|Final Fantasy VII (c) Eidos|
Oh boy oh boy. My absolute FAVORITE game company has brought my absolute FAVORITE RPG series to my FAVORITE gaming system, the PC. This is the first Final Fantasy game that has made it to the PC, and from early indications on FF8's platform base, it will certainly not be the last. I bought FF7 for my PSX the very first day I could, and have consequently enjoyed hours upon hours of incredible gameplay that Square is famous for. Is this PC version as good? Well, since the story and such has not been changed, and the graphics have improved with crisp and clear 3dfx support, I can answer that question with a resounding YES. If you like console RPGs you must absolutely go out and get this game. I have played every major console RPG game since the NES, and this is definitely one of the best if not THE best one out there.
Graphically this game is stunning. The rendered characters look incredibly sharp and well animated. The detail on the characters themselves while you are exploring the world is not incredible, but rather it is very stylized. Things like having hands as squarish blocks rather than detailed fingers and such takes some getting used to, but eventually you will accept it as a unique and interesting style of anime, one that works very well.
Things are completely different in the fighting sequences. I am personally not a huge fan of the fight sequences, I prefer to explore and talk and discover rather than fight battle after battle. However, the fight sequences in Final Fantasy 7 are nothing short of spectacular. The detail on all the characters and enemies is simply astounding. I don't know how long the Square artists must have spent designing all the different monsters and mechanical monstrosities you fight against in this game, but it must have been ages. Every creature is rendered in equally impressive detail, with amazingly smooth and detailed animation to boot. You WILL be awed by many of the creatures you fight. The 3dfx graphics in the fight sequence blow away the PSX version. I was impressed to no end with the PSX version, but when I fought the first battle on the PC version in all its 3dfx glory, I said "goodbye psx, helloooooooooooo pc".
Equally impressive as the foreground characters is the background environment. The pre-rendered backgrounds are all exquisitely rendered with an creative and artistic ability unmatched so far in any other game I have played. No two environment even remotely resemble each other, throughout the entire game you are treated to countless gorgeous scenes. Considering the length and breadth of this game, that is a feat that must be recognized. You will feel cold in the winter areas. You will be afraid in the scary environments. You will feel jovial and excited in the happy environments. You will feel alone in the desolate areas. The ability to do this all comes from the incredible background graphics. The _ONLY_ problem with the graphics in this game stems from the fact that the characters were treated to a 3dfx makeover, while the backgrounds are still standard PSX fare. It's not that the backgrounds look BAD, but the high-res characters and the low-res backgrounds clash, and unfortunately might make you critique the backgrounds unfairly.
The CGI sequences so impressively and closely intertwined with the actual game are nothing short of spectacular. They ooze more refinement and artistic quality than 99% of movies you have seen. Everything is rendered impressively, the artists and directors managed to incite emotions and/or awe in me with every single snippet of CGI. Considering that video is of minor importance compared to many other parts of an RPG, Square could have easily gone for cheap and easy video, or no video at all. The attention placed on the videos and the sheer brilliance of many of the sequences is another reason why everybody should run out and buy this game right now. As a tool to farther the story and just as something to watch and drool over, you can't beat the CGI in this game.
Square has always been known to have the highest quality of everything in their game, and the sound department in Final Fantasy 7 shows their dedication to this. The sound is simply flawless. The sound fx are fantastic, perfectly reflecting what things should sound like. Explosions sound like explosions. Lasers sound like lasers (well..lasers are actually probably silent in real life but they sound like what a laser *should* sound like). Everything works together perfectly to enhance the gameplay and draw you into the game. The game is mammoth, there are millions of sound fx, each of equally high quality. You won't find any placeholder sounds, no mediocre sounds for some of the more obscure areas of the game. Atmospheric sounds like birds chirping, wind howling over the snowy plains, water dripping etc all add to the game. Monster screeches and screams sound absolutely perfect, especially the summoned monsters. Watching these gigantic fearsome monsters screeching and screaming before they attack is fabulous.
However, it is not the sound fx that make the sound in this game deserve a perfect score. Rather it is the incredible music that sets the game mood and gives an added level of depth and emotion that is rarely found in RPG's. The score is incredible, every song is used perfectly to convey a feeling. There is adrenaline pumping, excitatory music, and there is sombre desolate depressing music. The music is, with a few exceptions, always present. The variety in the sounds is also impressive, there seems to be music that suits every occasion, but there is also familiar music that plays throughout the game that helps to draw the entire game together as one. Every piece of music is equally high quality, I actually imported the FF VII game music cd just so I could listen to the tracks whenever I wanted. Unfortunately, the one downside of the sound is that it is in MIDI format, and those of us who don't have sound cards that play MIDI very nicely might find the music to be less than it actually is. I can assure you on a good sound card, the music is incredible.
