Word is, there is a demo coming tomorrow! (March, 18th) to Steam, Switch, PS4.
Judging by released gameplay trailers and character spotlights everything looks really good so far but they kinda spoil a lot of stuff for new players (won't say what exactly), so whoever is not familiar with the original should avoid watching those.
And the the english VO is as always mediocre. Especially for Charlotte's VO they attempted some weird UwU shenanigans which is cute and all in theory, while it's all text, like in the original, but voiced out it just sounds really really cringy, especially since you can clearly hear a grown-ass woman talk instead of a little girl that she is. They just can't mimic the squealing high-pitched voices from the loli-crazed-nation of Japan. Some other voices sounded decent, though. But otherwise I can't complain much so far (although it's hard to tell before release).
Yeah, the Demo is out. It was out on Switch and PS4 much sooner and only now got to Steam. A juicy 6,8 GB download. Alternatively, you can just check it out on Twitch as a lot of people are streaming it right now.
I can't believe how true they stayed to the original tracks. The music is actually the best thing about the remake so far. They left the original music intact but polished it up quite a notch. Some things (like the Beast Kingdom track) got new instruments that are so very damn fitting that it's eerie. I absolutely loved hearing the music again in that reimagined manner!
Graphics and art style
Very, very clean, well-polished graphics and designs that are also very close to the original. It's amazing to see the world and the characters in a 3d environment. Everything looks and feels bigger. The water, the lighting, the shadows and reflections, the colors - everything is a real eye-candy!
Things that are terrible
Charlotte's english Voiceover
That actually still remains my biggest complaint. Not only is the choice to turn all "l" and "r" into a "w" terrible but the choice of voice actress and the VO itself are poor. It gets so bad that at some point you just don't want to listen to her anymore - absolutely atrocious and inexcusable!
The animations themselves are clean and fluent but there are not in in tune with the original at all. There were so many character-specific, iconic animations that give the characters personality in the original and nothing of it remains in the remake.
Kevin had very funny and sympathetic animations (one where he would hold his ears and fidget distressfully) and a very iconic walking animation. The way each individual character opened chests was very accentuated towards what they're like while in the remake it's all kinda lackluster and generic.
Riesz is way too girly - she is should be a warrior, usually having a stable stance and moving about proudly, surefooted while in the remake her leg is girlishly turned to the side making a weak stance. When she runs, the hands are outstretched, typical for the random run-of-the-mill anime girl. It might be fitting for Angela but not for Riesz and it's disappointing that they didn't pay attention to that.
Things that are somewhat neat
Hawkeye's and Riesz' Voiceovers
Very decent voice acting on those two. Not much to add to that.
Her voice actress is really amazing. It's too bad she's wasted on probably the most one-dimensional character in the game.
While in the original water was hard collision, here are areas where you can run around on beaches. You can't go very deep but it's a nice detail and especially the splishy-splashy visuals and sounds are kinda fun.
Equipped weapons visible
When getting new weapons, their models used by the characters use actually change. While it's a bit weird on some (Riesz loses her iconic trident on first upgrade), it's also a bit more believable and immersive. And it's a nice visual feedback/reward for having upgraded your stats.
Area introduction sequences
When entering a new area for the first time, you get a short sequence presenting the area to you, showing you the monsters you meet and some of the surroundings. I thought it's a very nice touch to set the mood for a new area to explore.
Tweaking the AI
Not sure how much impact that will really have on companion behavior but it's quite nice to customize the AI a bit more in detail. There was also very rustic AI settings in the original but remake's ones are way more detailed.
Also being for the Switch, I wasn't sure if it would have the option to change buttons. Most games have it, but not all (Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze didn't) but, as the original, it does. Options for the Minimap and other UI elements are also available.
Climbing on stuff
The game is partially very linear which is why the collision is also pretty strict. However, within area bounds you're free to jump on and off things which was previously not possible in a 2d environment. Many new chests and other gimmicks can be reached this way which is a cool addition.
