Final Fantasy 7 launched for the original PlayStation over two decades ago, and continues to be regarded as one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. It introduced the genre and series to millions of new players worldwide, and continues to cast a long shadow over the franchise.
At E3 2019, we finally received a release date and plentiful new gameplay details for Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and it’s even better than we could’ve imagined. Tifa was revealed alongside the battle system and more areas of the reimagined Midgar. We also had a chance to play it, and you can read our thoughts on the Scorpion Sentinel encounter below.
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Trusted Reviews has compiled everything you need to know about Final Fantasy 7 Remake including all the latest news, release date, gameplay preview, trailers and more.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake trailers – How does it look?
You can watch the latest trailer from E3 2019 below. Get ready for goosebumps.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake release date – When is it coming out?
Square Enix has confirmed that Final Fantasy 7 Remake will launch exclusively for PS4 on March 3, 2020 in both physical and digital form.
Given it will be an episodic venture, Square Enix has said that future entries might come to PS5, or even act as a cross-generational release across both platforms. The publisher has already doubled down on confirming that Final Fantasy 7 Remake is only coming to PS4: “As previously announced, Final Fantasy VII Remake will be released for the PlayStation 4 on March 3rd 2020. We have no plans for other platforms.”
Final Fantasy 7 Remake gameplay preview – Hands-on impressions from E3 2019
I’d be lying if I said nostalgic emotion wasn’t coursing through me when Square Enix finally showcased Final Fantasy 7 Remake at E3 2019. As a child, the Japanese role-playing game defined who I ended up becoming as a person, curating how my tastes in games, films, music and goodness knows what else would develop. Judging by the rapturous applause that tore through every second of the reveal, I’m definitely not alone in this.
Final Fantasy 7 remains a cornerstone in the history of JRPGs, penetrating the West like the genre never had before, and the legacy it has left behind is nothing but extravagant. So, it begs the question, why such a seminal experience needs remaking in the first place? I was sceptical, and continue to be, but after going hands-on with Tetsuya Nomura and Yoshinori Kitase’s new vision, FF7 Remake could be something quite special indeed.
My time with Final Fantasy 7 Remake began with a short presentation helmed by the game’s producer – Yoshinori Kitase. He walked us through the basic setup of the remake’s first chapter, which will take place entirely in the city of Midgar. This is only a small slice of the original game, although everything we know has been reshaped while still adhering to the 1997 vision.
Locations such as the Sector 1 Reactor and Shinra Headquarters have been expanded dramatically to accommodate both exploration and combat, which is a hybrid of turn-based and real-time mechanics. Conversations involving familiar faces, including Cloud Strife, Barret Wallace, Jessie and Biggs, felt far more substantial. Little pockets of small talk make their personalities burst to life like never before. Plus, this is the first time we’re hearing many of the characters with voice-acting in any medium.
I remember the original’s opening like the back of my hand, intently scrutinising every little detail that felt out of place. I tried pretty hard, but simply couldn’t find anything to fault. Everything, even the greenish hue that punctuates the streets of Midgar, has been reimagined with such finesse it’s almost hysterical. Square Enix told me they’re treating this with the same seriousness as would with a mainline Final Fantasy project, explaining the mind-blowing level of quality on display.
Instead of pursuing the open-ended structure of what inspired it, Final Fantasy 7 Remake will take place across multiple chapters, although I assume you’ll be free to explore and befriend characters in major towns just as before. I have many unanswered questions, including when the remake’s first chapter will conclude, and how many chapters it will even have. It turns out, Square Enix doesn’t know those answers yet, a telltale sign of the project’s colossal scope.
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The presentation walked us through the Sector 1 terrorist attack by AVALANCHE, beginning when Cloud leaps off the train in iconic fashion. Don’t judge me, but I definitely got goosebumps. Seeing moments I’m so familiar with presented differently with enhanced music, animations and just about everything else, is quite special. From here things progress like they did in the original. Cloud and Barret bicker, the former insisting he’s only in for the money as his planet continues to die around him.
Despite its familiarity, it’s a pleasure to relive these events, and knowing a whole new generation might encounter them is an exciting prospect. Soon after we’re off the train, Kitase-san begins running through the combat system. At first glance, it’s very similar to Kingdom Hearts, as you mash a singular button for attacks while selecting from a list of abilities and skills in the bottom-hand corner of the screen.
