Final Fantasy VII Remake is one of the most eagerly anticipated games ever. Period. So you can bet it was a punch to the gut when Square Enix announced they were delaying the game for an entire 40 days. Granted, that’s not a long delay; it’s just over a month or so. But this did really upset a large number of gamers who really, really, really wanted to play Final Fantasy VII Remake on its originally scheduled delivery date of March 3.
Well, in a brilliant move on Square Enix’s part, they did give the fans what they wanted, in a sense. That’s because, around the original release date, they released a demo of Final Fantasy VII Remake onto the PlayStation Store. They did this without any warning. There was no announcement or a press release. Even without any fanfare, it seemed like everyone knew that the demo was out there almost immediately.
They just put it on the PlayStation Store because they knew some eagle eyed gamers would see it and get the word out to everyone. And everyone includes me! Of course I played the demo the instant I learned it was out and, while I think the demo is a good indication that Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to be fantastic, I did see a few things that I didn’t like all that much.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo is the very first moments of the game. In fact, it mirrors the demo for the original Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation. It takes place during the initial bombing run where you control Cloud Strife, a former member of SOLDIER and now a mercenary hired by an eco-terrorist group known as AVANLANCE. They plan to blow up one of the mako reactors as, according to Barret Wallace, these reactors are sucking up the life blood of the planet. While Cloud really doesn’t care about AVALANCE’s goals, he’s participating because he was hired to fight while the others complete the bombing run.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake demo isn’t that long as you can finish it in around an hour during your first playthrough. Still, the demo does a good job of doing what it’s supposed to do: impress the player and get them excited for playing the full game. The first thing that will strike you is how beautiful the game looks! I played the demo on my non-PlayStation 4 Pro system and it still looked fantastic! The graphics are particularly eye-catching as they’re flawless. Big props go to the people who updated Tetsuya Nomura’s original designs (who is directing the game, by the way) as all the characters still keep their most distinguishing features from the original game but still adding a few things here and there to make them look like they’ve kept up with the times.
The gameplay does take some getting used to. Final Fantasy VII Remake ditches the Active Time Battle system. The demo does show that you can play a stripped down version of the ATB system but the computer will automatically battle and all you do is select special commands, like when to heal or perform special attacks. It’s definitely not as fun as playing the game the way it was designed with more action in mind.
The demo shows that fighting in Final Fantasy VII Remake is a good mixture of simplistic button mashing but, underneath all of that is an intricate system that you have to really get used to. Fighting and taking out enemies usually are done by mashing the attack button with Cloud or shooting at a distance with Barret. You can also block attacks, which decreases the amount of damage the character takes, or dodge attacks as well. While you’re damaging enemies and while your characters are taking damage, a small gauge for each character slowly fills up. This is kind of like the original Active Time Battle system but, instead of it having to fill up in order to do an action, filling it up gives you access to additional actions. These could include using a potion, casting a spell or unleashing a special attack, for example.
You have to make some major decisions on how to use these pseudo ATB gauges. Do you unleash a powerful attack? Cast magic that may stagger the enemy? Use a potion to heal an ally? Save it just in case you might need it later on? You’re always thinking of this while you’re still choosing if you need to have your character attack, block or dodge. It’s a very simple yet ingenious battle system that requires some split second decision making.
In fact, it can feel overwhelming at the start. During my first playthrough of the demo and especially during the boss fight, there were times when I thought I was done for since I was taking too much damage and just busy healing myself, hoping that I get enough ATB meter to heal myself again! However, during my second playthrough, everything just clicked and I got a feel of what strategies work on what enemy and how to better manage my ATB meter. In my third playthrough, I breezed through the demo’s boss because I instinctively knew when to block his gunfire, when to run away before he does that EMP blast and when to cast magic and heal at the most opportune time. It was still very fun and a rush even though I got incredibly efficient during the battles.
When not in battles, you’re generally controlling Cloud as he explores the facility. While I didn’t really get lost, per se, I do see that the layout of the stages feel rather confusing at times. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good to be a little confused because it does make you want to explore each and every route you see. At the same time, however, it can get rather infuriating when you’re not really told where to go. After I beat the scorpion boss the first time, I thought you’re supposed to go through the giant metal doors. Turns out you’re supposed to climb the ladder Barret was climbing. Thing is, I didn’t see Barret climb the ladder as I was too busy looking around and admiring the graphics! I also got a little confused when Jessie gets knocked under some debris and Cloud needs to shimmy over to her. I went the wrong way initially because I got turned around in my head.
As fantastic I think the demo is, I can already see that I’ll have some issues with some of the voice acting and performances of the characters. I really like Cloud’s line delivery overall. Jessie and Wedge’s voices were also really good. However, I didn’t care for Biggs’ very dry performance. I guess Tetsuya Nomura wanted him to sound all calm and cool all the time. But I just thought he sounded like a poser.
My biggest vocal performance I have an issue with is Barret. While I’m generally okay with how he sounds now, my initial reaction to him was very negative. It came off as overacting to me and I was just not buying into the performance. It certainly didn’t help that Barret’s character model also overacts as well! The elevator scene, where he makes a big speech as to how he can hear the planet cry out due to the mako reactors while he cups his hand to his ear was the opposite of subtle! The only reason why I got used to it is because I kind of think it’s that way as some weird form of comedy relief. Once I got into that mindset, I was less negative about Barret’s performance.
I forgot to mention the music in the demo. It’s really good as, well, it’s basically the music from the original game. They did make a few changes here and there that both compliment and detract from the original music. The best example for me would be the opening song. It great that they removed the overly loud percussion beats but, at the same time, I think adding a choral made the song sound less eerie at the start. Overall, I think the music does sound better.
Honestly, I can’t really think of a major hindrance as to why you shouldn’t download and play the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo if you own a PlayStation 4 console. It gives you a good taste of what’s to come. And what they do show is really fantastic. I can’t wait to get the full game and this is coming from someone who pretty much swore off the Final Fantasy series after XIII.
Have you played the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!