Let me start off by saying this game is H*U*G*E. You cannot finish the game in under 40 hours or so, and that is just skimming the surface of the game. If you want to explore everything in this game, it would take literally hundreds of hours. There is just so much content in this game, it is quite beyond belief. There are many potential downsides to having a story this large, that the plot will drag on, that there will be many bugs, that you will just get tired of playing. Let me clarify that the plot does NOT drag on. This is definitely one of the best crafted stories for an RPG in existence. It is truly an adventure of epic proportions, you will be sucked into the storyline, it is incredibly well crafted while maintaining diversity and excitement. You never do the same thing twice. Every plot twist, every event that occurs fits in perfectly with the story. There aren't any random events or twists that just pop out of nowhere, everything fits together into the big picture. As engrossing as the story is, I wish there was slightly more character development and interaction, a qualm I have with _ALL_ RPGs where the parties aren't fixed. I remember back in Final Fantasy II on SNES, where you couldn't choose your parties, rather the parties were formed out of interactions between characters. In that game you could learn the personalities of characters and how they react and interact with other people. In Final Fantasy VII this is developed as far as possible, and you do learn the personalities of the major characters, I just wish there was a way to include everybody in the character development process. This is a minor complaint however, the story line is so engrossing that you won't notice any problems at all.
As well, the entire game is simply FUN. Everything you do is enjoyable, there is no monotony in the gameplay. From doing funky jumps on your snowboard as you board down snowy slopes, to playing arcade games and racing in chocobo races in the Gold Saucer, there is so much to do and so much to see that you will be overwhelmed. This game has everything in it, the best elements from all the other genres of games have been included and wrapped up in the nice RPG package. The gameplay is never hindered either, due to very fast loading times and almost no bugs at all. I have played through the PSX version almost completely and a good chunk of the PC version, and I have yet to encounter a single bug. For such an incredibly huge game, that is an unheard of, but welcome event. Never before has such playability and narration come together with such a beautiful game. The gameplay, obviously the most important part of any game, especially an RPG has come through flawlessly and breathtakingly in Final Fantasy VII. The story will engross you. The plot will continue to twist and shift as if the game was one giant screen play, you won't be able to get out of your seat. The gameplay is diverse and fun, you never have to do the same thing twice throughout the whole game. Basically, the game is simply H*U*G*E and well crafted.
Another good thing about the gameplay is that the objective is usually simple to follow. The game is a monster in actual size, but you will rarely if ever be confused as to what your next objective is. The minimal plot is carefully layed out for you, to eliminate the clueless wanderings that could result from not knowing what to do next in such a huge world. If you want to stray from the main plot and take some time to explore the world, that is simple to do as well, and returning to your quest takes minimal effort. Although some of the puzzles are tough, I rarely got exasperated or frustrated enough to stop playing the game.
Finally, ingame menus and keys are very intuitive and simple. Unlike some RPGs where selling/equipping/moving items can be a game in themselves, the menus are standard Square quality. Equipping characters, changing party members, moving them from front line to back etc. is quick and easy. Fighting menus are equally simple, allowing you to concentrate on the fighting rather than navigating numerous menus and submenus just to find the "attack" button. Health and magic points is also very easy to monitor, allowing you to determine the status of your party with a quick glance to the bottom of the screen.
Fun Factor: [23/25]
As I mentioned in the gameplay section, this game is just FUN. You won't be bored because of monotony, the game has so much to discover and explore it is mind boggling. You can spend hours upon hours just at the Gold Saucer, playing the arcade games there and betting and/or racing in the chocobo races. You can breed chocobos at the Chocobo farm to get the elusive gold chocobo, and run around the world discovering caves and hidden forests and houses. The world is so broad that you can't possibly get bored. However there are 2 problems which annoyed me in Final Fantasy 7 and caused me to take some marks off for Fun Factor. The main one is excessive fighting.
