Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo Impressions

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Final Fantasy VII was a fine game. I didn’t love it or hate but it didn’t resonate with me like it did for so many other people. I recognize the game’s significance though and I totally understand why there were so many spin-offs and eventually a remake. The Final Fantasy VII Remake demo was very impressive. It’s the most polished Final Fantasy game that I’ve seen since Final Fantasy XIII on the PlayStation 3. There’s a refinement to the presentation that exudes confidence. Based on what I’ve played in the demo, I think that confidence was warranted. 

The opening bombing of the Mako Reactor 1 is iconic. I’m certain it’s one of the most memorable and familiar openings in all of JRPGs. I’ve only ever played Final Fantasy VII once and I still remember the major beats of that opening. Fighting Shinra soldiers, running along side Avalanche gang, and wondering why Barrett is so intense; they reinterpreted all of that for 2020 and it holds up. The drama, the dialog, and the mood is decidedly from 1997 but it’s not a shot for shot remake. The characters were expanded upon. They were given more lines of dialog but they still retained their essence which was important. 

The biggest departure was the combat. By default, the combat is action packed with character switching and the ability to cast spells via a menu. It reminded me of Kingdom Hearts. I haven’t played Kingdom Hearts III but I felt Square Enix have made some strides on the action RPG front. I thought it felt good enough but it certainly wasn’t going to stack up to the likes of a Platinum Games’ lead effort like Nier: Automata’s combat. The one knock I have against the default combat is the amount of time it takes to take down an enemy. I was exploiting weaknesses and staggering the Scorpion tank but I felt the fight dragged on for a tad too long. Perhaps those fight times will reduce with practice and familiarity though. 

It was a looker and certainly a step above the likes of Final Fantasy XV. I was equally impressed with the level of performance as well. I didn’t notice any significant drops in framerate and the image was pristine and stable on the PlayStation 4 Pro. It’s certainly one of the most impressive Unreal Engine 4.0 games to date. My only nitpick of a concern are the cutscenes which are not real time and showed noticeable visual artifacts. It’s a lot to ask for realtime cutscenes, so I’m just hoping the final game has higher bitrate videos. 

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the Final Fantasy VII Remake’s demo was. I had no idea what to expect and came away with mostly positive impressions. It’s been a good long while since I played a Final Fantasy game (I still haven’t played FFXV), so what better way to get back into it by revisiting a beloved classic by way of a promising remake? 

Game of the Year 2016 Day 3 of 3

2016 was a hell of a year for games. Long awaited games like The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy XV finally made their debuts. First person shooters received a massive jolt in the arm with the fantastic Doom and invigorating Overwatch. Even long running franchises showed that their respective fourth iterations can be amazing. It was a good year, indeed.

Best Old Game of 2016

Winner: Picross 3D

I had finagle a way to acknowledge the majesty that is Picross 3D. Picross is fine but blow it out into 3D dimensions was a mind expanding moment for me. I wanted to buy Picross 3D Round 2 but seeing how it was $40+ CAD and I didn’t even play the original, I went on Amazon.ca and bought a cart. It’s charming, weird and addictive to boot. The difficulty curve is a bit erratic at times but I feel it’s been fair. I’m playing for the perfect run so I restart any time I make a mistake and chip off the wrong piece.

While I’m technically not done with this game, I feel it’s easily one of the best games I’ve played this year.

 

Best Game of 2016

Winner: Overwatch

It’s my most played game the year but that alone doesn’t warrant the number one spot. It’s also incredibly well designed from top to bottom with its unbelievable ability to entice me into trying new things. Blizzard managed to get me to play a ranked Competitive mode and even convinced me to use online voice chat with strangers on the internet which in itself is a small miracle. 

With a timeless aesthetic and strong free support including seasonal events, costumes, characters and maps, I see myself coming back to Overwatch over and over again.

Runner-ups:

2. Doom – It invokes the Doom games of the past but doesn’t use it as a crutch. The campaign was so tightly designed with systems feeding off other systems, music, story and gorgeous fluid visuals designed for the sole purpose of making me feel like a total badass. 

3. TitanFall 2 – Likely the most complete package of 2016 with both a surprisingly great campaign that invokes Super Mario Galaxy and a multiplayer mode that I thought was a write off after the less than stellar Tech Test. Respawn Entertainment will be supporting the game with free content as well which is a trend that I would love to see continue.

4. The Last Guardian – I love Trico. I wish I could have one as a pet. I don’t own a pet but my patience with Trico is highlighting the fact that I do have the mentality to be a decent owner. All I need is to pet them regularly right?

5. Uncharted 4 – The perfect ending to the adventures of Nathan Drake. If there was a single game that made me feel old and reflect on what I was doing with my life, it was this.

6. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – Some of the most depressing stories ever told in an JRPG were found in this epic. You can say it was needlessly long at times and they could have trimmed the fat but the long winding journey was essential to create attachment to characters.

7. Inside – It may not have been as impactful as Limbo but Playdead still knows how to unsettle people with the simple gestures and actions.

8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided– Iffy performance in the hub world didn’t prevent me from rummaging through other people’s personal belongings, read their e-mails and hack their wall safes. It’s more of Human Revolution than I expected but more of a good thing isn’t bad. 

9. The Division – End game issues stopped my brother and I from returning to The Division but for a very brief couple of months, The Division’s loot driven brand of third person shooting kept my brother and I coming back everyday to do our “dailies”.

10. Gears of War 4 – It’s been years since Gears of War 3 – both in-game and out of it. Creating a likeable cast of new comers isn’t easy but The Coalition managed to package them and the classic Gears of War formula into a game that still plays in 2016. I look forward to the “dark middle” chapter and hope they’ve learned to run around like normal people by then.

Checkpoint: Fitbit Charge 2 Edition

I switched to the Fibit Charge 2 today leaving the Garmin Vivosmart HR behind. I liked the Vivosmart HR for what it was but there are aspects of the Fitbit Charge 2 which I appreciate more. 

The Hardware

The band itself is smaller, thinner and lighter than the Vivosmart HR. It is wider but additional width is fine. It’s not my ideal thickness yet — it can afford to lose half a centimetre — but it’s close. 

While the smaller physical dimensions are quantitative positives, the touch of silver metal finishes gives the band a qualitative edge over the Garmin. The ability to swap bands gives the Fitbit an additional fashion bonus as well which is a very nice touch. 

I will miss the Vivosmart’s touchscreen which recognized swipes and gentle taps. The Fibit’s touchscreen requires more force to activate and doesn’t recognize swipes whatsoever which means I have to repeatedly tap to cycle around the various types of info available. 

The Software

The inner beauty of Fibit’s bands is ultimately why I decided to switch. The Charge 2 cannot review e-mail notifications or the weather like the Vivosmart HR but it does present the basic info very well. But the clear and decisive superiority is the manner in which they display info in their app, it also updates information to the app in near realtime. I rarely update the Vivosmart HR with the app because it’s a cumbersome process. But the Fibit? It’s as seamless as one would hope.

Will This Be It?

Will this be the band that I stick with for the long haul? Maybe. My gripes with the Vivosmart HR were addressed with the Charge 2 so technically, I should be happy with this. But as you may recall, I was pretty happy with the Vivosmart HR as well before seeing the Fitbit in action. Who knows if something else will emerge in 6 months time to woo me away.

Making good progress through Dragon Quest VII and started to mop up Trophies for TitanFall 2. That campaign is still very enjoyable even at Master difficulty. 

My brother started Final Fantasy XV which is a very impressive looking piece of software. I still cannot believe it isn’t a piping hot mess of a game. 

LTTP: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

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It’s been nearly a decade since I poured any significant time or effort into a rhythm game. I wasn’t into Guitar Hero or Rock Band and since they stopped making Dance Dance Revolution games, rhythm games dried up for me. I witnessed fervour for Hatsune Miku and other anime related rhythm titles but none of those interested me. I believe the last rhythm game I played with serious zest was Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS.

I recall the original Theatrhythm Final Fantasy title being very intriguing in Giant Bomb’s Quick Look. So when I saw the sequel, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, hit the $15 price point, I couldn’t resist checking it out for myself.

It’s a given but being a fan of Final Fantasy franchise increased my enjoyment of Curtain Call tremendously. Playing through the classic songs of all the old Final Fantasy titles was like running through those games without the fuss of actually playing them. The accompanying backgrounds triggered memories of running through the fields of Final Fantasy VII or duking it out against L’Cie in Final Fantasy XIII.

I’m sure wrapping a rhythm game with a battle system isn’t an original idea but I found Theatrhythm’s implementation it was very clever. Levelling up characters, equipping the appropriate skills and items gave this game a level of strategy that I didn’t expect. Higher level characters and skills helped mitigate the damage dealt when I missed a music note or helped dish out additional damage to defeat enemies for loot.

It took me an hour or so before I clicked with the rhythm mechanics. It’s not a complicated system but there were tricky notes that tripped me up for quite some time. Slowly ramping up through the “Quests”, which were nothing more than a series of songs placed on a world map, helped me tremendously. I’m still not playing through songs at the highest difficulty levels but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy: Curtain Call was a pleasant surprise. It was a fun and easy way to inject Final Fantasy nostalgia but at the same time, it was also a great way to expose the soundtrack of Final Fantasy properties that I never played before. I’m not done with it and I don’t think I will ever be. It’s one of those timeless classics that I can see myself revisit time and time again.

Verdict:
I love it

 

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