There are a lot of things from 1997 that haven't stood the test of time. Alien Resurrection, the song Mmmbop, Teen Angel, my crush on Leonardo Di Caprio, but the new Final Fantasy 7 Remake (opens in new tab) stands up to its modern rivals and then some. We've all seen the newly polished cinematics, but it's hands-on that the remastered JRPG really proves it has more to offer than rose-tinted memories alone.
A remake of a classic like this needs to do more than just shrink a few cup sizes and add some extra pixels. It needs to walk a fine line between bringing the game to a new audience and keeping old-timers happy. On top of all that, it needs to feel good.
I'm here to say that, at least in the hands-on I got on the E3 show floor, it does. The combat has had a complete upgrade, and where better to test it out than in a mission where Cloud and Barret have to fight their way through a Mako reactor before taking on a robo-scorpion boss?
Thankfully, the remake has gone with a more modern 'twatting things with a massive sword' style of combat that feels much more in line with recent installments of the Final Fantasy series, albeit with a little bit of menu mechanics to give you the control you need over companions and special moves. Think of it as a hybrid of the old turn-based battles and newer, more real-time systems, regular attacks build your ATB – Active Time Battle – meter, so you can then dip into a menu to deploy a special move or spell. It feels more tactical than just hitting things endlessly but doesn't slow down the combat to the old turn-based pace of play.
Swapping between Cloud and Barret – whose ranged attack was vital when my new scorpion nemesis started scampering up walls – felt smooth and easy. There's was none of the panicked scrambling I remember feeling when faced with my first ever JRPG and all of Final Fantasy 7's combat option back when I was a baby gamer. I'm sure there'll be a few old men that will take a break from shouting at the weather to moan about how the game was better in the old days, but I love new Final Fantasy 7 Remake's take on battles.
Yes, one battle is just a tiny slice of what we can expect from the reboot, but it was a promising one. As producer Yoshinori Kitase pitched us the vision for Final Fantasy 7 Remake – through a translator – he explained how the team had approached this ambitious project. "Our goal is to remake this genre-defining RPG for a new era. Not to make a straight one-to-one copy or remaster – something deeper than that."
That's clear in the approach to the game, which will split the action of the original PlayStation release across a number of PS4 games. The first game will focus completely on Midgar. "This approach allows us to remake the original without having to scale anything back or remove anything the fans loved about the original," he said.
"For the original core members recreating the game with new graphics wouldn’t have been enough to get them excited in the project, so they wanted to go beyond it."
Between this battle, the new character designs, and those sweeping shots of Midgar that make my nostalgia glands pump twice as hard, it feels like I might love Final Fantasy 7 Remake even more than Leonardo Di Caprio on a sinking boat.
The first chapter of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be released on March 3, 2020.