- After over 20 years, the fan-favourite Japanese role-playing game “Final Fantasy VII” is getting a huge remake for the PlayStation 4.
- The game is scheduled to arrive in early 2020, and hype is reaching a fever pitch.
- The new game was playable for the first time at this year’s major video game trade show, E3 2019, and we played it. Good news: It’s pretty great!
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LOS ANGELES – The remake of “Final Fantasy VII” – one of the most beloved games ever made, originally released in 1997 – is a really big deal.
It’s akin to Nintendo remaking “Super Mario World,” or Microsoft remaking “Halo.” When this remake was announced in June 2015, people lost their minds.
I was not one of those people. Not because I don’t like “Final Fantasy VII,” but because I’ve never played it! So when I was offered the chance to play “Final Fantasy VII Remake” at this year’s big video game trade show, E3, I took it.
As it turns out, the remake is a delight!
1. The remake of “Final Fantasy VII” plays very differently from the original game.
Sorry, RPG fans: “Final Fantasy VII Remake” doesn’t have the turn-based fighting you may be expecting.
Instead, it’s much more of an action game.
In the 30 or so minutes of it that I played, I mostly controlled our hero Cloud Strife as he used his massive sword to swat at enemies. Occasionally I controlled Barrett Wallace, the gruff and muscley friend of Cloud, who also happens to have a gun arm.
In both instances, when encountering enemies, there was no fanfare and no cut to a “fight scene.” Instead, I fought enemies in the same world I was exploring – like an action game rather than a traditional RPG.
2. It’s a lot of fun to play, even as someone who doesn’t love role-playing games.
I never played “Final Fantasy VII” because, frankly speaking, I’m not very interested in role-playing games in general. I missed the game way back in the late-’90s when it originally came out, and I never made the time to play it in the years since.
But spending time with the remake is something I could certainly see myself doing.
Instead of random encounters with enemies, engaging in combat felt much more natural. Instead of choosing my actions from a list, I simply pushed buttons and commands came out.
It felt much more like a “normal” video game to me, albeit one with some interesting tactical options in combat.
3. Instead of going all the way action game or all the way role-playing game, “Final Fantasy VII Remake” is a mix of both in an interesting way.
Simply hacking and slashing your way through enemies will not work in “Final Fantasy VII Remake.” But using Cloud’s massive sword for basic strikes builds up a meter that enables you to pull off more dramatic moves.
This system is called “ATB,” and it mixes up the way combat works in “FFVII Remake.”
As the meter builds up, you’ll get up to two bars worth of ATB moves. When you activate these moves, time slows down so much that it’s nearly paused. From here, you can pull of more RPG-like moves that have large, dramatic animations.
There’s another meter to the right of ATB as well, called “Limit.” And when it fills up, you’re able to pull off a kind of super move that deals much higher damage to enemies than normal.
Mixing up these systems with the button mashing hack-and-slash gameplay offers a nice dose of tactics to otherwise straightforward gameplay.
4. The game looks absolutely gorgeous in action.
Despite the game being months from launch – it’s scheduled to arrive on March 3, 2020 – what I played of “Final Fantasy VII Remake” ran smoothly and looked gorgeous.
The city of Midgar where the demo is set is grungy and industrial, and that comes across clearly while walking around.
Combat looks especially impressive, with Cloud whipping his massive sword here and there. At the end of the demo, I fought a massive electronic spider and it looked bananas.
This is pretty typical video game stuff, no doubt, but it’s clear that “Final Fantasy VII Remake” is benefiting from coming out so late in the life cycle of the PlayStation 4.
5. The best news of all: No, you don’t have to play the original to enjoy the new one.
As previously stated, I’ve never played the original “Final Fantasy VII” game that is widely loved.
I was a bit worried about covering the remake, honestly. I don’t have the context!
But then I realised something important: The vast majority of people who play this new game are coming to it without having played the original. Here’s their chance to finally play this classic game, but with all the modern updates that make it feel fresh!
Given that I’m in that boat, I can tell you with certainty that no, you don’t need to have the historical context to enjoy this new game. Will some major moments be lost on you? Potentially. But that’s totally fine. Since it’s ostensibly a new game, you can just enjoy it as a new game.
That was huge for me – I can finally play this game that people have loved for two-plus decades!