I personally dislike fighting a lot in RPGs, I think random encounters every 10 seconds or whatever is just excessive and can become dangerously monotonous. Fortunately Final Fantasy VII has the best combat in any RPG I have ever played, but the fact remains that there is too much random fighting. What aggravates me even more is that there is no way to avoid fighting, it is a random occurance. I am glad there is a move in RPGs towards actually seeing the monsters before you fight them, allowing you to dodge them. I think the excessive fighting hinders the flow of the story slightly, not to a huge degree. Also it's not like Final Fantasy VII has any more fighting than other RPGs, its just a problem I think is engraved in most console RPGs. Hopefully Final Fantasy VIII will have avoidable conflicts. Another problem with the fighting is the time it actually takes. Because of the impressive cinematics and animation (especially of the summons), many attacks take upwards of 10 to 15 seconds to complete. If you are tired of fighting, the sheer time some attacks take to occur might make you want to say "come on come on I've already seen this animation, let's just get on with the fight". You won't ever get bored with the actual animation, the time it takes to occur might make some people frustrated, especially if it's a random fight you really don't want to fight. Fortunately the gorgeous graphics and combat system of Final Fantasy VII makes fighting less of a chore.
The second problem I have stems from the sheer beauty of the backgrounds. Because the backgrounds are so impressively complex and artistic, sometimes it becomes hard to see where you can and can't go. Luckily you need only to bring up the ASSIST cursor and it will indicate exits and ladders for you. I still feel that sometimes you will just get lost in the complexity of the world and it might take you a few moments to see how to progress, because a path is obscured by some background object. The addition of the cursors go a long way to correct the problem, and there is no way Square could have fixed this minor inconvenience without jeopardizing the beautiful backgrounds, so I can forgive this tiny problem. It is something worth noting though.
It would be ridiculous to expect multiplay on this type of RPG, so the 5 marks allocated to Multiplay have been added to Fun Factor. What this game misses in multiplay is more than made up with the huge game world and diverse activities you can do, making multiplay completely unnecessary.
Installation is quick and simple, either a 260mb install or a 460mb install. I would go with the 260mb install, since the game had minimal loading time on the PSX's 2x cdrom, so most of us with 12x or better CDRoms can have a field day on loading time.
Overall Impression: [10/10]
I have been in love with Square RPG's since Final Fantasy II on my SNES. After playing through that, I actually went back to play and pass Final Fantasy I. Since then I have bought, played, and passed every single Square RPG I could get my grubby little hands on. I expect the utmost quality from their products and Final Fantasy VII delivers. The graphics are simply stunning, they up the RPG graphical ante by a HUGE amount. The sound is flawless, the incredible music adds another layer of depth to an already deep game. The gameplay is smooth, diverse, and incredibly long, long in the good way. It is never boring, the game is designed perfectly so you can't get bored. The epic and beautiful story progresses at a perfect rate. The world is filled with things to do, people to meet, secrets to discover. There are no bugs, there are no flaws. Combat is perfect (albeit slightly excessive) and control is intuitive and helpful. Square include numerous little extras to help with the gameplay (the ASSIST cursor for instance) that help the game even more. I can't stress enough the length and breadth of this game. It is HUGE. There is so much to do, so much GAME crammed into the not-so-little 4 cd package. Everything has the polished feel of a Square game. I love this game to death. I want to have Square's baby. I should get a Final Fantasy VII emblem tatooed on my back. Do you get the picture? I REALLY LOVE THIS GAME! :) Go out and buy it. NOW!!!!!! RIGHT NOW! Why are you still reading this...go on shoo now. Get the game.
Final Fantasy is one of the most popular series of all time and one of the best selling titles of all time. The first Final Fantasy was for Famicon and then it came to USA as Final Fantasy. The good old Nintendo game 2 and 3 never made it over here but were big sellers in Japan. FF4 got ported over as Final Fantasy 2 for Super Nintendo. 5 never made it (actually it's QUITE good - unfortunately, it's Japanese only, so unavailable in USA... as well as console-only) and 6 came over to USA as the great epic story thoughtfully called Final Fantasy 3 (to confuse the already-confused American players) for Super Nintendo, then SquareSoft diverted from the path of Nintendo and went with Sony Playstation (selling over 5 million copies) for Final Fantasy 7. But fortunately for us computer types who do not deviate from console to console we have Final Fantasy 7 for PC.
Console style vs. Computer style
With Final Fantasy 7 coming to the PC it has set a whole new standard of playing for the computer world. Unlike the PC RPGs, which are drastically different from console RPGs, console RPGs emphasize battles more than character development. PC RPGs have more of an open-ended storyline whilst the console is more closely scripted. Console RPGs have something of a cinematic quality to them, and it feels like you're watching your character play rather then actually BEING him; while, when playing PC RPGs, you feel like you ARE the character, rather than just watching him.
