As a long-time fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, I have to admit I was never too hot on the idea of having a full-blown Final Fantasy VII remake. Even after the announcement, which dispelled years and years of rumors and frantic begging from fans all over the world, I didn’t feel entirely convinced that it was worth getting worked up about. After giving its demo a go at Brazil Game Show 2019 yesterday, though, my mind has changed and I want to see more of how Square has updated Cloud and co’s adventure. The limited slice shown really impressed me.
The demo took place in the Mako reactor during Avalanche’s strike at the very beginning of Final Fantasy VII proper. It gave me control of Cloud and Barret, who play surprisingly differently now that the game is more action-based than the original — Cloud being the melee-focused character, and Barret, the ranged one — a lot like how Final Fantasy XV, but not nearly as mashy or damage-spongy. Starting out with Cloud, his buster sword strikes were mapped to the square button, and although the action didn’t feel quite on the level of a bona fide character action game like Devil May Cry V, there was enough oomph to the attacks that it made them more than mere hacks. That, coupled with the special abilities and magic that came into play by using the X button made the combat feel unexpectedly dynamic and exciting.
The first few sections in the demo brought in some low-level grunts and bots to smash through, along with some boxes containing consumables and learn the combat as the duo made their way to the objective, the main valve to the reactor where Cloud hoped to plant a bomb. Shinra had other plans, and as fans of Final Fantasy know, that’s when the big scorpion bot showed up in the original, taking the same cue in the Remake. However, since the combat is much more involved and moves away from the turn-based system, this boss had way more attack variety, leaving the class tail-raising laser special move to a later phase of the fight. The first few moments had Barret and Cloud deal with the robot directly as they slowly filled up its secondary power bar in order to trigger its stagger, at which point it became more vulnerable to attacks, and I certainly did not waste any time laying down some punishment.
Surprisingly, even Barret’s ranged blasts managed to come into use during this fight, especially when the scorpion jumped off the platform we were fighting on and stuck itself on the reactor’s inner walls. Locking on to it proved useful as I peppered it with bullets after switching to Barret, which can be done at any time, on-the-fly. His special attack, a concentrated blast of energy, came in handy during the boss’ staggered stage, and took off a bunch of its base health. After a bit of punishment, the scorpion bot called in a shield which after some confusion on my part, meant that I had to move on to another target, the generator, opening up the boss to more attacks and damage.
During my first viewing of the E3 gameplay demo video, I felt that the boss fight was way too long, but after having actually play through it, it lasted enough to make me feel really good and somewhat challenged, even though it was a trade show floor demo and only the first in many boss fights from the game. Even the second to last portion of the fight where the death laser came in was surprisingly manageable, thanks to some handy scrap that fell from the ceiling and provided perfect cover for the boss’ deadly attack. After taking about ¾ worth of damage to his HP bar, the boss called in a shield once again, and having that get taken down, he started to pummel Cloud harder, leaving his legs exposed. No time was wasted getting those taken out of commission, at which point the scorpion bot was just about done, exploding into bits and leaving the reactor at Avalanche’s mercy.
Overall, I felt like Final Fantasy VII Remake is definitely on the right track. The graphical presentation is on a whole other level that what was seen in the original, obviously, and looks on par or even better than what was seen in the last Final Fantasy. I absolutely love the updated character designs that preserve the original’s concept art look while being totally recognizable when put side by side with the blocky models from the PlayStation 1 game. The music cues were also ridiculously nostalgic, as the reactor attack theme’s notes played in the background of the new score. Square Enix is not hiding the fact that this is going to be a huge game for the hardcore Final Fantasy VII fans, and even though I’m sure they’ll be the primary audience for this remake, I really hope that people new to the franchise, thanks to the new gameplay style.
I’m really excited to see more of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and thankfully it won’t take too long for me to get a chance to do so, as the first part containing all of the Midgar section of the original’s first disc be hitting the PlayStation 4 on March 3rd next year.