Review by Splatter

"PC Version betters the PSX"

Final Fantasy VII: PC version Minimal Spoilers

The Final Fantasy series is most likely the most well known RPG series in North America and Europe, with a substantial fanbase in Japan as well. Final Fantasy VII, the first PSX incarnation of the series received both criticism from older gamers whom felt that the 3D elements were purely for eye-candy, yet newer games who were introduced to RPG’s through FF7 enjoyed it tremendously. This game has a huge fanbase, even today. This review places a heavy emphasis on the PC version specifically, with its improvements and problems.

PC Intrigues

The PC version contains the same characters, plot, gameplay elements etc. that the PSX had, making it a virtually direct port. The main difference is in the quality of sound and graphics. Based on your MIDI decoder, you can get excellent music quality in the game, which sounds better than the PSX version. A free full-version Yamaha midi decoder/drivers were included, and this truly was an excellent yet overlooked deal. The decoding software was one of the best software midi decoder available on the market, and many gamers didn't realize what they were getting for free.

There are three choices for viewing the graphics. 320x240 full screen , 640x480 quarter screen, and 640x480 full screen. These resolutions are very low for today’s (2003) standards (which makes the game look blocky with jagged edges on characters), however, back then my Frames Per Second were about 10 in 640x480 full screen without a 3dfx based graphics card. However, when I came across a Voodoo 2 graphics card with a whopping 12 megs of ram, the graphics became a pleasing treat to the eye.
With a 3dfx compatible card, the game looked amazing. As soon as I popped the card in and ran FF7, I noticed a huge increase both in performance and in quality of graphical effects. Viewing some of the Summons looked amazing, the pinnacle of RPG graphical quality at the time.

The PC version can use both a gamepad or the keyboard, and the older PC packs came with a plastic keyboard cover to show you which buttons did what. This was helpful if you didn’t own a gamepad, however the game plays much easier with a PSX controller or similar gamepad than with the number pad on the keyboard, as you could guess.

Nowadays in 2003, there have been patches released which fix bugs and make the game compatible with newer video cards, such as NVidia’s older GeForce/TnT/RiVA lineup and operating systems, such as Windows XP. Be sure to download these patches first if you want to play this game without problems.

Finally, limited savegame slots is not a problem in this game, as FF7 provides you with 150 linked savegame spaces for you to use. If you run out of space and don’t want to rewrite over them, you can simply move the savegames from your FF7 directory to somewhere else and the game will let you save more, and you’ll have the old saves too.

To sum it up, the PC version contains differences from the Playstation version, yet nothing that creates a new experience for anyone that owns the PSX version. Still, if I could choose between the PC and PSX version, I would pick the PC in a heartbeat.

Graphics: 9/10

At the time, the graphics with a 3dfx card looked amazing, and you couldn’t find much better on the market. Without hardware accelleration, the graphics looked good in 640x480 mode, but were extremely slow. At the time the game was released on the PC, it still stood up to other newer games for the PC.

There are two problems I have with the graphics. The first is that with newer systems nowadays, there can be graphic corruption with the newest graphic cards (GeForce 4 and up), as the patches don’t fully support them. There was no corruption when the game was first released, but now the hardware which was intended is ancient and few people own fully compatible devices.
The other problem with the graphics is the very low quality of the movies. In the PC version, the movies are extremely blocky and look awful. This is the only item that is worse on the PC than on the Playstation

Sound: 7.5/10

The sound effects are not too memorable, yet a vast improvement over FF6’s sounds. I would have preferred more ambient sounds, especially on the world map. Why is there only music on the world map, yet no birds chirping or wind howling?

I would like to mention that the sounds the summons make are more interesting than other sound effects, but still nothing memorable.

Music: 10/10

The music in the game is extremely well done in MIDI format and sound very good with the aforementioned Yamaha decoder/driver set. CD sets have been made featuring the games music, and they are well worth listening to outside of the game. Many people have made fan versions of the music featured in the game as well, which shows how memorable the songs are in people’s minds.

Gameplay: 7.5/10

This was a very tough category to rate, however I feel that 7.5 is fair, and if you’ll just stop screaming and put down the knives, I’ll tell you why :)

The gameplay itself is very repetitive. Walk around some area, find items, fight multiple enemies (mostly in random encounters) and repeat. Although this is similar to most other RPG’s in existence, this type of gameplay is not what I’m looking for. I prefer strategizing in my battles, planning routes to take etc. This certainly doesn’t fall into the category that most traditional RPG’s take, yet others have taken this route more to heart, such as Grandia’s more in-depth battle system, and others with stage maps.

The magic system in this game (called the Materia system) is rather boring and uninspired. The system works by the player receiving little orbs that allow you to learn low-level magic. Eventually, with enough fighting higher level magic becomes unlocked. Certain Materia can be linked with others to create effects, such as making your sword use a fire element for its attack, or being able to cast a spell just before you die. I personally thought that the strategic choices were quite limited, and there are certain set combinations that you will almost always want to always use (such as reviving yourself or your party every time you die). I also didn’t like how there was no other way to receive high-level magic other than equipping the Materia (which lowers your physical offensive power) and fighting far too many battles with it on. In general, I much preferred FF8’s Junctioning system to this (however, that has its share of problems as well).

In general, I don't believe that the game as a whole has the 'wow' factor involved for me to give it a high scoring mark in the gameplay category. Nothing seemed revolutionary gameplay wise, and certainly nothing that couldn't have been done on my SNES years ago.

Story: 8/10

I won’t reveal what occurs in the story, yet lets say that some shocking events occur, with an interesting backstory and a few twists and turns. There is a lot to look over once this game is completed, and after analysis, things may not seem at all as what they appear after your first run through. This certainly adds to the replayability as well.

However, I have to admit that I felt rather betrayed upon completion of this game after playing FF6. In FF6, there was a much stronger emphasis on character development (even though there were far more main characters) and certain philosophical questions and historical parallels were raised. FF7 was mainly a Hollywood movie-script the first run through, with more of a detective story feel upon inspection a second time. Not to say that FF7 didn’t raise its own questions, however, FF6 is far superior story-line wise to this game.

Replayability: 9/10

RPG’s often have below average replayability, yet I’ve personally played through the game 3 times, and someone I know claims to have completed it a shocking 13 times! For a game as epic as FF7, this is quite a feat. There are many side quests and background stories to delve into, and receiving certain Materia is a challenge.

Still, the game is no different the second, third or tenth time through the game. The story always progresses in the same way, with the main plot elements proceeding in a linear fashion. It could certainly get boring for more action-oriented players, or players whom don’t want to delve into the story, yet for the RPG types, the game should keep you intrigued and you’ll probably want to play through a second time to clear certain plot elements up, or to get all the items/secrets.

Conclusion: 9/10

The conclusion is higher compared to the specific grade, but the game is more than the sum of its parts.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the most popular PSX games and RPG’s of all time, and the PC version is an improvement over the PSX version in almost all technical ways. The game itself is an enjoyable experience which moved RPG’s into the 3D realm. Although this game didn’t incorporate the 3D elements into its gameplay, it stood on its own as a half-way between 2D and 3D RPG game with an enjoyable plot and above average gameplay. The MIDI decoder/drivers were huge bonuses as well. I suggest purchasing the PC version to anyone who enjoys RPG’s for you to find out for yourself why this game is so revered.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/02/03, Updated 07/02/03

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