The first level of the loooooong-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake dropped unexpectedly this week. The iconic opening of the game where Cloud, Barret, and a misfit group of eco-terrorists attack the Shinra Mako reactor looks absolutely gorgeous and plays like a dream.
But there’s always a however…
One of the things that really excited me for the remake was the announcement it would have a classic turn-based mode option. That seemed perfect for players like me who are here to relive a seminal gaming experience more than learn a new system. Well, I’ve tried out the classic system and it is at best a classic version of modern RPG battle systems.
The classic version handles evades and blocking for you so that it’s less of a hack and slash, which is pretty good so far and distills the battles down to traditional Final Fantasy mechanics. I should point out, though, that this aspect randomly stopped working for me both times I went through the bomb escape sequence.
On classic mode, basic attacking is automatic like in Xenoblade Chronicles, and the ATB meter fills up to allow you more powerful moves. When you see a fill, you can press X to open the command menu for spells, abilities, and items. The abilities also have a handy shortcut menu using the left shoulder buttons which make play faster and more dynamic. For magic and healing, though, you will have to stop the match yourself with a button press. It will not do it for you.
If you were hoping for something like Dragon Quest XI that adheres strictly to classic battle systems while still utilizing modern camera work to give fights some drama, you’re out of luck. This is more of a hybrid system utilizing the methods of the last three non-MMO Final Fantasy titles. It has the auto-attack methods of XII (with far more limited programmability), the class switch mechanics of XIII (though far less versatile and so far it feels a little useless), and the action RPG approach of XV.
Is it bad? No. It’s actually a lot of fun to play once you get the hang of it. I highly recommend downloading the demo to practice on before you tackle the full game. Boss fights like the Guard Scorpion that require switching targets and hiding behind environmental barriers are somewhat counterintuitive to the classic mode and take some getting used it. I could definitely see how it might be frustrating to someone coming from, say, Octopath Traveler, expecting to slip right into a similar playstyle.
The good news is that Final Fantasy VII Remake is living up to all its hype, which is a considerable accomplishment since few games have ever been hyped like this. The characters and environments are the way we always imagined them actually being way back in the PS1 days. That said, Triple A-gaming has evolved and this classic has evolved with it. The classic mode is certainly a godsend for the filthy casual and the nostalgia gamer, but it will still stretch your muscles considerably until you warm up to it.
Final Fantasy VII Remake’s demo is available now in the PlayStation Store.