games / Previews

E3 2019: Final Fantasy VII Remake Gameplay Preview

June 19, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Final Fantasy VII Remake

After its original release, Final Fantasy VII became a beloved all-time gaming classic. Featuring one of the most memorable, fan-favorite cast of characters, it became one of the most iconic installments of the gaming franchise in history. And it’s one that fans have been beginning for a remake for years. During this year’s E3, 411mania got some with an actual playable, hands-on demo for the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake. Based on the early experience, the upcoming game appears to be on the right track.

The gameplay demo session began with a tutorial narrated by Jessie, one of the members of Avalanche, Jessie instructs the player on the mission, delivering a bomb to the Shinra Mako generator. It also featured a brief overview a the battle and combat mechanics for the demo session. The demo then drops the player as Cloud, with Barrett as his partner, in what appears to be a stage close to the beginning of the game. The Avalanche team is in the bowels of a Shinra factory to set off a bomb to blow up the mako generator. Jessie is also there, and Cloud can interact with her a bit.

The gameplay demo was pretty straightforward as Cloud and Barrett move deeper into the bowels of the factory. They get to face off against some Shinra minions. The gameplay and combat for the FFVII Remake are quite different from the original. The turn-based battle system that Final Fantasy and FFVII were known for are gone. Instead, FFVII Remake features real-time combat and action.

For the purposes of this demo, Cloud only had other playable member in his party with Barrett. The gameplay does actually allow to switch control from Cloud to Barrett, so there was ample opportunity to try out both. One issue with the combat is that all the playable characters only seem to have one basic attack. With Cloud, it’s his sword, and his basic sword strike is a little slow. It seems what the combat could really use is a basic fast attack, along with a basic strong attack. This could add a little more depth to the melee combat.

Players can use an ATB (Active Time Battle) meter during the combat. Once an ATB meter is full for either character, players can access a menu where they can launch more deadly attacks, utilize spells, or heal the allies in the party. This is what makes the combat feel much more in line with the Final Fantasy series.

The demo featured enough battles with Shrina small fry to get acclimated to the game mechanics, combat and controls. Based on this area, it looks like the game will be filled with breakables and chests players can farm or mine for health power-ups or some useful items. Eventually, Cloud and Barrett will make it to the main reactor to set up the bomb. Barrett is worried that Cloud is a traitor, but Cloud is distracted by the arrival of a scorpion sentinel, which acted as a sort of boss fight for the demo.

The Scorpion Sentinel battle basically had several escalating stages. Thankfully, the demo was good about setting up the patterns for the sentinel’s attacks and figuring out the mechanical monstrosity’s weaknesses. I did take quite a while before I could finally defeat it, but it was fun to switch between the two characters and deplete the sentinel with various attacks before it finally went down.

Overall, Final Fantasy VII is looking good so far. The modern graphics and design that have created the iconic world of FFVII all look very impressive. The game’s combat and control system were fairly easy to pick up and did not appear to be too overwrought.

That said, I do miss the old English voice actors who played the characters in the FFVII spinoffs. The new cast doesn’t sound terrible, but they do not sound as good as the previous generation. No offense to John Eric Bentley, but Beau Billingslea would still be my top choice to voice Barrett, and the same goes for George Newbern as Sephiroth. I will be curious to see who lands the role of Vincent Valentine because Steven Blum was basically close to perfect in that role.

However, this demo was really only a small slice of gameplay. I’m still not clear how the game is being rolled out. I’ve heard that it still might be released in parts rather than one whole game. However, Square Enix only announced one official release date for March of next year. Hopefully, some of these details are clarified sooner rather than later.

I do think some level of credit is due for Square Enix. While the wait has been long, it definitely looks like a lot of time and effort went into making this game. This is not a simple upgrade or remaster of the original Final Fantasy VII. It’s a complete remake from the very ground up, just like the remake of Resident Evil 2. This is basically a brand-new game. It’s not as if the original game, stages and cutscenes have received a fresh coat of paint like the Crash Bandicoot or Spyro trilogies. This is basically a completely new, brand-new game that simply uses the original characters, locations, basic script and premise of the original version of Final Fantasy VII.

And while fans have been demanding a remake for years, Square Enix did not have to deliver one, even with all the teases. That said, Square Enix does have to meet expectations here, and there will be no excuses if they deliver a shoddy product.

Final Fantasy VII Remake arrives on March 3, 2020 for PlayStation 4.