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FF7 Rebirth demo makes me regret 27 years of Final Fantasy ignorance

While some elements left me scratching my head, the FF7 Rebirth PS5 demo has finally lured this naysayer into the world of Final Fantasy.

FF7 Rebirth demo: Cloud, with his sword mounted on his back and his pointy blond hair, looks with a concerned expression. A blue PlayStation logo is beside him

I’ve smashed through countless classic games and series in my 27 years on planet Earth, but it’s time for a confession: I have never played a Final Fantasy game. We all have at least one famous videogame franchise that we just never managed to find the time or passion for, and this is mine. I know this will anger and bewilder some people, but what’s done is done. I am trying to make amends though. After almost three decades of neglect, I’ve finally ended my Final Fantasy drought with the FF7 Rebirth demo on PS5, and what I played in that roughly 90-minute snapshot both confused and impressed me.

I know that many best games of all time lists will include at least a couple of Final Fantasy bangers, but I could never get on board with the continuous jumping to new storylines and characters (or the seemingly spontaneous remakes/ remasters/ reimaginings of older games). I get that, for many gamers, that’s the great thing about the series and a reason why it’s produced so many of the best RPG games. But to me, it just made it feel inaccessible.

When Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth was fully revealed last year, my ignorance was exposed like never before – a fellow member of The Loadout team spent at least 20 minutes trying to explain to me what the significance of its reveal trailer was, who the characters were, differences to previous FF7s, and why the fandom was going particularly wild for Rebirth. After said 20 minutes, I really felt none the wiser.

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What I did know was that FF7 Rebirth looked remarkable and incredibly ambitious. Curiosity was starting to creep in. Previews, trailers, gameplay deep dives, and the prospect of dolphin-riding minigames have all since piqued my interest, so when its free PS5 demo dropped, I felt like I had to try it.

What I found really surprised me, in various ways. A pleasant surprise was the ‘story so far’ video, which did an excellent job at bringing me up to speed and onboarding me as a complete newbie.

While I was at first concerned with the complexity of FF7 Rebirth’s combat – there are attacks, spells, items, limit breaks, MP, ATB, synergy abilities, and more to think about – it fairly quickly made sense and sunk in. In most scenarios, I really enjoyed the combat, particularly with Sephiroth.

FF7 Rebirth demo: Sephiroth wearing pale grey armor and with flowing grey hair

However, in some of the tighter mountain path areas as Cloud, there were some really clunky and unenjoyable battles – the environment didn’t seem to play into the combat’s strengths, which from what I can gather is dynamic, high-speed, movement-based attacks. Even with the limited amount of abilities given to you in the demo, it felt like there sometimes wasn’t enough space to cleanly perform them.

Traversal too felt… strange? I’ve played action games and RPGs with fast-paced traversal before, but FF7 Rebirth somehow managed to feel clunky and floaty at the same time. Climbing up ladders also took an age – and by the way, why are we climbing ladders and mantling ledges when we can jump 20 feet in the air during combat? Maybe exploration in this open world game will feel smoother in the final product, or maybe that’s just how it always is in Final Fantasy, I’m not sure – what I do know is it felt off to me.

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What I was most impressed with though was how invested I became in the story and characters. I thought the perceived ‘randomness’ of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth I’d seen in trailers would result in me just not getting it. But I walked away enjoying the performances, interested in the main narrative, and looking forward to the full adventure with Cloud and the gang.

So, has the demo converted me? In a way, sure – thanks to the demo, FF7 Rebirth has gone from a game that would normally pass me by to one I’m now eager to play. Has it also made me regret my years of Final Fantasy ignorance? Certainly. I’m not saying I’m suddenly an overnight mega-fan based on an hour and a half, but if such little time with it has left me eager for more, what else have I potentially missed out on?

That’s an existential gaming crisis for another day – for now, my focus is on FF7 Rebirth, which seems on course to be one of the best PS5 games of the generation. For more big PlayStation news, read up on why you won’t be getting any new PS5 games from major existing franchises like Spider-Man for some time.