What is it about?
Protagonist with a shady past? Check. Scumbag corporation? Check. Radical environmental group? Check. While it might sound like a plot of a cheesy action flick, Final Fantasy VII is anything but. Scratch a little beneath the surface of what seems like an inane premise and you have a game that has superb if slightly faulty story-telling and gameplay mechanics that still work brilliantly even today. There’s an emo antagonist with severe mommy issues, a fortune telling robot cat, a love triangle, a man with a machine gun for an arm and a talking dog. Yes, we think the fine developers at Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) were definitely tripping on something fierce. The end result though, is something quite special.
Why should I play it now?
Well, the plot manages to hold it’s own. What starts off as a routine rag tag group of Eco-warriors trying to cause dissent by bombing power plants of a sinister corporation soon evolves into an intricate plot to save the world. Throw in an iconic lead villain that current-gen RPGs wish they could imitate, and you have enough of a reason. But there’s more. The music is next to sheer perfection with a varied, suitably epic score from longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu. Also, the simple yet elegant turn-based combat system make battles a joy. If you’re new to JRPGs this is a game to ease you in to the genre.
How does it hold up today?
For what started its life as a PSOne exclusive, time hasn’t been the kindest to Final Fantasy VII. After all, it’s the first in the series to use 3D computer graphics. It also featured fully rendered characters on pre-rendered backgrounds. What was cutting edge back in 1997 looks blocky and tacky in 2013. Even more hilarious was the use of super-deformed characters in non-battle sections, while battles had characters rendered in exacting proportions. Needless to say, this is not a game that would be easy on the eyes when blown up on a big screen as would be on the PS3 or PC. Shrunk down to the comfy confines of the Vita or PSP however, and you have something a lot more palpable.
Is it similar to anything else out there?
Post-Final Fantasy VII, every other company tried their hand at making a Japanese RPG to ride on the success of the game. None of them were as successful or even memorable. And while there is a prequel on the PSP called Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, it was a lot more action oriented in terms of combat, ensuring that the only ties it shares to Final Fantasy VII are those of the narrative nature. The one title that could come close was The Legend of Dragoon which was made by Sony, featuring deep gameplay and a story that was just as good. Current generation games that featured a similar combat system and exploration include Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360.
What do I need to play this?
You could play this on the PSP, Vita or PS3 as it is available as a digital download. Other options include grabbing it on the PC via Square-Enix’s digital store. From these, the PC variant is your best bet sporting cleaner visuals, less blurry character models, cloud saves and Xbox 360 controller support. It is the easiest way to get your fix if you don’t own a Playstation console. But it’s not perfect. The DRM is flaky, and you’re limited to 3 installs before you have to email Square-Enix for support. Thankfully it doesn’t use always online connectivity like modern titles such as Sim City and Diablo III.
‘When I played through…’
The first time I played Final Fantasy VII, I was taken aback by how detailed and immersive the world was. It was astonishing. The fusion of top-notch music, graphics, cinematics and story-telling blew my mind to the point where I’d revisit the game more often than I should. Firing up the PC version a couple of days ago further drove the point home. Sure it hasn’t aged too well in terms of aesthetic but everything else holds up brilliantly. From a slew of locations – 330 to be precise, ranging from sprawling casinos to creepy labs, to the dazzling plot twists and a battle system that’s accessible yet deep, this is one game that has managed to stand the test of time.
Is there anything else I should be aware of (ie mods, crazy glitches, contribution to pop culture, Internet meme, etc)?
As is the case with most Japanese RPGs , there are random attacks which can be a bit irritating. But if you manage to stave away the temptation of running away from most of them, you’ll find yourself getting by the game’s many boss battles with very little to worry about. The music of the PC version isn’t exactly of the best quality when compared to the Playstation counterparts. This can be rectified with a simple file replacement, courtesy “Whogie” from NeoGAF.
There are a bunch of animated features, games and short stories that came out to further flesh out the already insanely detailed universe of Final Fantasy VII, but the only two worth bothering with are Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children which is an action-packed CGI sequel and the aforementioned prequel on the PSP, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
Where do I get it?
If you have money to burn, a sealed PSOne copy would cost you in excess of $200 not including customs and shipping. A cheaper method would be getting it digitally via PSN if you own a Playstation console or getting it on the PC via Square-Enix’s online store.