Final Fantasy VII

a game by Square
Genre: Adventure/RPG
Platforms: Playstation 2, PC, Playstation
Editor Rating: 7.8/10, based on 5 reviews, 10 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.5/10 - 4 votes
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See also: Final Fantasy Series, Anime Games

While it's always overshadowed by America’s annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, this past September’s Tokyo Game Show proved that it's still got some fight left in it, as the event was headlined by major announcements from Square Enix (sorry, no Final Fantasy XII yet—patience, grasshopper).

After denying rumors for months of a follow-up to Final Fantasy WII(PS1), Square Enix finally dropped the bomb at TGS: Yes, it is making a sequel.. .of sorts. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children isn’t a game—it’s a CG-ani-mated movie. The story picks up two years after the end of FFVII, as Cloud must once again save the world from peril—this time, in the form of an epidemic called Star Mark Syndrome. We also know that arch-villain Sephiroth is back, but other than that, the plot remains a mystery. (Will Aerith return after her infamous death scene in the original FFVII? None can say.)

It's easy to understand why Square Enix would want to make a sequel to FFVII: It was a true turning point for the franchise, ushering in a new era of cinematic style and darker themes that helped popularize RPGs in North America, and it’s still the best-selling FFin America to date. It’s a little trickier, however, to figure out why Square Enix would make a film rather than a game. “A game sequel is a simple solution, but that might be too easy," says Advent Children (and original FFVII) Producer Yoshinori Kitase. “We wanted to challenge ourselves and do something new—a visual work— and see how our work will be accepted.” Details are sketchy on how this hour-long CG film will be released in the summer of 2004 in Japan (the U.S. date is TBD). Options discussed include a traditional DVD, a full theatrical release, or maybe even distribution via the Internet. About all we can say for sure is that Advent Children is bound to be better than the ill-fated Spirits Within flick of 2001, and fans shouldn’t be bummed out by its non-interactive nature— you might get your FFVII game sequel yet....

Download Final Fantasy VII

Playstation 2

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Playstation

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

If you followed part one of our guide to Final Fantasy VII last issue, you'll know all about battle strategy, the secret characters and other little gems. This month we take a look at the sub-games, how to defeat Weapon and where to find all the Enemy Skills. We're not going tell you how to beat the last boss, or how to cope with the untimely death of... someone, but these tips should help you find out some things that you perhaps wouldn't have thought to look for otherwise. Good luck, o spiky-headed one.

The Four Sub-Games

There are four major sub-games which occur as integral parts of the plot. Once you've played them as part of the story, you can go back to Gold Saucer at any time and replay them. G-Bike is the first one you come across, upon your escape from Shinra HQ on disc one.

G-Bike

You need to defend the truck - stay close to It. When an enemy bike appears, pull up alongside (you can speed up and slow down using the 'up' and 'down' keys) and give It a good whack with the sword while ramming It sideways - this is the quickest method to kill 'em. Remember which characters you chose to be in your party, as you'll have a boss fight at the end of the road. Each character has an energy bar - If ft drops to zero, they start the boss fight with one HP. However, as the boss always pre-empts you, one HP basically means curtains, so avoid getting into that position.

Snowboarding

Snowboarding Is a short way into the second disc and it's fairly easy. When you play it as a 'plot element', all you have to do is get down the hill - ignore the balloons and shift Remember to use Pageup and Pagedown to slide-turn for sharper cornering.

If you replay this one at Gold Saucer, however, you need to be a Irttlle bit more skilful. You are marfced on your accuracy, how many balloons you hit and how quickly you do the course Different coloured balloons are worth different numbers of points: the red ones carry low points, blue ones are usually hidden behind obstacles, while green one are practically impossible to get and so are worth loads of points.

Achieve a decent score and you'll be rated 'Good'. Replay the game to try a new course and keep going until you complete the 'Crazy' course. Finish this for prizes.

