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Final Fantasy VII Remake’s new combat and letting go of ATB as we knew it By Tony Garsow on March 25, 2016 at 1:18 AM

The original Final Fantasy VII seems to get guff for being the most dated of the PlayStation-era trio, and that sentiment isn’t without merit. Side by side, VII and Squaresoft’s late-gen offerings like Final Fantasy IX and Chrono Cross look like they come from different eras – like Sony had secretly snuck a PlayStation 1.5 somewhere in there. In actuality, the leap came from the company’s eventual mastery of developing for the hardware – creating some of the most impressive looking games in their class.

This is a big reason why Final Fantasy VII Remake is intriguing to me – it’ll be the largest visual leap discounting all of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII entries we got in the last decade. How will Midgar’s sense of foreboding and oppression be translated when the camera isn’t in a predominantly top-down view? Will the creation of high-fidelity art assets determine how the game is divided into parts? If so – how would that impact the world design and the narrative through it? How will enemy and encounter design be preserved (if at all) now that there is a unified 3D space?

Phew.

There’s a lot to think about, and it’s going to be cool to watch it all come together. In the meantime, we’re left to stew and speculate, as any Square fan knows too well.

Today, let’s focus on one thing – the battle system.

Yeah, it’s all different-like, isn’t it?

I’ve seen the comments that bemoan the loss of the classic turn-based style. Well, at least how it looks. Eschew the image of black screens transitioning to a camera panning down to characters standing in static positions. They fire off a handful of canned animations that may include basic magic spells or elaborate, lengthy summon sequences. Maybe it’s not the best idea for a modern-style remake… whatever “modern” means these days.

After all, what’s the point of remaking a game if you’re just upgrading the assets. Wouldn’t “remaster” be more appropriate? This is the idea the team is trying to get across in the messages they’ve shared thusfar, including the voiceover in the original game’s trailer. This is the real deal.9b236c54f02d69a6404125e72b301132

I’ll grant it to you – we don’t know everything about Final Fantasy VII Remake’s battle system. The most recent trailer uses quick cuts of attacks going off – appropriately conveying a sense of action. The short glimpses of the early HUD allow us to glean a few things, but the details remain esoteric. Does the ATB gauge function like an overheat meter for abilities like in all those shootbang games? Will that prompt you to switch to other characters in your battle party? That’s my impression. Who knows if that’s how it’ll end up.

What interests me the most is the potential of having these characters move and battle in a singular 3D environment. I know, it doesn’t sound very romantic, but there’s a lot to consider here. Since characters won’t be limited to standing in static positions, they’ll need to be “moved” by the player.

When it comes to combat, everyone in the original Final Fantasy VII can fulfill every role with the materia system. The only major ability set that visually differentiates each character is their personal catalogue of limit breaks. There’s no need to consider how each character moves or acts based on their bodies or weapons as everything plays out in turns.

9b236c54f02d69a6404125e72b301132Why’s that so important? Well, will Tifa move the same way Vincent does considering she’s a close-range brawler and he’s a long-range gunner? Will Red XIII move at the same speed as his human friends? How about Cait Sith? How the hell is Cait Sith going to work? In pondering all this, we can glimpse the potential for the battle system to bring to life these attributes that weren’t able to manifest in the original game’s battle system. More of these animations and emotes, once as simple as rotating a limb on a simple model, will serve further distinguish each character. It’s even more interesting when you apply this to some of the quirky enemy designs that Final Fantasy VII is known for.

Considering that we’ll be controlling nine potential protagonists, that leaves a lot to the imagination regarding how each character will play. Every good story has to have good characters to deliver it. If Final Fantasy VII Remake’s battle system can add further potency to the immersion of playing as these characters, then I think we have good reason to anticipate it.

How about you? What would you like to see out of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s combat? What should be retained? What should be re-thought? How do you think it’s going to work? Leave us your profound ideas with a comment below.

Final Fantasy VII Remake has been announced for PlayStation 4.

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