I have a confession to make to everyone. I have never played Final Fantasy VII before in my life. I never had a Playstation until the tail end of the PS2’s lifespan, so I never really had a reason to pay attention to the FF7 hype train. By the time I had a console that could even play any Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy X had been unleashed upon the world and it really wasn’t my cup of tea, so I sort of just ignored the series altogether until I stumbled upon the masterpiece that is Final Fantasy VI. Since then I’ve been a huge fan of the series (FF6 and FF14 are some of my favourite games ever), but I could never get into FF7. Since I never played it when it came out all I could say when looking at it from a modern standpoint is that it did not age well at all with its blocky visual style and less-than-perfect translations. Imagine my surprise now, with a full fledged remake right around the corner and it being one of the games I’m most excited about this year based entirely off of footage alone. As if I couldn’t be hyped enough for this game already, Square Enix decided to drop a demo with no prior fanfare outside of a leak saying that it was happening at some point. Now I had an opportunity to see if the hype was real by actually playing the game.
The demo takes you through the introduction of the game: the bombing run. This hour long section mostly serves to show off the basics of movement, combat, and making full use of your party. You’re introduced to Cloud Strife, former SOLDIER First Class and mercenary for hire working with eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE, and Barret Wallace, the leader of said eco-terrorist group. Cloud’s your classic JRPG protagonist using a giant piss-off buster sword and focusing on big damaging melee attacks, while Barret has a gun for an arm and is naturally most effective at long range. The battle system for FF7R makes an effort to marry the real-time action combat players would expect from the Kingdom Hearts series or Final Fantasy XV with the turn-based active time battle (ATB) system that earlier games in the series are best known for. The battle system also does this better than I could have possibly hoped. Your characters have a number of ATB bars that charge while you’re using your basic attack combos and you spend your bars to use abilities, spells, and items. Fortunately you don’t have to worry about panicking while selecting your options on the fly; when you’re ready to open up your command menu the game speed will slow to a crawl to give you some breathing room to select whatever option you want. You’re also free to spend bars for whatever character you’re not in control of without having to assume direct control, which is quite nice if you want to coordinate. Of course you’ve got some modern additions taken from more recent games, most importantly the stagger mechanic where enemies will be weakened for a time if you put enough pressure on them. It’s evident that there will be tons of depth to the combat system as the game progresses you acquire more characters and combat options, and that’s not even considering the effect that customizing your equipment with Materia will have on your abilities. I can’t wait to dig in and see how far the combat system can be pushed.
I think I’d be committing some sort of sin if I didn’t talk about the production value of this remake. The game looks unbelievably amazing. The environments look great and all of the character models are highly detailed. Even the side characters are treated with love and affection like Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie. The music has been redone to set the tone of the remake perfectly as well. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy at times, but the demo also gave us Cloud’s golden, sardonic plea for Barret to “get help”. The short hour of time I played the FF7R demo made me believe in the hype all over again. This game is going to be amazing, and I don’t even care that the whole Final Fantasy VII experience is going to be episodic if each episode is going to be made with as much love and care as this first entry has. I’m ready to dive in and explore the city of Midgar on April 10th!