Fortcondor

This is like a basic Command & Conquer. Buy loads of troops at the start (up to 20) - use a mix of fighters, attackers and defenders and forget the others. When the enemies start arriving, send them into the fray.

Leave a few troops around the shed to defend it, but swarming the enemy is otherwise the best tactic. When you play this one as a 'plot element' (where you're trying to recover the Huge materia on disc two), you can either fight the battle through to the bitter end or go for the (much easier) option, which is to allow the enemies to overrun the base. Do this and you'll have an easy boss battle, no problemo.

Submarine Chase

As a 'plot game', this is easy peasy. You start out just behind your target - the red submarine carrying Huge materia - so all you have to do is shoot the shit out of it and wham! - mission accomplished. At Gold Saucer, however, you have to take out every submarine in the area. Use your sonar (Pagedown) to watch for blips. Follow them and take out the subs. Take care to avoid the mines that are lying around, but be quick - your sub's a bit sluggish and you've only got ten minutes.

Beating Weapon

There are actually four Weapons scattered around the world. If you don't know who or what Weapon is, go to Icicle Inn on the Northern continent. In a house on the left of the village is a video player - watch the video to be enlightened. For those of you who know only too well what Weapon is, you probably want to beat him, right?

You don't have to defeat Emerald and Ruby. However, you do need to face Ultima and survive (although you don't have to defeat him), and you do need to defeat Diamond. It's worth killing them all, however, as good things can happen.

Ruby Weapon

Ruby Weapon lives in the desert near Gold Saucer, so you need a gold chocobo to get near him (breeding one is a fairly long-winded process, explained last issue). But before you go galloping up to him, get into a normal fight with any weedy little enemy. Kill off two party members then fight Ruby. If you don't do this, Ruby removes them permanently. Revive your two members as soon as the fight starts. You should have a Hades materia from the Sunken Plane (use the submarine to find it), and Ideally you should also have the same materia as for Emerald Weapon (W-Summon, Mime, Knights Of Round).

Open with Hades. This freezes Ruby in time, leaving you free to W-Summon Knights Of Round and mime it a few times. As soon as you see him moving again, cast Hades again. Then repeat Knights Of Round. That's basically it Ruby's a difficult baddie to finish off, but nowhere near as evil as Emerald. It takes time, though - be prepared to stick at it.

Ultima Weapon

You meet Ultima Weapon once you've beaten the Fort Condor Huge materia quest with Cid at the helm. (At this point, Cloud is a gibbering wreck in hospital.) Cid suggests you "pay the little fella a visit", so head for Mideel on the Southern Continent. Speak with Cloud, and Ultima will attack the village.

Before you speak with Cloud, ensure that at least one of your party members has their HP well above 2000. If this isn't the case, go to Cosmo Canyon and buy some HP Plus materia.

Cid, trying to act the hero, taunts Weapon and engages him in combat. Attack Ultima with all you've got, but cast Cure if he twats any of your boys (or, indeed, girls). After a while, the screen announces that he is about to use his Ultima Beam on you. This ominous, threatening (and lethal) blue beam causes about 2000 HP of damage to all your party. To win the fight, all you have to do is survive this blast and hit him again, after which he flies away.

Later on you can defeat Ultima entirely. You need Highwind, and you also need to have defeated Diamond Weapon (see below). Ultima will be hovering over a big pool just behind Midgar - fly into him and beat him up as much as you can. He will fly off again - follow him and crash into him until he flies to a particular place and stops over it.

Your final battle with Ultima takes place over Cosmo Canyon. Beating him sends him crashing to the ground, and also gives Cloud his ultimate weapon. This beast causes massive damage, but the damage done decreases depending on how many HP Cloud has left.

