E3 2019: Things we’ve learned from the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo

Final Fantasy VII Remake. Let that sink in, and let that be the reason why I think Square Enix may have won E3 this year. Yes, we have all been waiting for years, even decades, for this to happen and it is happening soon. What we are looking at is a complete overhaul of the 1997 classic. Having the pleasure to demo this game makes my top 3 list of things I did at E3 this year. With the hordes of fans and journalists that wanted to try this playable demo, it was not easy at all to score a slot. Alarm clocks blaring and snooze-fests later, we are successful and I’m here to explain every last detail that I caught during my 20-minute hands-on playthrough.

The experience itself initially seats everyone into a sealed room in a Shinra facility. The TV’s display the logo of the Shinra Electric Company, followed by images of an idealized and happy society. The video feed is hijacked and an image appears on the screen of Jessie, second in command of the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE. Revolving siren lights overhead start spinning as the hijacked feed has Jessie explaining gameplay elements such as staggering your enemies, ATB, limit break meters, etc… all things that fans from the original already knew. That is until some new gameplay elements were also revealed. The trailer ends with a re-creation of the original opening FMV. “Remember, it’s not about the size of your sword, it’s how you use it,” wise words from Jessie.

Afterwards, we funnel into the next room filled with PS4 demo systems. We were already briefed that no pictures were allowed, but there was one picture that the staff encouraged and it was that of the steaming green Mako Reactor overhead.

With headphones on and PS4 controller in hand, our demo starts on a Mako Reactor steel platform, high overhead inside the reactor. I am playing as Cloud, in the standard SOLDIER getup and the infamous Buster sword. Closer examination of the Buster sword, I can see a single green materia in one of the two slots. I suspect that it’s probably a Cure materia since I do see it as an available option in the action menu. One big change that I already see is that I can just run circles in the outworld and just slash my Buster sword wildly in the air outside of battle. This is one surprising gameplay element that I didn’t expect, which reminded me of Kingdom Hearts. Also, dash is remapped into the L3 button which is a standard nowadays.

The Morpheus to My Neo

I ran in circles on this reactor platform for a while with my ooh and aahs, giving myself the Cloud 360 tour. And in my awe, a familiar voice, “Would you hurry! What are you waiting for?” Barrett, as you already imagined is scruffy and inpatient. His left shoulder tattoo is now colored in, which is a subtle difference from his 1997 self. He’s been following my Cloud running in circles. A closer look at Barrett’s Gatling hand, you can also see a single green materia slotted on his cuff, which I think is also Cure. It didn’t look like there was a second visible slot for another materia though.

Jessie is standing on the platform with me next to the ladder that I need to descend. A quick press of L3 and I’m sliding down fireman style. Barrett, being super impatient with my slowness, passes me up on the ladder. Where he’s trying to go, I don’t know but it’s a linear path with some small detours on the platforms. He quickly gets back to his place in following Cloud. In true RPG fashion, the couple of detours tended to lead to a chest. “You’ve acquired a tuft of phoenix downs.” 22 years later and I still don’t know how many exact phoenix downs there are.

Active Battles

Popping out of nowhere, the background blurs a bit and now I’m looking at 2 Shinra Infantrymen. This is our first experience at the revamped battle system. Hold L1 to block, and mash Square for a basic attack. This ain’t turned based combat anymore. Fans may have already caught this before from previous teasers, but we are now in free-roaming combat. There is no separate fight mode instance. All the battles happen in the outworld environment which includes all the walls, floor gaps, and platforms. Doesn’t matter to the Shinra Infantrymen because they just shooting at me with guns from any position, but as Cloud, I need to run my ass over and around the rail to get some sword contact. After some quick sword work, I’m still getting whacked by something that I can’t see, which were wall turrets overhead. Now a tutorial displays on how to press on the D-pad up and down to switch characters. Time to put Barrett’s Gatling arm to use in order to damage those remote turrets. These are the times when Cloud is pretty useless unless I elect to use Cloud’s magic that is. Barrett’s basic attack is different. You hold Square to lock on to one enemy for repeated gunfire. Each bullet doing about 2 damage. Then after about 10 or 15 bullets, there a finisher bullet that does about 18 damage. I can then hold down Square to start the process all over again. When the battle is over, are you are forced back into controlling Cloud, so that means no walking around as Barrett.

