'Final Fantasy VII' Remake E3 Hands-On: Cloud Has Never Looked So Good

Square Enix recently announced one of the most highly-anticipated remakes in gaming history: Final Fantasy 7. The title reworks the tried and true turn-based combat for a more action-oriented experience that still requires tactical preparation.

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Square Enix

The game was playable at E3 2019, where I am currently hiding in the press room. I am not a Final Fantasy fan and know very little about the franchise, other than it seems to involve a lot of dudes with pretty hair driving cars. Also chocobos are adorable and Blitzball exists.

Going at the demo without any prior knowledge of the game, I can see why FF7 has held such strong appeal for fans for the better part of two decades. Only Cloud and Barrett were available to play in the demo, allowing you to slash with Cloud's sword or auto attack with Barrett's gun arm. The only games I've played that featured Cloud were Super Smash Bros and Kingdom Hearts, so this is the first time I'm really seeing how the character should look. With his signature spiky hair and comically large sword, you really believe that he's a scrappy freedom fighter looking to survive in an insane world.

The demo took place in a themed room on the E3 show floor, made to look like a train station in Midgar, complete with a schedule and posters for the Shinra Electric Company. Inside, Tifa taught us the basic rules of gameplay: swinging square to auto attack and X to enter a menu that slows down time. There you can spend your ATB charges, which refill from dealing damage or waiting for a given period of time. ATB charges let you do special attacks, like Barrett's Shell Skin that increases his toughness, or casting Magic to attack with fireballs or thunder. Taking damage will allow each character to enter their Limit Break mode, performing a massive attack that deals a lot of damage.

The combat feels smooth, with menu actions keeping combat from being overwhelming. I loved destroying security robots, switching between Cloud and Barrett to defeat foes.

The playable mission had Cloud and Barrett heading to a Shinra facility to place a bomb at the reactor core. Things quickly spiral out of control and you have to fight a miniboss to escape. The giant robotic scorpion with a large collection of missiles hiding in his chest was a challenge to defeat, forcing me to spam Cure over and over. After three mode changes, shields and a Limit Break, I was able to take him down.

Overall, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has a lot of potential. If it can manage to captivate audiences with its story and recapture the excitement of the original without getting lost in the details, it could be one of the finest JRPGs of the decade.