While we took a recent look at Final Fantasy VII Remake back at E3, we couldn’t turn down another chance to return to Midgar as the studio brought the game to Gamescom this week
And we’re glad we did: a replay of the game demo solidified how thrilling the reimagined combat is (you can read more about that right here). Add in an overview of the game by producer Yoshinori Kitase and we have a stack of new observations to share.
So, if you’re anticipating the return of Cloud Strife and co. as much as we are, read on.
1. The interplay between Cloud and Barrett is glorious
The original’s opening mission established the fractious relationship between Barret, leader of the Avalanche resistance group, and Cloud, a former SOLDIER and now Avalanche’s merc-for-hire, via a few lines of dialogue.
The exchanges are also surprisingly funny, with Cloud’s cold disinterest playing off Barrett’s bristling anger perfectly. It’s a double-act we’re eager to see more of.
2. Avalanche is getting an overhaul as well
Jessie, Biggs and Wedge round out Avalanche’s troops during the bombing mission. They also get more dialogue and exchanges during the infiltration, helping flesh-out their personalities. (Side-note: Incidental dialogue pops up on the left of the screen if you happen to be out of earshot). Even when chatter is at a minimum, facial expressions and body language on the realistic new character models speak volumes.
3. You’ll experience unseen moments in the mission for the first time
Remake’s embellishment of the original take isn’t restricted to story. During his presentation, Kitase-san explained how certain sequences of Avalanche’s mission were implied rather than shown in the original. Those moments – such as the group cutting through a fenced-off area during their infiltration – are now included. It gives more substance to both the mission and adds detail to the city’s layout.
4. Midgar looks and feels like a living, breathing city
Midgar’s PS4 makeover is something to behold. Be it jaw-dropping vistas like the sprawling, towering cityscape reflected in a train platform window, or the small stuff, such as the bright yellow hazard tape marking out floored cabling in construction sites: the level of detail is stunning. Every exposed brick and piece of scaffolding tells of the city’s history.
5. This is how you PR in Midgar
Prior to our hands-on, we sat through a video primer built specifically to familiarise us with the new combat mechanics. The decision to make this play out in-world is cute, especially as it allowed us a glimpse at Shinra’s marketing, with the company’s video promo showcasing a Midgar with clean streets and blue skies – before it was taken over by Avalanche’s hacker Jessie, who feeds you the tutorial while Shinra tries to shut down her hijack of their feed.
6. Not all Mako Reactors are built the same
One would assume uniformity in Shinra Reactor interior design, given Midgar is powered by the eight stations of equal size and shape which ring the city. Not so, as one new nugget of world-building explains in Remake. Responding to Barret’s exasperation at not knowing his way around – given it was one reason why he was hired by Avalanche – Cloud comments that every reactor has a different build. At least he’s earning his pay with a strong sword arm.
7. Cloud’s got two versions of his standard slash…
Attacking enemies with the Square button speeds up your ATB charge meter. It’s a race to fill the bar quickly to get access to your special abilities. But there’s also a more powerful version of the standard sword attack, which grants a bigger boost to your ATB if it lands, by holding the Square button for a few seconds.
8. …and a unique Ability that deals out more damage
On top of normal abilities and magic, every character has a unique ability, selectable with Triangle. With Cloud for example, it switches him from Operator to Punisher mode, a more aggressive, more powerful attack style with a longer reach. The trade-off? You’re much slower.
9. Cloud smash, Cloud get reward
Yes, treasure chests remain, though they’ve been redesigned to keep more in line with Midgar’s unique aesthetic. There are also Shinra crates and barrels dotted around most areas. Reap a reward from this carelessness by smashing them with your Buster Sword – most contain useful items.
10. Your Materia, so shiny
In Final Fantasy VII, holes in clothing and weapons are a design decision, not a sign of poor craftsmanship. These slots allow you to equip Materia – mystic stones that grant you magical abilities. Every type has a different colour and they’re no longer relegated to a menu: you’ll notice a prick of colour on your character where the Materia is placed. Look close enough and you’ll see them glow with an inner light.
11. The glow of battle
As we said, it’s the small touches that really hammer home the level of polish Square-Enix is putting into Remake. Barret’s attacks are all long-ranged and built around his gun-arm. Hold Square for a continuous unloading of ordnance at whatever enemy he’s targeting. If you look closely at the tip of his gun barrel when you cease, you’ll notice an orange glow that’ll diminish as his gun cools down.