Final Fantasy VII Remake gets a demo

Cloud is in the cloud

I’ve been sceptical about Final Fantasy VII Remake since its admittedly superb announcement trailer rocked that insane Sony conference at E3 2015 (The Last Guardian! Shenmue 3!!). The original Final Fantasy VII feels like such a landmark, such a defining moment for so many, that it felt like pure folly to even attempt that mythical remake. I’m not convinced anyone really wanted it, given that modern ports of the original are widely available. Why even bother doing it over? Outside of niggling stiff controls, what is there to fix? What could possibly be gained from Final Fantasy VII: Redux?

The slim amount of footage I saw would have disheartened me if I’d expected better. The iconic boss battle against a giant robot scorpion had been reduced to the frantic, noisy, charmless mush I have come to expect from the triple-A games space. I appreciate that’s a snobbish remark, but I yam what I yam. No time to breathe, everything’s always turned up to 11. You’re never just in danger, you’re always gonna die. The floor’s always collapsing. You know? It’s exhausting. There’s a reason I prefer the likes of Treasure Island Dizzy.

But rule no. 1, Nauties – you always give everything a fair shot. So when the demo “dropped”, I guess I downloaded it, I suppose. And, to my genuine annoyance, I liked it quite a lot. Yes, my pet peeves are very much present and correct - not one single character can keep their mouth shut for more than one second. It's constant, ceaseless blah-blah-blah, overdone to the point of utter tedium. But, as the Mountain Goats once memorably sang, this is what the volume knob's for. 

Thing is, they've crafted a genuinely interesting combat system here. It isn't the (excellent) turn-based combat of the original, but it's a thoroughly cool sort of halfway house between (bear with me here, I don't play a lot of RPGs) Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XIII. You've got free movement of the battlefield mixed up with choosing skills by hitting X, which makes the action slow to a crawl while you pick out items, skills and spells. You can also swap characters dynamically, which feels great. If anything takes a bit of getting used to, though, it's the fact that while you can "dodge" you won't be able to avoid all damage - it's resolutely an RPG, not an action game.

Spectacular visuals, great arrangements of that stirring music and a battle system that's both easy to pick up and has terrific scope for tactics. Those are the recipes for a good'un, and I'm delighted to eat a little of my hat over this.

I’d still prefer a new Dizzy, though.