Review by antseezee

"One of the best RPGs of all time hits the PC in style."

There have been so many epic and classic games in the history of numerous consoles. While many of these games may have been hits on their individual video game systems, very few were ever ported over to the personal computer. Final Fantasy VII is one of those few classics that was brought over to the PC to expand its realm and dominance on the gaming market. As many of you already know, Final Fantasy is a popular gaming series. FF7 was the first one of the series that went into the realm of 3D graphics, and featured entailing gameplay that could last well over 50 hours. The basic storyline involved a character named Cloud Strife, who ends up going on a quest that will involve him saving the world, while discovering more about his past times. Prepare to enter a world of pure fantasy, but with an addictive twist that will keep you entertained for quite some time.

Graphics [7/10]
When you have a RPG based around the Final Fantasy series, created environments have to look both realistic and eye-popping to the gamer. FF7 was the first to transform a formally known 2D RPG, and completely renovate it into a fully 3D virtual world. Final Fantasy VII is absolutely filled with stunning graphics including computer generated backgrounds, an immense real-time battle system, polygonal characters, and even FMV cut scenes. Many of these movie sequences often contained the characters from the game in full motion and glowing proportions. Watching Cloud leap onto a moving train caught the gamer's grasp, while seeing huge distorted objects overwhelmed the view. Unfortunately, the PC version features numerous cut scenes flawed with blurry graphics and framerate skips. For some reason, movies don't look as realistic or mind boggling as they were on the PSX version, and instead, they look like the screen is being invaded by millions of wasps. The transition from the Playstation to PC version in the graphics department was more of a downfall since there was really no true upgrade done.

Aside from an additional resolution, and somewhat improved polygonal structures, nearly everything looks the same as the PSX version. The worst part has to be the characters, which look like large polygonal limbs. Although this was the best that technology offered back in 1997/1998, some detail could have been added to faces and things of the such. The battle system is very improved over the original version, featuring much more smooth and clean-cut magic spells, summonings, and attack animations. No more pixilated casting sequences; you can actually see the Mako glowing in Clouds' eyes. For the most part, FF7 features very detailed environments, complete with excellent shading to simulate lighting and shadowing effects. The menu system is very organized, and easy to read. Although slowdowns are quite frequent in the PC version, and happens often with numerous polygons, FF7 does a below average transition from its PSX version.

Sound/Music [9/10]
As always, the artistic soundtrack from the original FF7 is included. While the in-game music may sound slightly different from the actual PSX version, this is due to different MIDI players. FF7 has some of the most fitting tunes based on the situations in a RPG that I've seen thus far. Whenever a boss battle gets initiated, you'll hear the spruced up rock tune complete with a guitar playing in the background. Normal battle sequences have alarming changes in beats, while an overworld map song might have a more epic-like journey travel tune. For the most part, Squaresoft did such a great job in comparing songs to the right situations. Love scenes or important storyline tidbits are signaled with special music. Basically, the music in FF7 almost keeps the gamer aware of his current situation.

As for sound effects, they're very good, but not on par of being perfect. Most physical attacks including guns, swords, or thrown weapons usually have distinct sounds. Special attacks will make a larger crashing sound compared to a normal blade swipe, while certain magic spells make distinct sounds (Bolt, Ice, Fire). I was really impressed to see how well sounds can match with the FMV sequences, and that's a plus when they connect the gamer to the situation. There are no voice clips or anything during the gameplay, but it's not really needed since there's so much dialogue in the game. FF7 does more than enough with its impressive soundtrack to keep even the least earful people awake.

Gameplay [10/10]
Start wearing some biking gloves; this game is going to take your gaming skills to the next level. Final Fantasy 7 is basically an immense role playing game that involves numerous NPCs, playable characters, and a very in-depth storyline. Any RPG game needs a decent battle system to be entertaining to the user. FF7 features an active real-time battle system, which basically means that each character has their own ''charge'' bar. Whenever the charge bar fills up, you can then perform an action. Pretty simple, eh? You can do a normal attack with each of the unique characters, perform magic/summons, or even a special ability. In order to learn new spells, an object called ''Materia'' is assigned to each character. The more battles and experience that a character gains while attached to that materia - the more spells he/she will gain. It's an innovative system that forces gamers to work on certain characters, rather than just buying or filtering through spells.

