This past weekend saw MCM Comic Con return to the Excel Centre in London and the event provided the first opportunity for gamers in the UK to go hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth for the first time.
Square-Enix made its presence known in the halls of Excel by hosting demo stations aboard a double decker bus, parked in the amongst the exhibits and wrapped in giant promotional art for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.
After a relatively short queue of around forty minutes, (relatively compared to the 3 hours we waited to play the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo at Gamescom back in 2019), I boarded the pitch-black bus and climbed my way to the top deck to find my PS5 demo station.
If you’ve never been on a blacked-out double decker bus with no windows, no air conditioning and twenty PS5’s all running one of 2024’s hottest games, then let me tell you, it was hotter than Ifrit in a sauna… at the equator.
Despite the heat inside the demo bus, I’m pleased to report that my hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth didn’t leave me cold, and instead gave me that warm, cosy feeling you get when you reunite with old friends.
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Fated Mission To Mt. Nibel
During my time at MCM Comic Con in London I was offered the choice of two demos for my hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.
While the open world jaunt towards Junon was appealing and had been one of the highlights of the recent release date announcement trailer, the prospect of taking control of Sephiroth proved to be too alluring to resist.
The first demo followed a wide-eyed Cloud Strife in a flashback to a mission set five years before the events of Final Fantasy VII Remake. In this episode, inexperienced SOLDIER recruit Cloud is joined by eventual series antagonist Sephiroth, and childhood friend Tifa, as they scale Mt. Nibel to investigate a remote Mako-reactor.
Visually, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is consistent with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade on PS5 and builds on the foundations of its predecessor with detailed characters and beautiful environments.
Combat will also feel familiar to fans of Final Fantasy VII Remake with Rebirth maintaining the mix of real time hack-n-slash action with the additive menu system for items and flashy special abilities.
The One-Winged Angel
So far, so Final Fantasy Remake then? As mentioned earlier, it was the opportunity to take control of Sephiroth, the One-Winged Angel, that drew me to the Mt. Nibel demo and the silver-haired swordsmith didn’t disappoint.
I started the demo cleaving through small monsters as Cloud and crew started to ascend Mt. Nibel. Shortly after starting my hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth however, I decided to take the long-haired stabby one for a spin.
Sephiroth plays suitably different from Cloud. Narratively it makes sense. At this point in the Final Fantasy VII timeline, Cloud is merely a recruit in Shinra’s SOLDIER army while Sephiroth is already a legendary warrior.
Sephiroth’s moveset was fast and fluid, dealing lightning fast slashes and deadly impalements to my monstrous foes.
Special abilities too looked and felt amazing, with Sephiroth darting high into the air before plummeting down with his lengthy Masamune obliterating those that stood in my way.
If video games can offer a power fantasy beyond your normal, every day existence, then controlling Sephiroth is one of the best power fantasies I’ve had in recent memory.
Getting Over It
Outside of combat, player control was limited to Cloud, with the camera sweeping behind him whenever Sephiroth had finished his unrelenting slashes.
After the immense feeling of control and power as Sephiroth, it was a shame that moving beyond combat felt rather sluggish and stilted. With control returned to Cloud, moving through Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s, admittedly stunning world, felt very slow.
This issue was compounded by the rock face of Mt. Nibel. Again, the detail on the cliff faces is staggering, with photorealistic geometry throughout, but navigating upwards through the outcroppings of Mt. Nibel was far from smooth sailing.
With several ledges to climb it truly felt like the decision of when to climb was out of my hands. Cloud would often jog into knee-high ledges for several seconds before he would either ascend, or require repositioning to a near identical spot that he did feel like clambering over.
Elsewhere in the demo, yellow painted ledges and overhangs protruded from cliff faces as if they were expecting Nathan Drake to pay them a visit. Overcoming these obstacles also felt cumbersome with the party’s agility seemingly outmatched by the level design.
Sounds Of The Planet
At least my slow plod up Mt. Nibel was punctuated by exposition and commentary from the immeasurably talented voice cast.
Listening to Sephiroth educate Cloud on the nuances of Mako was a joy to witness, with Tyler Hoechlin’s confident and cocky Sephiroth leaving Cody Christian’s Cloud to react and admire his mentor.
Music, both in and out of battle, was uniformly excellent with the thrilling Final Fantasy VII battle theme swelling into a crescendo as Cloud and Sephiroth dispatch their would-be assailants.
The music in Final Fantasy VII has lived in my head for many years now and the renditions on offer within Rebirth look to enhance the tunes that I’ve loved for over two decades.
