Final Fantasy VII just sort of showed up at my house at some point. I can't actually tell you when, just there's the time before Final Fantasy VII and the time after. At first... I didn't really like it. Maybe I didn't quite understand it, but I don't think I really understood jRPGs until I got my hands on Final Fantasy IX and it clicked, causing me to go back to VII. Thankfully, I could still appreciate it. Its been a solid ten years since I last played it, and now its back. Not only is it back, it's wonderful. It's fantastic. It totally blew me away.
When we first got to our appointment we got into a little train station. Here we saw an ad crafted for the Shinra corporation, which basically served as propaganda for them. However, halfway through the ad is hacked by Avalanche member Jesse, who proceeds to tell you that your mission is to blow up the reactor and stop Shinra from draining the life from the planet. After this we got to watch the original game's opening, except rendered with the all new graphics. It's such a faithful recreation, one that made me ready to break down in tears. What can I say, I get emotional.
We're then brought out to booths to play the game. We get a few basic enemies to practice on. Instead of the turn-based original, Final Fantasy VII Remake plays more like a combination of elements taken from XIII, XV, and Kingdom Hearts. You have basic attacks you can use at the press of a button. Each attack does a little damage and fills up several bars. One of these bars is the ATB bar, and once that's full you can either cast a spell or use a special attack that deals extra damage. These abilities are one of the ways you'll really be defeating enemies, as often the regular attacks aren't enough.
But wait, there's more! There's also a stagger bar, something fans of XIII (there's dozen of us!) should remember. Each hit on an enemy fills this bar, and if you manage to fill it all the way you'll put the enemy in a staggered state. While staggered enemies take tons of extra damage and can't act. For the really tough enemies, such as the bosses, this is what you need. Don't worry if you're getting hit a lot either, each time you get hit the limit bar fills, and if you fill that up then you get to unleash some really cool attacks. Combat becomes carefully balancing your regular attacks, dodges, and blocks, and hitting back with the attacks as you manage.
Speaking of bosses, that's what the majority of our demo was. The Guard Scorpion, Final Fantasy VII's surprisingly iconic first boss, is back and better than ever. The fight was a surprisingly interesting affair, one that saw the scorpion jumping from walls and firing missiles. I always had to keep on my toes and switch between Cloud and Barret to always be attacking. Naturally Cloud couldn't reach the boss when it was on a wall, but Barret was less effective when it was up close and easy to hit him.
As the fight continued more elements would pop up. At one point the Guard Scorpion grabbed Cloud, holding him and forcing me to use Barret so I could save him. Another section saw its ever so famous tail laser come into play. In the original game the solution was to just wait until it lowered its tail. Here you had to actually take cover behind pieces of fallen rubble. In a new move, the scorpion would actually put up a shield, with the two having to find a weak spot they could exploit.
Something else equally important: not only is Final Fantasy VII Remake beautiful, it also ran buttery smooth. The envirorments looked fantastic, and the character models mostly did as well. Every attack saw a ton of particle effects hit the field, and I was constantly blown away with just how many rockets, lasers, magic thunder bolts, and bullets could fill the screen at once without the framerate dropping. There is perhaps only one weird failure to the beauty, and that comes from hair. Cloud's hair simply looks off, and close-up shots had it show up in some weird dotted pattern. It simply looks unfinished, but with the release still nine months out there's plenty of time to make the hair looks great.
Really though, I'm currently spending my time complaining about hair graphics. That's the biggest complaint I can manage against Final Fantasy VII Remake. It's one of the most insanely fun demos I played on the show floor and everything about the game was polished to such an absurd shine. I can't believe it's as good as it is, and now I have nothing but hope for the game. This may have truly been worth the wait after all.
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