This is where the story of Final Fantasy VII begins. It seems that an evil power company called Shinra Inc. has found a way to mine a life energy, draining it from the earth, and using it to control the universe. A resistance organization known as Avalanche, has vowed to put an end to Shinra's destructive practices. The story focuses on Cloud, an ex-soldier of Shinra, who teams up with Avalanche, and along the way, encounters some very mysterious and powerful allies who help him fight against the deadly creatures Shinra has created to protect its empire. You, as the game player, will decide their [the heroes'... well, the creatures too, in a way.] fate.
During the game, you will encounter friends, enemies and other important characters in the story. However, depending on how you play, you may not be able to befriend some of the characters. The following are the main characters in the game:
The good guys:
Cloud Strife - The main character of Final Fantasy VII. Originally a member of Shinra, is now a mercenary who will take any job. After being hired by Avalanche, he gradually gets caught up in a massive struggle for the life of the planet. His enormous sword can cut almost anything in two.
Aries Gainsborough - Young, beautiful, and somewhat mysterious, Aeris meets Cloud while selling flowers on the streets of Midgar. She decides to join him soon after. Her unusual abilities enable her to use magic, but she seems more interested in the deepening love triangle between herself, Cloud and Tifa.
Tifa Lockheart - Bright and optimistic, Tifa always cheers up the others when they're down. But don't let her face fool you, she can decimate almost any enemy with her fists. She is one of the main members of Avalanche. She and Cloud were childhood friends, and although she has strong feelings for him, she will never admit it.
Barret Wallace - Head of the underground resistance movement, Avalanche. He's fighting the mega-conglomerate, Shinra Inc. which has monopolized Mako energy, building special reactors to drain it from within the planet. Barret depends on brute strength and his "Gun-arm" to see him through. His wife died in an accident several years ago, and he now lives with his daughter Marlene.
Red XIII - Just like his name says, he is an animal with fire-red fur. But under this fierce exterior is an intelligence surpassing that of any human's. His sharp claws and fangs make him good at close-range fighting, but other than that, not much else is known about him. It's not even certain "Red XIII" is his real name. A real enigma.
Cid Highwind - Cid is a tough talking, warm-hearted old pilot who hasn't forgotten his dreams. There's no better pilot who ever flew either by air or by sea. He believes someday he'll fly to the ends of the universe. With his hand-made spear and knowledge of machinery, he throws himself into any attack regardless of the danger.
Yuffie Kisaragi - Although you'd never know if you looked at her, Yuffie comes from a long line of ninja ancestors. She forced herself into the group just to get a certain something... She's sneaky, arrogant and "way" selfish. But with her super shuriken and her special skills, there isn't anyone else you'd rather have on your side in a fight.
Cait Sith - Cait Sith rides around on the back of a huge stuffed Mog he magically brought to life. Megaphone in hand, he's always shouting orders and creating dopey attacks. When his slot machine attack works, the enemy camp looks like an overturned toy box. His hobby is fortune-telling, but like his personality, it's pretty unreliable.
Vincent Valentine - A mystical man, stern and upright while at the same time dark and mysterious. His past connection with Shinra is what made him join Cloud and the others. He may seem frail at first glance, but hidden inside his body lurks a fearsome power.
The bad, evil dude:
Sephiroth - Even amongst the elite troops of Shinra, Sephiroth is known to be the best. His past is locked away in a confidential file held by Shinra Inc. His giant sword, which only he can handle, has extremely destructive power. Said to have disappeared in a battle years ago, his current whereabouts are unknown.
Chocobo: By using the Chocobo Lure materia in specified areas on the world map, you'll be allowed to hop on Chocobo and move around the flat surfaces and swamps. A Chocobo is a little chicken like bird.
Submarine: Not only does this move undersea, it also navigates on the sea. Be careful because it'll only stop at certain places.
Highwind: This gigantic sky-flying vehicle belonging to the Shinra is the fastest means of transportation. On the world map, it can fly anywhere except for the mountain areas. One word - airship.
Tiny Bronco: Cid will control this vehicle across the shallow water, but not in the sky! [Note: ABSOLUTELY no relationship to O.J. Well... theoretically.]
