Final Fantasy 7 Remake Demo Impressions

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The Final Fantasy 7 Remake Demo has finally hit the PS4 shop and everyone on the internet is finally getting a chance to play the game firsthand. No more relying on garbage articles from Kotaku or YouTube playthrough videos, we can finally all have a shot at seeing what the game has to offer for ourselves. There are a lot of reactions to the demo going up online right now, but I wanted to write my own. As you may be able to tell from my site, I’m a huge jRPG fan and have been for decades. Of course, Final Fantasy 7 is no exception. I have the Final Fantasy 7 meteor logo tattooed on my arm.

My general take on the Final Fantasy 7 Remake demo is that I think it’s fantastic. I think that it succeeds tremendously at what it sets out to do, which is to faithfully adapt the original Final Fantasy 7 to a new generation. However, there are some things that don’t settle very well with me. Let’s dig into it.

First, let’s talk about the battle system. I really enjoyed the battle system. I realize that a lot of people had misgivings about the action RPG battle system, given how terrible Final Fantasy 15 turned out to be. However, there’s a lot of detail added to this system to make it much more tactical and feel a lot more like an RPG than another whack Devil May Cry/God of War button masher action game.

First of all, the action doesn’t feel watered down and limp like FF15’s action did. Your sword swings feel like they have meat to them. Second, when you charge your ATB gauge and open the menu to unleash an action, the game basically pauses, which feels like an RPG. Third, the characters themselves have really interesting, unique battle mechanics.

Cloud has basically a yoke melee samurai bushido sword stance that lets him counter attack and also unleash more powerful sword attacks. Barret has a cool mechanic where his gun arm charges up to unleash a powerful charged shot. These basic attack abilities are in addition to each character’s variety of unique combat skills, limit breaks, as well as customizable materia.

As you may know, the original FF7 didn’t have much aside from limit breaks to differentiate characters. So this feels like a significant improvement in the battle system already. You can tell that Barret is going to have some tanking abilities, since he starts with a nice little tanking move, and you can tell that Cloud is going to have some amount of focus on technical combat ability, given his counter-attacking mechanic as well as his thrusting special move, which can totally whiff on faster targets if you don’t bother to aim it or time it well. I can’t wait to see not only how Tifa and Aeris play, but also Red XIII, Yuffie, Vincent and the rest of the cast.

Another thing I like about the combat system is how blocking and dodging seem to be somewhat useful. I’ve found that in most action games, any sort of defensive options are tacked on and superfluous, just like in FF15. Here, not only do you have an incentive to use the blocking mechanic due to Cloud’s Punisher stance, utilizing the blocking and dodging mechanics strategically significantly reduces the amount of damage you take from bosses.

One thing I’m not sure I like about the combat is the way it seems to dictate which character you should be using. We’ll wait and see how it is in the full game, but in the demo at least, there’s a sort of character toolkit ala FF10 where you need to take control of Barret if you want to take down long-range targets.

I think it’s fine that Barret is capable of hitting targets that Cloud isn’t, but where I felt it was a problem was that the AI doesn’t control Barret as successfully as a player does, even though his rotation is quite basic. You hold square to fire off his shot, then press triangle right when his burst ends for a quick boost of his overcharge gauge, then repeat, releasing his overcharge once his gauge is full. The AI doesn’t seem to do that. Similarly, the AI doesn’t seem to play Cloud very well.

This isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, because it’s nice to feel like you’re smarter and more efficient than the AI when you take control of a character. Where I felt it was a problem was because when you’re efficiently controlling the character, your ATB gauge is filling up rapidly. So the character you control might be getting 4 ATB bars for each AI-controlled character’s one. This feels like it conflicts with the system I quite like, which is pressing X to open the menu and delivering commands to my teammates. It feels like I don’t get to do that as much as I’d like because the AI isn’t very good at generating ATB for your teammates.

As a result, I basically felt forced to take control of Barret for the boss fight because he’s the one with the lightning spell. Since the boss’s weakness is lightning and Barret won’t generate enough ATB to continuously cast it when under AI control, the game forced my hand to take control of Barret. Which, I mean, I like Barret, but I want it to feel like I get to use my favorite character as my main character, or a character who I want to play as for tactical reasons, not because taking control of them is the only way to charge the ATB gauge efficiently.

Overall the system feels like a combination of Final Fantasy 15 (but much, much better), Kingdom Hearts (but much, much better) and Final Fantasy 12 (but much, much better). It’s strange how the Final Fantasy 7 Remake demo combines 3 somewhat mediocre systems into something that feels polished and satisfying, but that’s how it is.

Next, let’s talk about the story and everything that involves. The music was on point. The environments were on point. Everything feels very faithful to the style of the original Final Fantasy 7 and the emotions that style evoked. I think Barret is a touch overacting, but I don’t think that’s the voice actor’s fault. It’s more to do with the script, the actual acting of the 3d model and the direction. Barret does seem right, in terms of how Barret should act. He should be over the top. It just feels a touch too over the top. Cloud and Jessie were perfect. That’s a minor gripe, though. This game feels like a high quality movie. It really does.

I can tell as a huge Final Fantasy 7 fan, I’m going to have to adjust my expectations because I can already sense that some of the changes to the story are going to rub me the wrong way. The demo ends with the bomb failing to go off and ShinRa destroying the reactor themselves to initiate a false flag attack. Which is sort of fine, but this introduces a whole new element to the plot that didn’t exist in the original game. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not a big change, but it’s a bit eyebrow-raising. Like, was this change necessary? Or is it just changing things for the sake of changing them?

A lot of people are griping about the episodic nature of the game, and to be honest I don’t really care about that although I’m a little disappointed they’re not adding another party member for the first episode like Jessie. The reason I’m concerned is, if you’re a big jRPG fan, you may recognize what they’re doing as being exactly the same business model that Xenosaga used.

The problem with Xenosaga was that they lost about 10-20% of players with each episode, eventually canceling the series before it was completed. That’s obviously going to happen here. It’s a natural result of this business model. Obviously not 100% of players are going to return for the next episode, and 0% of people are going to start on episode 2/3, so whatever the sales for episode 1 are, episode 2’s sales are going to be below that, and episode 3’s sales are going to be below that. Final Fantasy 7 is obviously a huge brand, but if they take this thing beyond 3 episodes it may never finish or the quality may begin to drop because they won’t be able to justify the same production budget for a decreasing audience. However, I’m sure they have business people at Square much smarter than me who’ve figured out the sweet spot for how many episodes to make this thing and how to bundle multiple episodes together to make it all as profitable as possible.

The other thing I’m concerned about with this episodic model is exactly what I mentioned before about Jessie. Xenosaga treated itself like multiple, independent games. So some playable characters existed in one or two installments and not others. I feel like that’s a strength of this model that they’re not taking advantage of. 4 playable characters is a bit too few for a fully complete jRPG, which this seems to be in terms of scope. So, since they’re rewriting things already, I wish that they’d made Jessie playable for this installment and had her die at the end, or maybe retconned things a little bit and let you recruit Reno and had him leave at the end. Or something. Just, 4 characters is too few.

All in all, I really enjoyed the Final Fantasy 7 Remake demo and I’m psyched to get the full game in April. Really looking forward to it.

That about covers it when it comes to my impressions of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake Demo. Be sure to check out the Games Section for more content like this, and click here for content related to the original Final Fantasy 7. Click here to preorder the game on Amazon.

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