Final Fantasy VII

In 1997, Squaresoft released Final Fantasy VII on the Sony PlayStation, to which they had jumped ship due to the limited technical capabilities of the rival Nintendo 64. It received solid critical acclaim, and would the following year see a release on the PC, several spinoffs, a movie sequel, and a rerelease on Steam a decade and a half later, the version upon which this review is based, and the ideal way to experience the seventh entry.

Like the original version, FF7 features randomly-encountered active-time battles with the player’s party of three active characters squaring off against a number of foes, their weapons and armor dictating how much Materia they can equip, providing things such as MP-consuming magic spells and innate effects such as increased maximum HP. As characters receive damage, their limit break gauges gradually fill, allowing them a use of a powerful ability that resets their gauge. Repeated use of a limit of a certain level eventually unlocks a secondary ability of the same level, and enough enemy kills unlocks the first skill of the following level, up to four levels, although special items are necessary to obtain a character’s fourth-level limit break.

New to the Steam rerelease is the character booster system, where the player can use an internet account to boost all characters in their current party to 9999 HP and 999 MP (although in the former instance, magic Materia can still decrease maximum hit points), if they simply wish to experience the storyline. As such, the Steam release has variable difficulty, although the last few boss fights can be daunting even with maxed stats, and things such as the ability to switch active characters with reserve characters would have been welcome, as well. Even so, the general game mechanics are easily the highlight of Final Fantasy VII.

Control? Not so much, given things such as poor in-game direction at many points on how to advance the main storyline, although other aspects such as the menus and shopping are generally more tolerable, even with the slight annoyance of accidental selection of menu options other than those intended in the PC incarnation. Ultimately, interaction is perhaps the seventh game’s nadir, yet does have its redeeming aspects..

The narrative still holds up well today, in spite of the aforementioned poor direction on how to advance the storyline, with most characters having their own pasts, alongside a few surprises to those that haven’t experienced the game before, the focus being on an eco-terrorist group headed by protagonist Cloud Strife battling the sinister Shinra Corporation. Eidos, furthermore, rectified some of the howlers in the PlayStation version’s translation such as “This guy are sick,” although the localization still has its rough patches, and gives question as to whether terms such as AVALANCHE are acronyms or capitalized words, and in-game pronunciation guides to names like “Cait Sith” would have been welcome.

The audio is another strong suit of Final Fantasy VII, with plenty of superb tracks such as the Terminator-esque chase music and peaceful overworld theme, although some diversity in normal battle music would have been welcome, and the PC version does have some occasional glitches where sound effects don’t play at all.

The graphics were good at the time for a PlayStation RPG, given things such as photorealistic prerendered environments and nice CG FMVs (but pale in comparison to those appearing in contemporary titles), although the Legomen character models outside battle (where the three-dimensional visuals mercifully appear much better) haven’t aged well, but even so, the visual aspect helps the game more than hurts.

Finally, breezing through the seventh entry can take as little as twenty hours, although unlocking every achievement can naturally take much longer.

Overall, the Steam version Final Fantasy VII for the PC is undoubtedly the ideal way to experience the game, given things such as a solid battle system with the online character booster accommodating players of different skill levels, a good storying, nice aurals, and pleasant visuals. It does have its flaws, however, mainly the poor direction at many times on how to advance the narrative, the rough localization, some audio glitches, and the fact that the graphics haven’t aged well, but those that have yet to experience the seventh Final Fantasy very much owe themselves to do so with this incarnation.

The Good:
+Solid battle system and customization.
+Enjoyable storyline.
+Nice aurals and visuals.
+Achievements enhance lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Poor direction on how to advance at times.
-Translation is still rough around the edges.
-Possible audio glitches.
-Portions of the graphics haven’t aged well.

The Bottom Line:
Overhyped, but with good reason.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PC (Steam)
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 8/10
Localization: 7/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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