Final Fantasy VII Remake is oh-so anime but oh-so good. If you’re like this particular author, you’ll cringe at physics-defying hairstyles and exaggerated American accents, but protagonist Cloud Strife’s oft-requested return is shaping up to be a sublime role-playing game – even if the jury’s still out on how its story will controversially be cut up.
We got to go hands on with a boss fight against the so-called Scorpion Sentinel, a sequence which you’ll no doubt have seen several times over since it was first unveiled at E3 2019. We were instantly impressed by how Square Enix has authentically recreated the Mako Reactor Core’s industrial architecture; the location remains faithful to the foreboding atmosphere originally evoked by the PSone title’s pre-rendered backdrops, and yet it’s genuine eye-candy running on a PS4 Pro.
The whole package is familiar and fresh: you’ll occasionally catch melodies and motifs in the soundtrack that hark back to the 32-bit title, before the music deviates in a different direction. It’s honestly impressive how much the game is able to incur fond memories of the original, yet still very much retain an identity all of its own.
The gameplay is perhaps the best example of this: it’s got a frantic real-time combat system similar to that you’d find in any modern hack-and-slash title. However, in addition to dealing damage, using the iconic Buster Sword builds up the much more traditional Active Time Battle metre, which can then be used to temporarily pause time and issue more tactical attacks. This applies to all of the members of your party, so you can jump to Barrett to delegate some commands before returning to Cloud.
The resulting gameplay is frenetic in a way seldom seen in turn-based RPGs; while the real-time aspects mean that this isn’t really turn-based at all, it feels like a marriage of both new and old – this was clearly the overarching ambition for the project as a whole. It’s just fun: the action is cinematic and strategic; it’s classical and contemporary. Oxymorons, maybe – but accurate.
And it’s just presented in the most absurd manner imaginable. While we couldn’t help but feel that the Scorpion Sentinel was a little spongey, each transition in its form triggers outrageous cut-scenes, where the camera darts around dizzyingly and explosions illuminate the screen. It’s undeniably anime, but the best-kind of anime; this isn’t red-faced schoolgirls in threadbare miniskirts, it’s rockets ricocheting around rooms while bulky blokes in sunglasses curl their lips.
What more is there to say? It’s very impressive. We are a little worried about the level design, as the demo shows about as much ambition as the opening 50 hours of Final Fantasy XIII, but it’s hard to come to any conclusions from such a small vertical slice. If the combat system remains this entertaining – and, honestly, it’ll only get better as it goes on – then this will live up to the title’s legendary legacy.
We honestly didn’t think you had it in you, Square Enix.
Are you on Cloud nine after reading our positive Final Fantasy VII Remake impressions? Do you have any concerns about this long-awaited re-imagining? Buff your Buster Sword in the comments section below.