Gamescom has been an incredible show for us once again and we have a wealth of content coming over the next few weeks, but I just had to talk about my time with Final Fantasy VII Remake.
More specifically, how much fun it was to see the story unfold with a glorious new engine, exploring the expanded world, seeing all the new touches, and getting hands-on with Cloud and Barret using the new combat system.
My playable demo properly chucked me in at the deep end, pitting me against the legendary Guard Scorpion, commonly considered the first boss of Final Fantasy 7. You thought it was tough before? The creature is a certifiable badass now.
With missiles fizzing all around the reactor, pounces that shatter the ground, and electronic pulses that devour your health, you won’t just be able to stand around, firing bullets, hoping it will dissipate and fade away.
Combat is so much more dynamic in Remake. You’ll need to roll out of the way of the creature’s blasts, move between the two characters to alternate your attacks so you can stun and stagger it, then go in for the killing blow. All that while actually guarding attacks at the right time with RT.
Over time, you build up the ATB gauge through constant attack and eventually work up to the infamous Limit Break, the special attack for characters in FF7. Yes, Big Shot looks absolutely amazing in action!
And here’s where Barret really shines. As Cloud, you can keep tapping square to hack away with his sword and he zips around everywhere like he’s battling for his life on Smash – I mean, the guy does the splits when jumping over barriers for pity’s sake – but by holding it down as Barret, you can spray bullets far and wide using a machinegun with an unlimited clip.
His rat-a-tat-tatting gun arm punches holes in anything that moves, high off the ground or charging towards you. It’s the simplest, yet most satisfying thing. To balance that, if an enemy hits him, it stuns Barret, meaning he stops firing for a time. Barret feels more weighted, with his rolls much slower and delayed. If the Guard Scorpion locks onto him or there’s a nearby blast, he’ll likely get caught by it. Whereas Cloud may be able to escape with more natural agility. This gives you an idea of how important positioning will be in the Remake.
This point in particular excites me. It makes me wonder how other characters will play. What strengths and weaknesses each have and how they all contribute to an overall balance. Tifa’s physical strikes, for example, mean she’s going to more of a close-range, hand to hand fighter. But what about when enemies are using weapons against her? Aerith is a healing class, how will that work in a more dynamic setting when enemies are actively roaming around? And I am getting goosebumps thinking about Red XIII charging around reckless abandon.
This Remake will allow some characters new creative outlets, liberating them in interesting new ways. I think Barret is certainly one of them. His voice acting, gunplay, facial expressions, and actions in combat go a long way to separating him from the character we grew up with, while also maintaining the hallmarks and traits we know and love.
And that seems like Remake in a nutshell. It feels familiar, yet very different and I think that works perfectly to introduce new audiences to the game while maintaining some authenticity, appeasing those who loved the 97 original.
It’s not all fresh and shiny, though, as there is still a tactical mode in the game which pays homage to the original turn-based action. Here you can freeze time to pull off moves like Cloud’s Braver and Barret’s multi-shot attacks, while also taking the time to pop a potion if needed.
Square are working on this like it’s the next mainline game in the Final Fantasy series. Playing it for barely half hour, that much is already clear. Yes, the story follows the same beats and the plot points are likely to remain the same, but with the power of Mo-Cap and striking new animations, with reworked and new side content and additional contextual narrative, this is more than just your standard Director’s Cut.
And as far as how it looks, feels, plays, I am utterly sold. I love seeing Jessie get a more prominent role in the story, serving as a mediator between Cloud and Barret in their early, uneasy exchanges. Their legendary banter is also better than ever, with Cloud’s quippy one liners and Barret’s impassioned monologues. The idea of having Shinra logos appear on crates and posters you need to destroy and tear down is a logical, side objective that adds to your playthrough and makes sense in the universe.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is wonderful, quite honestly. It still has the famous scenes, classic lines, and pivotal moments that defined the original, but is setting an all new standard of quality for how remakes can and should be treated.