Final Fantasy VII Remake Feels Great To Play, But The Project Might Not Be Finished For A While

This afternoon at E3 in Los Angeles, I watched an extended demo of the Final Fantasy VII remake and got my hands on a build for about 15 minutes. Here’s the good news: it could be really special. The bad news: Well, we have no idea when the whole project will be completed.

“We can’t reveal that many details about this,” legendary producer Yoshinori Kitase said when I asked him today how many games will be in the series. We know that the first one is set entirely in Midgar, and that, according to Square Enix, it’s the size of an entire numbered Final Fantasy game—a radical reimagining, given that Midgar was maybe five or ten per cent of the original game on PlayStation 1.

“Before we actually started working on this, we knew it was going to be a large amount of content,” Kitase said. “When we started out planning the plot for the first game, it hit us again... at that point we decided we were going to focus first game on Midgar and what happens in Midgar. Unfortunately we can’t say anything more about the future games, because we don’t know ourselves.”

Kitase added that the development team is simultaneously finishing Final Fantasy VII remake’s first game, which is out in March 2020, while planning game number two.

Following a brief presentation in which Kitase and his team demonstrated a build of the first few moments of the game (which looked great), I got to play a demo that takes place within the first Mako Reactor. I hacked and slashed through some enemies, climbed down some ladders, and fought a reimagined version of the scorpion robot that makes up Final Fantasy VII’s first boss.

The best way to describe the Final Fantasy VII remake is “fleshed out.” It’s like the PS1 version of Final Fantasy VII was an outline and this is the final paper. Whereas in the original game you’d see a few dialogue exchanges that were meant to broadly convey feelings—Jessie being flirty, Barret trying to convince Cloud that the environment is worth saving—here there are fleshed-out conversations, genuine personality, and dialogue with a surprising amount of warmth. There are some clunky lines in there, but it’s fun to watch.

Here’s one exchange I particularly enjoyed:

Barret: You gonna stand there and pretend you can’t hear the planet crying out in pain?

Cloud: You really hear that?

Barret: Damn straight I do.

Cloud: [after a pause] Get help.

Jessie, a member of Barret’s Avalanche eco-terrorist group, has more dialogue in the 30 minutes of footage I saw today than she does in all of Final Fantasy VII on PS1. Wedge and Biggs have more personality. There are cut-scenes around every corner. It feels like a completely new game.

The combat system is also brand new. Here are the basics: as Cloud, you can slash, evade, and block with button presses. With every attack you’ll build up your ATB gauge, and every time you fill up an ATB bar (to a maximum of two in the demo), you can use it for a spell, ability, or item. This version of Cloud was equipped with some skills like Braver (formerly a Limit Break; now a regular ability) and a triple-slashing ability that sends him spinning from enemy to enemy. There’s also a stagger system reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII in which you can build up an enemy’s “staggered” gauge. When it fills up, you’ll do bonus damage—160% in the demo.

As a result of this system, it doesn’t feel like a hack-n-slash action game. It’s got a very, very different vibe than, say, Kingdom Hearts III. Just mashing the square button doesn’t seem like an effective strategy in Final Fantasy VII’s new combat system. You don’t do a ton of damage with standard attacks. From what I watched and played, getting through fights requires frequent use of abilities and swapping between your characters—in this case, Cloud to take out short-range enemies, and Barret to gun down sentries from a distance.

As you play, the music swells in and out, transitioning between enhanced versions of classic Final Fantasy VII tracks based on your current state—the combat music weaves in and out naturally rather than following a hard-transition the way it once did. The framerate isn’t great, at least in this build. Square says the game’s coming to PlayStation 4 “first,” and I must confess I really want to play this one on PC.

The demo I played centered on Guard Scorpion, the boss of Mako Reactor 1. No longer is this boss fight over in 30 seconds of button-mashing and waiting; now, it’s an elaborate spectacle, complete with different phases and barriers. It’s very, very cool. During one phase you have to circle around back and attack the core underneath its body; during another, Cloud and Barret have to duck for cover under some nearby debris while it uses its powerful tail electricity attack. (“Attack while its tail is up!”)

So yes, this is all promising. Especially the expansion of personalities. The lingering question is: what is this game going to be, exactly? How are they going to expand Final Fantasy VII’s introduction into an entire game that Square says fits on two entire Blu-ray discs? Is all of Midgar going to be explorable? Are we going to get a 10-hour version of the Honeybee Inn? Guess we’ll find out in March.


Comments

    Not sure if more cut scenes and more dialogue worth an "entire FF game" is really what Midgar needed.... It all sounds like a marketing push for "We're going to milk the $$$$ out of this title and release 10 games over 20 years that you'll just lap up because your fans".

    Crazy that 22 years ago FF7 was released as a full title and now with modern technology (and the budget Square Enix has) that they have to pull this kind of stunt. And to any one who blindly defends them "Oh it just takes time to deliever quality content and build a world this big".