Diamond Weapon

After your visit to the City of the Ancients on disc two, you meet Diamond. Diamond emerges from the ocean, heading for Midgar. Fly Highwind to Midgar, and wait on the beach for Diamond to arrive Physical attacks have sod-all effect on Diamond unless his breast plate is open. Unfortunately, when it Is it means he's about to kill you. So use your strongest summons and spells on him - there's no easy way to do It - but make sure you use Cure or Elixirs regularly. Eventually, something truly explosive happens.

Emerald Weapon

Emerald lives underwater, so you need to use the submarine to get to him. He moves around a lot, so simply search around the centre of the map until you eventually find him. Bump into him and prepare for the hardest battle in the game.

Fighting Emerald Is only for the brave... or people who have the following: one mastered Knights Of Round materia, three Mime materias, one Final Attack materia (see last month's Gold Saucer Battle Square comments), one W-Summon materia (also from Gold Saucer) and at least one Revive materia at level two or higher. And plenty of curative stuff. Got all that? Then you're all set Pair Final Attack with a Revive materia. That way, if whoever holds this combo croaks, they come back to life! Also, get as many Counterattack materias as you can - equip them all on one person. The more one person has, the more times they'll counter-attack if they get smacked.

Emerald will often pre-empt you with a stomp attack, but not always. Start with W-Summon Knights Of The Round (ie cast it twice in one turn); all other party members should Mime this. By this point, Emerald is ready to attack again, so have something curative ready (a Megalixir's good). Cure, then repeat the W-Summon trick (everyone should Mime It again). Continue this process until Emerald is dead. It takes time - he has one million HP - but keep at It and you'll beat him. Eventually.

At some point, the eyes on his shell light up, indicating that he's about to use some different attacks. Some eyes drain MP, whereas others inflict damage. Use a spell or Summon to destroy them. Be warned though: sometimes when they're all destroyed, Emerald counters with his Aire Tam Storm attack, which usually kills your entire party instantly. Now you see why you need that Final Attack materia. Remember defeating Emerald isn't easy, and you won't beat him straight away.

Cross-dressing. Final Fantasy VII features a healthy dose of crossdressing. We can't think of many other games where the hero undergoes a lengthy transvestite interlude. But then Final Fantasy VII isn't like other games. It's weird, it's Japanese, and it's got crossdressing in it. And it's great.

We'll discuss that bizarre sartorial encounter later. First, we'll try to explain a bit about just what the dang heck you're looking at here.

Hands-Off Approach

We assume you're familiar with the concept of role-playing games. You know: four blokes with skin complaints sitting around a table in suburbia rolling 18-sided dice until 4am, imagining they're hairy warriors from the Wilderness of Death instead of overweight systems analysts from Filey.

Theirs is a world governed by weighty tomes containing list upon list of arcane rules about armour classes and hit points, a tragic melange of facial hair, bad teeth, perpetual virginity and desperate Tolkeinesque wish-fulfilment. It isn't the sort of thing that gets covered in enthusiastic detail by The Face.

But the style press would cover this particular game. Right off the bat, Final Fantasy VII achieves the formidable task of making role-playing cool. This isn't just an illusion of cunning design - it really is a superb game. You just have to be prepared to accept a few... peculiarities.

Just A Minute

Before we go on, a quick word about cut-scenes. We've often railed against cut-scenes here at Zone. Nothing upsets us more than a game filled with lengthy and superfluous video sequences. We're supposed to be playing a game, we reason. If we wanted to simply sit back and witness events unfolding, we'd bloody well go and watch television. Unless Emmerdald s on, that is. We simply can't abide farmers. Even fictional ones. They're all shits. Anyway, you get the point: we prefer hands-on action any day.

Well, Final Fantasy VII is absolutely stuffed with non-interactive storyline sequences.

In fact, at a rough estimate, we'd say that 25 per cent of the time you are doing little more than pushing a single button to advance to the next chunk of an ongoing rolling sequence. By rights, we should be slagging the game into the dirt, awarding it a sub-20 per cent score and phoning up the developers and calling them arseholes. But we're making an exception to the rule. Still, consider yourselves warned: there's a lot of waiting around involved in this game.

