Final Fantasy VII is one of my favourite games of all time.
I remember playing through it when I was 11, maybe 12 years old, rushing home from school to put yet more hours into it. And I wasn’t happy until I’d retrieved the Knights of the Round Summon Materia and defeated both the Emerald and Ruby Weapons. To this day, I still listen to its soundtracks, or at least variants of it, often. So, when Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced I was, of course, elated. But I was also wary.
There were numerous things I was worried about. Would the story be tinkered with, i.e. Barrett toned down because of his brash and colourful language? Also, what would be done with the combat? It took a while for the combat of Final Fantasy XIII to grow on me, and Final Fantasy XV‘s combat is a far cry from Final Fantasy VII‘s turn-based shenanigans. But still, I knew I’d play Final Fantasy VII Remake regardless, so I’d held off playing demos at events. With a demo now available via the PlayStation store, however, I finally decided to give it a go. And I’m glad I did, because now my fears are well and truly gone. I think Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to be incredible.
Starting just like Final Fantasy VII did all those years ago, you’re first introduced to Aerith. She looks wonderful in Final Fantasy VII Remake, and as the camera pans back to give you a look at Midgar before moving back in to finally put you in control of Cloud, you wait for the inevitable transition between CGI and gameplay; you prepare yourself for disappointment. Only, it doesn’t happen. I don’t know how Square has done it, but Final Fantasy VII Remake is best-looking game ever made as far as I’m concerned, and it runs without any performance hiccups. At least on PS4 Pro, anyway.
Character models are amazingly animated, brilliantly detailed, and really have been brought to life in the most literal way. It feels great to actually meet Biggs, Jesse and Wedge; no longer are they just rectangular blobs. I felt more for them in the hour or so spent with the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo that I did for the entirety of my multiple Final Fantasy VII playthroughs. And it’s not just the character models that impress; environments, enemies – everything is top-notch. It’s obvious that no expense has been spared in remaking this title. Square Enix has put its heart and soul into it.
The gameplay, too, has mightily impressed me. I thought I wanted Final Fantasy VII Remake to be turn-based, just like the original game, but having bounced off many turn-based RPGs in recent years, I now realise that I probably wouldn’t have liked that at all. What I wanted was Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s combat; I just didn’t know it yet. The great thing is, if you want to play Final Fantasy VII Remake like an action game, you can. But if you want to take more of a back seat and simply issue commands, you can do that too. It’s the perfect blend between the old and the new.
Taking control of a character directly, you can lock onto and attack enemies, unleash special abilities, block, and roll, just like an action game. Then, if you want to use an item or cast a spell, you can open up the command menu with the push of the X button. Of course, you need at least one charge of the ATB gauge to perform such an action though. Limit breaks are back, too, and are just as flashy and devastating as ever. Spectacle is seemingly at the forefront of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and the action appears to be so spectacular that it takes your mind off of the things that aren’t quite perfect.
The camera, for example, can annoy; it sometimes fails to track enemies or give you a good view of the action. Also, combat can be so hectic at times that it’s impossible to keep up with who’s attacking you and from where. But because of your acrobatic moves and the out-of-this-world visuals, you just don’t care. Plus, I imagine Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s combat is something I’ll get more used to over time. I’ll learn to work faster, more efficiently spot incoming threats, and actually make better use of those block and dodge buttons. This is not the Final Fantasy VII I remember when it comes to combat, and I need to get used to that.
With just over a month to go until Final Fantasy VII Remake finally releases, there’s also the chance that some things will change. The camera might be tightened up, for example. Even if it isn’t, though, I think I’m going to fall in love with this remake just like I did the original game some twenty years ago. Perhaps even more. Just listening to its music again and blowing up the first Mako reactor has brought back so many memories, and they’re all good. But modern hardware has been leveraged to make the world feel more immersive and the action more involved.
Needless to say, if you’ve never played Final Fantasy VII before, you’re in for a treat. And if you have, you’re probably in for an even bigger one.
Final Fantasy VII Remake launches for PS4 on 10th April. Pre-order your copy now, and download the demo from the PSN Store to give it try for yourself.