menu. There is a lot of text though, and even for me, a person with bad astigmatism and contact lenses, it was often an issue. There was also the issue of the icons above the materials you gathered out in the open world. A lot of the time I didn’t even notice them because they were so small and blended in with the elements. It wasn’t until much later I learned there were different images for different types of materials! I just thought there were gray and yellow shapes!

There are a ton of different status effect symbols as well, for both detrimental and beneficial status effects. These were so tiny and so hard to decipher at their size, that I would have to get up and put my face right in front of the television and squint at them to even try and figure out what I was looking at. Even then, I still couldn’t tell what they were most of the time. With complex icons (and so many different ones), you have to give players the ability to increase the icon size.

As I mentioned earlier, there was the addition of dialogue choices that added some depth to your relationships with party members. These dialogue choices are on a very short timer, and there is no setting to turn that down or turn it off completely. This isn’t Life is Strange, time is not a factor here. Why was such a quick timer the choice to begin with? Why can’t we turn it off? For slower readers like myself, this would have been a huge help and made me actually feel confident with my choices instead of panicked. 

To make the absence of accessibility even worse, after you beat the game, you can go back and continue to explore the open world, and complete quests you may not have had the chance to complete before the credits rolled. You unlock some new features, one of them being material auto collection.

That’s right. You are given material auto-collection as a reward. 

I could not have rolled my eyes harder at this if I tried. A reward? Seriously? I put 135 hours into this game to be given something on a silver platter that should have been a basic feature from the beginning. It felt like a sick joke and an insult to accessibility at the same time. There is no reason as to why this was an endgame reward. None.

Almost perfect

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is a fantastic game. If you had asked me to stop and write my review before the embargo lifting, where I was at the beginning of chapter six, I would tell you this game was perfect. That it was five stars, no notes. Nothing wrong with it, everything was fixed, and there was no way anything could top it because we had potentially reached the peak of AAA action RPG development. 

It wasn’t even ten hours of gameplay after my review-in-progress was published that I ran into the beginning of the pacing issues and the minigame with no consideration for colorblind players. Then it was the mechanics of a certain minigame in Cosmo Canyon and how that was implemented in navigating the area as well (I’ll spare you the details and have you experience that for yourself), making it quite frustrating. The conclusion to Cosmo Canyon could have been a 15-minute cutscene, but that was dragged on for some reason. If you asked me to point to the “worst” part of the story, it’d be that, easy.

I realized I had made the right choice. It’s always good to go with your gut, and my gut told me to play this game to completion. To hold my thoughts and feelings until the credits rolled. To explore every nook and cranny of Rebirth as much as I possibly could, and develop a conclusive opinion on it. 

Rebirth is a phenomenal game. Square Enix should be incredibly proud of what they achieved because they achieved a lot. Despite my issues here and there with graphics and audio, I simply cannot excuse the complete absence of accessibility. In this day and age, there is no reason to not include it, and as a genuine leader in game development, it is truly disappointing to see. My one wish for the conclusion to this trilogy is that Square Enix understands the importance of accessibility and adds some of these necessary features so more gamers can tune it to their needs and enjoy it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by Square Enix.

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