East-West Divide

There's a world of difference between us and our Far-Eastern cousins. We like our RPGs traditional. Plenty of dimly-lit dungeons, axe-wielding goblins and heroes with frightening biceps shimmying about in skintight hose. We like nothing better than leaping straight into a tedious quest to recover a sacred dagger or a rusty bit of pipe. The storyline barely seems to matter - we just like the idea of the whole thing. We're idiots, basically.

The Japanese, at first glance, are altogether more well-adjusted. Their RPGs - and Final Fantasy VIIis the finest example of the genre - are adept at keeping things exciting, by remembering to include two very important things: a compelling storyline and sackloads of eye-dazzling Anime action.

First things first. The storyline. We won't bore you rigid by recounting a load of background information: you can find out what the game's about when you buy it. What we'd like to draw your attention to is the fact that the developers haven't once lost sight of the fact that first and foremost they're supposed to be storytellers, here to keep you entertained. The audience must be held in a state of suspended disbelief for the entire duration of the narrative. They do this by performing a complex juggling act: exciting you with frequent bursts of activity, while allowing the overall course of events to unfold slowly, arousing your curiosity with unexpected twists in the tale en route.

Character interaction and growth is also of paramount importance. We're supposed to identify with the main protagonists, and if at the end of the tale their experiences haven't changed them in some way, we'll shuffle away disappointed and drink ourselves to death. Finally, there's the creation of a believable environment, with its own set of rules and logic - a world which slowly becomes as familiar as the player's own.

That's the basic formula for producing something that will drive the player on. It's also a basic formula which Final Fantasy W/slavishly adheres to. You won't be able to put it down. Really.

We'll print that again so the words imbed themselves in your head. You won't be able to put it down. And here's the bad news: it's immense in scale. It's one of those games where you keep thinking "I must be about haltway through by now" for weeks on end, but you're not halfway through at all. You've probably only seen 5% of the thing. Pray for bad weather this summer, or you could end up being the palest person in your street.

Two Styles Become One

The game itself is an intensely playable hybrid of simple arcade-style action and traditional RPG geekery. In its own way, Final Fantasy VII is just as nerdy as the most bearded Dungeons & Dragons clone you could imagine: like them, it's crammed to the butt cheeks with all manner of character statistics.but somehow the arcade elements make all of that seem okay.

Nowhere is this peculiar mixture of arcade fun and dicerolling spoddery more apparent than in the battle sequences, which crop up with increasing regularity as you progress in the game. Fighting takes the form of a half-real-time, half-turn-based orgy of violence, with some truly spectacular special effects bunged in for good measure. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it works.

The action concerns the exploits of a bloke named Cloud and his chums from illegal eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE (that's probably an acronym for something, but God knows what), and as the game progresses you'll find yourself getting distinctly attached to them. Our favourite character is Barret, leader of AVALANCHE, because he reminds us of Mister!

Initially, the game is totally linear - it almost drags you from one location to another at times. Adventure game old-timers might find this infuriating, but later on the structure becomes far more free-form, enabling you to wander around at will. The engine also undergoes a startling transformation from static prerendered backdrops to moving, real-time, 3D, Mario 64-style landscapes. This is one of the joys of the game - you never know what's coming next.

Words Don't Come Easy

Hugely cheesy dialogue, mind. It's written, not spoken, and it's all been translated from Japanese. Sometimes it's laughably bad. If you encountered a script this hackneyed and unnatural in the cinema you'd stand up and hurl shoes at the screen. Furthermore, the convoluted narrative employs even more cloying sentiment and gurgling cutesyness than your average Mother's Day card. But you get into it. In fact, after an hour's play you won't even notice. If that isn't concrete evidence of the peculiar hold this game can exert, we don't know what is.

