Like many other fans, memories of Final Fantasy VII are etched deeply into my heart. I reminiscence vividly over booting up my PlayStation for the first time to live through the tragic story of Zack Fair on a joystick-less controller pad. Wait… This was Cloud’s story? Oh well, Zack is cooler anyway.
Experiencing the demo for Final Fantasy VII Remake seemed dreamlike… For many years this game was simply vaporware, with many doubting it will ever come into existence. It’s not like Square Enix hadn’t teased the idea of bringing the game to the modern age, after all, the cruelty of the PS3 tech demo still haunts the memory of all. Now here we are, in 2020, and a demo is upon us.
The opening cinematic is as glorious as you remembered it being. Oddly enough, the updated graphics didn’t strike me as any differently than how I imagined them. For Square Enix to recreate the captured memories and nostalgia of fans is truly a noteworthy feat. This game isn’t the first in the series to use The Unreal 4 Game Engine, but between the stability and visual effects, it certainly is the best to look at. From a technical standpoint, the demo was a huge achievement. Even during the busier sequences, I didn’t notice any substantial slowdown. I believe there was a bit of compromise to visual fidelity during the boss battle; but I suspect it was mostly the Playstation 4 Pro’s dynamic resolution scaling going into effect.
The combat was the real meat of the demo and after playing the demo at E3 2019 I was left mostly impressed. I am happy to announce that I have similar feelings after the latest iteration. The combat has incredible potential mixing between the action-based inputs similar to Final Fantasy XV and honoring the “tactical” feel from the turn-based action of the original release. Barret and Cloud are refreshingly different and have distinctive advantages you’d come to expect from a sword wielder and a man with a gun grafted into his arm.
Cloud is a monster in close combat, possessing the ability to swap into a martial style that slows his movement but provides devastating power to his Buster sword’s attacks. Barret also has exceptional combat abilities; however, his attacks serve better against enemies out of reach. I expect this dynamic will remain once more party members are introduced (I.e. Tifa: close-ranged and Aerith: ranged). When it comes to the exploration sections, the demo didn’t have much going for it, but that is to be expected. After all, they are recreating linear sequences from the original game.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the demo was all the added flavor. Jesse, Biggs, and Wedge were incredibly endearing in this brief 45-60 minute demo, already possessing more depth than they had in the original. Since players will be occupying Midgar far longer than they did in the original, I anticipate characters who had smaller roles in these sections to be far more fleshed out this go-around. My favorite part of the entire demo was Jesse’s quips on how hot she thought Cloud was. It was obvious to players of the original that Jesse had a thing for Cloud but it’s adorable to see it and actually hear the character mention it. It’s an incredibly effective sequence of dialog that gets me hyped to see how much more this game will add to lore of Final Fantasy VII.
My least favorite moment was a surprise: I simply did not enjoy fighting the Scorpion Sentinel. The fight had some quality moments but it almost felt like a chore fighting the boss, not so much of a challenge. Sure, there was some good diversity in the fight as it swapped attack patterns and leaped across the environment. Yet, I can’t shake how repetitive the experience felt. The shorter fights were fun as they were brief and the characters felt powerful, however, continuously whacking the boss for 10-15 minutes straight got tiresome. This likely can be attributed to only having access to two characters, a handful of spells, and only two ATB gauges. Yet, the combat is complex enough that I see it improving massively over the course of the game’s full release.
Overall, the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo was a brief but exhilarating experience and does a fantastic job on capturing one of the most recognizable openings in the history of video games. Heck, we even get another peak at the magnificent creature that is Sephiroth, with his magnificent hair and iconic Masamune sword in tow.
With its April 10th release around the corner, we are growing more and more excited to experience the game in its full glory. If the demo is any indication, I fully expect the final product to be a breathtaking addition to the Final Fantasy IP. Now don’t mind me, I think I’ll imagine playing as Zack Fair in my next run through of the demo. See you in Midgar!
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