With a March 20, 2020 release date marked for what is to be the first episode of Square Enix‘s Final Fantasy VII Remake, there remains plenty of details that are still unknown. What we do know is that there will be enough content to fill two Blu-Ray discs, and all of that will only be set in Midgar.
During an extended behind-closed-doors presentation, producer Yoshinori Kitase emphasized once more that the “reimagination of this classic game will be focused on Midgar,” and the content is “the size of a regular numbered Final Fantasy title.”
However, the alarming part is that little to no planning about the future beyond Midgar, although he stressed that the developers are working on finishing this first episode while putting together what is next.
That said, there is no doubting that the Square Enix team has put plenty of work into refreshing what is already familiar to many gamers, fleshing out peripheral characters with new visuals, dialogue, and interactions. Unshackled from their polygonal prisons, the likes of Jessie, Wedge, and Biggs are true characters with personalities that make much more sense.
Playing through a short 15-minute demo, the difference is immediately apparent. Cutscenes are aplenty, explaining the world of Final Fantasy VII Remake to both new and returning players, giving us deeper interactions between characters, and it feels almost entirely like a new game.
This extends to the hybrid combat system as well, blending real-time combat with the more strategic Tactical Mode.
Building up your ATB bar is important to unleash the more powerful abilities, spells, and even the use of items. You can do that by blocking and evading attacks, and damaging your foes.
Once filled, Cloud can use his Braver attack, a Focused Thrust, and a crowd-clearing Triple Slash attack, while Barret can use the powerful Bullet Barrage, or even magic. Do enough damage and you can stagger your opponents like in Final Fantasy XIII, giving you bonus damage.
It lends an air of strategy to the proceedings, and while the weaker enemies can be button mashed through, the tougher ones will require good timing, swapping party members, and utilising the skills at your disposal to take advantage of any weaknesses. Using Cloud is great for melee, but ranged foes will require the firepower of Barret.
It feels fast and satisfying, and you cannot help but get pumped as the background music flows and adjusts to whatever situation you find yourself in, and hearing those classic tracks once more is always a sweet experience.
Making our way to the core of Mako Reactor 1, the duo faced off against the Guard Scorpion, a previously laughably easy boss that now feels like an actual elite enemy. Different phases see the Guard Scorpion adopt different offense and defense options against you, and it is truly cinematic stuff.
From disabling a impervious barrier to taking cover behind debris from its powerful tail laser, what was once mundane has now become an epic fight. Now the question remains, will the rest of the game be as spectacular, and what lies ahead? We will only know come this March 20.