Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation 4) Review

By Shane Jury 03.02.2016 2

Review for Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 4

One series that Nintendo touted as a staple of its line-up throughout the nineties was SquareSoft's (now Square Enix) Final Fantasy - six character-driven adventure role-playing games that would continue to push presentational boundaries with each iteration. After the critically-acclaimed Final Fantasy VI, many expected the seventh game in the series for the upcoming Ultra 64, a machine that promised cutting-edge 3D visuals and powerful hardware. Alas, it was not to be, and the next title would mark a major coup for Sony's PlayStation and a turning point in Nintendo's gaming market dominance. Now, nearly two decades later, Square Enix has updated the classic for PS4, and ahead of the impending remake, Final Fantasy VII has once again graced the PlayStation community. How does the game hold up after 19 years of industry innovation and development?

Final Fantasy VII tells the tale of Cloud Strife, a cold-hearted mercenary hired by the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE to aid in taking down the dictatorial rule of Shinra, a power-hungry corporation looking to achieve world dominance. Via highly detailed static backdrops, impressive cut-scene videos, and a vast array of memorable characters used throughout the entirety of the game, Cloud's journey of discovery, redemption, and revenge against a former ally-turned-harbinger of death and destruction unfolds at a steady and solid pace.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 4

The world of Gaia opens up at a pivotal moment in the story and makes for one of the biggest explorable landmasses seen up to the point of the game's original release. A certain moment in the story that has since become widely praised for shocking and tear-inducing its audience still has equal impact today, and has arguably yet to be bettered in sheer surprise value. Although the lesser polygonal-rendering ability of the PlayStation was distractingly apparent in the blocky "LEGO men" look of the characters outside of battle transitions and cut-scenes, the animations used to effectively convey a whole host of emotions and reactions in conversational situations installs a strong sense of charm that would likely have been less apparent in more realistic models.

The game is presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, and has been primarily converted from the PC version, so character models and backgrounds have been sharpened for high-definition displays. Cut-scenes have been given a similar enhancement, although the cranky animation does more to show the game's age than the visual look itself. The music is kept in line with the initial release, and remains some of Nobuo Uematsu's finest work, with only a minor glitch carried over from the PC being a fault; overworld music resets after random battles, instead of continuing.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 4

At the core of Final Fantasy VII is the battlefield and the role-playing elements surrounding it: Hit Points and Magic Points to determine health and casting ability, respectively; a Limit Break meter to unleash a strong attack when damaged enough; a levelling system that upgrades fighters and powers upon successful tussles; plenty of weapons and armour to obtain and learn to use; and the more unique Materia system that arguably has yet to find a rival in accessibility and flexibility.

Materia is essentially what the game's premise and events unfold around, and it takes the shape of countless elemental jewels that bestow their wielders the powers of the planet. In battle, this is in the form of magic spells, ranging from a simple earthquake or lightning bolt, to calling down individual Summon creatures that deliver a strong blow. Outside of battle, how characters can arrange these abilities is related not only to the level of the Materia itself, but the currently equipped weaponry. Many Materia work in tandem with each other via linked weapon slots, and learning how best to make use of each one is the key to progression. There were many tricks and glitches in the original game ripe for exploitation in this system, and Square Enix has left them all in, be it for the fans that once enjoyed them or just for the authentic retro feel.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 4

Speaking of tricks, a brand new addition to this version is the three cheat modes, activated and switched off by pushing R3, L3, or a combination of the two. One will speed up the entire game by three times, which is a very handy function that helps with the game's authentically low frame rate speed and doesn't affect the music or cut-scenes negatively. Another will switch off all random encounters; a very helpful one for getting from A to B without interruption. The third is akin to a "God Mode" of sorts; all health, magic and Limit meters are instantly restored while this function is kept on. Using any of these cheats doesn't affect Trophy gain at all, and can help iron out a number of the game's more aged aspects, while giving veterans a reason to revisit and enjoy anew.

One of the biggest reasons that Final Fantasy VII stood out back at release was the sheer amount of actual game there was to play; up until that era, the RPG genre was somewhat of a commodity, so this title was the first experience for many that actually felt like an interactive movie. As such, there is considerable depth and a vast amount to see across what was three discs of content. With the 3x speed option, seasoned fans will have no difficulty blasting through and grinding levels at key points, and completionists will have a blast going for the Trophies. The relatively low difficulty bar is a helpful element for those new to the genre, as well.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

It is a year later than planned, but is more ironed out than any other version with the optional cheats and Trophies. A steadily-paced story, sterling soundtrack and unmatched character building system keep this title still relevant in the packed world of role-playing games. Whether it be for nostalgic purposes or simply to see what all the fuss is about, this edition of Final Fantasy VII is worthy of a fresh journey, and will surely compliment the impending remake nicely.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

A slightly conflicting experience, this. With the booster options, no encounters, 3x speed, analogue stick control and trophies, this is by far the ultimate version of the game, and makes it so much more tempting to replay the game on a whim. Grinding and the more slower/boring parts of the game can be breezed through with the 3x speed option now.

But I'm really surprised there was no mention of the menu bug at all. This is a huge killer. For those unaware, basically, if you quickly press a direction and then the confirm button on the menu to select something, the cursor will skip to the next option along and confirm/open that menu instead. e.g. If I was highlighting Item and wanted to press down+X to open the Magic menu below, the cursor would skip right over Magic and open the next menu option below, which is Materia. This only happens if you quickly press the confirm button after a direction button, but it is a major deal because we naturally press buttons quickly, and it is an even bigger problem for those of us so familiar with the game. You have to train your mind to delay your inputs throughout the entire game by half a second, and it affects every menu (quickly organising Materia setups becomes a nightmare). It's horrible.

Then there is the music bug already mentioned, where the current field theme will play from the beginning after the end of a battle, instead of continuing where it left off. It means the likes of the world map themes never get heard in their entirety (unless you use no encounters or spend lengthy time in the menus). This was fixed in FFX HD on PS4, and rightly so - it's a disaster for any game in this genre that relies so heavily on its soundtrack to create a great experience.

I think the fact that bugs from the original PS1 version still remain shouldn't be overlooked. It's not an excuse to say it is staying true to the original game from 1997; it's not necessarily a good thing to still have to deal with the Pandora's Box enemy skill bug, where it will never be seen in the game again once it's used the first time.

When I look at it as a game today, the original FF7 isn't up to par in terms of user friendliness; there are just one too many little issues that keep it from being still the same exceptional experience. And as a port that should really be updating old bugs and not creating NEW ones, it does fall short. The extra options and features do help to balance it out massively, though, so whilst it can be seen as the best version of FF7 to date, it's also a damn annoying one (mainly because of the menu and music bugs).

Thats a pretty good point, I dont think stuff like that can be forgiven it lets developers off too light.

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