Is it just me or do I feel that EVERYBODY is waiting for this game to come out next year? With the release date announced just ahead of E3 this year, the wait has been agonizing for some but if you were lucky enough to go to E3 and Gamescom, you would have had the chance to play a short demo already. Tokyo got its shot at a playable during TGS2019 and we had a chance to jump right into the game courtesy of PlayStation Asia and we’re here to basically tell you all about it!
We’ll divide the discussion into chronological playthrough points based on the demo to make it easier for you to understand everything, because it is quite a lot to take in. A LOT.
English voice acting is decent. I particularly don’t like how Barrett sounds in the game, acting like some weirdly hyped up dude, but everyone else sounds ok. Cloud is cool and calm, Jesse of Avalanche has quite the cute personality, and you’ll even hear speaking lines from guys like Biggs and Wedge. The writing feels modern enough and you’ll hear quite a number of new lines added to make it feel like a whole new game but still relatable to fans of the original. I’d personally play it with Japanese voices but it’s good to know that the English voices are good enough.
Graphics are fantastic. This, considering we played the version on a regular PS4. The Mako Reactor looked gorgeous. If you panned the camera at a certain angle, you can see a close up of Cloud’s sweater and you can actually see the threading. Cloud’s pants move and wave around like it would. The skin textures are superb. My only real complaint was that there were edges of Cloud’s hair that looks very jagged, probably due to bad anti aliasing. It might improve on a PS4 pro? Overall, the visual fidelity of a normal PS4 is sufficiently amazing and I can’t wait to see if the PS4 pro will have a resolution or frames mode to jack up the experience.
Musical masterpiece. What more can you expect from the maestro himself? Nobuo Uematsu is back and the game is all the more better for it. The soundtrack is nostalgic but at the same time sounds very modern, fitting of the whole visual aspect of the game.
No random battles. At least from the demo we played, we saw enemies on the screen and the scene shifted to battle once you got close to them. We didn’t get a chance to see if you could “sneak” up on the enemies for an advantage, but it seems unlikely. You can only imagine how HUGE the world map is going to be because of this.
Seamless transitions. Going in and out of battles won’t have any loading of any kind. Even cinematics and moving from room to room will have very little to no loading times as well. Once you engage an enemy, the battle sequence starts and once that finishes, the scene transitions back again. This means no victory fanfare music after battles, sadly. Currency, Experience Points and Items Obtained will show up briefly after a battle and quickly fade away, getting you back to exploring and moving around faster.
Intuitive battle controls. Skeptics can relax a little, the battle system is GREAT and very easy to get used to. You press square to attack, R3 to lock on to an enemy, R1 to guard, D-pad up or down to switch characters, circle to evade, and L1 for shortcuts. It’s simple enough to pick up and play and not get lost. It feels right and you’re not left fiddling around due to complicated menus.
X brings up the command menu. The command menu houses the other actions you can do in game, such as choosing an ability to perform, a spell to cast, and an item to use. Since the battle is actively moving now instead of waiting for your button inputs like the original game, bringing up the command menu slows down time so that you can properly set up your actions. You can either switch to your allies and give them commands from their own menu OR you can simply assign commands to them using a different character, either way works and it’s fantastic that you can choose your way of doing things.
Blocking is important. Let’s face it, nobody never really used the defense mode in Final Fantasy games unless you had to block a super powerful attack. This time around, you’ll need to learn to use it because it is just as important as switching characters.
Does that mean we may see a gambit system? This is unclear at the moment, but it would very much benefit the game due to the battle system.
Switching characters is essential. During the demo, there were enemies perched on a wall. While Cloud may jump and reach some higher enemies, he cannot stay in the air for long. Switching over to Barrett will allow you to hit them from afar and use your range to your advantage. This opens up possible party combinations that you may not have needed to do in the original game but will have to consider now. Will you always want a ranged character in your party? Will you go through this dungeon with a purely melee group? Party composition, once a non factor, is now something you’ll possibly need to think about.
Still here? Good! Let’s talk more about the demo…
ATB gauge. All characters have an ATB gauge, which fills up as you attack enemies. You’ll need this to perform abilities or cast spells. Abilities, like Barrett’s Steelskin for example will cost 1 ATB level and Focused Shot will cost 2. Spells cost MP and an ATB level. As you can imagine, ATB is very important in battles but it fills up rather quickly while you perform normal attacks so the pace of battles is actually quite fast (and good!), next thing you know you’ll have your gauge full without even noticing it. It also sets up a certain level of strategy of when to use certain attacks and spells so you’re not caught out without an action to do in a tricky situation.
Limit Breaks. This gauge fills up when you get hit or stagger an enemy, which is a mechanic similar to Final Fantasy 13 (which we’ll get to later). Limit breaks allow you to pull off an insanely flash and high damaging attack, and tactically, you’ll want to use it while the enemy is staggered for maximum damage. You’ll know you have a limit break ready because aside from the filled up gauge, you’ll notice a rainbow highlighted action when you bring up the command menu. During the demo, Barrett’s limit break is called Fire in the Hole, which looks exactly like Big Shot, just named differently. Cloud’s limit break was Cross Slash, and Braver has been relegated to a normal ability.
Party AI is pretty good. From what we played, it looks like they don’t needlessly waste ATB, which is great, leaving a certain level of control to the player. That said, the best way to play is still switching between characters and being actively engaged in battles. You can technically control just Cloud for the duration of the battle and just issue commands to the rest of the party without ever actually switching to them.
Scorpion boss is both old and new. Once the Guard Scorpion is now known as Scorpion Sentinel. It has returning old attacks and has new attacks (and phases) as well. Again, relatable to older audiences but feels fresh enough for a new game.
Boss battle phases. Boss battles now have multiple phases and each phase is quite an experience on its own. Technically, the original game had phases too but in the remake, it’s much more deliberate and thought out. Once you damage the Scorpion enough, the next phase will activate where it will employ a shield that you’ll need to break first by attacking an exposed part from the rear. Another phase will have itself healing, so you’ll have to destroy the healing mechanisms. Another will have it jumping around the level, which means you’ll need to attack with Barrett. What this does is it makes boss battles highly engaging, strategic, and it does not reduce the fight to simple button mashing.
Environmental advantage. One phase of the boss will have it shooting a laser at your face. You’ll have to hide behind debris in order to avoid it unless you want to take massive damage. The environment will be your friend and you’ll need to learn to use it effectively to overcome challenging fights.
Stagger mechanic. Similar to FF13, staggering an enemy in the FF7 remake is a hugely important aspect of battle. While staggered, you’ll be able to deal magnified damage to the enemy for a certain amount of time, thus you’ll want to pump all your shells into it during the stagger. You can stagger an enemy by simply dealing damage to it and fill up the stagger gauge. Attacking an enemy with its weakness will result in filling up the bar faster.
Let’s cut to the chase – The Final Fantasy 7 Remake hype is definitely real and with good reason. Not only does it faithfully deliver the classic FF7 experience wrapped in some shiny new threads but it also elevates and transforms it into something worthy of the current generation. Everything about the remake, at least with what we played, was near perfect. The intuitive controls, the stunning graphics, the nostalgic music… I could honestly go on and on about it but at this point I’d probably just be rambling. The long wait to March 2020 begins and it’s going to be bloody exciting.
Our Tokyo Game Show coverage is brought to you by our preferred network PLDT Home for fixed line connection at home and Smart Communications.