Ever since Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced, fan enthusiasm and interest have run high. We’ve seen teasers and leaks for the game — impressive trailers and an entire suite of leaked demo music — but there’s always been the question of how well the game would actually play. It isn’t that hard to piece together good gameplay bits or CGI sequences, particularly when a remake has as much cultural cachet and nostalgia value as this game does. Now there’s a new demo available for the PS4 — and simultaneously, a number of publications have gotten hands-on time with the game and reported back with their own experiences.
The demo is available to anyone with a PS4, which means you can play through the opening chapter of the game and “the events of the iconic Make Reactor 1 bombing mission.” I’d be curious to know if this is a straight demo of the game or if it follows the convention of the actual demo Sony shipped for FF7 back in the day. For those of you who didn’t play it, the demo version of Final Fantasy VII that shipped on at least some discs gave you access to monster summons and abilities that you didn’t actually have at that point in the title when you played the game normally. The demo listing is here (no word on any PC version thus far, though we’ve gotten hints that there might be a PC version of FF7R on the way).
As for how the game plays, both Kotaku and Polygon spent three hours with it. For those of you who aren’t aware, Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t the full game. It’s only the first 5-10 percent of the title that occurs in Midgar. Typically, you exited Midgar within 4-6 hours in the original FF7. Rather than ship anything that short, Sony expanded the Midgar section of the story to bring it up to typical RPG length.
Kotaku writes that the game systems definitely make it feel like an all-new title, with an overhauled combat system, expanded materia system, additional cut scenes, and weapon skill trees. The game’s story has obviously been extended with new primary and side quests as well. The Square Enix demo Jason Schreier attended allowed him to face off against multiple bosses, but while the game played well, he had questions about how gamers who loved the original will perceive the remake:
This whole sequence, which is Chapter 7 of the game, is certainly cool. The combat is excellent, the dialogue is snappy, and it’s all a lot of fun to play. But the transformation of a tutorial boss into a Shinra superweapon is also a reminder that by the end of this first episode of Final Fantasy VII Remake, we’ll have only seen a piece of the game’s sprawling plot. The original game has more than 30 bosses—if the second one is now an elite robot beast that needs to be tampered with before you can defeat it, just what is it going to look like when we get to Jenova, or Ruby Weapon, or even Sephiroth? How many years is it going to take before we can play the entire game?
Polygon, however, seems a bit less concerned:
What was once rushed in an attempt to invest players in the story of Cloud and his compatriots in Final Fantasy 7 is explored fully in Remake… The early hours of Final Fantasy 7 Remake offer much better characterization and storytelling than the 1997 original. It’s also a gradual tutorial of the remake’s dense combat system, a mix of real-time action and tactical command-based inputs.
The classic battle system is also available in the final game, but wasn’t available in the demo.
The question of how long it will take Square Enix to remake the game, and the overall attention to detail it’ll receive, is an interesting one. It frankly seems impossible for the company to literally give each chunk of the game this much of a makeover. If you expanded every 4-6 hours of Final Fantasy VII into a 30-40 game in Final Fantasy VII Remake, you’d be expanding the basic story from roughly 40 hours (based on HowLongtoBeat) to a 240 – 300-hour game. The typical completionist time for FF7 is 83 hours, 55 minutes. Are there people who would spend 500 – 700 hours in Final Fantasy VII? I’m sure there are. There are people who’ve sunk years into games like Skyrim and World of Warcraft. But I can’t imagine Square Enix targeting that kind of length as a typical investment into the game.
Final Fantasy VII Remake has been in development for five years. Announced relatively early in the PS4’s life cycle, Part 1 will launch as the console nears the end of its life. If the full game followed this schedule, it would literally take decades to remake the entire game. That’s obviously not tenable, and it seems unlikely that Sony would want to stretch this out into a three-generation affair. It’s one thing to launch the first part of the remake on the PS4 and then provide the others on PS5 (possibly with a native PS5 version in co-development with the PS4 flavor right now). It’s something else entirely to spread a remake across three different product generations.
It seems unlikely that Square Enix will target the entire game unilaterally for such upscaling. What seems more likely is that we’ll see some targeted expansion in specific areas. Midgar was a natural fit, since it kicks off the base game, but the pace will have to pick back up to something approaching the original in later titles, unless Sony thinks it can literally milk the game to 5-10 parts across multiple platforms and over a decade.
As for Part 1, the early feedback looks pretty good. If you try the PS4 demo, let us know your thoughts on it.