Final Fantasy VII is arguably the single handedly most well known role playing game ever released out of Japan. Originally hitting the Sony PlayStation exclusively in 1997, this game has gone on to see a retro release on Windows PC in 1998 and is also available as a digital download from the PlayStation Store (compatible with PSP, PS3, and PS Vita). However, until now – there have been no noticeable adjustments made to the game’s look across these versions. Square Enix has taken the liberty of putting out a New PC Version that now comes with achievements, enhanced graphics, and a few other features that attempt to avoid spoiling the game while at the same time bringing it in line with modern releases of the genre.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy VII plot lines and lore though, allow me to first introduce what makes this game an incredible “must-play” masterpiece before I discuss the enhancements that this new version brings to the table.
Final Fantasy VII, or FF7 for short, has been referred to as “the best Final Fantasy” by a large group of series fans. Those who haven’t played it before might not be aware of this, but despite the fantasy theme this game maintains – most of its intrigue is mature and advanced, deep rooted emotional conflicts that take place during an Armageddon-like event, draconian conspiracies, shadow government rule, corrupt corporations, biological experimentation, destruction of the planet for un-natural resources, and much more. Beyond that, the game’s well defined characters see a myriad of adventures that could be considered side-quests by modern definition yet feel completely as part of the intended full experience.
First off, as with most FF games, greed and the desire for ultimate power and control have brought mankind to the brink of extinction due to worldwide calamities both long-term / ongoing and short-term / on the way. It’s the end of the world as the game’s main characters know it. With society suffering from the problems ranging from those listed in the paragraph above and it’s implied many times that the ones we live with in real life today are also present for the citizens of Midgar and the world in general. The main villains in the game are the evil corporation ShinRa who use the planet’s life force energy similar to oil drilling in real life but exponentially made worse by the fact that life force is the soul of the planet and recycled souls of animals, plants, and human beings are what makes up the life force. ShinRa also uses the energy to create Mako which is similar to nuclear energy the way it is radioactive, except this stuff causes a ShinRa SOLDIER to transform into a monster given enough exposure.
Sephiroth is one of those monsters, and so is the main playable character Cloud Strife (an interesting name for one who goes through much strife throughout the course of FF7’s timeline and seems to have a cloudy memory of who / what he is and comes from). During the game Sephiroth will ultimately rise up to take the main presence in the villainous side of things as even ShinRa wants to stop him. The player is inducted into a resistance group known as AVALANCHE who fight against ShinRa and attempt to protect the planet from Sephiroth who seems to have gone on a murderous rampage since discovering his origins as a dark secret experiment within ShinRa laboratories.
Though this narrative sets up for some high intensity and emotional value, and takes place over many hours of time, some of the best gameplay scenes in Final Fantasy VII occur almost randomly or off of the main trail the game provides. Whether taking it upon themselves to save the Phoenix at Fort Condor (a detailed strategy mini-game), defeat the Battle Arena at the Golden Saucer, or seek out rare monsters such as Ruby Weapon and Emerald Weapon, players have many optional pieces of content to discover. Many of these other experiences feel like they have had their own mini-game engine built into FF7, and this further cements the title as a technical accomplishment for the time period it was released in – while also helping to prevent it from getting stale in a modern play-through.
In addition to a compelling narrative, plenty of deeply thought out side-content, and seemingly endless hours of grinding / leveling up – Final Fantasy VII also features a pretty unique magic system for its time. Magic spells are held in containers that are like glass balls called Materia. This means that Materia can be switched around between characters, so no one spell gets stuck with a character – it can be replaced or used by anyone else if swapped around between battles. For example, if Cloud masters a Materia that would mean that all spells are unlocked within it and if that Materia was removed from Cloud’s weapon and placed into Barret’s weapon then Barret would be able to cast all of those spells instead.
In addition to this, some Materia gives abilities like Steal and can be upgraded (to Mug for example which includes an attack as well as a Steal move in the same turn). There are also some weapons / armor that allow for two Materia pieces to be linked together. This comes in handy with extender / modifier Materia like ‘ALL’ Materia which allows a user to use a spell against every enemy (cast Fire3 on three enemies at once) or towards every party member (cast Cure2 on three allies at once).
Final Fantasy VII features one of the most well known Summon systems and is extremely simple thanks to the Materia system mentioned above. Simply have a Summon Materia equipped for a particular Summon (example: Ifrit, Shiva, Ramuh, Odin, Bahamut) then use the Summon command mid-battle. A cut-scene is called upon and the Summon will attempt to do epic damage using some really cool to watch moves. Of course, some Summons of FF7 have been accused of being way too long of a cut-scene in past days, so be sure to turn the Battle speeds all the way up in the menu system. You can also set ATB to Active meaning that enemies will not wait their turn to make a move and you’ll have to be quick on your toes. This also makes things go by quicker though and can be a fun sort of challenge for those who are mastering the game.
Speaking of mastering the game, Final Fantasy VII is a lot about grinding and even more about strategy. Players will be encouraged to wander off of the main mission for hours at a time fighting enemies that they find to yield an acceptable amount of experience (used to level up characters) and AP (used to level up Materia). Once leveled up in terms of character levels and Materia abilities, players will find that they still need a high level of strategic knowledge and understanding to win battles. Not everything is so easy as the battles done to grind up levels, and critical thinking is still needed to survive – especially when using an Active ATB. It’s also pretty important to note that anytime a new character is introduced in Final Fantasy VII, their level will be higher or lower based on your party members and how much time you’ve spent leveling them up. Also, There are definitely areas of the game that require specific knowledge about how to defeat enemies and what level to be at before even attempting it.
