Out of nowhere, Square Enix shadow dropped the long-awaited demo for Final Fantasy VII Remake. That’s right, if you boot up your PlayStation 4 right now you can head to the PlayStation Store to download and play the demo for yourself, and I strongly encourage that you do, because it made a hell of a good first impression.
The demo begins at the very start of the game with the AVALANCHE crew attacking Mako Reactor 1. You control Cloud, and eventually Barret, through the power plant while familiar enemies and tunes assault you at every turn.
Typically, when the word ‘cinematic’ is used to describe a game’s action, the world collectively rolls its eyes, but once you’ve played the demo for yourself that description feels apt. Camera movement was fluid, deftly snapping back and forth between characters during battle, limit breaks, and cutscenes. There wasn’t a single loading screen once you got into the game proper making downtime virtually non-existent. So after you hit ‘start,’ you’re locked into the action.
Gameplay trailers had a tricky time showing off how the battle system functioned, especially since it was such a radical departure from the turn-based combat of the original. You are now free to move and attack at all times while the classic Action Time Battle system has been smartly repurposed into an ever-filling bar that governs when you can use spells, skills, and items. Swapping between your party is only a button press away and pretty soon I was laying down covering fire with Barret before unleashing weighty sword blows with Cloud — once you get into the game’s rhythm it feels second nature.
The demo culminates in a lengthy, multi-phase boss battle with the Scorpion Sentinel, which tested everything I’d learned up until that point. It was one tough battle on the normal difficulty — I was chugging potions and administering Phoenix Down’s just to stay in the fight. It constantly felt like a tug-of-war, with high and low points for both sides; at times it felt more like a Monster Hunter battle than a classic Final Fantasy boss, and I was oddly okay with that.
Despite a massive gameplay overhaul, Final Fantasy VII Remake still retains the spirit of the original. If you’re still on the fence or just want to make your own impressions of the game, go ahead and download the demo and try it out for yourself. Who knows, it might just persuade you to buy this game when it comes out on April 10.
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