With Square-Enix shadow dropping a whopping thirteen albums of music onto streaming services as the Final Fantasy Piano collections soundtracks released online, the soundtrack to my weekend was definitely Final Fantasy-tinged (sorry Blink 182)!
As I continued my journey up Mt. Nibel, the excitement of battle and enthralling music once again came to a grinding halt, this time, not because of rock climbing, but be because of household chores.
Three quarters of the way through my hands on demo of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, I had to forget about my main objective and instead steer an industrial size vacuum around an area flooded with Mako-gas.
Piloting the giant Dyson handles as you’d expect manoeuvring a giant vacuum would, with Cloud slowly pushing and pulling the machine around a small area with a robotic voice that would occasionally provide an update on how much gas I’d sucked up.
Moments earlier I was slicing through bad guys as the unstoppable force of nature known as Sephiroth! Talk about a come down.
While my domestic chores were brief, they felt like an unnecessary roadblock on my way to a good time. Sure enough, shortly after I tidied up the place, it was time for the main event.
Living In A Materia World
My hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth concluded with a thrilling battle against the hideous Materia Guardian boss.
This green goliath burst forth from the rocks looking for a fight but Cloud and Sephiroth were keen to demonstrate their new Synergy Abilities.
These special moves make their debut in Rebirth and allow two playable characters to team up to deal devasting damage upon their targets. Utilising the pair’s Double Helix Synergy Ability saw Sephiroth tearing into the Materia Guardian with a series of rapid mid-air blows with Cloud, his apprentice, following his lead to double the damage.
Through sustained attacks the monster was eventually brought to rest. a sweet scene of Sephiroth and Cloud commenting on the battle as a reward for players.
Final Fantasy VII’s characters are beloved the world over, and if Rebirth can deliver a deeper dive into their relationships and personalities then I can’t wait to experience more.
Optional Side Quests
While the opportunity to go hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was the main attraction, MCM Comic Con also invited players to pose for photos while brandishing protagonist Cloud Strife’s iconic Buster Sword or Barrett Wallace’s mighty Gun-Arm.
The replica of Cloud’s broadsword took many by surprise as its hefty weight threatened to topple several wannabe SOLDIERs. Imagining wielding a genuine buster sword loaded with materia makes Clouds victory fanfare celebrations all the more impressive.
Square-Enix reps spoke to the crowd and offered those queueing for their hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth some promotional stickers featuring characters from the upcoming RPG. Only two character stickers were available to collect on Friday with different characters becoming available across the weekend.
While it would have been nice to acquire the full set, I was still happy to walk away from the event with stickers for a stoic Cloud and a jolly-looking Cait Sith. I was especially pleased to receive a Cait Sith sticker now that Square-Enix have confirmed how to pronounce his name!
19-Inches Of Sephiroth
To one side of the demo bus was a small stage for players to watch trailers of the game and also enjoy the antics of loveable Square-Enix Brand Video Creator Lucy Hale, as she detailed what fans could expect from the full game.
Lucy’s presentations throughout the day shed light on the various gameplay mechanics and story beats of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth as well as outlined the various editions that would be available when the game launches on the 29th February 2024.
While the crowds, including several devoted cosplayers with the spikiest blonde hair you’ve ever seen, were generally quiet through each presentation, the mention of fans being able to ‘get their hands on 19 inches of Sephiroth’ always drew an audible gasp from spectators.
Of course, Lucy Hale was referring to the tantalising Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Collector’s Edition which includes a 19-inch tall Static Arts statue of the silver-haired, One-Winged Angel himself. Nothing smutty here you grotty little Moogles!
From my hands on with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth it feels like Square-Enix are doing everything right to make this an exceptional game that stays true to the 1997 original while remaining cohesive with the new direction that Final Fantasy VII Remake introduced.
I am excited to spend more time with these characters and experience their adventures, both old and new, in this gorgeous continuation of one of gaming’s most important series. Let’s just hope the final product focuses more on the interactions between these beloved characters, and a little less of the Mako hoovering…
Stick around for more Final Fantasy content and check out our picks for the best Final Fantasy games of all time!
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Theo first fell in love with gaming when he sped through Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog back in 1991. Theo has previously provided reviews, news coverage and articles for The Games Cabin and enjoyed producing comedic Let’s Plays on his own personal YouTube channels.
A huge Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear fan, Theo enjoys deep gameplay mechanics and complex storylines. A completionist by nature, Theo has earned over 140 platinum trophies including top digital trinkets for Stardew Valley, The Witness, Bloodborne and a plethora of GTA games.
Outside of gaming, Theo can often be found riding his motorbike, headbanging at gigs or out in the countryside exploring nature and marvelling at the ‘realistic graphics’.