Early in March, Square Enix released the demo of the long-anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake. The game looks pretty amazing, so I went ahead and downloaded the demo on my PlayStation 4, and here's my experience with it.
Before I continue, I have to mention I am not a fan of the original game, and that the only contact I've had with the Final Fantasy VII is the movie Advent Children (although I've played Chrono Trigger, which has a similar gameplay style to the original Final Fantasy VII).
The first thing I have to say is that Final Fantasy VII Remake looks amazing.
The game is being powered by Unreal Engine 4, and developed by a team of very talented artists, so it is no surprise. However, what I found surprising is that the game actually looks even better than Advent Children, which was using pre-rendered graphics. They even seem to use the new photorealistic hair rendering from UE4 (which I've been covering in a series of articles).
On the other hand, if you were not a fan of the Final Fantasy Advent Children style, you won't be a fan of this game's visuals, because it follows the same "photorealistic anime characters" offered by that movie.
The environments are also very well-made, and keep the same quality as the characters. If you keep up with games, you know this is not the only photorealistic game to come around. For example, the Resident Evil 3 Remake looks very realistic too, but there's a different "feel" to FF VII Remake, be it because of the colors, brightness or lighting (or maybe it's the lack of "sepia-toned image in the game).
Now that I think about it, I played it on a PlayStation 4 Slim, so I can only imagine how much better it must look on a PlayStation 4 Pro running on a 4K TV.
The sound and music are also top-notch, and the game soundtrack is very well-made, and fits the game nicely, from the quieter parts to the more action-oriented parts (including mini-bosses and bosses).
When it comes to gameplay, the game is not a turn-based game like the original. I'd say it's a combination of action and a command-based input system.
You can freely attack enemies as you will, but if you want to perform special attacks or use items, you need to open a menu to select the command. When you open the menu, the game slows-down, allowing you to select the command you want, but without completely pausing the game (meaning that, if you take too long to select the command, you may be attacked).
I think this is a very nice system, because it allows you to perform menu-commands safely, while at the same time forcing you to act fast and not take too long to do it. The system is also requires you to keep an eye on your health and decide when to heal, which is similar to any other action-oriented game, except that healing counts as an action, and you can't just "spam" actions one after the other.
The system sounds complicated on paper, but you are offered in-game tutorials when you start playing, so you are introduced to those mechanics step by step, so you can become very good at managing the game system in no time.
This doesn't mean the game is easy, though. You still need the skill to hit the enemies and decide when to perform special attacks. There's a sense of dread when you try to perform a special attack, just to see it fail because the enemy was about to move around, for example.
The gameplay gets trickier and more engaging when you have more than one character in your party (although in the demo you only manage a party of two), as you can issue commands to the NPC party members from the same menu, as well as issuing special attacks to your player character. On top of that, you can quickly swap to a different character in your party, so you can change your strategy (for example, in case you need to swap to a character with range attacks for some reason, and then go back to a melee-based character).
This is a nice feature, since you are not constrained to the "leader" of the party.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how the game compares, in terms of gameplay, to the original. I can, however, tell you that, if turn-based Japanese RPGs turned you off due to the gameplay style, meaning that you are more like an action-RPG kind of person, you will find a lot to like in this game.
As for the story, it's a demo, so I cannot tell much. If you are familiar with the original game, you know more or less what to expect, although it may not be exactly like the original game (I've heard they are making changes to the story, since this remake is going to be longer than the original). However, the point of the demo is obviously to show you how it's going to play, and the story is secondary in this case.
Final Fantasy VII Remake comes out on the 10th of April, and it's going to be exclusive on the PlayStation 4 on the first year. If you are undecided, you should at least try the demo and see if the game is for you.
Final Fantasy VII Remake: https://ffvii-remake.square-enix-games.com