FFVII is an all-time gaming classic. The demand for an update has been ceaseless, and Square have finally answered with this PC re-release. The original game is still available on the PSN for those of you who don’t want to take a chance on this update, a direct download from Square Enix itself, but if you want in on this HD re-release, then read on. If you haven’t yet played FFVII, go ahead and skip the next paragraph – we’re about to get nostalgic.
The first time you played FFVII, you were probably playing it on a chunky CRT screen with childlike (Or genuinely childish) wonder at the graphics, which were a real step up at the time, and the huge scale of the world that lay before you. As that first panning shot of Midgar yawned beneath you and the telling first few chords of the soundtrack began, you may have wondered if gaming was ever going to get better than this. You accompanied the small band of eco-terrorist misfits every step of the way, laughing when Cloud had to dress up like a woman and pimp himself out to sneak into Don Corneo’s mansion, crying when Sephiroth committed one of the most grievous murders in gaming history, and riding Chocobos to your heart’s content. If, like me, FFVII fell to the side after you’d exhausted all four discs, gathering dust in the back of a cupboard as PS2 began its long and rightful reign, the next time you played it, technology would have changed. The characters don’t look so cute on LED displays, looking somewhat like grotesque anime tumours waddling across stretched and pixellated dieselpunk environments. The core game remained, but a lot of that initial wonderment and joy was induced by what were at the time some breathtaking visuals, and those visuals have not stood the test of time in their current format.
So what does the PC update change? Well, the graphics are full HD, which on a nice big monitor will inject new life into the dated visuals. The HD update serves mainly to restore the game to its former glory on modern hardware, the graphics and textures themselves left untouched and pristine. It feels thoroughly authentic to the original experience, aside from the game-breaking addition of the ‘Character Boost’ – which is worth ranting about in great detail later – most of the ‘new features’ aren’t really substantial enough to impact the game itself. You’ll occasionally get an achievement pop up for achieving broad and obscure goals alike, but these aren’t central to any gaming hub, just the game itself. So if you’ve got a bunch of friends playing the update too, you’ll be able to brag about using all the Limit Breaks or beating the extra bosses. The achievements are pretty pedestrian, and you’ll achieve most of them just playing through the game – as far as “new features” go it doesn’t add or subtract anything from FFVII.
In fact, most of the additional features have that effect. It seems like unnecessary garnish on the RPG pie – they could have just smeared the HD all over it and it would still have sold just as well. If you’re looking to buy Final Fantasy VII, chances are you’re not going to be swayed by the chance to collect 36 meaningless achievements or the ability to Cloud save (We see what you did there, Square. We are not impressed). You’re probably just looking for the chance to relive a piece of gaming history, and all these unnecessary frills just get in the way of that goal. For the most part, the game stays intact, except for an idea so dumb it almost runs alongside Final Fantasy X-2 or XIII-2: Character Boost.
Thankfully, Character Boost resides solely on the website so it doesn’t intrude in any of the game menus. With the click of a button on the Square Enix website, you can instantly refill your health, mana, and Gil. Presumably this is intended to minimise grinding and make the game more accessible to people who don’t want to spend hours watching numbers get bigger, but why bother buying a Final Fantasy game if that’s not what you’re looking for? It’s disheartening that Square even thought it essential in the first place, and while it’s hardly shoved in your face, it’s a bit of a cheap way out of dealing with some of the tougher challenges in the earlier parts game. If you’ve never played FFVII before and start using the Character Boost copiously to just stock up on potions and smash your way through boss fights like that, you aren’t going to learn the tactics or Materia combinations that’ll make a real difference in the end game.
It’s arguably one of the best stories told in Final Fantasy, and here it is in full HD. If you’re waiting for another excuse to undertake Cloud’s journey, or just about to take it for the very first time, this is the way to go. Sure, the new features are pointless, but for the price you pay, you get hours upon hours of exploration, epic boss battles, and a game that will challenge you even today. It’s not the complete remake the fanbase wants, but it’ll do the job for now.
It’s Final Fantasy VII alright, and it doesn’t look like some nightmarish parade of balloon animals wearing cosplay wigs. It’s the cleanest the game has ever looked, and it’s a real joy to revisit the world in HD. It all looks new again, from the grimy slums and decrepit buildings of Midgar to the neon heights of the Gold Saucer.
FFVII’s soundtrack is legendary with good reason, and the score perfectly accompanies the game from riding across broad vistas to showing down bosses a hundred times your size. It’s all part of what makes FFVII such a magical experience – the visuals and score transform a fairly standard RPG in terms of mechanics into an unforgettable story.
It’s still the game you know and love. For those of you who haven’t played it, FFVII is a turn-based RPG in which you play Cloud Strife, a typical mercenary with a dark past who seems selfish and distant until he meets the girl of his dreams – ad nauseum. Cloud is accompanied by a cast of highly individual party members, each of which have their own backstories and unique weapons/abilities. If you want to make it through to the final showdown with Sephiroth you’re going to need to do a lot of grinding, so if you hate running in circles in the same place for potentially hours on end, steer clear. You’ll get to pilot boats and airships with a level of freedom not present in even the sandboxiest of modern sandboxes, and invest yourself in a genuinely rewarding storyline. All the dungeons have something new about them and there are always fresh enemies to overcome – the game will keep you hooked until the final hour with new friends and foes.
If you’ve already got FFVII on PS3, you can safely give this a miss. The update is worth it if you don’t already own a digital copy somewhere. But if this is your first foray in the game, just buy it – it’s an essential part of gaming history made new again.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.
Final Fantasy VII Re-Release Review,