Review by BigCj34

"Still the classic it has been, but doesn't fulfill the PC's potential."

Final Fantasy was released way back in 1987 as a franchise that would make or break Sqaure, and unless you've had your head in a sandpit for the past 20 years, you may have noticed the game worked out in Square's favour. It was originally released for the NES, and spawnd a sequel. However, this sequel was different in various ways, particularly characters and the story, meaning all Final Fantasy games are the same in name only, although they all have a few other minor things in common.

Final Fantasy VII was the first game to reach Europe in 1997, and left Nintendo for their mainstream Final Fantasy games format in favour of the PlayStation. While the PlayStations graphics were inferior it boasted much more storage thanks to CD's, with endless possiblities such as FMV's and better quality music. Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy game released for the PC, ported by Eido's, with mixed results.

Final Fantasy VII back in it's day was revolutionary, and with anyone with some taste it's not hard to see why. It was he first of it's kind, with FMV sequences, 3D graphics and a deep, if ambiguous, storyline with scenes of story unravelling the plot.

The plot initalliy, and I have to keep tight-lipped about this so I don't ruin this, is about a boy named Cloud Strife who used to be a member of Soldier, Shinra's elite special forces, but quit to join an anti-Shirna group called Avalanche. At the start of the game Cloud appears to have very little interest of what Avalanche is doing and only cares about the money he's offered, and he's been put on a mission to blow up Mako reactors. Mako and materia play a key role in the game, not to mention because the enitre planet revolves around Mako energy. Avalanche is an eco-terrorist group who aims to overcome Shinra, a large corporation who is using the Mako energy in the corer of the planet to make money from the energy. Excessive use of this would cause the decay of the planet, as all it's energy is supplied from the centre of the planet, the lifestream. As the story unfolds Cloud confronts a idloic character from his own past, Sephiroth, and unfolds to form one of the msot complex and ambigous sotrylines I've seen.

The plot of Final Fntasy VII was a revolutionary way to how RPG's were presented and today in 2006 it's excellent still. The entire story goes through a whole cycle of identity, nature, power, economy, heroes, vollains and legends. The identity of certain characters is jeopardised as the plot progresses, while nature itself is threatened from the threat of power and money. For many, the storyline is very definitely complicated, and you'd have to do some research if you want to decipher some of the ambiguous clues presented to you throughout the game.

The gameplay of Final Fantasy VII is very definititely spot on, but without it's plot and music it wouldn't have reached it's cult status it has done even today, atlhough I'm defintiely not stating the gameplay is very average. Far from it. The field navigation is typical RPG elemnts, run around a field area and randomnly encounter an enemy, however this time there's the inclusion of 3D graphics in the form of static, pixelated backdrops and a full on 3D battle area for the battles, and a 3D world map. The battle system revolves around the use of materia, which is condensed mako energy that can be equipped to a weapon or armour, depedning on the slots on the weapon available. There are many types of materia, with some that give you magic abilities, others give you commands and summons, while some can boost your attrbutes or work in conjunction with another materia to give it additional uses when battling as long as the weapon supports materia pairing.

The battle system in Final Fantasy VII is great, although it would've been nicer if there weren't so many random battles when you'd least want them. Every charcter operates with the ATB gauge waiting to fill up, and a limit break gauge that fills up depending on how much damage you've taken. You have to be reasonably quick to select your command, but it's not 100% real-time. The commands you have all depend on what materia you have equipped, so often it's a good idea to spread the workload between charcters. Limit breaks have also been included, if the limit break bar fiolls up then a charcter can execute a special move inflicting, lets just say, more damage than normal. New limit breaks are learnt as the game progresses, and regular usage will unlock new limit breaks as well.

While any armour works on any character, weapons are only suited to one characters. Different weapons give different increases in attributes, materia slots, growth rates or accuracy. Limit breaks are unique to a character also, if they soak up enough damage then a character can pull off a supr bonus attack, which can be very useful..

