When I first tried the demo of Final Fantasy VII Remake (here Kristian’s analysis), my feelings were contradictory. On the one hand, the game looked wonderful, the recreation of those first bars of the original work, both visually and in music, was sublime.
The return of the myth
What the imagination did in 1997 to fill the different structural gaps left by the polygonal graphics, now became a show of modeling that moved with great grace. But then the combat came.
It was already known that this game was going to drift towards direct action, similar to what was experienced in the Kingdom Hearts saga or in the last Final Fantasy XV. For many, this element damaged the essence of the original work and made this remake lose integers due to the alteration in the central gameplay. Without considering myself a purist (at least from this particular video game) the experience at that time was quite scarce. Nothing that I did not expect since there were (and there are) many things that did not convince me of this title even in the output format, with that idea of touring Midgar for 30 hours to continue the story in future installments.
Clouded by prejudice
My problem with combat was mainly based on the simplification it represented, not because of taking turns away from the system, but because of the extreme superiority it gave the player, who hardly had to manage any resources. Upon reaching the final combat, the sensations improved, but he still did not understand the behavior of the attacks, hitting certain hitboxes that did not fit with the movement of the avatar. In short, although the demo had a superb audiovisual aspect, handling such simple mechanics and with such disparate effects for so many hours was not something that excited me.
The final version had to come to make me see how wrong I was. The anguish caused by the duration of the game together with that combat system ended up becoming a discovery that made me want to return every time I stopped playing. So to speak, who has seen me and who sees me now. Now comes the important statement: Final Fantasy VII Remake It has one of the best combat systems I have ever experienced in my entire life as a player. It is something quite stupid, I know, but after analyzing and returning to those works that left such good feelings in the confrontation mechanics, the depth of this system ends up taking on a very interesting look. So much so that it even achieves something extremely unusual regarding the work of its creator, Tetsuya Nomura: it redeems him.
From Kingdom Hearts to a musical
Nomura has a long history in Squaresoft first and later in Square Enix. Focused mainly on character design, the Kingdom Hearts saga elevated him as one of the most relevant figures in the Japanese role. A peculiar video game in which the Disney characters were united with the heroes of the Final Fantasy saga to guide the chosen one of the Keyblade in the search for his friends and save the world. Hearts, light and darkness are a constant in this saga that already spans too many installments.
With this reputation, Nomura would take on one of Square Enix’s most ambitious projects with the Fabula Nova Crystallis saga, a universe of its own within Final Fantasy that would develop from different works. The Final Fantasy XIII presentation was followed by a kind of antagonist named Final Fantasy versus XIII, directed by Tetsuya Nomura within this new universe. The development had numerous problems, from the development of the joint engine to that of the video game that made 4 years after the announcement was still at 20% to ignorance of the initial idea, which even led to a musical.
Finally, the project passed into the hands of Hajime Tabata, while Nomura focused on Kingdom Hearts 3 and the Final Fantasy VII remake. Time was short on Square Enix, so Tabata practically finished settling the pending issues in the title to be able to launch it to the market and expand it from additional content that completed the story. So much of Final Fantasy XV is actually Nomura’s Final Fantasy versus XIII.
The “realistic” setting of a dark world, where technology proliferates alongside magic, was part of the Kingdom Hearts director’s imagination, as well as combat. Nomura reviewed many wild action games to introduce them to his conception of the role, making the combat look spectacular from various options. The end result was not entirely satisfactory but, like Kingdom Hearts 3, it would end up influencing what would be the system of Final Fantasy VII Remake.
A remake with much more than expected
Although at first it may seem just the opposite, this adaptation takes several elements from the original. One of them is the characteristic concept of the subjects that provide magical abilities to the characters, as well as different combinations that allow improving the abilities of the weapons or the characters. As they are used and the characters level up, the materials improve and the effects increase. It is true that they are now more accessible in their use, since they do not subtract at any time the effects of the character as if it happened in the original, which forced to manage these resources among the different allies to achieve an optimal level.
Likewise, although the system is direct and fluid, allowing the passage from one interaction to another with natural movement, there is a very characteristic element that alters the immediacy of the confrontation. The bars of BTC (Battle Time Combat) allow, once filled, the player can perform an alternative action to direct hits, such as magic, abilities, limits, objects … This is not only restricted to the controlled character, but also allows a series of variables in the same combat, intercalating between the different partners to perform their own skills together. These bars are recharged over time, speeding up with the blows made by the player.
In short, to use the most powerful resources, a bar is used that simulates the turns of the original game. Nomura and his team have explained that this system has required various adjustments to achieve a balance that permeates throughout the work and even goes uphill.