What else? Well, the graphics are first-rate. The pre-rendered backdrops which appear for the bulk of the game's early stages look like they've been lifted straight from Akira, while the polygonal characters that make up the cast are all designed in that intrinsically satisfying, boldly simplistic Manga style. The animation throughout is superb, especially during some of the battle sequences, with their eyepopping lighting effects and explosions.

The audio content might raise a few eyebrows. Much of the music is controlled by the MIDI chip in your sound card, so if you've got a cheap one, it could prove unbearable. And most of the sound effects themselves sound like old-school Megadrive noises. Sonic purists will probably want to pull their own heads off with rage at this news, but we rather liked them. And that's all we've got time for. Did you notice we haven't really told you anything about the plot itself? That's because we want you to play the damn thing and find out for yourself. Final Fantasy VII will amaze, amuse, excite, enthral and reward you. It's excellent value for money, too: it's so big you'll need a good lie down at the end.

If you've never played a Japanese RPG before, you may want to do that old 'try before you buy' thing. But that would just be boring. Instead, splash out. Live a little. Trust us on this one. You won't regret it.

What you think

People say:

  • Final Fantasy VII is great, but it crashes too often. Surely Eidos could have done a better port? The gameplay would perhaps have suffered with mouse control, but the option should still have been there (especially for combat). As it is, it's too similar to the PlayStation version. Apart from the graphics and sound options, it doesn't take advantage of the PC's capabilities. Not being able to load a saved game midgame is ridiculous. Having said that, I still love it."
  • Bugs in games really annoy me. I'm not even off the first disk of Final Fantasy VII and I've found one bug that stops you from getting any further, and another that stops you from completing a sub-quest. They both seem to be of the same nature - missing active spots on the screen. Didn't they play the game all the way through before releasing the PC version? This wouldn't annoy me so much if it wasn't a really good game. Mind you, they could have re-rendered the backdrops in 640x480 instead of stretching the 320x200 PlayStation screens. And the sound could be a lot better. But I still like the game for its depth and storyline.
  • FFVII is one of the worst games I've ever played. First of all I couldn't get it to work properly as it did not recognise the D3D drivers on my machine, even after I loaded the ones that they supplied on the installation disk. After telling it I had no 3D card and got it running, I discovered the true meaning of crapness: the music was irritating, the storyline was a joke, the dialogue between the characters was laughable. The control system was awkward and user-unfriendly, and people appeared from nowhere to challenge you to a fight. It is a waste of four perfectly good CDs.

Square of Japan's announcement to make PlayStation games can only be described as stunning-a fitting word in light of this behemoth of an adventure.

Encompassing two CDs. Final Fantasy 7 takes full advantage of SGI-rendered graphics to create richly detailed city and dungeon scenes, as these shots from Square show. Of particular note is the attention paid to lighting anql shading effects, such as the glow of a neon sign or campfire, which give the graphics a sense of depth never before seen in an RPG.

The artistry presented in these preliminary shots is a dramatic departure from the simple cartoonlike drawings of Square's 16-Bit offerings, but given the quality of these scenes, it's doubtful if any gamers will complain about the new look.

Square has harnessed the PlayStation s polygon drawing capabilities for its battle engine, in which characters move and attack enemies in a 3-D setting. Based on what Square showed, the battle sequences can be viewed from various perspectives such as up close with the adventurers or from the enemies' point of view.

The actual storyline remains a mystery, but it apparently involves a futuristic-styled city called Midgar. Of course, no FF story is complete without new faces. Square has revealed three: Claud, a partially armored fighter who packs a huge sword; Ealis, a female ally draped in pink who wields a staff; and Barett, a muscle-bound black man whose arms serve as formidable weapons in their own right.

Considering this game will be placed on two CDs, according to Square, gamers should expect a long, intricate adventure with many subplots and multiple endings.

