Final Fantasy VII.Does that name ring any bells to any of you? Does it bring back those nostalgic feelings and frustrations of random encounters, memorable characters that as soon as I mention blond spikey hair you instantly know who I am talking about! Mini games where you get to ride a bad ass motorcycle and slash away at enemies, Chocobo breeding and racing through some trippy race coursesand an unforgettable deep story!? Well the end of the summer holidays has brought PC lovers a real treat with the release of the new remake of Final Fantasy VII on PC. This new version of the game is based on the same PC port previously released but brings with it some nifty new features and increased resolution models.
This new ‘remake’ or updated version includes 36 achievements to unlock and compare with friends. Cloud saves are also a new addition and quite handy for those who jump from PC to PC as your game save just needs to sync to your account and then it’s accessible on any PC anywhere you may go (internet connection required guys). And then we have the ‘Character Booster’ system which is intended to help out those who find difficulty with certain bosses or can’t afford certain equipment for example by allowing players to increase their maximum HP, MP and Gil levels or for those who would simply like to play the game through without any worries and enjoy the story.
There has been some controversy over the inclusion of this system and I have found myself being drawn in to the pros and cons of its inclusion so here’s my take: If you don’t like this feature don’t use it, simple, no harm no foul, just play the game the way you want to play and enjoy it because that’s what it’s all about!
So for those of you that have yet to experience one of the greatest games of the PS1 era, a game that has had so much influence over the gaming industry over the years and possibly one of the best Final Fantasy games out there you’re in for a treat and should head over to the Square-Enix store where you can pick up the game for only £7.99 but be quick! Offer ends on the 12th September.
Final Fantasy VII begins in a city called Midgar, an industrial metropolis that serves as the main city of the game and is host to the headquarters of the Shinra Corporation that is killing the planet by draining all of its life-force. You get thrown right into saving the planet from the get go taking control of a mercenary named Cloud (aka EX-Soldier, You can change the default characters names when prompted) charging into a Mako Reactor with a group of so called terrorists named AVALANCHE on a mission to stop Shinra and their Reactors from killing the planet. Soon new discoveries are made, secrets are uncovered, new allies are forged and lost and they find themselves up against a new enemy entirely, Sephiroth, who’s out to destroy the Planet and claim it as his own. With the world on the brink of existence it’s a race against time to put an end to this enemy and save the Planet from its impending doom.
With the inclusion of 9 main characters come some mini sub-plots for players to discover that help players have a break from the main plot from time to time. The majority run hand in hand or alongside with the main plot but a few can be missed, possible one of the best and funniest mini sub-plot that can be missed entirely is YuffieKisaragi’s story, which comes complete with its own town to boot! So go get exploring you don’t want to miss these!
The games plot is emotional and deep, so deep I haven’t even scratched the surface with what I’ve just mentioned above howeverI’m trying to avoid any spoilers for those of you that have yet to play this great game, it’s definitely a discovery you’re going to want to make yourselves. It is known that this game has brought tears to people’s eyes and going off my own experience if you are going to play this game I suggest you keep the tissues handy, you’re probably going to need them!
The basic gameplayin Final Fantasy VII: Traveling, fighting, skill system. With deep plots comes vast exploration and travelling is one of the major aspects in the game. Traveling uses two key areas, World Map and the Field Map. The world map allows you to see a scaled down, 2D image of the world thatalso points out where in the world you are via a flashing red dot so that you will (Hopefully) never get lost and see how close you are reaching your destination. The world map is a great tool but does not show every town or place that you can visit so you have to keep an eye out and remember where these places are as there is no way of marking a point of interest.
On the field map you direct your character where you’d like them to go. It’s the scaled environments that you run around on whilst traveling the world map and consists of 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. At the start of the game you are restricted to the city Midgar, and must traverse the city, finding new places and completing story objectives to progress the story before the world map becomes accessible.
Next up is the fighting side of the gameplay, the part of gameplay people love to hate and hate to love, random encounters are like marmite, you either love them or hate them but either way fighting is a core mechanic in this game and one you have to use on a regular basis. To fight is pretty simple, once you encounter a battle you get taken to the battle screen and given various options to select depending on your skill setup which we will talk about in a bit.
