Final Fantasy 7 (for Playstation 1 and PC) initially released in 1997 and re-released again on the Playstation Network in 2009 is widely regarded as one of the best JRPG’s in a long time, gaining critical acclaim upon release. Now because of the 25th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series the bestselling title in the series so far has being re-released again for PC with a few changes. Whether these changes were good for the game or not is what I will be looking at here.
Just to clarify, this is one of my favourite games; I played FF7 to death when I was a kid so I was excited when I had a chance to play it again, so this review will only apply to this specific release on the PC.
FF7 is set in the world of Gaia; this planet has its own life blood known as the Lifestream. Now a company called Shinra has found a way to harness this energy as a power source and with it has allowed the people of Gaia to live comfortable lives. However not everyone thinks this is a good thing, a group known as AVALANCHE believes that Shinra is stealing the planets life and wants them to stop. That’s where the game begins.
You take the role of Cloud Strife, an Ex special forces SOLIDER who used to work for Shinra, now being recruited by AVALANCHE to blow up a Shinra reactor. What follows is his part in the events that occurred after and how they change the world. The story is huge, particularly for just one video game. So big in fact that it thus far has taken a full feature length movie, two animated shorts and four individual games including this one to explain it. Without giving anything away, the overlaying emotional theme of the game is experiencing a personal death and the way you deal with it. This is a powerful plot element; one that a lot of us can relate to and is put to very good use in order to draw us, as players, into the narrative.
Throughout the game you must level up your ever growing character roster while equipping them with extra abilities and magic in the form of items called Materia, these items also need to be levelled up in order to increase their power. This is a long process, after winning a battle; the player receives EXP, which increases the characters level and Power Points (p) which increases the level of the characters equipped Materia.
But don’t worry, you won’t just be fighting monsters and grinding for EXP, this game has plenty of other things to offer you. As well as a large overworld filled with side-quests that net you extra items, weapons and skills, you will also have to take part in various mini-games including a bike chase and even mountain climbing! But if you still need a fighting fix there are multiple secret and amazingly strong enemies which require you to really test your power levelling and character building abilities.
The music from FF7 has been very well received over the years, remixed and remade to great acclaim, some of its pieces even being voted into the Classic FM Hall of Fame. Although the original PC version was not as well received and unfortunately that’s the version that is in this re-release. I can understand why, the music in this version is similar but it is more mellow and smoothed out, but it just doesn’t suit the game anymore. It just goes to show how messing with a formula even just a little bit can make something seem off.
All of this together creates a very tight RPG with a compelling story that resonates with players as they play it. It has a better atmosphere to it than some recent Final Fantasy’s and while it may not look as appealing graphically as other games in the genre it has more soul than most games I have ever played.
The new additions to the game seem irrelevant, achievements are not very well thought out and don’t seem to add anything to the gameplay and the new “Boost” system implemented is an insult to gamers. By logging in online on your Square-Enix account you can boost your characters levels and increase your in game money to 49,999,999! It’s practically cheating and takes part of the games soul away. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed to see it. Are gamers these days being patronised that much that they need a Boost system? The final nail in the coffin is the fact the game has to be downloaded via a client and can only be played when the client is connected ONLINE. Because of this you cannot even save the game if you are not connected to the internet – it ruins the experience if you have a bad web connection and the save system can be wonky because of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that a game such as this is now readily available for people to buy and play now, this game is iconic for a reason and now players can find out why! If you can make it past the dated graphics and occasionally very off putting circumstances (The main character MAY at one point have to dress up like a girl!) there is a real gem of a game here. It’s just a shame about how this re-release is being presented.
Square-Enix in recent times may have been producing games that, to some, are not as good as they can be. FF7 is one of the many reasons gamers still have so much faith in the company and is what really sets them apart from other companies producing RPG’s.
If you like JRPG’s, RPG’s or any games that Square, SquareSoft or Square-Enix have made and feel like having a 60-80 hour RPG experience then pick this game up now. I promise you that you will not regret it but I do suggest picking up the original version if you can. This new version adds nothing new to the game and instead takes something away from it. Oh, and for the love of gamers everywhere, if you get this version, don’t use the boost mode!