Learning a problem path
Of course, this last comment is quite remarkable in the development of the work. As already mentioned, Nomura has extensive experience in the direct combat system. However, his last two works prior to this remake left a lot to be desired in this regard. Both Kingdom Hearts 3 and his work in Final Fantasy XV were committed to great audiovisual spectacularity, but the gameplay as well as his kinetics left a lot to be desired. However, once the Final Fantasy VII Remake system has been treated, there are different elements of the previous video games that have allowed us to substantially improve this work. In this way, it could be verified that the ideas were present although their final resolution has now arrived.
Starting with Final Fantasy XV, the contribution made in the combat design for versus XIII already introduced the parrys and the limitations of the invocations that we can see in the remake. The first element brought gameplay closer to constant action, alternating between attack and defense fluidly. In theory it was very promising, but in practice the result left a lot to be desired. The interaction in Final Fantasy XV was not very effective and when it was, his response was not at all satisfactory, even less when it was done from a cinematic with the invocations.
For its part, the remake of Final Fantasy VII is much closer to what could be proposed as Sekiro’s, where the naturalness of the action is due more to the response of the player than to the sample of the button on the same screen. The response is also much more satisfactory, causing a succession of attacks and limiting kinematic interactions.
Likewise, another of the player’s possibilities is the combinations between characters, something that takes place in both video games, but which has considerable differences. While in Final Fantasy XV these interactions are carried out from the management of Noctis, altering the action of artificial intelligence that manages the partner to perform an automatic sequence in which the player only has to press a button to end the combo, in the remake the actions happen constantly, alternating between the defense and the attack in the same order of the player.
Regarding the use of invocations, I still have very different considerations. It was a resource that I did not understand mechanically in the fifteenth installment, beyond the classic appearance of the saga. In Final Fantasy VII Remake, his participation is still problematic, subject to the moments that the game considers appropriate, and although he has a greater assiduity and is even somewhat more organic with respect to combat, it is still an element of difficult consideration.
In balance is virtue
The frequency of the invocations perhaps has to do with what the remake of Final Fantasy VII of Kingdom Hearts 3 learns. The final installment (for now) of the Keyblade saga was widely criticized for the amount of resources it gave the player for confrontations. Versatility of movement, combos that could be improved, magic, fusions and, above all, combinations with the companions that did not suppose any cost for the player. These interactions were happening, resembling the limits of the second installment and somewhat in tune with the previously discussed combinations of Final Fantasy XV.
However, in Kingdom Hearts 2 using a limit meant spending the entire magic bar, so if you needed to heal later you would have to wait until it was filled. For its part, in the fifteenth installment it resembled the BTC of the remake having to wait until it was complete to be able to carry out interactions.
As we have seen before, Final Fantasy VII Remake It also provides a lot of possibilities for the player to undertake the confrontations. At first it could be said that, as in Kingdom Hearts 3, they are too many but the reality is that, little by little, the system is giving rise to a very satisfactory balance. The limitations in the use of skills make it necessary to switch between them so that the BTC bar is filled before, giving rise to combinations on the combat style. Therefore, these possibilities are subject to the player’s activity and understanding of the system, having to participate in the achievement of these skills during the frenzy of battle.
All this learning and / or adjustment about these works is very present in the final bosses, moments in which the combat system shines with force. To begin, they are the verification of the handling of characters and their virtues. The player’s style gives way to adaptation on the boss in question, which can vary depending on the phase he is in. Different aspects are intermingled: the changing weaknesses of the final enemy, the abilities and / or magic that each character possesses, the blocks to minimize the damage or even the parrys carried out by Cloud. Again we almost go back to Sekiro, since in various battles, the goal is not so much to damage the boss’s vitality bar but his vulnerability.
This will allow you to alternate between combat phases until you get to the end of the fight. Various systems are intertwined and remain in the hands of the player’s management to overcome the challenge. The game makes clear the abilities you possess at all times, their limitations, and how to enhance them in combat, so that bosses serve as a constant test in which you need to readjust approaches.
Not all that glitters is gold
Although there are many praises that I am demonstrating towards this combat system, it is not perfect at all. All the abilities and alternations that the use of abilities possesses can be destroyed the moment they are interrupted (and they are not few). It is an extremely annoying feature to which hitboxes so unfair and irregular join in according to what moments, trying to simulate the turn-based system in which an attack by the enemy hits the target. This ends up making sense of the elusive, considerably coarse and that could have learned much more from its use in Kingdom Hearts. However, the overall image is still very satisfactory, giving the feeling of greater complexity and placing the player in strategic thinking from the constant activity of combat.
It remains to be seen how this translates into future installments of the remake regarding the addition of new characters. In the encounter with Red XIII, the game does not allow its use, a very questionable design decision and with difficult justification. It would be possible to think that in the coming sequels, the player’s decision in the characters will be greater, being able to edit the group as they wish in the original way. It is curious to see how this video game limits the exploration of the stage, an issue that at first could have been the main attraction of the work to later leave more maneuverability in the combat system. In the end it will turn out that even Nomura is a great creator, and that I have not talked about history. These video games …