  • MANUFACTURER - Square
  • THEME - RPG
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1

Final Fantasy VII has finally landed on the shores of Video Came America, and this Fantasy is for real! FFVII is in fact the best 32-bit RPG around. For the record, and every RPG homey should know this, FF developer Square has stated that the PlayStation is the only system that can handle FFVII, and it's loaded three CDs with gameplay to back up that posturing. However, Final Fantasy would be a great RPG no matter what the hardware.

A Fantasy Story

Final Fantasy VII is a deep, lush game that consumes you with a compelling story line. Unlike most games, Final Fantasy's story line is a major drawing card. The tale centers around a sword-wielding mercenary named Cloud Strife and a motley band of Earth-first revolutionaries called Avalanche who are trying to prevent the evil Shinra Corporation from draining their world's energy. The unfolding of Cloud's tale is dramatic, sentimental, and touching in a way that draws you into the characters. To further that, Square didn't shy away from using lengthy dialogue boxes to convey heavy emotion. This bold use of precious CD space is impressive, but the flip side is that the storytelling is lengthy, involved, and definitely too dialogue-heavy for pre-teen attention spans. There are also swearwords and adult situations, but nothing more extreme than any night of prime-time TV viewing.

Fantastic Looks

FFVII reveals Cloud's travails via a series of sometimes stunning polygon-rendered cinema scenes, excellently animated combat, and extensive character dialogue sequences. The background art in particular is out of this world, with fantastic structures, bizarre color schemes, and a Blade Runner-esque styling.

At first, the luxurious backgrounds seem to clash with the character graphics, which are average-looking blocky polygons. However, the animation does a wondrous job of melding subtle movements and mannerisms with the dialogue to bring the characters to life.

Fantasy's combat definitely looks cool, as fighters bust their moves in slick, anime-style animation. There's also a nightmare's load of monsters that all sport unusual designs. A murderous living house, man-zapping plants, and a gross sewer king are just the beginning of FF's malicious roster.

Magic Moves

Final Fantasy's gameplay rocks, thanks to a nicely crafted interface that's smooth, slick, and fun. While the action's basically menu-driven, you shuffle through the deck with ease to deal out spells and weapons attacks and cut deals for items and magic power-ups. You also form parties, but here the characters in a party change according to events in the story.

The combat system can be modified for turn-based game-play or an almost-real-time combat mode called Active Time Battle (ATB). ATB, which allows enemies to attack you if you take too long to make a move, is a great technique that adds tension and randomness to the traditionally slow RPG fights.

Another slick combat highlight is the Limit attack system. If a character takes a sustained beating during a battle, a selectable special move becomes available. The Limit looks cool as it causes mucho damage, and each character eventually develops several Limit attacks.

You can also make your own Fantasy magic. Magic powers are fueled by Materia, which you must attach to your weapons and armor to make them potent. Materia exists in a variety of types which you must find or buy. Combining different Materia produces different effects, and part of FFVII's kick is experimenting with different combinations.

Fantasy Fulfilled

If you'd like to unleash your imagination on a huge, rich video-game world for a few days, take this Final.

Final Fantasy VII definitely moves at a steady RPG pace, but it's time well spent. Any gamer looking for a good fantasy can end the search here.

ProTips:

  • In ATB mode, the longer you take to move from one place to another, the more likely you are to be ambushed.
  • At the Formations menu, set up your party with low defense characters or characters armed with long range weap-ons In the rear.
  • Sleeping or staying at an Inn maxes out your entire party's Hit Points (HP) and Magic Points (MP).
  • Tent revitalizes your entire party. Load up before you leave Midgar.
  • At shops in the early Midgar stages, spend Gil freely to stock up on essentials like HP-restoring Potion, MP-restoring Ether, and life-restoring Phoenix Down.
  • Scroll shop menus that appear full to reveal more items.

Graphics

Gorgeously rendered 3D cinemas and excellent combat animation push the graphics quality beyond that of any other RPG. Even the sharply angled polygonal characters come alive thanks to sweetly subtle body movements.

