I don't think anyone on the USgamer team is more excited about Final Fantasy 7 Remake than I am. I've been waiting for this game ever since Square Enix teased the possibility of a remake demo for the PlayStation 3—a good 15 years ago now. Nevertheless, I haven't had a chance to actually play it for myself... at least until now.
A couple weeks ago I got a chance to play the opening moments of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. You can see my playthrough below, of which Hirun Cryer and Dean Abdou thoughtfully provide a guided tour. You can probably tell that I'm still getting to grips with the gameplay in the opening moments—the combat is rather complex—but that by the end I feel much more confident.
The opening mission is thrilling, no doubt about it. I got chills when I saw the familiar logo flash over Midgar, and more chills as Cloud leapt off the train. The character models are gorgeous, and the combat feels heavier and more impactful than it did in Final Fantasy 15, where Noctis would zip around the screen like a hero from Dragon Ball Z. The battle with the scorpion robot at the end is a multi-part epic that proves surprisingly difficult with only two characters at your disposal, and no summons at your disposal.
A few more isolated thoughts:
- I was less of a fan of Makor Reactor 5, which culminates with a battle against the Airbuster. It's this level where Final Fantasy 7 Remake's visual grandeur fades, and the stifling corridors, muted color palette, and repetitive rooms start to become more apparent. It's interesting getting to choose which weapons the Airbuster will have when you battle it, but I wish these decisions had been confined to just one room. Also, that dang synchronized button press puzzle is back, but now it's been expanded so you have to do it more than once. Why?
- Summons are extremely powerful. When deployed against a boss, you can basically spam powerful attacks for large amounts of damage. The trade-off is that they can't be used during normal battles, and they can only be called in once. I'm a little bit on the fence about these changes, as they seem to make bosses a little easy, but I can't deny that they're visually impressive.
- Final Fantasy 7 Remake really frontloads some of the elements that appear later on in the original game. I get the desire to setup some of the central missions early on, but I feel like it erodes some of the haunting atmosphere of the original game. I discuss that more in a separate article.
- The changes to the customization are pretty interesting. While I can't go into too much detail, there's a whole weapon upgrade system, and different weapons have their own inherent abilities. Materia, meanwhile, has been changing around, with new options like the "Deadly Dodge Materia" that allow you to perform an area-of-effect attack after a dodge roll. Like before, repeated use make Materia more powerful.
On the whole my experience was positive, though I'll admit that left me feeling a tad bemused. As I already said, it seems to be in the spirit of the original Final Fantasy 7, but changes to the pacing and to certain iconic scenes give me pause. What's more, the environments really don't match the brilliance of the character models, making them feel narrow, repetitive, and claustrophobic. It feels breathless, chaotic, and not always willing to trust the player to roll with the pacing of the story. Still, the characters feel right; the combat is a lot of fun, and its score is absolutely breathtaking. I mean, wow.
I've said elsewhere that my 2020 doesn't truly begin until Final Fantasy 7 Remake releases in April. Despite a few misgiving, that remains the case after my extended hands-on. After a painful 15 year wait, I'm ready to get back to Midgar and save the planet.