That is, until you activate the ATB Gauge (Active Time Battle). This freezes action to a bullet time-esque crawl, giving you ample time to select your next command. Kitase tells us that this effectively appeals to both newcomers and JRPG veterans with a soft spot for turn-based mechanics, blending the two together to create a unique combination the genre hasn’t seen before. Battles can get hectic, so knowing you can take an immediate breather to assess your surroundings is more than welcome.
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Your ATB Gauge consists of two slots, which are charged up passively or through dealing damage to enemies. They build up pretty quickly, so I constantly found myself pulling off skills without worry. However, you’ll also need to sacrifice an ATB point to use healing items, creating a nifty balancing attack of offensive and defensive play.
It’s not all about wailing on Shinra soldiers until you emerge victorious, you need to consider your actions or inevitably face defeat. Tactics expand one Barret joins your party, with the character you control changing with the touch of a button. The rowdy resistance leader uses his hand-mounted gun to attack those Cloud can’t reach, such as robotic droids mounted on walls or boss characters who leap onto the ceiling out of harm’s way.
Trailers have shown that parties can consist of three characters during combat, and I can’t wait to see a healthy mixture of archetypes doing battle alongside one another. The remastered roster’s outfits and visual quirks have also been updated to reflect modern technology and an approach to realism, but they still exude the same vibes from 22 years ago. Tifa is arguably the most badass female character in gaming history, and I adore her redesign.
After guiding us through the fairly obvious functions of health bars and treasure boxes, the demo concludes at a staircase. “Down here waits a dangerous and very familiar enemy.” Kitase-san warns us, foreshadowing the hands-on demo that awaits. He’s talking about the Scorpion Sentinel, who happens to be guarding the reactor we’re planning to blow into oblivion. Cloud and friends are terrorists, but the good kind.
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The hands-on demo begins at the top of the Sector 1 Reactor as Cloud begins descending down a number of ladders and platforms to reach the central console below. Guards patrol the route below, offering the perfect chance to try out combat. None of the standard foes I faced were very challenging, going down with a few well time strikes and liberal use of elemental spells.
I felt that the walkways I danced along were a little too tight, and the camera was drawn in close enough that maneuvering Cloud and Barret amidst the environment became finicky. It wasn’t game-breaking, but an option to draw out the camera for a greater view of my surroundings would’ve been lovely. To be honest, I’d be surprised if such accessibility doesn’t surface in the full game.
After climbing down some absurdly long ladders I finally reach the site, with Cloud preparing to plant the bomb that Barret thrusts his way. It’s never that easy, as Cloud begins to have a vision that almost definitely concerns Sephiroth. Traumatised past aside, our depressive hero doesn’t have time to dwell as the Scorpion Sentinel drops in from below, tail drawn and ready to sting.
What was once a simplistic turn-based affair with snippets of dialogue has been transformed into an extravagant set-piece. The Sentinel leaps about the reactor innards freely, raining missiles down around me while scurrying across the reactor walls, desperate to avoid damage. This is where the Stagger System comes into play. Use specific abilities against enemies and they’ll eventually be extra vulnerable to punishment, speeding up boss battles before things get too hairy.
It’s a cool mechanic, and comes into play during tougher battles. I was constantly switching to Barret to use lightning spells, eventually building up my Limit Break – legendary moves which make a welcome return here. They take a while to build up, but provide such a satisfying mixture of damage and spectacle, they’re so worth the wait.
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In its later stages, the Sentinel adopted a shield, angrily stomping about before unleashing a lethal attack. Luckily, all the ruckus freed some rubble from the ceiling, acting as the perfect cover. I rushed behind it, using the environment to my advantage, before finding a window of attack. Given that this is the first boss battle, it doesn’t hold back in presenting a worthwhile challenge. If I hadn’t stayed on top of healing items, I would’ve be doomed.
Once the battle is over, my brief time with Final Fantasy 7 Remake concludes, and I’m itching for more. If Tetsuya Nomura’s vision for the remainder of this project equals the ambition I’ve seen, it could be one of the series’ greatest entries yet.
It’s far more than a simple remaster. Instead, Square Enix has transformed the 1997 experience into a much more complicated affair that takes full advantage of modern technology. Characters have more emotive layers, while locations spread out in countless directions, making them at times unrecognisable.
A few short years ago a Final Fantasy 7 Remake felt like a distant pipedream, but now I’ve had it in my hands, I can’t wait for more – and it’s less than a year away. I try not to fall victim to nostalgia, but I feel Final Fantasy 7 Remake is pursuing far more than that.
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