Closing Fantasy 7 Rebirth could have the most effective model of gaming’s most notorious flashback – last hands-on preview

There are few particular person sequences in online game historical past which are as famed – and as essential – as Closing Fantasy 7’s ‘Nibelheim Flashback’. When you concentrate on what this sequence accomplishes, it’s fairly heady. It units up the stakes of FF7’s genre-defining narrative, solidifies an all-time iconic villain, has some unbelievable technological execution (for the time), and in addition creates one of many most enduring single photographs in gaming historical past. Principally, it’s essential.

That makes Closing Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s job of rebuilding the scene for the fashionable age troublesome. But it surely’s made extra difficult nonetheless by the very fact ‘The Nibelheim Incident’ has been carried out greater than as soon as – and actually, at all times fairly effectively.

There’s the unique Closing Fantasy 7 (1997), then there’s anime Final Order (2005), and beloved spin-off Disaster Core (2007). All have barely completely different variations of the occasions, every barely distinctive, every one other layer to the story whilst they calmly contradict one another. Then there’s different variations – an alternate angle on occasions featured in Japan-only cellular sport Earlier than Disaster (2004), and it’s additionally just lately appeared in Ever Disaster (2023). That is well-trodden floor.

Aerith, Cloud and Tifa stand and look at the stars in a planetarium.
It is social gathering time. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix

Whereas gamers will be capable of expertise a demo that showcases a slice of the Nibelheim flashback (round a 3rd of it) now, I obtained to go hands-on with the sequence in full as a part of FF7 Rebirth’s last hands-on occasion. Whereas I obtained to additionally expertise extra of the sport’s open-world ambitions, I don’t have an excessive amount of new to say there than I mentioned again in September, as a Closing Fantasy lore goblin it was inevitably the flashback that grabbed my consideration essentially the most.

In honesty, gameplay-wise that is related sufficient to lots of the rollercoaster mission sequences of FF7 Remake. You’re drawn from one fight encounter to a different, dynamic music stringing you alongside by dipping from the frenzied beats of fight to a calmer however nonetheless tense thrum between encounters. Once in a while, the cadence is damaged up by a cutscene or a small busywork puzzle, like hoovering up leaking Mako to make an space secure. You then transfer on.

All of that’s sort-of as anticipated. My anticipation is that Rebirth might be a much bigger, higher, extra bombastic model of Remake, and still have the braveness to stray even farther from the supply materials. However there are locations the place Rebirth surprises, however.

Cloud leaps at Sephiroth with his Buster Sword raised above his head, with Sephiroth's wing one black wing out-stretched.
Anticipate the story to take a couple of turns. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix

It’s largely in story execution, actually. For my cash, the unique flashback is outlined by a characterful slow-burn introduction as Cloud and firm arrive at Nibelheim and get to know the city. I used to be involved which may not be so right here, because the flashback types one of many earliest components of Rebirth. Actually, the preview construct makes clear that it’s ‘Chapter 1’. However the remade model of the flashback doesn’t swap this out for an action-packed intro: you get an opportunity to noodle across the city, and are actively inspired to do issues like discover Tifa’s home and reunite with Cloud’s mom – all as the strain and dread builds for what’s to come back.

A part of this, I believe, is bravery. One other half is probably going a intelligent little bit of misdirection, because the construct we performed lacked a transparent ‘opening’ to the sport – suggestive, to me not less than, that this Chapter 1 introduction really follows one thing else that has a little bit of the bombast of the Bombing Mission – most likely one thing involving Zack.

Both approach, it really works as a result of it retains and truly enhances what made the unique flashback so efficient. Small particulars, like taking part in Tifa’s piano, at the moment are full-blown mini-games. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it irrelevant characters from the unique at the moment are given some element past being a mere sketch of an individual, and so forth.

In some way, this model of this basic scene threads the needle. It gives one thing new by way of the depth of the characterization of each Cloud and Sephiroth, the 2 key gamers in occasions. It has a aptitude for the cinematic, and a loyal adoration for the supply materials. It simply works.

Cloud and Sephiroth stand, with their iconic swords raised to the camera.
The sport has a level to make.Picture credit score: Sq. Enix

It even works despite a handful of apparent flaws. Any time FF7 Remake tried to shoot for Uncharted-style in-game drama it fell a bit flat – and right here, as Cloud hobbles round a burning Nibelheim at ultra-low pace with visible design that doesn’t make it completely initially clear the place within the flames you’re meant to be going, I wince.

As I’m requested to squeeze down one set off after one other to make him crawl alongside the ground, injured, I’m reminded of Tifa’s mega-crap ‘Child’s first Tomb Raider’ sequence from FF7 Remake, and vaguely aggravated. Usually talking, I take a look at these things and assume ‘that is lame, it ought to’ve simply been a cutscene’ – a thought that comes naturally, given how lavish and great FF7 Rebirth’s hand-directed cutscenes are.

That is maybe demonstrative of how, even when FF7 Rebirth is greater and higher, it would nonetheless be responsible of a number of the worst proclivities of its predecessor. However you recognize what? I actually don’t care. It nonetheless appears like the all time model of one of the vital essential sequences in gaming historical past – and that speaks to the standard of what’s on provide, and the deft hand of the builders behind it. Now all we have now to do is wait and see if the remainder of the sport can reside as much as that. If it may possibly, it might very effectively be an all-time basic.

Closing Fantasy 7 Rebirth is because of launch February 29, on PS5.

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