We might not be getting Final Fantasy VII Remake this month, but Square Enix at least let us have a taste by releasing what I assume was the demo they were showing at the likes of E3 and PAX last year. And…I have to say that I was quite impressed with it, more so than I thought I was going to be. I really like what I saw in this demo, both as a fan of the original and as a modern gamer. I don’t think everything about is perfect, but I’m now at least confident that Square has done their best to do one of their most celebrated games justice.
The demo for Final Fantasy VII Remake covers the first hour of the game or so. We get the bird’s eye view of Midgar in all its updated glory, cut to Cloud’s iconic entrance atop the train, and proceed to play out what fans will immediately recognize is the first mission from the original game: working with AVALANCHE to sabotage a mako reactor. The first thing that struck me about this remake was how much more real the world felt. This was partly due to the game’s updated presentation, but I say it was more about layout and level design.
In the original Final Fantasy VII, everything played out against pre-rendered backgrounds. It looked impressive at the time (and still has a certain charm to it), but this forced everything to play out from fixed camera angles. This isn’t the case now. Instead of getting hints at depth and vague notions of how each section related to all the others, we can now see everything in detail. I was able to climb stairs and see the train I arrived on below; I could descend into the depths of the mako reactor, look up, and see where I’d just come from. Such things have become standard over the years, so it’s really no big deal most of the time. Yet, seeing it here, in this world, I couldn’t help but marvel a bit at the how much more real everything felt because of it.
There were other things present here that helped the world feel more cohesive too. Seeing the materia plugged into Cloud’s Buster Sword was one; hearing Cloud actually acknowledge magic in conversation was another. It’s been a couple years since I last played Final Fantasy VII so my memory might be fuzzy, but I don’t remember anyone actually talking about magic in the game. It was just kind of there; used but not acknowledged. I dunno, it just struck me as odd that no one ever seemed to talk about the amazing force and the power it bestowed. That’s not the case anymore, and I think this actually helps bridge the gap between battles and the rest of the game.
Speaking of battles, I gotta hand it to Square Enix: they actually got it right. The combat is much more well-integrated into the world now, with enemy placements that make sense within the context of the story and playing-out on the same map as everything else. The cross between real-time and the old Active Time Battle system worked well too. I mean, it looked cool in the trailers, but I didn’t expect it to feel so natural.
All I had to do to charge each character’s ATB was hit the enemy with normal attacks (or block) and then bring up the “command” menu to queue up attacks. Time slows to a crawl when this menu is open too, allowing one to figure out exactly what they want to do. Items are tied into this menu too, so one can’t simply abuse them in order to make a fight easier. Overall, I felt like the fights were quite engaging and fun to play through in this, and I’m actually excited to go back in and try out “classic mode” which has players focus solely on issuing commands through the menu.
So yeah, I’m very impressed with the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo. After playing it, I’m now convinced that Square Enix has succeeded in their efforts to not only remake the original, but also to make into something distinct and original in its own right. This is not a 1 to 1 remake of Final Fantasy VII. It’s not the same game with a new coat of paint. You cannot go into this expecting to see each and every screen from the original reflected in some way. They hit the highlights of course, but this is something new for the most part. Don’t just take my word for it though, check it out yourself if you haven’t already!
What do you think of Final Fantasy VII Remake? Does it have you more or less excited for the full game? How would you say it compares to the original?
Lede image from Amazon Store listing