Review by neothe0ne

"A disaster of a port, much better on the PS"

Same story as the PS
More save files than PS
Customizable controls
Can run faster than normal at unexpected times

Often crashes when not run on a "supported OS"
PS had better quality movies and music
Infamous Chocobo Race crash
Can run faster than normal at unexpected times

Final Fantasy... Squaresoft's greatest pride. Let's cut the crap: FFVII was probably the Final Fantasy that got the most people interested in the series. FFVI (FFIII for the SNES in the US) was a better game in most aspects, but FFVII was the jewel of the chest. Then, Eidos decided to port it to PC, and now you shall hear about it....

When I installed, I chose Full installation, which installs all game files to the hard drive but still requires the CDs. It seemed to take years until the game finished installing.... The other install option is Minimum. This installs everything but the movies, which are left on the CD. I suggest you install Minumum, because the movies in the PC version are terrible quality and take lots of space (I'll get to that in graphics). In both installations, the installation tells you to install DirectX 5 (I had 8 at the time so didn't install), DirectShow (apparently not needed), and the Yamaha Synthesizer (not needed). I've tested with the installation options over multiple computers. I've installed it on a Windows 98 SE, a Windows ME, and a Windows XP Home & Pro.

Let's start with the Configuration program:
In here, the game decides if your graphics card can run 3d, or if you get to stick with Primary Display Driver. At the time of release, the supported 3d graphics cards were.. I don't remember. I think there were a few Maxtor, a few ATI, and a few Glide. The graphics are a mixed bag; on my TNT2, the game looked pretty nice (until the movies). Now, 32mb NVIDIA TNT2s are really old, so I imagine the game would look much nicer on a newer computer (never tried yet) When I ran the game with my TNT2, it failed one area of the test and couldn't run "better" graphics (still looked good, though). There are also 3 resolutions you can choose from. One of them runs the game in a small screen in the middle, with black all around (which is full screen), the other two run the game in fullscreen without huge black borders. ONE OF THE FULLSCREEN RESOLUTIONS LOOKS TERRIBLE. In that resolution, there really are "lego-block" characters mentioned in other reviews. However, in the other fullscreen resolution, the game runs like it should, and can look better than the PS version. I don't really remember, but I think the ATI Rage Pro required you to run on one certain resolution.

Now, you go to the sound configuration. You can test the sound, and tell the program to swap speakers (left and right) if necessary. There are 3 sound choices, general MIDI, yamaha MIDI, and AWE. If you don't have yamaha or awe, all three will sound the same. The music in the PlayStation version of FFVII was very good. Now, when taken to the PC, all the music is less-than-average quality. (hence, MIDIs) Therefore, quality is based on your sound card. The music supposedly works best with an AWE sound card, but all I have is a SB64 and 2 integrated SoundMAX comps. The SB64 was pretty good, but the SoundMAX music was missing some drum beats and other various sounds. (Since the music is all MIDI, you'll find that the "One Winged Angel" Sephiroth final battle theme is missing the choir.)

The controls in this game are like the PS's, but you need to assign a key (or gamepad/joystick button) to every function in the game. Controls are a mixed bag: you need to remember what key you assigned to [ACTION] and [ASSIGN] or whatever. I played the game on a gamepad like a PS2's, and had no problem with the controls.

The speed of the game is very good. I got it running at full speed without any problems on a Pentium III 600mhz and a Pentium 4 1.7ghz. The problem with better-than-specified hardware shows up later in the game.. it's very obvious in the Motorcycle mini-game (the escape from Shinra HQ to outside Midgar). There seems to be no framerate limit in this game, which means that it's impossible to protect your party and get to the boss with good health (or get to the boss at all).

Now, to the final, most dreaded part: FFVII is fully supported only on Windows 95 and 98. That means that NT, 2000, ME, and XP cause problems and are not supported by Eidos. Chocobo Racing equals instant crash on Windows XP, and when you're forced to do it mid-Disc 1, your comp will crash, and you will have to hold your power button to turn your comp off, then turn it on, start the game from the last save point (a looooooooong way away) and.. crash.. again.. The good news is that there's a patch to fix the problem, although it's unofficial (it's mentioned on Eidos Support.) However, I encountered a crash in the Submarine mini-game later on (and at the forced Submarine at Junon Reactor) with the game EXE patched. So, don't even bother with this PC port if you don't have a Windows 95 or 98 with a good processor and good graphics card.

If you really think about it, the PC port could have been worse. Gamepad support could have not been included, or something. In short, the game is better on the PlayStation. If you can overlook all the technical issues, now follows the review of the actual game (nothing you haven't already seen if you've read the PS reviews):

Final Fantasy VII features a long story that centers around Cloud Strife. He was First Class in SOLDIER, but he dropped out and joined AVALANCHE. He has a past full of holes, and they get revealed/proved false/fixed during the game. The first large portion of the game does not take place on the World Map, so you can't save whenever you want. Later, you do get to the World Map and can save whenever there. I won't spoil the story, but it's a long, impressive one. I don't think it rivals FFVI's story, though.

Most of the FFs feature a unique battle system, and this one features the Materia system and the Limit Break system.

Materia are put into slots in your weapon and armor, and directly affects that character. Materia can add skills and have passive effects. Most materia have passive effects, and most increase magic and decrease HP. In this sense, it's a lot like the Espher system in FFVI, but you don't keep the abilities on the characters. The abilities stay on the materia, so you are limited in what you can do with your characters. Materia can gain levels, so you can get new skills, and, finally, spawn a new copy of it once you max its level. You have Magic materia, plus Summon, Skill, and passive. There are a wide variety of Materia, and most of the classic FF attacks are here (Fire x, Cure x, Shiva, Ramus, Ifrit, Steal, Ultima, ect).

Every time your character is attacked by an enemy, their Limit Break meter goes up. Once it fully charges, your normal Attack will be gone and you can use your Limit Break. If your character was waiting when the limit charged up, the wait time will decrease dramatically for one turn. Now, each character usually has 4 levels of limit breaks, with 2 per level. These Limits alter battle strategy a lot, since they do more damage than normal attacks and have a long wait time in between. Saving Limits for bosses is a good idea, but that means you can't use your normal attack for a while. The Deathblow materia gives you a strong attack that doesn't use magic, but it misses a lot. Therefore, you need to plan how to use Limit Breaks well.

Besides battles, there are more things to do in Final Fantasy now. You can breed Chocobos and keep them (some can ride over water, ride over mountains, ect) and the Gold Chocobo is required for the Knights of the Round summon (probably the most powerful attack you can use and the loooooooooooooooooooooongest attack you have to wait through that you can cast). You can buy President Shinra's vacation house for some hundred thousand gil, but you can't really do anything with it except sleep. There are many side quests, and Gold Saucer features many mini games where you can earn tokens, or just have fun with no real purpose.

Final Fantasy VII is a great, long RPG. After beating the game, I wanted to go back and replay, to get one-chance things that I'd missed, to improve my levels and skills, to fight the optional Weapons, and to kick Sephiroth's butt (instead of the other way around). However, this game is severely crippled by the delicate PC requirements. If your PC works well with this game, there isn't a reason why you shouldn't play it. (Unless, of course, you have a PlayStation). But for most casual gamers, this game isn't worth the hassle.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/03/05, Updated 01/07/05

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