Aside from the battling FFVII has been blessed with a whole plethora of mini-games, at an area called the Gold Suacer which is the central gambling arena in FFVII. One of the most time-consuming mini-games is the chocobo betting and racing, that is, raise a chocobo and raise it to a high class winning prizes. It takes a lot of time and money to raise chocobos, but high ranking chocobo's aren't just useful for racing, and you'll find that the raising and breeding can be a very rewarding process! ;-) There's also rollercoaster shooting rides, the battle arena and mini-games that you can play once you've actually played through that in the game storyline. Outside of the Gold Suacer are the Fort Condor battles, where you hire troops to defend a Mako reactor from Shinra and a lot of other sidequests to keep you entertained. Phew!

While Final Fantasy VII was an unqualified success on the PlayStation, the PC version has quite a few problems. Some of these problems arise from being too console like, being almost an exact port-over with perhaps, an Exit option and it instructs you to press [OK] or [MENU] not triangle or circle. There is no option for mouse support, which could be potentially very useful and possibly quicker in menus had they had some tweaks.

When the game was first release on the Playstation many saw the graphics as excellent, and with this PC version they look even better, for some of the part, with high-resolution graphics (640x480 does the job fine) and awesome looking battle secnes and effects. However, the field models are a complete contrast to the battles, with out of proportion bodies and cubular hand. If you are lucky enough to have Direct3D hardware acceleration without the game crashing, especially on modern PC's, the graphics, expecially in battles, look a lot better. However, on the otherhand, the static backgrounds and FMV's that looked great on the Psone are still at 320x240, the native Psone resolution, and what looks fine on a TV at that resolution looks like an old DOS game on a computer screen. Heck, even screen-filtering would've been a lot better.

The games soundtrack is excellent, with real upbeat tempos and tunes that you'd want to listen to again, music that genuinely sets the atmosphere to the game. The only criticism is the battle music, mostly because you'll fight so many battles you'll get sick of it. However in a new console era the charcters don't orally speak, which inevitably means the PC version has none either. Configuring the sound is problematic, as it's been written in MIDI format, and the outputgreatly depends on your soundcard. If you have an FM soundcard, installing the Yamaha software synthesiser is an absolute must, otherwise the music sounds awful. If you have a wavetable sound card then you're okay, but it won't sound fantastic unless you have the right soundfonts installed.

When Final Fantasy VII was released, there seemed to be an issue with the game running poorly. The requirements were 133mhz with a 3D card, and 166mhz with software mode, along with 32mb RAM needed. In reality,you'd need double the ssytem requirements to have a decent ride, with a bit of choppiness. Nowadays, you'd have trouble if you have XP and a modern geforce/ ATI Radeon card. You can overcome this by downloading the chocobo patch to fix infamous chocobo race crash, and also download the 1.02 patch so Direct3D works on most cards. The problem with modern cards is that it fails in 8-bit textures, a requirement for Direct3D, and while running it on Nvidia TNT mode helps to bypass this, it can still crash or have graphics corruption. www.qhimm.com is a good website to troubleshoot your needs on FFVII.

Graphics Nice, high-resolution battles, but pixelated backgrounds and FMV's, with blocky models. 6/10
Sound Awesome music, soudntracks that you'd want to listen to again, but wants a good soundcard to get the best from it. 8/10
Gameplay Materia system is great, excellent battles and plenty of mini-games, but way too many places with random battles. 9/10
Length 30 hours up to 80 hours of gameplay, depending on how much you do. Not dangerously addictive, but greta in the long term. 10/10

Final Fanatsy VII for the PC is still a great game in it's own right, but you'd need a bit of pateince to appreciate it's console layout. It has it's advantages, such as fast loading times, easy to mod of course, and you can transfer the save file eaily and the battlescenes can baffle you when comparing to the Psone. Playing it on a modern PC is a crash-course trying to sort everything out to get the best from it, but while the graphics look great in some aspects it lags behind with movies and backgrounds. Get the PlayStation version if you can, it's better suited and there's no messing about (or play on an emulator) but if you can't then get the PC version if it's the only option. It's not a disastrous attempt of a port, but it's far from perfect, and doesn't live up to what the PC version could have done, but the fact it's still FFVII and it's a great playable game, it's what matters the most.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/21/06


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