Final Fantasy is one of the most popular science fantasy franchises. Initially created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the franchise is developed and owned by Square Enix games. Final Fantasy VII is one of the most popular games under the franchise, which was released as a PlayStation exclusive back in 1997. A few years ago, Square Enix teased about the remake of the game, but the studio did not follow up, and the game was forgotten until last year when Square Enix decided to awe their fans by surprise, revealing that the game is in production.
Since then, we have already gotten an action-packed in-engine trailer that not only shows how much the graphics of modern games have improved but also shows that classic titles still hold the same place among the fans. During the last State of Play reveal, we got to know the new amalgam of turn-based and real-time combat mechanics that the developers have introduced. The game is coming to the PlayStation platform on April 10.
Square Enix has released the demo of the game that you can play on the PlayStation 4 console right now. The link in the following tweet will take you to the regional PS store from where you can download the game and play the opening section of the game.
We've just released the free #FinalFantasy VII Remake demo on PlayStation Store.
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What are you waiting for? Download it now and experience the beginning of the story for yourself! #FF7R
— FINAL FANTASY VII (@finalfantasyvii) March 2, 2020
Coming to the demo itself, it is safe to say that Square Enix is taking the remake very seriously, and it is not just a graphical overhaul. Playing only the demo makes you realize how massive the game is and how the developer has taken a slow pace so that the game leaves a lasting nostalgic impression. The game not only has a beautifully created Midgar, but it also focuses on all members of the rebellion group. The Avalanche group was never felt to be this close to real life
Square Enix has decided to make it an episodic adventure the same as the telltale games or Hitman 2. The studio has not even announced the number of episodes that they plan on releasing. The game that we will be getting in April will only be the opening episode, while the later episodes will be released periodically. Fans would have appreciated if the developers had decided to release the whole game rather than releasing it in different episodes.
Playing the opening sequences makes the impression that Square Enix wants the fans to digest the story. Unlike the original game, the game stretches out entirely both in the story and the gameplay aspects. The events of the first 25 minutes in the original game take more than 2 hours in the remake. The rushed story that once tried to capture the interest of the players towards the Cloud and its citizens is now fully explored in the remake. For example, Barret’s distrust of the Cloud, which was shown by a single line of dialogue, now spans a whole conversation with exaggerated voice acting at the backend.
These two hours clearly introduce Cloud and Aerith, both of which are haunted by the demons. These hours offer much better customization and storytelling than the 1997 original. These chapters also serve as a gradual tutorial of the revamped combat system that the game employs.
The combat mechanics of the game closely resembles the Final Fantasy XV. Unlike the other games in the franchise, you can only take hold on one of the characters in your party at one time. At that specific moment, you have to bank on the AI (that controls the other characters) to provide support. However, you can pause the battle to re-equip characters and use items mid-battle; other than this, the combat is a non-stop fluid process that wants the player to focus on the screen.
You start with Cloud as the only playable character; then, Barret joins the team as you take on the Scorpion Sentinel in the boss battle. Since you are not allowed to control all characters at once, switching between characters becomes a key mechanic in the game. If you are a hardcore classic Final Fantasy fan, character switching will feel unintuitive and will take some time at the start, but it all comes together once you get the hang of controls and the new dynamic environment.
Real-time hack and slash mechanics are still the most fun bits of the combat mechanics. It feels enjoyable and satisfying, especially when you are running a combo streak.
Diversions from the original
The game also offers refreshing distractions from the original story that will keep the player on their toes. Similar to what Capcom did with the remake of Resident Evil 2, the game will remind the players who have finished the original game many times, that it is a separate entity. For example, the boss battle during the seventh chapter offers an intriguing twist. Rather than heading to the fight, the game provides sequences that allow the player to disturb the supplies to the Air Buster (7th Chapter Boss). Disturbing supplies mean you can sabotage some of the attacks. Or you could take a separate route and hack into its AI, giving it fewer chances to repair itself during the fight.
Some story moments are far from the original but keep the story’s overarching plot. For example, the evil president Shinra does not escape via a toy-like helicopter after the wicked monologue. Instead, the president is presented in the form of a hologram looming over the city.
These small diversions from the original story that keep the overall plot in check make the experience worthwhile.
If you are a fan of the original game, then no force will keep you away from the remake, massive graphical overhaul and the new combat system are just the icings on the cake. On the other hand, if you never got in terms with the fantasy RPG series, the remake (at least the demo) will not sway you into the series. Lastly, if you are a die-hard fan of the series, then do check out the free demo as it will only increase the hype around the game.