This week I was lucky enough to attend PAX West, and I got to play the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo. After the excitement settled down, I decided it was time to write an in-depth impression/mini-review for the demo, since so many people have questions. Of course, if I leave anything out, feel free to ask in the comment section, and I will be happy to answer anything I can about the demo, the booth, or anything regarding the game.
It is hard to talk about the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo without starting with the level of polish this game has. It is rare that I play a game that makes me pause with how incredibly well-built it is. Just from this short demo, I can at least say that this game is smoother and better built than nearly every action game I have played this generation. If developer Square Enix irons out a few issues with the game, it could honestly become one of the best action games of all time.
The game’s combination attacks (“combos”) have a surprising amount of depth to them. The most comparable games are Kingdom Hearts II and Dragon’s Dogma. The combos in the demo are handled with a single button, but with that one button, there are timed combos and button-hold combos. Each contains a large variety of combos and can be mixed and matched. After a few attacks, for example, I would pause and hold the Attack button, initiating a launching move, and then from there I would continue to attack with a much longer combo than if I had simply pounded the button. The depth is very appreciated, and if this game adds more combos in the vein of Kingdom Hearts as the game goes on, then the depth will be truly stunning.
The iconic special moves are much more powerful attacks that require Active Time Battle (“ATB”) points. These are incredibly good feeling moves and are basically the same as the special moves in Dragon’s Dogma. Unlike with developer Capcom’s role-playing game, however, these moves can be linked instantly like a combo. As a restriction, in the demo I could only link two due to the small ATB capacity. These moves can also be used in the middle of normal combos, which proves to be an amazing addition to combat.
Magic and items sadly require ATB expenditure as well, which feels unnecessary: Magic has a supply of consumable Magic Points, and items have a limited amount kept in stock. The use of magic feels pretty nice otherwise, with one caveat: I wish it was easier to move while using these attacks, even if I moved slowly. Notably, magic appears to have some sort of visual effect on enemies, such as Ice leaving a large piece of ice on the enemy it strikes, or Fire burning an enemy instead. It was unclear if these spells had any non-visual effects within the demo, however.
Then there is the movement, blocking, and dodging. Running, first of all, feels wonderful—Cloud feels nimble and responsive. Sprinting and walking feel exactly how they should, and they look great. Even climbing ladders looks and feels good in this game, and you can press a Sprint button and slide down quickly, which felt wonderful as well. Returning to the subject of combat, I don’t think I have ever liked blocking in a game like I do here. You hold down a single button, and Cloud pulls out his signature Buster Sword in front of him, blocking all incoming attacks. During the block you can walk around slowly, and it makes you feel awesome. When an enemy hits, you there is a small degree of knock back—unless the attack is large. In that situation, expect to get launched back in dramatic and amazing fashion. Finally there is the dodge roll, which is snappy and responsive. Repeatedly using it isn’t easy, however: There is a slight delay between rolls, smartly preventing it from becoming an overpowered dodge.
As with the rest of the demo, the camera and lock-on features worked flawlessly. I usually tweak camera settings like a madman, but here I don’t think I will. The camera’s sensitivity was perfect. The lock-on mechanic is similar to Kingdom Hearts II’s and was thus incredibly helpful even if not mandatory. I found myself switching the lock-on mechanism on and off frequently, as it allowed for quick maneuvers easily.
Tactical Mode, much to my surprise, is fantastic. It slows the world down and looks wonderful while giving you time to look through your items and abilities. The only single issue with it is its being assigned to the X button. I found myself hitting it when I did not want to, and some people I spoke to had the same issue with it being mapped there. The mode would be much better suited for a shoulder button or the touch pad.
For my problems with the combat, the lack of a dedicated Jump button is a big one. There are numerous enemies in the game that fly, and if you lock onto them, you can attack them with Cloud automatically jumping into the air. I would much prefer the ability to jump at them myself, and it would be great to do that to other enemies by my own choice as well. Jumping would also have been good for the demo’s boss fight, to dodge attacks or jump over debris. This is a feature I truly think would help the game.
I admittedly did not play Cloud’s gun-toting sidekick Barret too much, but what I did was still pretty fun. With him, you can simply hold down the Attack button to attack with his gun, or you can tap the button if you are a maniac. Barret is much bigger and heftier-feeling than Cloud, which lends the impressive feeling of almost having switched to a different game. It is awesome, though I hope Barret’s play style has a larger variety of moves. (The possibility remains that I didn’t play him enough to learn further detail.)
The incredible attention to detail is phenomenal, from environments that are grungy and worn-down to those that are lively and insanely detailed. The small segment of the game we saw, an electric reactor that shouldn’t even be aesthetically pleasing, was stunning.
The animations are fantastic as well, lending a great sense of weight to the movement. It feels much more realistic than the majority of Square Enix’s games, or most others for that matter. Watching the different characters as they each move nothing like each other, reflecting their diverse personalities, fighting styles, and body builds, is truly a spectacular aspect. The game simply feels better having the characters all seem like different people. More games could learn from this.
I loved the demo. The lack of a dedicated jump button and the questionable button-mapping for the tactical mode are the only real issues I could think of. Beyond those two aspects, the game has a level of polish that is so rare nowadays, making the playing of the demo a shocking experience. If you can get a chance to play it, I would recommend you do so. Otherwise, if you are wondering if the game is worthy of its hype, then the answer is yes. The game truly plays fantastically and has the looks to match. The Final Fantasy VII Remake demo is something I will likely sit and think about every day till it is in my hands.
The amazing booth, or what we are allowed to show, is pictured down below. Unfortunately the awesome pre-demo section was not open to pictures or video, which is a true shame. Square Enix wants to keep that hidden. These pictures honestly don’t do the booth justice; it was wonderfully ominous thanks to the towering reactor and the green light it emitted above the entire area.
There were also two booth girls dressed up as members of the “Turk” in-game faction, who of course stayed in character. It was great watching them harass the people waiting in line. Sadly the pictures I got of them did not turn out well due to how dark the line area was, though honestly the darkness only helped the area feel more authentic to Final Fantasy VII.