Today marks the day that the Final Fantasy 7 Remake was originally due to hit the shelves. While many fans will be disappointed that the full title has been delayed until April 10th, Square Enix have released a free playable demo, available for download now on the PSN store. So does the remake demo live up to the original? Feel free to read on to find out.

Final Fantasy 7 was the first Final Fantasy game I played and was my first RPG love. I devoted hundreds of hours to it and completed it several times over. However, whether the remake demo lives up to the original, is really dependent on what you want out of it. For me, a remake is a fully updated version of a classic game which nevertheless preserves the character and spirit of the original title. If the demo is anything to go by then the Final Fantasy 7 remake is set to excel. The graphics are, as expected of Square Enix, stunning. The storyline, setting and characters remain faithful to the original. Even the voice cast seems to perfectly fit the voices of the characters as I imagined them, as the original had no voice acting.

Where it does differ, which may prove divisive to the fan base, is in terms of gameplay. Gone is the turn based system and in its place is an action RPG style of real time attack, block and dodge based combat. While the original ATB system has been preserved in a limited fashion to make sure you can’t just fire off spell after spell or trigger endless limited breaks, it still differs drastically from the original. But what about the promised classic mode, I hear you say? Well, it’s not that classic. It doesn’t turn the game back into the classic turn based system, as some might hope. Instead, it just creates a hybrid by automating the party characters basic attack and defence, freeing the player up to micro manage the spells and abilities.

The classic control setting reminds me very much of the Final Fantasy 12 control system. Having fully automated your party, you could just lead them to the enemies then sit back and have a cup of tea as they carried out the battle themselves almost completely unaided. The difference is that Final Fantasy 12 was build for that kind of automation. Unless you were over levelled, battles still had plenty of challenge. The AI just wasn’t able to cope with the advanced tactics require to clear, particularly boss fights, unassisted. Unfortunately, it seems the Final Fantasy 7 remake wasn’t designed for the classic system. In activating the classic controls, you are forced into playing the game in easy mode, causing enemies to deal less damage and die faster. With the characters also attacking and reacting to boss strategies remotely, classic mode just feels like a super easy mode, with all the challenge taken out of it. It’s hard to see how this is going to sit well with veteran players wanting a classic experience.

However, unless you are a Final Fantasy 7 purest, then the news is good. The action RPG battle system of the remake might differ drastically from the original but, at least to me, it is every bit as fun and engaging as the original was. It feels smooth and fluid and still incorporates a menu system to access items, abilities and spells which allows the new, modern feeling combat system to retain a familiar flavour of the original. I, personally, love the new action combat style. It brings the title fully up to date and will certainly win fans in the new generation of gamers, too young to have enjoyed the original. However, how well it will go over with fans of the original remains to be seen.

If you want to give the demo a try then it can be downloaded for free on the PSN store and will take between 30 minutes and an hour to complete depending on what difficulty level you choose.