So far, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding recreation of a revered classic | Hands-on Preview
I shouldn’t have to tell you how important Final Fantasy VII is, but because I want to keep you waiting a little bit longer to hear about my experiences playing its remake, please indulge me a little bit longer. In 1997, the landscape was changed. Console gaming was revolutionised, and the PlayStation’s appeal grew exponentially thanks to Square Enix pushing the boundaries of what was possible. Before games could be bought digitally, FFVII came on three discs, which at the time was unique. The main reason for this was that the cutscenes took up a lot of the space, but it was so worth it. If you’ve never played it, revisiting the original now might not wield the same emotional response, and the likelihood of you enjoying it as much as you would have done back then is slim, but I guess, that’s what the remake is for.
After the announcement, things went pretty quiet. Seldom details were out in the ether, and fans spent months speculating about how it would look, whether they would stick to the original closely, and if the turn-based combat would be making a return. I have to say, even I wasn’t sure whether it would have the same impact by the time I walked through the doors at the Final Fantasy VII Remake event, but after standing in the presence of greatness, it dawned on me how special this game truly is. Listening to producer Yoshinori Kitase, the original game’s director and Final Fantasy icon, and co-director Naoki Hamaguchi, who worked as a visual artist on the original, talk about what lengths they’ve gone to to make the remake, it became clear this was something special.
I’ve often been led astray by tech talk and ‘what to expect’ presentations before, but I can hand on heart say that, so far, Final Fantasy VII Remake is impressive. Visually, it’s head and shoulders above almost everything I’ve ever played, taking full advantage of the Unreal Engine to create stunning environments and character animations. Although I didn’t see a lot of Midgar, I got an idea of how the city will look once the full game releases and the world becomes explorable. The first two sections I got to play were in the Mako silo that takes place in chapter one and two of the game.
It’s uncanny how exact the opening cinematic is, down to Aerith and the famous panning out to see the entirety of Midgar. Even as you jump off the train and get into your first fight, it happens almost scene for scene, except it’s beautiful beyond compare. It was weird hearing the characters talk, and look like real people as opposed to the bulky pixelated characters I was used to. Every single thing from the detail in your surroundings, the way the characters move and look, and the lighting effects utterly flawed me.
When it came to controlling Cloud, I was hooked with the controls. Everything is easy to access, and launching into a tirade of strikes became easy to adapt to. You can press Square to strike, hold it in to move from one enemy to the next whilst still attacking, or lock on to various foes by clicking the right stick.
A really cool feature is pressing Triangle to switch to Punisher mode, allowing Cloud to exact much stronger strikes, although this slows you down considerably. The basics of combat become fluid depending on which one you choose, but when you start to incorporate special attacks by building your Active Time Battle gauge, or ATB, you can use special abilities that dish out some fancy animations and a whole lot of wallop. There weren’t a lot of these abilities available early on, but I got to try out the second Mako silo, and at that point I had at least four different ones that worked much differently from the next. There’s a lot of range in your attacks that help you to create variety depending on the type of enemy you face, but this becomes much better when you add characters to your party.
At the preview, I got to use Barret and Tifa in my party. Barret’s railgun augmentation offered some awesome abilities, such as Overcharge which fired an almighty blast. Tifa could use an Uppercut, as well as a dance that beat the crap out of these two machines I was facing. By pressing Up and Down on the D-pad, you can quickly switch between your party members, allowing you to quickly utilise their skill set. For example, I had to take care of two turrets that kept becoming a pain as we tried to take out some soldiers, so I switched to Barret who took care of them from long range whilst Cloud worked from a melee standpoint.
My only concern so far is the camera angle, especially when you’re playing as Cloud or Tifa. Due to the interior of the silo being contained within a smaller vicinity, it became confusing when I was using my abilities up close. The camera kept panning behind me and not letting me see the action clearly. With only playing around three hours, it’s unclear whether this will be a problem throughout FFVII Remake, but I’m not too concerned. This game is such a remarkable achievement that manages to hold onto what made the original special, whilst pushing the franchise forward leaps and bounds.
The first silo boss took a lot of time to defeat, but I’m assuming this is down to having few abilities. It was a tough battle, but I had plenty of fun trying to switch up my attacks to outwit his offence. The second boss I fought was part of Chapter 7 (in the second silo). After fighting through various rooms and restricting the Air Buster’s weaponry by using keycards to alter it via computers, we went at it. This was the first time I got to see one of FFVII Remake’s Summons, and I was not disappointed. As it was almost time to go home, I only saw it once, but getting to summon a Leviathan to attack the Air Buster was so awesome.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to make fans of the original cry, I can already sense it. These characters mean a lot to me, like they do to many other fans, and I firmly believe this game will be a faithful recreation of the original. The visuals are stunning, the score is a thing of beauty, and the gameplay is so satisfying. The camera angles are tricky to get used to, but it’s too early to say whether these will continue throughout the finished product. Regardless, from what I’ve played so far, Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to be incredible.