Set for release on April 10, the Final Fantasy VII Remake is already looking to be an incredibly fun reboot. I know this because I spent close to four hours trying out a new build of the demo, which featured a lot more than the first chapter of what my colleague, Nigel Zalamea, played.
I won’t be rehashing much of what he’s already said, so if you want to know how the Scorpion Sentinel fight went down, be sure to head over for Nigel’s recount.
Instead, I’m going to be talking more about the general gameplay (sans spoilers) and how it felt to take on the mighty Air Buster boss and the Abzu boss fight.
Like Nigel, I started my demo playthrough in Chapter 1, but from the start instead. I got to watch an amazing cutscene that’s a complete remake of the original opening sequence and ends with the train ride into the Mako reactor.
You don’t get the opportunity to rename your character, unlike the original FFVII, so no chance of changing Cloud’s name to the better-suited EmoSoldierBoy. The first few fights give you a chance to explore the new combat system, or you can switch to “Classic Mode”, which I’m told is similar to the old school Active Turn Battle (ATB) experience.
Soon, you’ll meet the Scorpion Sentinel, and it’s a tough fight and a sign of things to come. Once you’ve beaten the boss, fans of the original will know it’s a race against time to get out of the reactor before it explodes, and then you’ll be in Midgar proper.
Much like the original FF VII, the second chapter continues as an introduction to the game, and while set in the greater confines of Midgar city, it’s still pretty linear. The city looks like a dystopian version of New York, very familiar looking architecture as well and even technology similar to our modern world — air-conditioner units on the rooftops of homes.
While the game felt easy to play, it soon started ramping up the difficulty, with you learning how to deal with the various different soldiers, such as shock troopers or guards with riot shields.
And it does get tougher, with the game throwing you more combinations as you weave your way through the city. That was about as much as I got to try for the second chapter, as I had run out of time and had to skip ahead to the next part of the demo, which was Chapter 7, and the just-revealed Air Buster boss, which proved to be immensely challenging to battle alongside my newest party member, Tifa.
Because of how the new combat system works, dealing with the camera angles for the fight can be an issue, especially in the heat of the action, as you’ll need to actually dodge lighting shock bombs that will stun your character, but being able to pause somewhat with the ATB system to let you reorientate the camera was immensely helpful.
The Air Buster boss comes in a few phases, which will offer different challenges at every stage and test your reaction speeds.
It’s a fight to relish, especially when I got to try out the new Summons. Unlike Summons in the original, where you’d summon them like a one-off to do massive damage, the new combat system keeps the Summons alongside you, letting all members of your party activate the powers of say, Leviathan, once their ATB gauge is filled. It then does a massive blast of damage to the enemy.
Upgrading your weapons and abilities will be key to winning the fight, and how this will be done will be revealed when the game launches. Defeating the Air Buster took me to the last boss of the preview, Abzu, a giant sewer monster, and I also got to try out Aerith’s skill set. She plays as a mage, attacking from afar, and heals your party up.
Having figured out the key to beating boss fights, I pulled out a summon, Ifrit this time, but the boss was trickier, dodging my attacks at times. However, compared to the Air Buster boss, it was a lot easier — perhaps I’ve gotten used to the new combat system, but I breezed through the fight, ending my preview session, and wanting more.
FFVII Remake launches on April 10, and from what I’ve already played, it’s going to be an amazing game for both new and old fans. Square Enix has also released a demo version of Chapter 1, which you can access here.