At long last, the full demo for the long anticipated remake of the beloved "Final Fantasy VII" (FFVII) has finally been released and is available for download on the PlayStation 4 and Steam.
As someone who’s played the original FFVII back in the day, I have long been hoping for a remake at some point. The release of "Advent Children" and the later extended "Advent Children: Complete" feature film, this satiated my desire for some time, but it still never erased the hopes I had for a complete FFVII remake.
The word from Square Enix (SQEX) back then was that a FFVII remake wasn’t going to happen until they had explored other stories first. They had such high hopes for FFXIII and its two sequels not to mention FFXV, which had been treading water since development began in 2006 until its release 10 years later. Perhaps that was the clue SQEX needed, that they’d better listen to the voices of their fans and actually get to work on a FFVII remake.
So, here we are. It’s March 2020 and we have a hot, spanking-new 40-50min demo to salivate over. And let me tell you, it is hot.
I played a version of the demo at Tokyo Game Show last summer, so it was interesting to see exactly what changed for the official demo. The demo at TGS was specifically designed to last only about 15 minutes, so they reduced the number of controls that were introduced and cut out almost all of the cutscenes between the characters including some areas of the map. The sequence ended shortly after the first boss battle.
First of all, the demo begins with the iconic opening that would give any fan goosebumps. Granted, the demo version of the opening sequence is slightly truncated and omits the close-up view we get of Midgard in the video above. Beginning at about the 2-minute mark of this video, we see Aerith (I’m still not used to spelling it this way…) as she feels the energy of the planet leaking out of a broken service pipe. The scene quickly follows along with a train arriving at the Sector 1 Station with several members of Avalanche subduing some Shinra guards as Barret gestures for the “newcomer” to join them (They translated this as “merc” short for mercenary in the English version). This is where Cloud makes his grand appearance with that classic jump from the top of the train (insert giddy giggles here).
The majority of the demo, you’re working your way toward the Mako Reactor 1 while encountering various enemies that require you to engage them in close-range battle with Cloud’s sword or with long-range attacks with Barret’s gun-arm. You also encounter various obstacles like a bunch of lasers shooting out of the ground that you need to carefully time your movements past them.
The Purpose of the Demo
The purpose of the demo is to introduce players to the various mechanics of the gameplay, mostly focusing on the new action adventure type of gameplay rather than the traditional turn-based system. For any modern day gamer, this shouldn’t be difficult getting used to. The controls are explained and thrown at you in rapid succession in the demo, so you might feel a little overwhelmed at first, but with a little practice, these movements should become second nature.
There is no language setting for the demo, so it uses the system language setting on your PS4 as default (I’m not sure about Steam). I’ve played through the demo both in English and Japanese with this method. I believe both versions were treated with the utmost care, but as the purist that I am, I cannot accept anyone’s voice besides Sakurai Takahiro as Cloud. He has been one of my favorite Japanese voice actors for years across multiple series that hearing someone else’s voice besides his feels very wrong to me.
What is absolutely apparent from the demo is the exquisite attention to detail with the graphics and level design. Taking place in the Sector 1 train station, you’ll come across interesting station signs and maps, including all sorts of advertisement posters like an ad for Clear Icicle mineral water or Banana White so-called “delicious, fresh, and healthy” fruit snacks.
We’re also introduced to the other Avalanche members like Vicks, Wedge, Jessy, and Barret. What was interesting for me after playing both the English and Japanese versions of the demo, I found the voice performance for Jessy made the character seem much more flirty with Cloud than she appeared in Japanese. Perhaps this is just a classic “which version you prefer more” sort of debate, but it’s always interesting to me when characters are portrayed differently in different regions.
One part that made me giggle was the scene where Barret was giving his speech about how horrible Shinra is for sucking up Mako to use as a fuel source, Cloud says, “isha ni ike” (literally go to a doctor) in Japanese, which was translated as “Get help” in English. This is an example of some really great translation work, using modern language that everybody uses and can relate to in English.
The Pending Conflict
Of course, as any FFVII fan, we’re all waiting for some more juicy tension between Cloud and Sephiroth. Although Cloud wasn’t necessarily a “silent protagonist” and actually spoke quite a lot throughout the whole game, we still didn’t really get a good view of how he internalized everything that happened around him. There is a huge amount of material in the original story that will benefit greatly by retelling it with today’s pseudo-realistic graphics. Many people have even been commenting that the game looks so gorgeous, it’s actually on the same level as "Advent Children," a feature film CG movie. It’s true the CG cutscenes look amazing and seamlessly transition between cutscene and gameplay. It will be super exciting to see what’s new and different in this new revisioning of such a beloved game.
"Final Fantasy VII Remake" is due to be released on April 10 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.
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