Square Enix revealed the release date for the Final Fantasy VII Remake just before E3 this year, and spent a decent chunk of their press conference showing off an early mission for Cloud and Barrett that sees the duo taking on a Scorpion mech. That mission was playable as a demo for lucky fans and media at the expo this year. And you can bet that we were there.
Besides getting a full rework with 3D graphics and extended story, the remake also changes up the game's battle system quite a bit. Like most Final Fantasy games, FFVII was a turn-based RPG. The remake, however, is a little bit different. You still have some of the tactical capabilities of a turn-based battle, but you've also got to work in real time. Well, mostly.
You've got the ability to slow time using the game's tactical mode, which allows you to launch special abilities, cast magic, or use curative items. Granted, you can also shortcut many of these, if you'd rather play the remake as a fully real-time action RPG. And that's absolutely amazing. Because you can change your playstyle on the fly. So days where you want to take things careful and run the tactical mode, you can. On days where you just want to fling your oversized sword at mechs with no interruptions, you can.
It may not be the "shot for shot" remake that some fans want, but you know what? Sometimes you can make a great game better. And that's clearly the plan with the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Not that everything is perfect, however.
While the trailer and gameplay shown off during the E3 press conference looked gorgeous, not all of the textures and rendering pulled through to the playable version of the game. Some of the textures were missing, the game looked like someone bumped the sharpness up to the max, and the monitors SE was using for the game were clearly not designed to handle a game like this.
The camera AI for cutscenes could be a bit janky if the player happened to trigger the scene with either Barrett or Cloud in the right place. And while that's fixable, it can throw you out of a game real fast. In combat, if you didn't lock on to enemies, you could run into trouble with enemies that move faster than either character can. So you'd be trying to shoot using Barrett's basic attack – which is continuous use of his mini-gun – while enemies jumped behind him, and there our boy is, shooting straight ahead and getting hit in the back. As Cloud is a solely melee fighter, that happened a bit less often, but every now and then I'd find myself facing the wrong way.
Granted, if you do lock on to enemies, you don't run into that problem. You just have the trouble of needing to target switch.
But if you can get around those rough patches, the Final Fantasy VII Remake does everything it promised to. We've got 3D pouty anime-boy Cloud, retro-inspired action combat, more story than two bluray discs can handle, and a proper train to ship your hype on.
While it may have been a bit raw, the demo absolutely proved that the FFVII Remake is real. It's happening. And we will get it before we die. Even if SE keeps swapping development studios the way The Misfits swapped vocalists.
However, with a release date of March 2020, it just barely squeaks by the promised release window. Square Enix promised a few years ago that both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy VII would release before 2020. And technically March 2020 is still in fiscal year 2019.
But if this gets delayed, and if it goes anything like KH3 then it will, we'll be getting the game a bit late. Granted, I'd rather a late game than an unfinished one. Even for a game that's promised to release in stages. Because, based on this demo, I absolutely want to enjoy this game. It already does so many things so well, that failing on those smaller details would just be a waste.
That said, the Final Fantasy VII Remake is scheduled for release on March 3, 2020 for PlayStation. Other platform releases will follow.