Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Combat Feels New But Respectful to the Original
Final Fantasy VII Remake uses mechanics from previous Final Fantasy titles and Kingdom Hearts, but combines them in its own unique system.
As the doors of E3 opened today, I bum-rushed my way to the Final Fantasy VII Remake booth. The line immediately grew long, but I was lucky enough to secure a demo ticket for later in the day. Once I got in line, I was a part of the second group able to play the game. After watching a five-minute video giving us a tutorial of the game, we were brought in to another room to play the demo. The demo was basically of the boss fight that Square Enix debuted at their E3 showcase on Monday night.
Back when Square Enix said that Final Fantasy VII Remake was not going to be a turn-based game and was going to focus on real-time combat, I was both worried and excited. With the game being directed by Tetsuya Nomura, series director of Kingdom Hearts, I expected that the game would still have great gameplay. However, I did not know if straying away from its original system was going to ruin what made the original game so special. Once I got my hands on the game, however, my expectations changed.
Final Fantasy VII Remake has a battle system that feels like a mixture of previous Final Fantasy titles with just a sprinkle of Kingdom Hearts mixed in to make it stand out as its own thing. The combat is simple: you have ATB (Active Time Battle) bars and once they are filled, you can use spells, abilities or items while in battle. This is similar to the battle system in Final Fantasy XIII and while I know most gamers did not like XIII as a whole, the battle system was great. You’re not as limited in VII Remake as you were in XIII, however: the bar fills up over time, but it can go up faster with every slash of Cloud’s Buster Sword or every shot of Barret’s Gun Arm. Once you fill up your bar, you can press X to enter tactical mode which puts the game in super slow motion, allowing players the chance to plan your next attack, whether it be using an ability, spell, or item.
There were also shortcuts designated to allow you to use one of those options immediately without having to enter tactical mode; this shortcut mechanic is known from Kingdom Hearts. Outside of self-healing, I didn’t find this mechanic useful in most cases, but once the game is out and people replay it knowing what type of enemy is next for them to face, I think the shortcuts will become a lot more viable.
Being able to switch characters between Cloud and Barret was nice and simple. It was really cool as well that while in tactical mode, you could make Barret do something while playing as Cloud without fully switching to Barret. With having a non-traditional control scheme it took a second to get used to the controls, but once I did, it was slick like butter.
In true Final Fantasy form, the boss fight had numerous stages and once I reduced its health to certain points, it became way more aggressive. The one thing I wished of the fight was that it could have been more of a challenge. Part of that might have been due to Barret telling Cloud how to stagger the enemy (another mechanic introduced in Final Fantasy XIII), as well as seeing how to defeat the Scorpion Sentinel in the Square Enix showcase. Either way, it just seemed a little too easy.
Final Fantasy VII Remake has a battle system that fits perfectly for the game. It isn’t turn-based, but it isn’t a hack-and-slash game either; it’s a weird mixture that fits so well for this remake. Because it isn’t a remake, they are reinventing the wheel and making the combat feel true to the original while still standing out on its own. The original Final Fantasy VII is a top 5 game of all time for me, so those who are still worried about the upcoming title should know from a fan that everything looks to be A-okay, at least in its combat. Not trying to be biased, but I think Final Fantasy VII Remake has a bright future.