Since the gaming environment of Final Fantasy VII is fully 3D, you'll often navigate small polygonal characters on large maps. Most doors, steps, and ladders are interactable, allowing gamers to escape the linear-based hallway-like dungeons. There are also numerous obstacles, or special events that allows the gamer to use his wits during gameplay. For example, in one part of the game, all members of your party have to hit a button at the same time in order to open a door. While there is no consequence or penalty for messing up, little events like that open a gamer's mind. No longer are developers thinking of how to make better battles/enemies, but are coming up with ways of keeping gamers entertained during long travels. For the most part, the battle system is quite balanced. Random battles are the main way of getting into a battle, unlike other games which feature viewable enemies on screen.

You can find well over 10 characters in the game, complete with tens of towns, villages, and locations scattered across the world map. The biggest influencing factor is the storyline, which really gets in-depth. Very few RPGs have come close to what Final Fantasy has done. You're going to learn of plenty of new terms, companies, and opinions of people in the game. Dialog scenes are common, so expect to be pressing the action button for quite some time. But overall, Squaresoft does a great job of featuring enough action, suspense, storyline flashbacks, and balanced gameplay to keep any gamer clued in. This is about as perfect as you can get to an immense game.

Fun [9/10]
You must remember, you're playing a role in this game. However, FF7 allows gamers to customize and experiment with the gameplay system in many ways. When you play a RPG, you expect to have fun. First off, battles feature plenty of varying enemies and targets to which you have to figure out how to beat in the quickest/easiest manner. Robots for example are easier to take down with an electrifying spell because they're composed of metal. Things like this let the gamer expand beyond the realm of simple punches and kicks, and concentrates more on strategy. With a progressing storyline that reveals more and more as you move along, you're sure to have fun with the game. There's none of those boring puzzles, or repeating patterns. Final Fantasy VII actually uses comedy quite often, and includes some fun mini-games (snowboarding, submarine battles, motorcycle racing) just to keep the gamer busy. If you want to take a break from leveling up characters, move on and have some fun exploring caves. There's tons of different characters with different limit breaks and moves you can test out.

Replayability [10/10]
What kind of replay value can you expect from FF7? Tons. A role playing game needs some type of way to bring back a user if he beats the game. FF7 not only has an immense world, but the ability to customize is all here. One of the underrated facts is that you get to name almost all of the playable characters in the game. Maybe you don't want to be some guy named after floating debris in the air, or you want to try getting a secret character. FF7 has plenty of mini-games, ways of equipping magic spells, and challenging bosses to keep anyone busy. Leveling up characters is almost a necessity, in order to get stronger, and have a better chance of defeating the final boss. One of the more impressive facts of Final Fantasy VII is that some bosses in the game get stronger as you gain more levels. If you were level 99, then the boss fights at the rate of a level 99 boss. Plus, in my opinion, you need at least 40 hours to beat this game. At that doesn't even include getting better weapons, or finding random battles! The story and dialog alone can probably compile of over 20 hours. There's too much to pass up on this game, so expect tons of replaying time the second you install it.

Difficulty [6/10]
While there are challenging bosses quite often in Final Fantasy VII, it seems to lack a certain etiquette we find in other strategy games. Most gamers will beat this game, it just takes the dedication of time and effort, which seems to be a lacking quality in some players. Some people don't beat the game simply because they don't have time. But if you look back, there are no ways of changing the difficulty, and if you put in a good 70 hours, your chances of beating the game are nearly 100%. The biggest challenging is navigating your way, and being able to survive most of the random battles before facing a boss.

Final Factor [9/10]
Now that we look back as to how much RPGs have accomplished on most gaming systems, Final Fantasy VII was a stepping stone for 3D role playing games. After its ascension on the Playstation, the PC version also provides that same feeling of dominance. FF7 has decent graphics, excellent sound, and most of all, a truly outstanding gameplay experience. Storylines and gameplay depth rarely come close to what FF7 performs at, and this truly is a game that most gamers should stand by. While it may not be as spectacular as the PSX version, don't pass this game up. Final Fantasy VII is one of the best games you can play for your PC. Even if it's limited to a one player RPG, it will be a true stand out in your gaming collection. Buy it at all costs, and throw your hands up in an ecstatic manner.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/25/03, Updated 07/25/03

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