    Maybe go speak to CD Project Red about world building. 4 years for The Witcher 3. Pretty sure the detail and size of that world will dwarf this snippet of Midgar.

      I love the casual dismissal of "blindly defends them" as if noone could possibly have a point at all that counters yours.

      Often if a storyteller has an idea that can be developed and expanded upon, they can do so with better resources in order to tell a more fulfilling story. This is how we got Scarface with Tony Montana, a story remade since the 30s, Golbums The Fly and even Star Wars, a remake of Seven Samurai.

      If Squeenix felt there was room to enhance their story and create a new version of this world, rather than being blatantly dismissive for little reason, perhaps look at it and ask "could they tell a more effective story?" There's potential to for sure.

      The gameplay looks majorly fun too :P

        You've obviously not been paying attention to Squeenix the last few years. They're far from the company they used to be.

        Tell me how you feel in 6 years when they release part 2 that is the rest of disc one for full price.

        Ignoring that, I will still get it. But I will be majorly annoyed when it reaches the end.

          I've paid full attention to them. I've bought their products since the 1980's and have found them to still be despite some hiccups one of the more reliable companies out there in terms of quality output. They've stumbled with a few turds here and there, but overall, their output has been fairly consistent.

          We aren't talking disaster levels of quality drop, like say, Bethesda here, we're talking a company that released a game like FF15, which while it was jarring to fans of the series, was still a highly playable, highly enjoyable game. Or a company that helped resurrect the beloved Hitman franchise, which while it's gone off again on its own, wouldn't have happened without their help.

          As far as 'tell me in 6 years' goes, that's just a gross overreaction based on a single instance of a game taking a long time. We'll see how it pans out, and leave the hyperbole at the door :)

            I have to agree here. While the first game being Midgar only does have me feeling a little bit suss about square trying to milk it, i'm still hopeful and it's possible that they are going to release a quality remake. It's something only time can tell. I also don't think it matters what they do there is going to be negative backlash because it's a beloved childhood game for so many.

            Well that's where we'll agree to disagree. I have FF15 on my PS4. Played about 10 hours before I got over it. Bought it again on PC to try again. Gave it up even earlier.

            As for the 6 years comment being an exaggeration, the original remake was announced 4 years ago and will be released in 2020 thus making it a 5 year cycle for the first 1/8th of the game. If you think that the next part will somehow have a smaller development time when the game world literally opens up after Midgar, then pass me what you're smoking. It will be interesting to see how they make an RPG episodic as well... will your items/levels carry over? Will the open world be broken up into segmented parts and not open anymore? I personally can't wait to see what they do with it :)

            Also I agree with you on the Hitman part. But surely the division that does the FF games is different from the Hitman games.

          It's true that SE has not been as great a company as they used to be, but you can tell they have a lot of passion for the project and want to expand VII's world. If this was all about a quick cash grab, they could have just done a visual remake of the game and called it a day. But no, they are putting time and effort into rebuilding the world from ground up so we as fans can re-experience the magic.

          The fans have been crying for this game for so many years, but SE constantly refused because they were unhappy with how average their last few FF titles have been. In an interview several years ago, they said they would only consider remaking VII once they have made another great FF title, which turned out to be FF XV (far from being the best FF game, but certainly a huge improvement over the XIII saga).

          In terms of price, if each episode delivers the promise of being comparable to a full game in its own right, is it unreasonable to charge full price? We can only wait to find out when the product comes out. If you're already putting so much prejudice onto this project at this stage, why even say that you'll still buy it?

            You should see my 700 games on steam with a 5% completion rate (and an unhealthy chunk of unopened titles).

            I'll try anything even when skeptical.

          the game that's releasing next year is actually two BR discs long, but go off

            2 Bluray discs of Midgar.... Cannot wait :D

            I look forward to the Golden Saucer 3 Disc edition!

              Golden Chocobo breeding 18 disc edition or gtfo.

    I'm excited by this and kind of glad they didn't just do a reskin of the old game - I think my rose tinted memories of it just wouldn't hold up across the entire game and it's antiquated systems.

    That being said... I'm betting this game will never actually be finished. My money is on the first one selling like hot cakes and the second not doing so well and struggling to justify the continued expense.

    Even if that is the case, I'm still glad they're trying it (and hope that we'll at least get another trip to the golden saucer)!

    The first Class Edition doesn't seem to be available in Australia...
    It's only in the EU and NA Square Enix stores..
    And have heard rumours JBHIFI is holding all stock for their staff :(

    Is our only option to try and import it using a shipping forwarding service from the states or even the eu ?

    Please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

    Why do they need to make everything stupidly big? Does anyone really want to play a whole game in Midgar?
    I just wanted the original game, looking amazing and battling in real time.
    I did not want an entire series out of one game. :(

      Yup... This is what I'm saying. But apparently I'm negative for just wanting them to do a faithful remaster of the original.

      To all the people saying OH YAY MORE MIDGAR - I couldn't wait to get out of Midgar.... When the world opens up, it was the best part of the game.

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