[PSX] Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX

posted 5 Jan 2011, 00:44 by Thomas Vale   [ updated 5 Jan 2011, 00:45 ]
Final Fantasy was going to be the last game that Squaresoft made, their swansong as it were. It was so popular that it has so far spawned at least 9 sequels, not counting the Final Fantasy Adventure series, and Final Fantasy Tactics. I'm only going to be concerning myself with 3 of the games of the 32-bit generation; Final Fantasy Vii, viii, and IX. I omitted Final Fantasy Tactics because it is a decidedly different animal. Anyway, at at least 40 hours a game, that's a whole lot of RPG. So what one do you choose?

Vii was released in Europe in 1997, and for the time had stunning graphics, seemingly pushing the psx hardware to the limits with stunning battle sequences and jaw-dropping FMVs. However, by today's standards, it looks more than a little dated. Once you have played more recent games you notice things like the almost complete absence of textures. Furthermore, although in '97 the FMVs were impressive, once Squaresoft released 8 they looked more than a little plain. The FMVs in 8 and 9 simply blew everything else away, and still look impressive today. In Final Fantasy viii Square decided to adopt a more westernised approach for the graphics, and added detailed textures into the bargain, and in my opinion is the best looking of the three. Although Final fantasy IX is highly detailed for psx hardware, by going back to cartoon style deformed characters, it suffers.

The sounds, now what can be said? Other than the music, the sound has little impact on each of these games. The sounds of 7 are decidedly lacklustre, but in 8 and 9, this problem is rectified. But like I said, the sound has little impact on these games. The music, now that's a completely different matter. The scores of each of these games was written by the Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, but just because they were by the same composer does not mean they are of equal quality.

As we progress through the series, the quality of the music reproduction improves. Squaresoft pull of tricks to allow them to use more instruments and better samples. However in terms of memorable tunes, tunes I would listen to, and tunes that set the tone, the opposite is true. Final Fantasy IX has some good quality music, I do not dispute that, but compared to 7... well there simply is no comparison. As far as I'm concerned, there has not been a musical score for a game that engaged with me so. It was the first and only soundtrack I ever bought for a game. A masterpiece, which until third parties rectified with sound fonts, was butchered by the pc midi music.

9 and 8 have straightforward plots, with a couple of twists, but can be easily accessed by those new to RPGs, and those that aren't burdened with the need to analyse that which you have just played, but they are straightforward. Final Fantasy viii is a love story, with the world gone mad as a background. IX is about a man gone mad, with a love story hitching a ride. Vii is a completely different beast, which can be understood on many different levels, and deliberately leaves questions not completely answered so that you can draw your own conclusions. It also adds an element of tragedy into the bargain, which makes the plot a lot deeper. I felt more in the story as a result.

The Game play of each of these games is based on the same idea, but each one deals with it differently. The way you move around the map, and in towns, areas, et cetera is mostly identical. The differences come in how you customise your character and therefore, fight battles. In 9, you buy weapons, armour, et cetera for your characters to help improve their statistics. This equipment has innate skills built into them, which you can, while they are equipped, use. While you are wearing this equipment, you are also learning these skills, until you can finally dispense with it and equip something more powerful. It is a good system, but prevents your fighters from becoming magic users.

8 uses the idea that your summonable creatures (Guardian Forces or GFs in this) can be equipped with magic you have drawn from enemies to enhance your skills. This allows a character who is normally a magic user to become a powerhouse if you like. The down side of this system is the drawing. Drawing magic is the single most tedious thing I've ever had to do in a Final Fantasy game. Getting more of a specific magic makes the enhancements more powerful, but imagine sitting in a battle for ages drawing on or two of each spell until you have 100. Of course then another type of spell comes along which is more powerful, and you got to go through the whole process again. It also put casting spells pretty much out of the window too, as you character will become less powerful as he or she casts spells. It was a nice idea, but simply too tedious in practice.

7 uses weapons, armour, accessories and Materia. The idea is that the more powerful weapons and armour don't simply make you a triple hard batard, but enable your character to attach more materia to use, and sometimes pair it. The materia system puts all special skills apart from limit breaks, in materia. If you want to cast magic, fit a lightning materia to your sword. If you want your sword to add fire in it's attack, pair a fire materia with an elemental materia. If you want to be immune to poison, pair a bio materia with an added affect materia on your armor. The system is versatile, and simple to use. top job there.

Each of these games is likely to last you a good thirty to forty hours, so they've all definitely got longevity. The question is, which one has the most. The real question is then, which on'e going to make you want to complete it again. Die hard enthusiasts might want to complete 8 and 9 again a couple of times to get all the secrets and do the mini games, but for my money it's 7. 7 has the most secrets, it even has two secret characters, and the plot is just confusing enough so that you want to go back and see what you missed, but not confusing to the point when you never get round to completing it.

So now I have to reach a conclusion. I'm sure you've already worked out what it is. The other two games are great in their own right; 8 if you cheat so you don't have to go through that ***ing drawing, 9 is good for those new to the series who don't want anything heavy. Final Fantasy Vii, although looking more than a little dated now in the graphics department is a thoroughly enjoyable game, with an involving plot that keeps you coming back for more. It also boasts a magnificent musical score which really sets the tone.
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