After what feels like forever, the Final Fantasy VII remake is coming out on April 10. At least, the first part is coming out that day. That’s because Square Enix made the controversial decision to turn the remake into several smaller games, with the first one focusing entirely on misadventures in Midgar.
Wondering whether it’s worth it to return to the world of Final Fantasy VII? Well, you’re in luck: you can download a demo right now and check it out for yourself. And while the demo only takes about an hour to complete, it has helped us learn a few important things about what is arguably the most important RPG of 2020.
Minor characters play a bigger role
Final Fantasy VII is built around a core group of playable heroes such as Cloud, Barrett, and Tifa. But there are also plenty of supporting characters, including fellow AVALANCHE members Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge.
In the original game, these characters didn’t have much of a spotlight. In the remake demo, though, each side character gets a surprising amount of dialogue. The best example of this is Jessie: we see her clear attraction to Cloud and even the beginning of a potential romance between the two of them through their extensive dialogue.
If these characters are any indication, we’re going to get a lot of cool moments involving marginal characters all throughout the remake.
There are fewer dialogue options
While it was no Mass Effect, the original Final Fantasy VII had a few moments with different dialogue choices. These often revolved around the ladies in Cloud’s life (such as how Cloud feels about Tifa or whether he buys a flower from Aeris).
In the remake demo, we get dialogue options. This is surprising because there are several places where such options would be very logical (like when Jessie explicitly asks about Cloud’s relationship with Tifa).
And while this is less definitive evidence, the sizzle reel of game moments at the end of the demo shows a lot of Cloud fighting while wearing a flower from Aerith. This makes sense if the dialogue options are gone because you would no longer be able to refuse her offer of a flower.
The fighting is very dynamic
Arguably, the biggest change in the remake is the combat. The original games involved an Active Time Battle system in which characters could attack, use magic, use an item, use a summon, or use an ability on their turn.
Now, combat feels like a weird fusion of Kingdom Hearts and Devil May Cry. You now physically move your character during battle, and positioning is now very important. During the boss battle, for example, you must periodically hide behind enemy barricades.
You can still pause the action and queue up things like magical spells or items, but you’ll spend most of your time on physical attacks to charge your ATB bar (so named for the original system, though combat is now completely different). These range from standard attacks in a variety of different stances to cool abilities and the now-familiar Limit Breaks.
Combat means watching position, balancing different attacks, and filling your ATB bar to unleash various abilities. In short, FFVII combat has never been more dynamic.
Characters play very differently from one another
One of the downsides of the original Final Fantasy VII is that characters played very similarly. While they had different weapons and limit breaks, combat boiled down to mashing “attack” and “magic” in the same way for each character. When your vampire and your giant cat and your ninja all play the same way, combat can get pretty boring!
In the remake, Cloud and Barrett play very differently. Cloud focuses on melee attacks and Barrett on ranged attacks. During certain fights, you’ll be forced to switch characters (such as when a monster goes somewhere that a melee character cannot reach).
Different character strengths and weaknesses help make combat more exciting and increase the replay value of the game. And, of course, it makes each character feel more individual.
There are recreations of famous moments
Remaking a beloved property is actually pretty dangerous. If you change it too much, fans of the original may be completely turned off. But if you don’t change enough, gamers will ask why you bothered to remake the game in the first place.
Fortunately, the FFVII remake seems to have struck the perfect balance. Changes to combat, character design, and narrative help showcase how different this game really is. At the same time, we see recreations of many iconic scenes. This includes our first glimpse of Aerith on the streets, our first glimpse of Cloud on top of the train, and so on.
Throw in familiar music at key moments and it’s clear that this remake wants to bring your favorite moments to life in a truly breathtaking way.
The voice acting does not let us down
Riddle me this: when is a video game like a book? The answer is when a game has no voice acting! The original Final Fantasy VII had no voice actors (that didn’t enter the franchise until Final Fantasy X), so fans had to imagine how their favorite characters would sound.
The voice acting in the remake had the potential to drive fans up the wall. Just imagine if someone messed up the line delivery for a character you have loved for 23 years!
The good news is that the voice acting in the game is very solid. It brings old conflicts (like Barrett’s beef with Cloud) to new life while adding depth and dimensionality to side characters. If the rest of the game lives up to this voice acting quality, we’ll be in for a real treat.
The voices in Cloud’s head are gone
One small detail about the remake concerns Cloud’s mental condition. In the original game, much of the plot centered on Cloud reconciling distorted memories and harsh reality. And along the way, he often heard voices in his head during stressful moments.
In the remake, we see Cloud suffering from the same mental stresses as in the original. However, the player can no longer hear the voices in Cloud’s head. This seems to signal a different approach to Cloud’s craziness and also to the game’s overall storytelling.
The demo’s boss fight is epic
Admittedly, a sample size of “one” isn’t statistically significant. But based on the boss at the end of the demo, boss fights in this game are going to be insane.
What was a simple fight against a scorpion robot in the original game is now a long, tense, and tactical battle. You’ll need to master blocking, switching characters, moving behind terrain, and targeting weak areas like shield generators.
If that sounds intimidating, the remake is pretty generous when you die. After death, you can simply restart before the major battle. In the original game, you could only load from your last save point.
What do you think of the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo? Sound off in the comments below!