Final Fantasy VII Remake Hands On: Reinvigorating A Classic

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII (FFVII) Remake is one of the most hotly anticipated titles of 2020, and this is despite the recent delay from March to April this year. Earlier today, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) gave me a chance to lay my hands on the game and form my thoughts on it.

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For the record, this hands-on is focused on the demo provided by Sony. On that note, the playable demo is the same one used during the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) last year, meaning that the content is limited to interaction and combat with the first Scorpion-like robot. To that end, it’s clear that this isn’t the final build of the game and that we’ll only be seeing such a thing in a few more months.

For those of you who played Final Fantasy XV, Crisis Core and Type-0, the combat system will undoubtedly be familiar. You get a button dedicated to mashing out attacks, while the revamped Active Time Battle (ATB) bar gives access to a list of skills, spells, and abilities of each individual character. The ATB also recharges overtime during battle, but you can speed up the charging process by landing blows on enemies.

On a side note, the spell list for Cloud and Barrett is different, and that points to the allocation of Materia: the magical, condensed by-product of crystallised Mako energy. That said, I haven’t actually managed confirmed this for myself; the demo didn’t seem to have a Character Menu available, neither did I manage to gain access to such a thing.

The fast-paced nature of FFVII Remake also means that all actions are instant, and that’s a good thing. The game’s fairly lenient when you want to execute an action too; the game enters into a super slo-mo mode whenever the command list is brought up, allowing you to choose the next actions of the characters present.

Moving on, the gameplay mechanics of FFVII Remake does require some getting used to, but mercifully, it isn’t a steep learning curve. I got used to the combat mechanics from the start, but realised near the end of the demo that your abilities and spells can, surprisingly, be interrupted mid-casting or mid-animation. Again, while some may think this a nuisance, I think it’s a fair penalty system that pushes you to think two steps ahead of the enemy’s action.

In regards to the overall game and character design of FFVII Remake, there’s isn’t much else to be said about it. Aesthetically, the environments are breathtaking, with the Mako reactor’s surrounding feeling just as dark and industrially gritty as when I first experienced it more than two decades ago.

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That goes for the design of Cloud and Barrett too, although by comparison, the new Cloud more closely resembles his counterpart in Advent Children. Leading me to think that Square Enix may have recycled some assets when it came to his character.

At the end of the demo, I can confidently say that the demo – while not the final build – definitely felt polished in several areas, while other areas such as the frame stutterings will hopefully be addressed upon its release.

On that note, Final Fantasy VII Remake is slated for a 10 April 2020 launch. Personally, I’ll definitely be obtaining a copy of the game for the nostalgia, if not for the revamped gameplay.

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