A preview of our first 20 hours with Final Fantasy 7 Remake (Mild Spoilers)

How’s everybody doing? Good? Great?

We’ve been doing well, for the most part. Lack of sleep is getting to us because over the weekend, we totally drowned ourselves in one of the most anticipated games of 2020, Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The most excruciating part was waiting for the massive file size to be downloaded in full but here we are, ready to bask in the greatness that Square Enix have worked so hard for.

This article was written via an official review copy of the game so please note that there may be minor spoilers. Tread carefully, but we’ll try to be as safe as possible.

Ready? Let’s Dive (kick) in!

If you haven’t played the demo that dropped a few weeks back, which featured the classic bombing run mission that introduces how the newly revamped battle system works, we suggest that you do! It’s a great peek into the game that is most definitely a radical change from the original PS1 classic.

FFXV part 2?

In hindsight, I realize now that Final Fantasy XV felt like a prelude and a tech demo for the main attraction, which is the Final Fantasy 7 Remake (FF7R). 20 hours in, FF7R fixes a lot of what made XV short of being a great game – The battle system is much more polished and well thought out, the game is very well optimized to handle fantastic graphics and retain a steady frame rate, wonderful writing and English voice acting (Not you, Barret), and characters you can immediately care about, among others.

If it was not immediately apparent during the demo, the game looks stunning, especially on 4K HDR capable screens. There are noticeable draw issues though as you shift swiftly from space to space in Sector 7, as the textures don’t load quite as fast as your movement but it’s just a minor nitpick. You can also see some jaggies in some parts like Cloud’s hair if you look closely but again, a very minor nitpick.

Equally impressive is that the frame rate hardly takes a dip, and keeps at a constant pace all throughout even during busy sections of the game. From summon animations to all the other particle effects, FF7R is quite the technological marvel, considering how all of this looks and performs on a PS4 Pro. Can you imagine this on the next gen systems?

Seamless gameplay and audio

FF7R feels very seamless. From exploring the world that transitions to a battle scene, everything just feels so smooth without any loading times in between. Cutscenes still look a cut (pun intended) above the rest and the line between cutscenes and gameplay is very blurry right now, they almost look the same at this point.

The audio transitions are also very well done, leaving hardly any breaks in between from changing between town theme to battle theme and suddenly to a character theme. The rearranged soundtrack is very good, but how it was implemented in the game immersive is the real star of the show.

Camera woes

If there’s anything I hate in a game, it’s bad camera. FF7R has this at some points and while they don’t really take away from the overall experience, it was still very irritating.

I wished that I could move the camera back a bit, both during exploration and battle. It’s a tad bit too close to the character to my liking, but most players would find it fine for the most part.

During battle, especially when fighting in enclosed spaces with some obstacles to hide behind, the camera gets caught in some unwanted position that may disorient you but as mentioned, it may be a minor thing for most players.

FF7R(emaster) > FF7R(emake)?

As I play through FF7R, I begin to understand how some people may not like the game. Players who have played the old PS1 classic may probably want a more simple 1:1 remaster / remake, something faithful to the source even without expanding too much on the side stories and the rest of the cast. If you’re expecting something closer to the original game, sorry, you’ll be heavily disappointed.

FF7R fully modernizes the game, not just graphically, but also with the game design itself. There are side quests and story expositions in between pushing the story forward, and it’s these things that may turn off some players. It’s quite the departure from the classic, so purists may not be pleased with this direction.

Surprise yourself, give it a try.

Familiar is good

A lot of the familiar systems are back, like slotting in Materia into your equipment, but at the same time adding new Materia types and effects that fits into how the new game plays. Personally, I find that Square has struck a certain balance with old and new that feels right, resulting in a game that will get you immersed from the get go. The first meeting with Aeris is chill inducing and Tifa looks absolutely amazing with changes to her wardrobe that make sense.

Oh, and the Nail Bat make a return!

New is also good

Noticeably gone are the save points, which is now replaced by… a save anywhere / autosave mechanic. There are also rest spots in the form of blue benches scattered around Midgar where you can replenish your HP/MP before moving on.

Weapons also have abilities that you may want to acquire by maxing out your proficiency with the weapon, allowing you to use that ability even without equipping the said weapon. You can also upgrade your weapons with stat bonuses ala sphere grid!

Summons are not used the same way in this game as with previous games. They are actual “summoned units” that will help you battle it out during the duration of combat, with special moves and abilities as well.

There are quite a number of changes and quality of life upgrades in the game which we won’t get too deep into to avoid spoilers but these are welcome changes in the overall scheme of things and make logical sense for the game.

Best girl Jessie

One thing I love about FF7R is how everyone has their own moment and is their own character. Who would have thought that Jessie was so adorably thirsty (she really is) and how Biggs and Wedge are more than just that duo. It’s really nice to see everyone grow into their own character that you can care about and relate to. It’s not all about Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, and Aeris but it’s also about everyone else this time around.

Also sorry Tifa and Aeris, Jessie is best girl. At least for now.

Tempered expectations on game length and features

Probably the most important of all.

In the midst of the excitement and hype, everybody must still understand that the game releasing on April 10 is the first of many in the series. How many parts to be exact? We don’t know. Will the next parts have new mechanics, maybe? Will it be longer or shorter? Your guess is as good as mine.

If and when you get to play it and eventually finish it over the next few days, you’ll have to think of game length and features in context of what I just said. If this part of the game takes you 40, 50 or 60 hours (hypothetically) to complete, that’s the length of a full game already which is what Square had promised. If this was 4 parts at an estimate 50 hours each, then a total of 200 hours for FF7R sounds absolutely amazing.

Again, manage your expectations. You’ll have to consciously accept that the story will end and will certainly leave you wanting more. Remember how Avengers Infinity War played out in 2 parts? Same here, only with more installments.

Final thoughts

I referred to FF7R as an overall “better” FFXV. In many ways, it really is. Depending on how you felt for FFXV, it may be a good or a bad thing. If you hated XV, there’s a chance you will not be thrilled about FF7R simply because it is almost just a reskin of XV, to put it bluntly. There are a lot of borrowed elements from XV, even the user interface feels like XV along with the little animations and effects in between. It may be an unfair comparison, but it’s a comparison you’ll inevitably make as you play the game.

20 Hours is not a lot of time, but we’re completely enthralled with the game thus far. How far will the game take us is still a mystery and it’ll surely be a moment that will make us itch for more while the next game is a year or two (or more!) away. In the mean time, we’ll get back into the game while everyone else is a couple of days away. Yes, we’re totally making you green with envy, just as green as Cloud’s Mako filled eyes.

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