Final Fantasy 7 Remake features the most refined combat mechanics and a fully realized world to discover all over again.
The modern JRPG doesn’t exist without Final Fantasy 7. Mechanics and designs, once unique to the genre, have become commonplace due to the game. Where does a development team begin when recreating one of the most influential games of all time? I couldn’t personally tell you, but it’s clear that the five years since Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s reveal have not been put to waste.
Producer Yoshinori Kitase said that he and his team are looking to rebuild a game that not only respects its source material but also acts as a new vision for the series as a whole. And from what I’ve seen so far, it succeeds at doing just that. Strangely enough, there’s nothing I saw from the opening hour of Final Fantasy 7 Remake that feels inherently old-school. Modernized designs and revisions to traditional systems have given the world of Gaia a fresh coat of paint.
With the first title in the 7 Remake series of games, you’ll be taking on Midgar. A city that has only been expanded upon in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7. Games like Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Dirge of Cerberus, and the movie, Advent Children, are either too small or take place after the credits roll in 7. So, whereas Midgar could only be represented through pre-rendered backgrounds in the original game, the city now comes to life in real-time, reacting to the events and battles happening around you.
One thing Kitase-san said the team focused on is the lighting. After Final Fantasy 13, it had become clear that Square put some considerable focus on bringing its worlds to life both in and out of combat. Whether you’re a fan of these games or not, they’re some of the best looking games of their time. With modern hardware, the dark visual tones of Final Fantasy 7 sets the stage for the harrowing journey ahead that’ll include tragedy, hopelessness, and eventually, triumph. The city’s tremendous Mako reactors shroud the city in green that can be seen in nearly everything. It gives the game a familiar feeling to me as I can suddenly revisit the scenes and battles spread throughout the story in my mind. Longtime fans will not be disappointed in this regard.
Of course, with the move from the original PlayStation to PS4, the scale of Midgar has grown. New locations and set pieces are intertwined with the areas you remember. Furthermore, character dialogue that was once non-existent has been added to these extended sections. While I can only speak for the opening scene, what once only took a couple of minutes has been stretched to nearly a whole hour. With that in mind, it’s interesting to imagine how the rest of Midgar will be expanded upon.
Every character has been given a voice of their own in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Major characters were once identified with specific music queues, but now, they can be enhanced through voice performances that’ll surely give old and new scenes additional weight. Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, the three members of Avalanche you meet at the beginning of the game, are suddenly more interesting. I can’t go into too much about them without spoiling things, but I’m very curious to see how these supporting cast members, as well as the many others, get reimagined in-game. Character designs have only received slight touch-ups, dropping the less imaginative designs you’re probably familiar with, for a more realistic approach. I imagine it’ll be hard for fans not to smile from ear to ear revisiting these locations and characters once they get their hands on the game.
The soundtrack has been reworked along with how it works in-game. Music tracks will flow into each other naturally — scene after scene, and battle after battle. I’ve been listening to Final Fantasy music for years, so the novelty of the effort put into the music, in particular, doesn’t hit me as hard. However, it does add to the merit of this development team and its lead members. They do care, and every moment I saw of Final Fantasy 7 Remake proved to me that this is a game that’ll surely deliver in more ways than one.
Combat: the bane of many modern JRPGs. A multitude has tried to reinvent the turn-based and free-flowing action RPG, and many have failed. Some may say that some of the modern Final Fantasy games have failed at this. I don’t think I’d consider myself one of those people as I’ve generally enjoyed each one I’ve played despite some issues in the more recent single-player titles. Final Fantasy 7 Remake really surprised me. It’s a ton of fun to tinker with, and all I’ve seen is the opening section of the game.
I can see now why the battle system was so confidently shown off during Square Enix’s E3 press conference this year. It works, and there’s practically nothing wrong with it that I can think of off the top of my head. Unfortunately, I was only able to play around with the default systems. A shortcut based version of combat exists that omits the tactical mode that slows down time, allowing for you to strategically input specific skill, magic, or item commands with ease.
An ATB bar is located underneath each characters’ health bar, showing you when you’ll be able to use the previously mentioned tools and attacks. This bar is filled through attacking, and it works in tandem with your MP bar. The entire system is something that blends both turn-based and action-based ideologies, and it’s refreshing to see a Final Fantasy game nail a new style of combat after changing it up quite often in recent years.
While your ATB bar seemingly acts as the most complicated mechanic in combat, you’ll also have your standard attacks, blocking, and dodging. The square button will dish out your parties’ standard attacks, while the circle button rolls, and R1 blocks. It’s simple but more involved than something like Final Fantasy XV’s combat which omitted magic for the most part and had you hold circle to attack continuously. It wasn’t nearly as engaging as this. I can’t speak on difficulty right now, but it seems as though the game will have you master the ATB system which each characters unique standard play style.
Speaking of which, every character has a unique mode of engagement. For example, Cloud has two sword stances that allow him to either attack quickly, dealing less damage, or slowly, for more. Each character will have something unique, and it’s not limited to fighting styles. Over time I can see this new feature taking shape in the strategies players will use to take on overwhelming foes.
As you’ve probably already seen, switching characters will play a prominent role in combat. Thankfully, switching feels seamless as it’s set to the top and bottom buttons on the directional pad. Additionally, you can go into the tactical mode to safely change and input commands in the process. The intuitive feel of the combat is surprising given the amount of mechanics at play.
Five years ago, I jumped head first into my ceiling fan after Final Fantasy 7 Remake was announced. As time went on, that upbeat feeling had fleeted to some extent. I still have my reservations about the decision to break the game into parts, but aside from that, I’m fully confident that Final Fantasy 7 Remake will deliver on honoring and revitalizing the legacy of one of the best classic JRPGs.
The first part of Final Fantasy 7 Remake will launch for PS4 on March 3, 2020. You can pre-order Final Fantasy 7 Remake right now on Amazon, if you are so inclined.
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