The combat is like most console games - it's a game where you click OK or Cancel from a menu of commands. You can attack, summon, use magic, sense, steal, Enemy Skill, or use an item. The items you can use are varied, such as potions to heal yourself, or different potions to cure different aliments you have. Enemy Skill is an ability which allows you to use a skill of an enemy that you've learned. Stealing is that what it sounds like... that which you were told is very bad since you were born. Well... it comes in useful sometimes. Don't quote me on that.
The New battle system:
The new battle system that makes FF7 different from others involves the Limit Break Command and equipping the Materia. The Limit gauge starts to fill up with each attack. Once the gauge is full, each character performs its unique attack (Limit Attack). Materia (Mako crystals) are magic orbs packed with ancient skills and knowledge. Special effects become available to the equipped character, like magic, the ability to steal, and the ability to summon huge monsters to pound the crap out of the other monsters. You can summon from a little chicken like thing called a Chocobo to a big dragon that shoots beams from outer space (my personal favorite - nothing better than 'huge brother' intimidation.)
You save games by going to save spots or by going out on the 3D world of midgar. There are 10 save banks that have 15 slots each. It's very useful because you can just put it on a disk and give it to your friend, or transport it anywhere you want. That's, unfortunately, where the game blatantly shows its console origins - the PC game players are quite used to saving every 10 seconds if they feel like.
There are many so-called 'mini games', playing which you can take a break from all the fighting, just to have some fun. There's submarine game where you can go and shoot submarines, motorcycle game [don't expect any Moto Racer fun though], a mog feeding game, and a fighting game [Did I say take a break from fighting? Sorry, I screwed up. Sue me.]
When being ported to PC from the PlayStation, SquareSoft had
their work cut out for them. The objects, backgrounds and all
the other graphics were redone as to use the power of the...
no, the 3Dfx, as well as the other host of D3D cards. The
amount of work was increased by the fact that the original FF7
wasn't intended to be ported - so they had to rework it. The
other task they had to face was making it decently playable -
since most of the other PSX ports where either not looking
right, had extremely bad control or were completely worthless.
But FF7 for PC breaks the mold and is now a game that is
superior to the PlayStation version. Before I wrote this review I
went back to playing my PSX copy of FF7 and well... there is
just no comparison. The guys where blocky and the music was
horrible, so I went and sold it to my friend that has been
nagging me to sell it to him. Hey, what was I supposed to do
with it, anyway? 640x480 battle scenes are amazing. For the
first time I could actually see some parts of the game other
then blurry spec on the screen, all thanks to wonderful bilinear
filtering. The Glide is now gone, don't really know why. The
game uses the following features - and doesn't use them as
buzzwords, it actually makes good use of them in the game:
- Triangle Textures
Eidos lists the supported cards as 3Dfx Voodoo, 3Dfx Voodoo 2, 3Dfx Voodoo Rush, 3Dlabs Permedia2, ATI Rage Pro, and Intel i740. The Matrox G200 and PowerVR2 will be supported when they launch as well. Apparently, Riva128 and Rendition V2x00 chipsets are missing one or more of the above-mentioned required D3D features, and owners of those chipsets are stuck using software mode. The latest word from Eidos is that they're working on a solution for those two chipsets. Software rendering supports three modes - 320x240 full screen, 640x480 quarter screen, and 640x480 full screen.
There are people who complained about the crappy looking FMVs. I went and played the Avi's on my computer by going through the directory and it looks better than the PlayStation. I'm guessing it's because my 3D card is playing the video's as a backdrop for the 3d guys. I suppose it'll be fixed with the next generation of 2D/3D cards. When it comes down to it I've seen worse on PC games.
The sound in this game is more crisp and is of much higher quality than the PlayStation version. You have 3 choices of Midi support: General Midi, XG Midi (for owners of the amazing XG midi card - me! :)), or you can use the XG Midi software render for FM cards to make them sound LIKE a wavetable cards - but... well, software emulation. You know the repercussions. And at last.. the SB AWE32 and 64s can use SoundFont to get better sounds. Helps if you have some extra RAM on it, too.
The last word...
In this world of RPGs that are on the PC, Final fantasy 7 brings
something new with it. For those of you that are willing to try
and do things differently just a little bit, I promise you will be
surprised by the 50 hours of riveting storyline, first time around
I actually cried. I'm dead serious. If you asked me to sum this
game up in one word. I really couldn't. There's too much in the
game to have one little, puny word express it. It's a way of life.
It's Final Fantasy VII.
Graphics: 24 / 25
Overall Rating: 99 / 100
Graphics: 24 / 25
Overall Rating: 99 / 100