On an assignment from MB Technews way back in 2015, I was at E3 2015 to see the first announcement of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. And to actually get to play it for under an hour brought out the hype for its big release next month.
First, I should just state that FFVII is also my first ‘Final Fantasy’ title and the first game I experienced on the PlayStation in the ‘90s. Like many gamers out there who has a special place for Final Fantasy VII, I am one of those.
Let’s not kid ourselves. While the more recent ‘Final Fantasy’ games ranged from decent to pretty good, the entire series has hit some kind of slump. Final Fantasy XV was Square Enix’s big attempt to revitalize the series by trying out new things and while that game had an excellent narrative the game play severely lacked.
From the hour-long demo, it seems Square Enix and game director Tetsuya Nomura (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Kingdom Hearts) learned a lot from their experience with FFXV, as combat in FFVII Remake will overload you with spectacle.
Every attack from Cloud’s buster sword and Barret’s arm gun are filled with so much flair, it’s hard not to get awe-struck at every single action.
Blocking and dodging were tricky. They never seem to happen when you need to use them and I’ve heard similar complaints. That’s because blocking and dodging are familiar to action-oriented games where characters react as fast as the player. Final Fantasy VII Remake, is not a pure action game. It’s an action-RPG where RPG elements bear a lot of weight. This means dodging and blocking should come as a pre-emptive action from the player than spam the attack button.
The ATB gauges, are bars that fill up through the durable of battle, and once they’re full, you can use special commands, such as Abilities, Magic, and Items. For the demo, there were two ATB gauges to prevent spam, and we can assume those gauges can expand up to three or maybe even five.
I’ve read some things online about the certain learning curve of the remake’s battle system. For my experience, I found it so only because my brain couldn’t process the simple combat mechanics. Pressing circle will bring up the command menu while slowing down time to a trickle. Otherwise, you can press L1 to bring up a shortcut menu while the action is happening on normal speed. It got me confused for a while, making silly mistakes, but by the end of the demo I’ve gotten a better grasp of it.
I was worried when I first learned about the “Stagger” mechanic in the game. It’s something that brought back nightmares from Final Fantasy XIII, where boss fights could take an eternity to fight. However, in FFVIIR, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Most random encounters ended quickly and the more difficult battles were simply the game encouraging you to mix up you combos, switching between Cloud and Barret, between Cloud’s Punisher and Operative attack styles, and use of abilities and magic. Staggering enemies, even the scorpion boss, turned out a simple task.
The demo kicked off exactly how the original did, with a small group infiltrating the Mako reactor. It’s another visual spectacle to see all the characters you’ve come to known as mere polygons to fully rendered 3D models.
Cloud and Barret will engage in banters every now and then, which are nice ice breakers. In the scorpion boss battle, Cloud and Barret’s dialogue flows well, signifying progress in the game. So, there weren’t any repeated dialogue like in some games.
Of course, I’m getting myself ahead here. This is just the demo, after all. The tutorial part of the game where the basics are poured down on you. Still, it builds into the expectations.
While the combat has received lots of praise, there was something lacking. Perhaps I’m being nitpicky here. I’m almost certain I am. It’s the environment.
Maybe because it’s the starting area, something we’ll never see again, something we won’t even spend an hour on, that Square Enix decided not to give too flesh out the details of the Mako 1 reactor. The area is very bland and full of sheets covering several spots.
Cloud mentions that different reactors have different layouts, as if it’s a promise from the developers to players that future areas will be more satisfying. And I’m holding them to that.
There are speculations that you will be able to explore Midgar like an open world game. I don’t think that will be the case. I’m guessing the game will be linear with “hub” sections where it would feel like an open world, you’ll get to explore a little, interact with NPCs, and do a couple of side quests.
Since the game will be divided into “parts” it’s interesting to see how far Square Enix will take this. They released a CGI-movie called “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” which is set a few years after the main game, Square Enix also released a spin-off game called “Dirge of Cerberus,” which featured one of the main characters of FFVII. They also had a prequel game for the PlayStation Portable called “Crisis Core,” which had a post-credits (before post-creds were cool) scene that hinted a “Final Fantasy VII-2.” It’s interesting if Square Enix will go that far as adding those past titles into the entire FFVII continuity or the Remake is a chance for a clean slate. I guess whatever the market points to.
From the demo alone, Final Fantasy VII Remake looks like it’s going to be an amazing game. It’s a chance for fans to re-experience the game in a fresh perspective, while welcoming newcomers to the club.
The demo is out now in the PlayStation Network. Final Fantasy VII Remake will be available on April 10.