At the beginning of the game i.e. the first battle you encounter you only have a melee, magic and item option, as the game progresses you’ll pick up new Weapons, Materia, and other forms of attack. To fight an enemy you simply have to select an attack and then confirm which enemy you like you character to hit. There’s more to fighting than simply hitting an enemy. There’s a time bar that you have to wait until you can perform another move, you also have to look after your character, keep an eye on their HP and MP, and then there’s the limit break bar that allows each character to use a unique attack once full. Status elements such as poisoned or silenced appear on the character themselves and are each represented via a different symbol to help distinguish what’s wrong with them.
To really explore and complete many of the challenges in Final Fantasy VII a lot of ‘Grinding’ is required which means you have to spend a long time encountering random battles, defeating enemies and then repeat over and over which can become very tiresome but on the other hand can give you a great feeling of success and accomplishment and sometimes grant you some pretty rare items along with levelling up and acquiring a lot of Gil so definitely worth doing if you want to make battles or tasks easierfor yourself.
Lastly we have the Materia system, a system developed for Final Fantasy VII that allows you to equip different Materia’s into empty Materia slots on characters Weapons and Armour to give them new magic, increased stats, enable magic to hit all targets and so on. If Materia is that good then why not equip every bit you have? Well Materia can also take a characters maximum HP down so there’s a lot of trial and error to be had when equipping new Materia, sometimes it might be worth that little extra HP for a new ability, other time is could spell disaster.
First time around playing Final Fantasy VII on the PC was in all honesty a nightmare. It’s a real challenge to play the game using a keyboard and mouse and really slowed the gameplay down, the controls are fiddly and just aren’t as smooth as using a pad so I would recommend playing with a pad. However if you can’t get your hands on a pad be ready to navigate the fiddly control setup and don’t expect the fluid gameplay you’d expect from the console version because you just won’t get it.
You have to remember that back in its day Final Fantasy pushed boundaries, its CGI looked great compared to everything else out at that time it even compared to CGI used in movies back in the day, heck compared to some games it still looks pretty good, the character models not so much however the detail in some of the environments is second to none, but it’s no Final Fantasy XIII!.
The ‘Remake’ has taken in to consideration that it is supposed to be an update to the previous PC port so they have given us some higher resolution character and enemy models that do actually look a lot better compared to the previous versions. They’re a lot smoother with cleaner edges and the detailing such as mouths are actually there and more prominent than before; hey you can even distinguish body parts apart, but don’t be expecting current-gen quality.
The higher res models are only seen infight sequences and in in-game cut-scenes. Rendered elements i.e. backgrounds and CG movies are the same as in previous releases of Final Fantasy VII.It’s possible that Square Enix could have made that little extra effort to tidy up the other bits a little but for an update and rerelease of the PC version I think they have done the graphics justice.
There’s not a whole lot of difference between the sound of the previous PC port and this new one if any to be honest but for those that missed out on the PC version until now you will notice a minor improvement from the PS1 game, a bit cleaner and more distinguishable between sounds/ effects but that’s about as far as it goes. Whilst playing this game most of the music sounds really good but in a few places, not all CG and in game moments but a few, there have been some really horrible crackly sounds, which may just be through my headset (I’m using EARFORCE Z6A’s) however if they can get it right in the other parts surely with the update/remake they would have made the effort to clean up these few horrible moments. It’s certainly not enough to ruin the game but it’s not very pleasant that’s for sure.
So after playing this ‘remake’ I must say I am quite impressed with what SquareEnix has done. I love that the character models are cleaner and more distinguishable. I thought that the in game cut scenes with the higher res models were great lookingand would have loved the rest of the CG to have been updated and would also of liked a few of the sounds to have been looked at and fixed but we can’t have everything!
The Cloud saves are certainly handy, it was a moment of joy when I booted up my laptop and could then continue my game that I had been playing on the PC hours before. The inclusion of the achievement system is a really nice touch although more challenging achievements could be implemented in the future to challenge players a bit more like for example beating the game under a certain time, beating the Weapon bosses using only certain Materia, Finding all of the garments Cloud can wear as a woman (that is entertaining!), Breading 1 of every colour Chocobo.. The list could go on and on and I say Square Enix bring on the challenge!
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