How Final Fantasy VII Remake reinvents a beloved JRPG classic
It feels like a lifetime ago that Final Fantasy VII Remake was first announced. Originally shown at E3 2015 as part of the Sony conference, the hearts of Final Fantasy fans everywhere were immediately sent aflutter at the sight of Cloud Strife’s legendary Buster Sword. Since then, the road to release has been an arduous one, with several delays and confusion about its release strategy making a subset of players worry. Next Friday, however, Final Fantasy VII will finally be in our hands, so we thought it worth highlighting what this remake does different.
Only recently did Square Enix make an announcement that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, physical copies of the game would be sent out early in certain territories on the hopes of hitting the planned street date. Because of this, it might be worth venturing carefully with what you read about Final Fantasy VII online. Here, though, we’re simply previewing how the remake cleverly reinvents the originally – there should be no fear of spoilers.
A fresh approach to the game’s staple Active Time Battle system
Final Fantasy has been edging ever closer to real-time action since the release of 2016’s Final Fantasy XV. Whereas previously the series had made a name for itself by focussed on timed or turn-based battles, knowing this should already let you know that Final Fantasy VII Remake won’t play quite the same as the 1997 PS One original. Combat is still referred to in game as “active time battle”, but it no longer is determined by a timeline where you and enemies would trade blows back and forth.
Final Fantasy VII Remake’s action plays out in real-time mostly, with you as Cloud engaging a mix of light, heavy and ranged attacks in order to maintain an advantage over enemies. However, as you do, you’ll build up a new ATB metre that will let you perform special attacks, which are engaged by hitting the controller’s back bumper. This will temporarily pause combat, letting you easily select which enemy to target before unleashing pure devastation. This makes for a speedier take on traditional Final Fantasy combat, but with a small element of strategy still mixed in.
The opening section of Midguard has been greatly expanded
While Final Fantasy VII Remake might seem like the full experience in name, this release is actually just a small portion of the total story first told back in 1997. You’ll have noticed this from the game’s marketing campaign. You see, this remake’s ambition is so vast in scope, Square Enix have punted for an episodic release this time around. This means that players won’t receive the full narrative on Final Fantasy VII Remake’s launch, but there is one saving grace in that the Midguard portion of the campaign has been greatly expanded.
It helps, too, that the largely cyberpunk location now looks better than ever thanks to the efforts of modern technology. Whereas before Final Fantasy VII on PS One was hindered somewhat by its pre-rendered backgrounds, here the visuals very much match the gameplay in terms of how modern they are. Square Enix has promised that anyone who has played the original game are still inf or a few surprises, with specific areas (like Avalanche’s clubhouse HQ) being far more expansive this time around. There’s still no info on whereabouts in the FF VII campaign this remake will end, but late-game characters like Sepharoth have already been confirmed to appear much earlier as well.
Full voice acting and 3D cutscenes brings the FFVII world to life like never before
This next point might be a little moot, but one can’t understand just how remarkable it will be to hear Final Fantasy VII’s iconic characters speak and interact as realistically as in this remake. Previously players would need to read through reams of text to get a sense of character personalities and relationship dynamics, but now Cloud, Barrett and more are all fully voiced by some of the video game industry’s most recognisable talents.
And not only that, but Square Enix has used its proprietary game engine to amazing effect, making character models and this would look even better than they did in the Final Fantasy VII feature-length film, Advent Children. What’s more, helping the immersion further will be seamless transitions from cutscenes to gameplay.