Give Me Some Damn Time to Decide!

Already revealed is the ability to slow down time as you scroll through the one hundred items in your inventory to find that one cherry bomb to throw. It’s exactly how you imagined it, but the one thing I noticed was that I can endlessly just press that X button and enter and exit this mode anytime I want. The sense of urgency still feels like it’s there, but hell if I didn’t have hundreds of items to scroll through. If you don’t have an available ATB meter to use, some options are grayed out. That’s really your cue to use Square regular attacks to build up your ATB meter. Also within the X menu, L2 and R2 allow me to browse through Barrett’s menu as well so I can easily tell him what to do without switching to him as a character. All the basic menu items are there: Ability, Magic, Item, and when you’ve earned it, Limit Break at the very bottom in those casino slot machine rainbow colors.

Elemental Vulnerabilities

For elemental damage, Cloud conveniently has blizzard and Barrett has lightning. If there was any question as to which vulnerability an enemy has, Cloud and Barrett’s banter may actually drop you hints through your battle on what magic or ability to use. When attacking a mechanoid enemy, obviously vulnerable to lightning, I didn’t really see some positive feedback that I’ve triggered a vulnerability. Maybe some higher damage numbers but nothing like a screen flash or a “Bingo” that I’ve preyed on my target’s weakness. Maybe that’s just how battles occur, but nothing stood out to me.

Random Encounter Battles

Battles are hectic with you constantly rotating your character around. Enemies tend to get lost in the heat of battle and the transition from battle mode to roaming mode was so seamless that I wasn’t always sure when I’ve finished a battle, until on the bottom right corner I see I’m being awarded with EXP. There were times where I felt like I’ve killed everyone, only to find a Shinra Infantryman pegging me from afar or a turret overhead. Maybe this is intended to create a smoother experience, but for some of us veterans, we may need some adjustment time.

First Boss, Scorpion Sentinel

You can instantly tell that you are about to enter a boss battle when entering a space that looks as spacious as an arena. After walking across a narrow bridge and planting explosives on the Mako Reactor, Cloud and Barrett are ambushed by the Scorpion Sentinal. Everything about this battle is already revealed in its full glory on YouTube. Basically, the boss has multiple forms and is often jumping away and sticking to walls that only Barrett’s Gatling arm can reach. I resisted the temptation just to continuously hack and slash the boss with my Buster sword, which I felt was way more effective than Barrett’s Gatling gun, but there were some hints dropped off when I should be using lightning magic or using stagger-inducing abilities. After downing that boss, the demo abruptly ended. “Thanks for playing and please don’t forget to take a picture of our awesome Mako Reactor.”

Scorpion Sentinel Boss Fight:

Other E3 2019 Reveals

Other notable reveals this E3 are that this March 3, 2020 release will be contained on 2 PS4 Blu-rays, and will only cover the gang’s time in Midgar. Content in Midgar is said to be expanded to include a fully contained story, but we are still unsure as what else that entails. The number of episodes and the release roadmap are still unclear.

Also available on March 3, 2020, will be a $330 1st Class Edition which includes a Steelbook case, art book, soundtrack CD, some DLC items, and a Play Arts Kai Cloud Strife & Hardy Daytona model. The base game is priced at $59.99.

Another FF7 finale reveal, which was during the Square Enix press conference, was an extended trailer that finally gave us a first look at Tifa and her fighting style. This was a great sight for sore eyes because we were all still unsure how Tifa would look between her OG 1997 to Advent Children, which were drastically different on their own right.

FF7 Remake Intro Revealed at E3 2019:

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JR Cajigas
JR Cajigas 108 posts

JR Cajigas is a foodie by day and...foodie by night. In between meals he is a tech writer and photographer. Yummers!