Sound

The New Age music is right-on for the overall fantasy atmosphere. Even though the effects are minimal, they're timely and cute.

Control

The menu-driven interface is excellently tuned, while the innovative Materia magic system lets you experiment to create custom spells.

Fun Factor

Exploring a massive world, experimenting with spells and weapons, encounters with weird creatures, and a soap opera-ish story line are a kick and a half. FFVII has "classic" written all over it.

We finally got our hands on a Japanese preview disc of Final Fantasy VII. Though it's only a short look, this game is already shaping up to be a veritable feast for the eyes.

The game starts out in a rendered 3D world. As you progress, you fight enemies in standard turn-based combat (just like the other games in the FF series), but the action switches back and forth between combat and 3D adventuring.

The graphics shine in the 3D areas. Lush, gorgeously illustrated matte-painted backgrounds give the game a real "Hollywood" feel. The fight scenes showcase some new work in polygonal programming, and the battles are smooth and flawless in their execution.

The sounds are superior-unearthly bestial screaming is augmented by raving hip-hop background music. (The sounds may be changed in the American version, but hopefully will still rock.)

Fans of the series take note: So far, this looks like the best Final Fantasy game ever. Let's hope it arrives on our shores soon.

Square of Japan has joined the growing ranks of PlayStation licensees after years of exclusive loyalty to Nintendo, announcing in Japan that it will not develop software for Nintendo's Super Famicom (Super NES in America) after releasing Rudora's Treasure and Treasure Hunter C in April. However, the major shocker is that Square will not develop games for N64 at all!

According to Square, the move to PlayStation came about because its game designers felt that they needed more data capacity than was available with ROM cartridges to bring next-generation RPG entertainment to fans. Square therefore decided to go with a successful CD-ROM game system, namely the PlayStation.

The first announced Square PSX title is Final Fantasy VII which should be released in Japan this December as a two-disc set priced at just 5,800 yen (roughly $58 U.S., or half of what it charged for Final Fantasy III in Japan). Although far from complete, FF VII already looks phenomenal with superb 3D polygon graphics.

By incorporating polygons, battle scenes should also become much more dramatic since they place the player into the fray as an active participant rather than an observer. For example, the battle scenes will feature changing viewpoints, including a look from the enemy's point of view.

Composer Nobuo Uemat-su's soundtrack should also benefit greatly by going to CD with few data constraints. The release of this killer title could very well tip the balance of power in the Nintendo-dominated Japanese market in favor of Sony. Even without FF VII, Sony greatly benefits from Square's defection to its ranks as the reigning RPG champ claims to have 20 PSX games in preparation for release between the fall of '96 to the end of '97!

A fantasy is in the making with Final Fantasy VII, which is set to make its American debut on September 7. But even though Sony reports that FFVII has sold over 3 million copies in Japan (see "Special Feature: Final Fantasy VII,"May), how will this highly hyped next-gen RPG play here in the U.S.?

Talking the Talk

According to Square USA, the Final Fantasy VII U.S. version will closely resemble its Japanese counterpart. The changes that were revealed at a press conference in Square's new Honolulu development offices by Square president and Final Fantasy creator, Hiroshi Sak-aguchi, are said to be primarily aimed at making the game flow smoother to suit the tastes of action-hungry American A gamers. The story of Cloud Strife's battle against the evil Shinra organization is, after all, an epic RPG--a genre wildly popular in Japan but relegated to niche status in America. Sony and Square both expect Final Fantasy VII to make video game history by changing all that.

Naturally, translation from Japanese to English is a primary concern and Square USA has taken scrupulous pains to make the translation primo. The work is being done at the Square offices in Los Angeles, rather than in Japan, by American translators who are fluent in Japanese. This is to ensure that all the Japanese conceptual nuances are intelligibly communicated to American gamers.

