Ahead of a spiffy new trailer for the Final Fantasy 7 remake, the Square Enix E3 2019 show featured a much-needed deep-dive on the game's combat system, which is quite different from the turn-based original. As senior product marketing manager Neal Pabon explained on stage (skip to 22 minutes above), the Final Fantasy 7 remake combat system is a mix of the real-time action seen in Final Fantasy 15 and the turn-based style of old, and it's held together with a - potentially quite fun - pseudo-pause system.
Cloud can attack, dodge, and block in real-time, and as you deal damage, you'll build ATB energy. Once you fill one of your two ATB bars (displayed in the bottom right below your health), you can enter "tactical mode, where time slows to a crawl and you have the opportunity to choose options from the command menu," Pabon said. The command menu options are, as expected: Abilities, Spells, and Items.
We saw Cloud's Braver ability at the start of the demonstration, but using an item like a health potion will also use an ATB charge. "If Cloud has the right Materia equipped and enough MP, he can use ATB charges to cast spells," Pabon added.
Barret also made an appearance in the combat demo, with Square Enix showing off his ranged basic attack and abilities like Steelskin. You can swap between party members with one button, and the process of pausing combat with an ATB, launching a special attack, and instantly swapping to another party member as that special attack goes off looked pretty fast. Characters will automatically attack and build ATB energy when you aren't in control of them, but they'll never spend ATB points on their own, so you'll also be able to juggle characters to make sure ATB doesn't go to waste.
If you're more of an action fan and don't really care about all that turn-based nonsense, you can override the ATB system entirely and assign skills to instant shortcuts. You'll still spend an ATB point, but time won't slow down when you use special attacks. Hybrid real-time, turn-based combat systems often struggle to marry the two, but I have to admit, this does sound pretty fun.