[Please note before reading! If you don’t want spoilers about this early part of the game, stop reading. Also, the controller I was using may have been acting up, so please take this into account when reading these impressions]
Well, here we are. The Final Fantasy VII remake was presented at TGS 2019 in playable form and I was able to sit down with it for about 20 minutes. For the last few years most of us have been left wondering as to if it would actually make it out this generation. I’m also sure that most of us who were in attendance at today’s TGS had this title high on our list of must-plays. The doors opened to the press at 10 AM sharp and I immediately ran to Sony’s booth and was lucky enough to be first to play it at the show. I was lead around Sony’s booth and finally sat down at a kiosk with a PS4 and the game. The attendant asked me politely in Japanese if I knew of the series and then said I had 20 minutes to complete the demo.
After all that, the demo opens up near the end of the Mako Factory section. After some dialogue between Jessie, Barrett, and Cloud you gain control of the game. The controls were fairly straight forward and simple. Things like using square for attacking, cross for dodging/rolling, circle for opening the menu, L1 for guarding, etc. I really liked the simplicity of the controls and I felt it was very easy to pick up and play, which may or may not turn some people off. More interesting to me was that they managed to squeeze the ATB (Active Time Battle) in a real time action game. In the demo I played both Cloud and Barrett have 2x bars and these bars are used for special attacks, magic, and items. If you don’t have any bars, you aren’t doing any of these things. You can still dodge and initiate regular attacks regardless of this, however. The bars fill up relatively fast as well, so it didn’t feel like there was a lot of down time and allowed me to essentially combo and string various attacks and special attacks together.
The demo was generous enough to give 3 abilities/special moves and 3 spells. Each of them with very flashy animations and particle effects. Which brings me to the graphics. The FF7 remake is hands down a gorgeous game and I don’t think many people who have seen it will argue this point. If I’m being SUPER critical about it, I will say the textures and anti-aliasing left something to be desired. However, we have to keep in mind there’s still plenty of time to clean things up.
At one point in the demo you’re forced to take control of Barrett. He plays entirely different from Cloud, not only in that his attacks differ but his size and bulk make him move much slower. After going through some relatively easy to kill enemies, we’re finally met with the iconic Guard Scorpion at the end. The boss had multiple phases, one of which has basically a one hit kill move. The devs were nice enough to throw us some items and I was able to revive myself after Cloud fell in battle. I died because I kind of got lost in what was going on for a moment. The game was nice enough to tell me to get behind some rubble when it unleashes a laser, but I wasn’t so “laser focused” and resulted in me having to use a Phoenix Down.
Two more mechanics popped up during the boss battle. Large enemies/bosses seem to have a “burst” bar, and once it’s filled it initiates a stun. This basically gives you time to wail on it for a good few seconds unhindered. The next, and not so “new”, was the limit break! The only limit break I saw was Cloud’s Cross Slash. Much like the original the limit breaks are very cinematic and game takes over control of the camera to do this. Over the course of the boss battle and between multiple phases, the game often takes a very cinematic course which I found very pleasing.
But it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. The game looks nice and plays relatively well. However, either the controls were not working well or the kiosk’s controller I used was acting a bit wonky. When I would try and use the circle button to input/choose actions, it would often not work. At times the controls felt incredibly delayed. Someone else that used a different kiosk felt that they experienced something somewhat similar to this as well. Another possibility is that this could have been due to some kind of lag between the system and display, though I find this to be the most unlikely of the three possible scenarios. Regardless of this snafu, I found myself walking away genuinely delighted with the experience, both as someone who has a love for the era the game originated from and the series itself. There’s definitely a bit more coal added to the hype-train as the 3/3/2020 release date slowly draws closer.
(Images courtesy of SquareEnix)