Walking the Walk

But more than language has been changed in the American version of FFVII. There are several types of games woven into the complex FFVII story, including a motorcycle racing/combat game and a snowboarding sequence. The action in these types of sequences has been tightened up for smoother gameplay.

Also, casting magic in FFVII requires the use of specific crystals called Materia that must be fitted into slots in weapons and armor. The Materia menu system interface has been slightly tweaked to make it less involved and more user-friendly.

Other major additions have been made to cater to the action-oriented mentality of American gamers. The enemy encounter rate has been adjusted for slightly fewer face-offs with enemies in exchange for a smoother flowing game and a more focused story. Also, hint messages have been added to increase your chances of surviving encounters against particularly deadly bosses. Finally, the game's ending has been beefed up with the addition of two more bosses.

Hip To Be Square

Square and Sony hope FFVII captures the hearts and minds of American PlayStation gamers everywhere. That could be a fantasy come true.

The announcement that Final Fantasy VII would appear for the PlayStation sent shock waves rippling through the I Japanese video game community. It marked the end of Square's long-time association with Nintendo and the beginning of a new era with Sony. Upon release, the three-CD RPG shook Japan again by registering sales of over 2 million games in just three days. So does Final Fantasy VII live up to the hype? In a word: Yes!

An Epic Fantasy

The story focuses on Cloud, a former soldier, and his compatriots in a terrorist organization which is fighting the Shinra Company, a monopolistic power company that's draining the very soul of Cloud's planet. Romance, adventure, terror, inspiration, humor, and just about anything else you can think of is woven into the vast story line. FFVII's probably the most well-defined tale of the Final Fantasy series, thanks to the three-CD-ROM format. The spacious storage media enabled Final Fantasy's designers to flesh out the supporting cast in ways that weren't possible in the past.

New Gameplay

The basic gameplay design remains true to the FF series' tradition. The big change is in the casting of magic spells, which now require the use of specific Materia crystals that must be fitted in slots on weapons and ar-! mor. Otherwise, the game should be easy I to get into, especially I if you're familiar with I preceding FF titles. When necessary, tuto-! rial-like lessons are provided for special sequences such as a 3D chase scene and a hide-and-seek section.

Fantastic Graphics and Sound

It's rumored Square spent dose to $30 million developing FFVII. It certainly shows. For the most part, the BD graphics use gorgeous computer-generated images as backgrounds and polygons for characters. The combination looks a bit odd, but it's surprisingly effective--especially during events in which characters convey subtle emotions with lifelike body language. Battles occur entirely in the blocky polygonal style, but extravagant special effects and freely moving camera angles help keep the action fast and furious.

FFVII's equally fabulous sonic atmosphere resounds with superbly crafted sound effects and a stirring soundtrack by composer Nobuo Uematsu.

Fantasy Come True

Final Fantasy VII doesn't just live up to the expectations of gamers, it surpasses them. This RPG towers over the competition in terms of graphics, sounds, story, and playability. This game defines an entirely new standard--perhaps an insurmountable level of excellence--against which all RPGs must be measured.

ProTips:

  • Enemies usually have specific weaknesses. Forex-ample, the first boss, Guard Scorpion, is a mechanical unit Therefore, it's weak against Thunder spells.
  • Hundred Gunner and Heli Gunner attack the escaping party In an elevator. It's impossible to do physical attacks, so use magic and items. But look! They're mechanical! Zap them!
  • In the train, you must dash to the next car before the countdown stops, or the security system detects you.
  • In the 3D bike-escape sequence, you can wipe out enemies by forcing them into the wall.
  • Cloud must dress in drag to rescue Tyfa from the lecherous Don Comeo. Get the tailor to make you the dress, and obtain a wig from the guys at the gym.
  • The sewer boss is weak against fire.
  • If you're stuck in the rail junkyard, look for trains that don't quite fit.

Snapshots and Media

Playstation Screenshots

Playstation 2 Screenshots

PC Screenshots

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