The Final Fantasy VII Remake demo has only been out for a week, but already speedrunners have played through it dozens of times trying to master it as if it were a standalone game.
The demo, which went live last Monday, runs barely an hour, only showing off the first mission of what promises to be a much longer game. Even then, this game is the first in a multi-part series recreating the original PlayStation 1 JRPG. But that hasn’t stopped some of Final Fantasy VII’s biggest fans from fighting over the fastest completion time, which currently sits at 13:22.
A Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts speedrunner who goes by desa3579 is one of those fans. At the beginning of this week, his time of 13:25 was the fastest. Yesterday speedrunner SwiftShadow finished one second ahead of it, only to in turn be beat by speedrunner Ffamran by another two seconds. “We are thinking of new strategies daily for every encounter, starting from the troopers at the start all the way to the boss of the demo, Scorpion Sentinel,” desa2579 told Kotaku over Discord. He and others have been waiting for the remake for so long that picking it apart and optimizing it is almost like their own way of celebrating its imminent arrival.
Final Fantasy VII Remake’s combat allows you to move around in real time, attacking, blocking, and dodging while trying to build up an ATB meter that lets you use items and deploy magic. You can also hot-swap between the demo’s two playable characters, Cloud and Barrett, each of whom have different abilities that need to be used in tandem to cut through enemies in the most efficient way possible. It’s a lot to think about, and at least part of why speedrunners like desa3579 have abandoned other games like Kingdom Hearts III in order to play the demo over and over again. He estimates he’s started the demo over 200 times, and spent around 40 hours with it since it released.
He’s spent some of that time searching for ways to save small chunks of time, like using Cloud’s Focused Thrust attack on distant enemies to cross rooms more quickly. He’s also spent a great deal of time studying the demo’s boss fight, the Scorpion Sentinel, a hulking battle tank that jumps around a vast reactor room firing mini-missiles, shooting lasers, and putting up protective shields.
“If I would have to pick the hardest part of the speedrun it would definitely be the second phase of the Scorpion Sentinel fight as we have a very small window of time to get rid of the barrier it builds up,” desa2579 said. “He also jumps at the wall during that phase and him jumping back into the arena counts as an attack that you can counter. Getting that counter consistently would be the hardest part for me as he always jumps into a different place and you have to predict it out of the way he moves.”
In the current world-record run, Ffamran managed to hit each counter and finish the fight in just over two minutes. Even non-speedrunners have taken on mastering the boss fight, sharing “no hit” and “no damage” videos on YouTube.
Although the real game’s not out for another month, the demo has already proven useful for discovering potential time-saving glitches that might be useful for full speedruns of Final Fantasy VII Remake. “I managed to get an out of bounds glitch on my very first playthrough which we haven’t been able to replicate just yet, as well as a little skip that allows us to go through the door after the first Sweeper fight 2.3 seconds earlier than normal,” desa3579 said. “This one happens apparently at random and a few of us including me have gotten it once or twice, but no one really understands that one just yet.”
It might not even exist in the finished game, but good luck telling speedrunners to wait around.