Final Fantasy VII Remake – We Played. We Loved It. And So Will You.
It’s been a very long time coming but it finally happened. Fans begged and begged for years, if not almost a decade, for a Final Fantasy VII Remake and it finally became a reality in the year 2015 when it was announced at Sony’s legendary, if not almost mythical levels of a press conference. Over the years, fans speculated and wondered how will the game look, feel, play, and most importantly – how will it actually work and when will it release?
Fast forward to E3 2019 (which is 4 years later), press and general public finally got the chance to try out and play the upcoming much anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake for the very first time. Of course, we here at Gaming Instincts attended E3 and got our invitation from Square Enix to try out the the game ourselves behind closed doors. So what do we think about? Does it play as well as we would of hoped and how do the visuals fare along with the combat system? Well, we are here to answer those questions to the best of our ability, so let’s get to it.
It was very hard for me to believe with my own eyes that I was standing next to a kiosk getting ready to play Final Fantasy VII Remake for the first time. I could not believe what I was looking at or what I was about to witness. I really did not have any kind of expectations to be completely honest, simply because I did not really know what to expect to begin with, even after watching so many trailers and previews from Square Enix’s E3 2019 press conference. I knew the game looked really nice and was trying its hardest to appeal to the fanbase, but looking at something and actually playing are two completely different things.
The demo was only playable on the PlayStation 4 system, it did not run on a PC or Xbox. However, I am not sure if it was PlayStation 4 Pro or base PlayStation 4. I forgot to ask as I was being glued to the monitor and waiting to press that start button to kick the demo off.
Once I hit that start button a cut-scene started that was resembling the bomb mission from Final Fantasy VII which is quite early on in the game. The first portion of the demo was outside on the streets of Midgar and then of course as I progressed further in, eventually I got to the scorpion boss which is literally the first boss of the entire game. Now, before I get into the details of the actual boss fight and combat systems let’s discuss the feel of the game and how true it felt to the original.
I don’t know what it is, but Square managed to pull off the unthinkable. Playing the Final Fantasy VII: Remake felt like I was playing the original version from 1997, which was obviously a good thing. It was quite insane how similar it felt despite the massive leap visuals and technology after about 3 console generational jumps. Square managed to nail quite a lot. They’ve even put the treasure chests just like you remembered them and exact same locations as the original game. Of course, it wouldn’t be a true remake without the same musical queues and soundtrack, as well. Everything was placed exactly in the same spots as you remembered.
Fighting the Shinra soldiers for the first time in the Remake felt fantastic simply because the visuals of the game are absolutely phenomenal and everything just looks so much better thanks to a massive increase in polygon count, higher resolution textures and of course Unreal Engine 4 itself. The particle effects are gorgeous and what’s really great is that they never get in the way and everything flows really well during combat sequences and there is never a dull moment either.
Speaking of the combat system, there was always a huge debate between the fans whether the remake should have an all time real-time combat system or turn-based at all times. Square has done something really magical here. They’ve managed to combine real-time combat that similar to Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV and the old systems from the original version of Final Fantasy VII. At its core, Final Fantasy VII Remake combat system felt quite similar to the original game simply because Square has decided to keep the ATB Gauge and how it functions.
When you enter combat, you are also able to switch between each of the characters in your party. During my playtime in the demo I only had Cloud and Barret in my party as I was able to switch between them and use them on the fly simply by pressing Up or Down on the d-pad. Once you switch that character you can tap the X button to do basic auto-attacks. Think of it like a 3rd-person real time action game. For Cloud, you actually had a triple X combo, meanwhile for Barret if you held the X button he would eventually do a last-minute charged up attack at the end as well, besides his regular auto-attack which was really awesome and added a lot to the combat variation.
To be able to use items or do your special abilities and limits, what you do is press R1 or L1 (I don’t remember which one unfortunately, but it was one of those) and the game would literally pause and bring up a menu on the bottom left corner. The menu had multiple options that you all know and love, such as “Abilities”, “Items” and of course “Limits”. And yes, this is where the Summons will be at eventually, as well. This is where the 1997 combat version comes in, it even looks the same as far as the color scheme goes and how it functions as well.
Throughout the entire play-through of my demo there were many opportunities for me to use my abilities and the game never felt like you had to sit there and wait. The combat is much more active and actually more skill-based than ever before, and the reason why I say that is because there is also a block button as well. The block button is used in real-time, so if an enemy is about to shoot, you can hold the button and take reduced damage instead of taking in the full damage.
For those who are hardcore and want the most optimal healthy runs will strongly appreciate the blocking mechanic. Believe it or not, when I was fighting against the boss in the demo I actually had to think of my positioning, what to use, when to use it and when to block and when to go in for the attacks. This made me extremely happy. Not only is the combat system a lot of fun, it’s also very engaging and actually more tactical than the original game. Honestly, it was so good that I am hoping future Final Fantasy games will use this combat system as it is much better than Final Fantasy XV as well.
The Scorpion Guard boss fight was excellent. It felt nostalgic and even had the same 3 phases that the original game had from 1997. Except this time around you had to move around the 3D environment/arena and be wary of where you are standing and make sure you are blocking his attacks. Being able to switch between Cloud and Barret on the fly also added another element of fun and strategy. Sure, the original game you switched around characters as well, but for some reason it felt much more meaningful simply because you are now running around in a full realized 3D space and participating in real-time combat as opposed to looking at a static screen for the majority of the fight. The developers have also added a interesting new mechanic called “Staggering” and this is how it works: The boss has an empty bar that fills up as you attack it, once the bar is completely full the boss gets staggered and takes a lot more damage than normal and this is where you want to pummel it and use up all your abilities and limits and buff yourself with any items beforehand. This adds another strategic element for the combat play and those who are pros and speed-runners will have an absolute blast figuring out the best strategies and combinations of characters to use and when to use them throughout the game.
Overall, we are quite happy with what we saw and played of Final Fantasy VII Remake. As a matter of fact, I think its safe to say that our expectations have been surpassed as well to a certain extent. At this point, we want to play the full game and see what it truly has to offer. While there are still other questions and concerns to be answered, the most important ones as far as how the game works, feels and plays during combat have been answered and play-tested.
This was an awesome sample of the big giant delicious dish. Now bring on the full fledged dish Square, we are ready to consume it once March 3rd, 2020 hits. Stay tuned to for more news, updates, final verdict and all things in regards to Final Fantasy VII Remake right here at Gaming Instincts.