Now before we go any further in discussing what players might already know about the game, one thing that veteran FF7 players will want to know about right away is controller support. There are tons of hacks and homebrew applications to make the craziest controllers work on games that don’t officially support them, but these can be annoying to set up or maintain. Happily this New PC Version of Final Fantasy VII provides support for more than just the Xbox 360 controller. Legacy controllers by Logitech were found to be working as well. The DualShock 4 is currently not supported straight out of the box for this game though, which is disappointing considering the timing of this release and the fact that it could have easily been added in. That being said, the game feels great on one of your older controllers and is of course a PC game so is wide open to modification.
Final Fantasy VII uses a tool called Tifa’s Boot Leg to manage / install mods for the game. Some of the mods that have been created by the PC Gaming community for FF7 so far include things like an “Ultra HD” mod with very high-resolution graphics, “Nightmare Mode” (a more difficult version of the game where enemies are supposed to be smarter and tougher), and stranger things like the “Aeris Revival Patch” which allows a main character whose life was cut short to carry on with the rest of the crew towards the final mission.
Modding the game will disable the chance to use Square Enix Cloud Saves and disable the ability to earn Steam Achievements, which means players might be better off doing a clean run-through of the game before indulging in that sort of thing. Enhanced graphics are just slightly tweaked in the stock version of the game, but look better than ever with a very small amount of liberty being taken on the expansion of the level of detail seen in characters’ facial expressions.
This time around, players not only have the benefit of the enhanced visuals and de ja vu feel of replaying this classic RPG from the 90s, but also the opportunity to listen to new accompanying material while doing so. Random AKA MegaRan has teamed up with Lost Perception to produce Black Materia, a musical rendition of the events that take place in the game featuring modern hip hop beats created using the actual Final Fantasy VII soundtrack itself. I highly recommend listening to this album while playing the game as it really humanizes the entire big picture scenario for players who may want to know what’s going on in a more relatable way without waiting the many tens of hours for major plot details to reveal themselves. Take a listen to some of the tracks below, or preview the entire album for free here.
In many ways, Final Fantasy VII can be seen as a parable to real life. Whether it be the government conspiracy, corporate takeover, or the Mako Reactor startling resemblance to Nuclear Reactors seen on Earth, it would seem that Final Fantasy VII is trying to tell us something. The way that magic takes a new form as Materia is reminiscent of Magicite from Final Fantasy VI and equipping different Materia to different characters provides an even more elaborate way to train magic for all characters that isn’t redundant like switching Espers to teach every character the same spell in FF6. The Materia system and how it works, as well as the benefits from it, tells the story of how technological enhancements change the battlefield from earlier times to the modern age. Even the FF7 Summon-based Materia which essentially holds the essence of the being it summons is still red like the FF6 Magicite which was the remains of an Esper (beings made up of pure ethereal energy).
Evolution of man on Earth has led to the destruction of natural resources much like in the way that it has in Final Fantasy VII. In real life, humans still have time to work through these issues in slow motion using political systems and scientific research painstakingly done in labs over long periods. However, in the Final Fantasy VII video game, these issues are seen in a fictional world made up of magic, monsters, and war of the classes and must be addressed immediately as the hybrid Sephiroth attempts to clean the planet of all human beings.
Tons of side content exists in FF7, and every character has deeply rooted backstories that can be discovered and explored one way or another. As mentioned previously, places like the Golden Saucer provide many activities. But if a giant casino in the sky with tons of games to play and contests to win isn’t enough to keep your interest, there’s also snowboarding, Strategy RPG gaming at Fort Condor, buying a mansion on the beach, flying the airship around an open world full of secret items and events, and something called Materia caves full of valuable magic gems.
Hidden characters Yuffie and Vincent are unforgettable for veterans of this game and are easy to remember how to obtain, but if you’re new to the game you’ll want to make sure you do a quick google search on them both. You can get them very early in the game and it doesn’t ruin the experience to know ahead of time how to get them since it’s not a part of any spoiler heavy scene. In addition to these things rare equipment, Materia, and weapons can be found in the game’s massive open world only by searching, using vehicles such as the airship or dune buggy, racing Chocobo creatures, breeding Chocobo creatures, and traveling far and wide fighting the monsters that inhabit the world.
It can honestly be said that Final Fantasy VII stands the test of time. This New PC Version feels as great as the original and doesn’t require players to look past aged 3D models. Many modding capabilities are available (though not officially supported), but even simply playing through the product Square Enix has provided to the modern Windows PC community is a thrill and brings back memories. Players who have beat the game in the past won’t be able to stop playing, especially if they hook up a controller. With the way the turn-based RPG genre has been going for a while now, this release is exactly what the industry needed and should be looked at as the ideal, masterpiece RPG formula for all others to strive to return to. Final Fantasy VII gets a perfect 10 out of 10 Diamond RGN Rating and is recommended to all gamers.
Overall Score: 10 / 10
RGN Rating : Diamond Game
Developer / Publisher: Square Enix
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the vendor for the purpose of this Review.