A flower girl, a train, a giant sword, and a band of eco-terrorists. Many might be able to piece together what I’m referring to. This isn’t broken haiku by any standpoint. I took a Buster Sword swing at the Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo that just dropped a few nights back. Here’s what I thought.
The story of Final Fantasy VII remains intact. An evil megacorporation decided to manipulate the Earth’s energy and use it for its own personal gain. Its headquarters being the first of many battlegrounds where in its’ way stands AVALANCHE – an eco fighter group charging to stop Shinra from carrying out their deeds. They hire a mercenary and former SOLDIER member, Cloud on behest of his old friend. Yet, after several attempts, and a former mentor appearing from death itself, a bigger plot looms in the shadows.
The game opens the same as its 32 Bit predecessor on a near shot-for-shot level. Cloud is introduced with the 4 members of AVALANCHE, Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, and Barrett. There are many changes, though. Battles can be seen in the field, whether it’s an ambush or surprise or other. Characters all talk in full voice-over talent. Mike Ross… err Cloud talks, thanks to Cody Christian. Kind of a first for the original game’s cast nearly since Advent Children (not including all the side games and anime). Side characters have a bit more dialogue than before – mostly Jessie. Personally, I think she’s just friendly. Perhaps there’s more to her this time.
Battle wise is where FFVII takes a different turn. Gone is the slowness of the fight to a point actions can be paused through the menu. The ATB gauge controls spells or items to be used. Cloud’s Braver has been assigned to “Abilities”. Almost like a second Limit Break bar, but more or less for what was mentioned above. Characters can be switched for controls. If anything, Square probably picked this up from their experiences with Secret of Mana (or even I’ll say it BECAUSE I CAN. Final Fantasy XII). This is more action oriented than other FF’s that are not 15. Staggering can happen, which leaves enemies open for a higher damage percentage. As with any action based RPG these days, battle banter is here to stay. Everyone can talk, from Cloud to his opponents. Sometimes, the enemies would talk to you. Barrett and Cloud are not anything Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan would muster, but it’s nice to get it. The extras, like Cloud’s Punisher/Operator moves, which kind of gives him a Dissidia feel. Other modes and unique abilities seem to be prevalent with Barrett, too.
Dramatic events, during battles, were also a fun treat. Seeing a character get pinned, during a fight, is a reminder that FFVII R isn’t afraid to play dirty with enemy moves. Shock Trooper units will try to corner ferociously. Guard Dogs will frantically move to flank while guards spray you with their machine guns. I noticed more enemies would appear after a few were defeated. At the end of the battle, they would evaporate into the ground. Materia getting its thing back. The action menus are not cumbersome. The demo’s final boss has its old tricks, but because 2000’s – my first point stands.
Graphically, Square waited for the right time. The UI is clean. Tutorials are now just game pauses rather than full-blown 4th wall breakage. Characters have static posters of themselves. Cinematics can be skipped. The orchestra is appreciated. The OST does hold several changes. When a fight starts, the pace will pick up. Backgrounds also bode well on PS4 so far. Cloud’s sword is a masterpiece in action, cutting down whatever it hits with numbers to follow.
The demo ends after Reactor 1’s demise and AVALANCHE’S escape. In Square’s classic fashion, the events of the rest of the game are shown through a montage of what’s to come. Cloud can move through the city, tassel with guards and the like, before his next throw into the exploits of Barret’s motley crew. A lot of it did feel nostalgic, but not for the reason you’d expect.
Long ago, during the rise of Square’s golden age, demos came with their games to shadow what was coming down the pipe. If you got Parasite Eve, you’ll get a slice of Xenogears, Bushido Blade 2, FFVIII, and some other titles, either playable or in trailer form on a separate disk. Xenogears covered the first few parts of the title with nearly a similar style. This was pre-big box broadband interweb, btw. It was appreciation. It’s nice to see Square revitalise this tradition again. No full price buy-ins required. FFXV first demo was bundled with FF0 – a port of a mobile game bearing the mark of the franchise. Honestly, I bought it just for Noctis’ brief stint and didn’t look back. Going toe to toe with a Benemoth was worth the price of admission.
FFVII R does have a few gripes from myself. Classic Mode feels almost similar to Normal mode without much of a difference. It is meant to boast a turn-based combat system, yet I barely felt it did what it was meant. There was no real interruptions between it. Similar to what FFXV tried to accomplish with their moment, but to see it done would have given it an achievement. Perhaps we could get that feeling in the full build, but not from here. At first, I was never really a Barrett (John Eric Bentley) fan, but through this snippet, some of his quips grow on you a bit. Only just a little. Some dialogue in fights can get a bit repetitive. There is a lot of expectation for “changes to the core story”, yet in the demo, it’s more “what you’ve already seen in trailers, which pertain to Reactor 1: you’re literally getting here” (no acronyms yet). The ATB gauge cannot be filled by itself. The active character can only fill their own, which promotes character switching.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is Square’s newest shot to expand more on the ground-breaking 1997 title. With the promise to tell the tale, in full but meaty episodes, the demo is more of a confirmation of what’s to come more times than a piece to pass much judgement on in terms of content. We’re getting leaps and bounds from the PS3 tech show-off of many moons ago. This demo was meant solely for the fight showcase. For what it is, FFVII R Demo solidifies a want for the fan’s sake come April 10th this year.