There are a lot of different variations of the same type of NPC which was previously one sprite (not even palette swapped). In Riesz' intro there were some amazons in training that all looked different (I think they were 7?). When looking around some more, you start to notice similar and same ones but it still enriches the game having much more than one.
Things that are somewhat bad
It's not so much his VO itself that annoys me but the way his speech was prepared/localized for the voice actor. He is someone who only roughly speaks the human language which, in the fan-translation of the original, is presented by abrupt and rustic sentence structure. They did implement that but they forgot to tune down the way he articulates himself. He shouldn't be using fancy words, articles, pronouns and all other elements that enrich language and instead should stick to the basic words that hold meaning. Instead of sounding like someone who struggles to find the right words, in the remake he sounds like someone with a speech impediment because his choice of words and pronunciation are normal but the sentences have unnatural pauses in them. As an example, instead of saying "I hear something through the wall... I know that voice!" it should be "Hear something... through wall... know (that) voice!"
It's not really bad, it just sounds terribly generic. There is nothing unique or interesting about the voice or the way how she stresses words. There is much room for improvement.
What the hell is even that? It sounds like a straight dude trying to talk like a gay person. It's a little spirit for crying out loud - how did they even come up with that? A big nope from me, dawg.
There is a frequently occuring cat NPC that made a very funny noise and had an annoyed animation - none of it was preserved.
Missing combat sounds
There were iconic sounds each character's weapons made when punching or slicing - none of it was reimagined.
Enemies dropping a lot of stuff
Feels a bit like playing Spyro the Dragon or something when after a couple of punches enemies drop weird crystals and other different stuff that wasn't there before. I think it's very unnecessary and was just added for the sake of enemies dropping something.
Too easy in general
Combat and the game is way too easy and reminds a bit of some Korean MMO where every effect is indicated by a red shape on the floor that can be easily dodged. There are also green jars randomly standing around in areas that can be destroyed to get healing which renders healing items completely useless. I get that it has to be made a little easier for the casual doofus but that's really over the top and makes adventuring more like a walk in the park.
In addition to that, there are way too many golden statues. In the original, golden statues were extremely rare and were mostly only there at the end of a difficult dungeon right before a boss battle in order to fully heal your party and save the game. In most other places there was either nothing or just silver statues that only save, not restore. This made a good preparation necessary and the need to use healing items and spells. Now you get healing thrown at you at every corner like during cheap discount season.
Can't switch VO during game
It's impossible to switch the VO language to japanese or back without returning to title screen. So you can't simply listen to some dialogue in an alternative language if there is no saving point nearby. An inconvenience.
3 intros instead of 1
When assembling your party members you get to play their intros without being able to save or collect items. Not only does this lower replayability, it also makes secondary intros less enjoyable since you a.) have no need to explore as nothing you collect carries over and b.) you want to get back to the main story asap. It would have been better to keep it at the short recap they had in the original.
Switching characters outside of combat
When switching to a different party member outside of combat, instead of the camera just panning to the party member you selected, the characters instantly trade places. Maybe it was done in order to prevent switching to a character where the AI got stuck somewhere but it's kinda pointless as you can switch back anyway. Just weird to see them yoga teleport amongst each other.
I'm kinda impartial towards the combat. I don't really mind that they strayed a lot from the original here as it's probably impossible to translate it from 2d to 3d. The visuals and effects are very nice so far, the skilling system quite interesting. The dodging makes it a little too easy, though (additional to how little damage the enemies do). But who knows, everything might change when the fire nation at- uh... when you get to progress into more difficult areas.
It might seem like I have a lot of things to complain about but that's actually complaining on a high level and partially just nitpicking. Generally, they did a great job of reimagining my favourite game. I don't feel like I'm playing an improved original - and that's good: those memories and feelings should stay where they are BUT it certainly is a worthy remake (so far) and the best result one could expect of Square after everything they came up with since Final Fantasy 10. Also, I haven't mentioned everything I liked because it contains spoilers. And there is much more gameplay coming to judge it by after release since the Demo was only a very small portion of the game (despite a decent amount of play time).