Updated: Mar 5, 2020
SOLDIER Boi up in it! Whoa...
Platform: PS4 Pro
Obligatory nerdy life story gush…
Its here, the first public hands-on of the Mako 1 mission demo being shown at trade shows for the past year, and I am so ready to put this slice of what's to come under the microscope! It would be an understatement to say I have been looking forward to this game.
My relationship with Final Fantasy VII began back in 1998. In those days there wasn't really any game stores in midlands Ireland, sure there were video rentals with game offerings, but video-games didn't carry the same cache in these times. The ritual followed to buy games in those days were quarterly visits to shopping centres in Dublin with my Mum. Although my 10-year-old self was generally bored out of my mind being led from store to store, the promise of eventually walking past the HMV video/audio store I could run freely in gawking at the PlayStation games on display was all I needed to carry me through.
This was a time before casual internet browsing, before my eventual penchant for gaming magazines, a time where every game on that shelf was an enigma, generally winning the prize to come home with me based solely on box-art. However, this day Final Fantasy VII, with its understated white box-art came home with me. Why? It had three discs!!
This blew my mind and the sheer value proposition was enough for me.
I'll never forget my first hours with FFVII, which was like many, my first hours with an RPG. All of the above is why the original game holds a very special place in my heart.
So was it worth the wait?...
On bootup, you’re provided with a pretty simple menu, with the option to begin and look at the system settings (which there are a surprising amount of).
You will be asked firstly how you want your camera controls to behave, standard or inverted. Most interestingly though we are then asked what gameplay style you wish to play with. Normal or Classic. (more on these below)
I’m going to keep this brief because I want you to experience as much as you can first-hand. Fear not though, there’s a lot to dig into.
The demo welcomes you with a glorious recreation of the originals opening cinematic. The beautiful original score, faithfully recreated, swells as we sweep through Midgars city streets. I can’t express how much I love seeing this city be recreated, time and time again. We have of course seen this done in Crisis Core, Advent Children, and most recently Super Smash Bros. However this recreation so far has given me the sense of atmosphere my mind's eye has always associated with it.
Before long we're given our first look at how the polygonal character models of the late nineties’ has made the jump to the modern age, in the shape of the darling Aeris.
I’m aware that these things are gonna be subjective so take this with your own pinch of salt, but I think the models look fantastic. They straddle masterfully the memory you have in your mind whilst also adhering to the 3d models done over the years in FFVII’s many spin-offs. Still, there is a subtle unique quality to the characters but rest at ease you're not going to be confusing them with anyone.
Once we’ve studied Aeris for a moment, the scene swings back throughout the city, before pulling out to reveal Midgar in its entirety with our familiar title screens adorning it. This is just as impressive as it was back in 1998.
Anyone familiar with Crisis Core will feel right at home as the cinematic progresses and we see this lumbering steam train, bounding at speed down the tracks giving off sparks as it goes. Sat atop is our hero Cloud, in all his remade glory.
A slight ad-lib sequence carries out before cloud nostalgically flips off the train, onto the platform, putting the control firmly into your hands.
Taking it for a test drive…
Now as mentioned in the beginning you are presented with options for how you control the action but do not be fooled, the traditional control scheme is not here.
Normal puts you directly into the driver’s seat, having you move, attack, block and dodge as you would in any traditional action game. Doing so will build the returning ATB meter which this time is used in bar increments to perform other actions, such as casting spells, using special abilities or using items.
I was quite worried about how this would work out but at this early stage I can confirm that it works well, and does nothing but liven up the experience. Think of FFXV as the proof of concept, with this being the piece du' resistance.
Should you have other members in your party you can issue them commands to aid you, or most interestingly, take direct control of their unique skillset. For example, enemies sniping you from a perch just outside of your Buster swords reach. Not a problem for my boy Barret.
This situational combat lends another level of combat strategy to the hectic pace that is super enjoyable!
I honestly can’t wait to have a full party to switch between when the full release drops.
The Classic mode mentioned above set my heart a flutter when I saw it in the menu. “Wait they did it!?” I exclaimed from my couch, PS4 pad locked between my pajamaed knees. Unfortunately, no, no they did not do it.
Classic mode does not suddenly turn this into a beautifully rendered graphics mod for the original game, turn-based combat and all. Instead what it offers is taking away the direct control of the characters and have you sit around as the AI characters slowly build up the ATB meter and only at that time are you tasked to deal out the ATB actions mentioned in the Normal mode breakdown.
I quickly switched back to Normal mode.
And everything nice…
Well if the combat is solid, though I'm sure not for everyone, then what’s left to achieve? Well, the recreation of course.
This demo wears its nostalgia on its sleeve. Moving from scene to scene, it executes with precision and grace a mixture of one to one recreation and additions of scene and character-building elements that I won't spoil for you here.
Now Square Enix have been open that there will be a lot more additions in the full release, so only time will tell if they will be as successful.
The score so far is impeccable. I listen to the FFVII score often when working, as well as revisiting it last year on the Switch, these tunes are never far from my mind. The remake has taken very little liberties here thus far, showing a level of restraint that Square Enix is not normally known for.
For those who simply need to know what this demo covers in its broadest terms, it is the complete Mako 1 mission from the original game. No more. No less.
We’re introduced to the same members of Avalanche, the environmental terrorist group, where we as Cloud are tasked to protect them from incoming enemies as they storm the reactor which is sucking the planets life energy. With the intent to plant a bomb at its core and escape.
If you’ve played the original you know what to expect. If not, then you, my friend, are in for something special. (though I would recommend playing the original first)
Due to the early nature of the segment, we are not introduced to the materia system, nor any of the other systems that start opening up to you as you progress through Midgar.
Once you’ve accomplished your mission and are making your escape, the demo fades to black, teases what’s to come, and then ends.
All in all, about an hour or so, start to finish.
I honestly did not expect to enjoy this half as much as I have.
Square Enix have struggled over the past number of years with recapturing what makes a Final Fantasy special when creating a new entry. See our review on FFXV. However, they’ve really come out the ring swinging on this remake. Treating it with the Marvel’esque nostalgia revamping that is oh so popular at the moment. I say bring it on!
I can only dream how my beloved FFVIII will look in a decade or so when they finally finish this one.
Play this if you like:
Final Fantasy (VII in particular)
Square Enix level production values
Fast paced combat
90's PlayStation culture
All images are taken from the Final Fantasy VII: Remake press kit here
Final Fantasy VII: Remake Trailer here
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