The first console I got as a kid was the PlayStation 1, in all of its big honkin’ brick-like glory. After tearing open the wrapping paper to find what was inside, and opening the box, and setting it on the table next to the TV - the first thing I played was a demo disk. Alongside games like 2Xtreme and Jet Moto, I had a disc in a small cardboard container. On the disc was a guy with spiky yellow hair and a giant sword strapped to his back, emblazoned with “Final Fantasy VII”.
In the first few weeks of owning that console, I think I played that demo more than any of the other games, beating it 25 or more times before I got my hands on the full game the next year.
Most of my gaming experience had come from games like Commander Keen, Asteroids, and a few other DOS-based games. I’d never seen or heard of Japanese Roleplaying Games. But even the demo of Final Fantasy VII had me HOOKED.
23 years later, I haven’t been as excited for a game as I have for the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and I’m especially jealous that Sam got his hands on the game at E3 2019. Beyond this preview of the demo, one of the big questions I had going into this was pretty simple: How does the Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo hold up against the original game’s demo from 1997?
With a graphical overhaul, fully voiced characters, and a major combat system change - I was blown away by how close to the original demo the demo felt. Sure, there were some additions like laser traps, extra chests, and scenery that made movement (and combat) flow well - but every bit of this demo took me right back to that Christmas in 1997.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo Combat System Is Superb
The biggest change to the game that players have come to love, and remember, is by far the combat system. The original Final Fantasy VII combat system was a turn-based system, with an ATB (Active Time Battle) gauge slowly incrementing until a player could move. In Remake players will experience everything in real-time, with a mix of hack and slash fighting augmented with a menu system that slows battle down while you pick your choices.
Despite the immense difference, the combat feels so fluid, so natural. Once you get the hang of menu item placements, the use of abilities like Braver (Cloud) and Focused Shot (Barrett), as well as spells and items - every battle is fast and fun.
The use of the quick-action menu (R1 + Button for abilities and items) adds a really great versatility to gameplay as well, speeding up how you can use your favorite abilities, but also making it super easy to pop an ability, switch characters, and pop another to maximize damage in a short period of time.
Chaining abilities and attacks to deal the most damage, the addition of a pseudo cover system, and the utility of ranged characters for enemies that a melee character can’t reach are additions that I’m quite happy with. Instead of feeling like a basic hack ‘n slash game, there’s a surprising amount of depth to combat - even within the demo.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo Is Just Like The Original...Mostly
That first AVALANCHE mission is seared into my brain. Between the demo I played over and over as a kid, as well as the 10+ times I’ve beaten the game since, it’s hard to forget. Throughout the demo, looking around the world and scenery felt just like the 1997 game, but with a new coat of beautiful paint. Sure there are a few changes like laser traps, and some areas that were sort of there in the original but not fleshed out completely, but overall I found myself looking around with a great level of familiarity.
There are a lot of times of remembrance, followed by a lot of “Holy crap this looks incredible” moments.
Without delving into the details too deep, players are into Cloud’s boots once again to destroy the Mako reactor. Accompanied by Wedge, Biggs, Jessie, and Barrett, you’ll make your way from the train station all the way into the reactor to destroy it. You’ll fight the iconic Guard Scorpion once again with Barrett, then race against a ticking time bomb to escape the Mako reactor, which blows up and sends debris throughout Midgar. It’s all like the original game, but with a small detail change to the story (without spoiling it) added to the remake.
The demo doesn’t have much depth to the menu system, which isn’t surprising just due to the limited time/area you are in. That said, with the versatility of combat, I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s added to many of the inventory management elements common to JRPG’s with this remake. With a plethora of item options in the original, I’m very curious how much we’ll be able to do with Materia, as well as the depth of the Materia system that Final Fantasy VII is known for.
Final Fantasy Remake Impressions - Is It April Yet?
I came into this with an open mind, and having enjoyed the grand majority of Final Fantasy XV, knew that Square has done a great job with the more real-time combat systems - really the only worry I’ve had about the game.
We’ve seen a lot of games in recent years that get HD remakes or upgrades, but I don’t think we’ve seen any remakes to the scope of change that is being seen from the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Between combat, scenery, the music, and the voice acting, essentially everything you’ve loved about this game since 1997 is all here, wrapped up in a nice present like my first console almost 23 years ago.
I’m stepping away from this demo absolutely impressed, excited, and elated to have more Final Fantasy VII in my life. I think that both long-time players and newcomers alike are going to love this experience.
Final Fantasy VII Remake was played on PlayStation 4. The previewer beat the demo 3 times because he can’t put the game down.