Square-Enix Announces Final Fantasy VII Remake

Need I say more?

Well, there’s not much to say just yet. The announcement was just made at E3 yesterday. The good news is that, while it’s coming out on the Playstation 4 first, Square-Enix imply that it will be available on multiple platforms eventually. Since I only play PC games, that’s pretty sweet news to me. As far as staff goes, the trailer credits Yoshinori Kitase as producer, Tetsuya Nomura as director, and Kazushige Nojima as writer. This maintains a decent bit of continuity. Original producer Hironobu Sakaguchi is long gone, but Nojima it maintaining his role as writer from the original PSX Final Fantasy VII while Kitase is switching seats from director to producer. Nomura will be the wildcard. He was involved in character design in the original, but he didn’t make his directing debut until Kingdom Hearts.

The bad news is, well, Square-Enix have not exactly been batting 1000 lately. They’ve earned a bad reputation over the past decade or so for rushing products, pushing quantity over quality, and releasing sham smartphone games mainly designed to gouge your wallet. It would be nice to think that a remake of the legendary Final Fantasy VII will receive an extra dose of attention. I mean, in all likelihood this game’s going to make more waves than the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. But considering the original release of Final Fantasy XIV was so terrible that the company issued multiple public apologies, it might be wise to wait for early reviews to trickle in before getting your hopes too high. The narration in the trailer feels hopelessly contrived to me, and that’s not a good foot to start on.

I’m still waiting to learn whether or not the most important staff member returns for this one though: Nobuo Uematsu!

Song of the Day: To Zanarkand (by Uematsu Nobuo)


After necromoonyeti helped rekindle memories of days, weeks and months playing Final Fantasy and listening to it’s soundtrack I thought it was only appropriate that the latest “Song of the Day” comes from that very series.

“To Zanarkand” is the theme to Final Fantasy X. An entry in the venerated rpg franchise that has been underrated since it came out in 2001. While the game never reached the sort of acclaim and fan devotion as earlier entries like Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI (I’m of the few that thought Final Fantasy VII was average, at best) this tenth entry still managed to include a soundtrack that was some of composer Uematsu Nobuo’s best work.

There’s been many version of “To Zanarkand” from the original version included in the game and the first soundtrack release to the HD remastered version and reimaginings like the one from the Distant Worlds II music collection. Yet, the version that speaks loudest to me is the new arrangement by Masashi Hamauzu (same composer whose music necromoonyeti posted about previously) for the Final Fantasy X Piano Collections.

This piano solo version takes the original song and brings it down to it’s emotional core. The other versions are just as powerful, especially the full orchestra version, but the simplicity of the piano solo conveying the themes of loss, sorrow and redemption that the game’s narrative was built on works best for me.

Neon Dream #1: Maserati – Inventions

On a bit of a lark, I posted an article last week about some of my odd experiences as a kid on the internet in the 90s. That got me listening to a bunch of music that has no obvious connection to the things I wrote about. My metal choices became more industrial. I fired up the Lost in Translation soundtrack for the first time in ages. I fell in love with vaporwave’s sardonic spin on muzak and smooth jazz… Hey, this sounds like an excuse to post a music series!

90s internet was obsessed with fantasy and science fiction. “Nerds” were more likely to be online. (My family got dial-up because my mother was a computer programmer.) Free online gaming was dominated by MUDs and forum RPGs, as they were well suited for text-based environments and stemmed from a long tradition. Most of all, it was the easiest place for that demographic to congregate. (Why do we have Sports Bars but not Dungeon Masters’ Taverns?) If you came to the internet enjoying console RPGs, you might well leave loving anime and Dungeons & Dragons, too, and sharing an odd obsession with that island off the east coast of Asia that gave us so much of it. Japan was an exotic world full of technologically advanced cities, as I imagined it, and its number one export for me was high-tech fiction.

That is how I came to engage futuristic universes like Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Japan brought cyberpunk into the mainstream for my generation. (It was years before I watched Blade Runner.) The internet was the new frontier of technology, so the genre sort of resonated with the medium through which I encountered it. Ghost in the Shell in particular asked a lot of relevant questions regarding how technology impacted identity. On the internet, anonymity was a sort of virtue, and that always fascinated me. I also saw, as time went by, a lot of commonalities between the internet and cyberpunk’s dystopian societies. Corporate monopolies replaced niche vendors. Advertising expanded wildly, still all in-your-face pop-up adds pushing pornography and all-you-can-eat, 0%-down, free trial chances to become an instant winner. Forums became overcrowded, scaling up from hundreds of active users to tens of thousands. Screen names ceased to provide even temporary identification as people no longer bothered looking at them. Copycat conformity and superficial cheap thrills dominated where people had once engaged each other with thought and imagination.

In both cyberpunk and the internet, you had an acknowledged gap between the corporate world and the masses. In Final Fantasy VII, for instance, Midgar’s dark, towering inner city emitted a filth of neon commercial sleaze and ill-earned luxury that opposed the sunshine and suffering warmth of its dilapidated ghettos. This disparity was clear, both to the player and to Midgar’s fictional inhabitants. The antagonists were balding, broad-wasted businessmen and corporate gangsters. The heroes toppled the system through sabotage, creating a ripple effect that rocked the masses and–not so much in FF7, but definitely elsewhere–turned them against their corporate overlords. The fact that capitalism felt evil or sleazy, both online and in the fiction, proved awareness of the gap. If the system was working properly, the masses would willingly accept their position and not eye commercialism warily or respond to tremors beneath. There would be no vulnerability–no means to revolution–and subsequently, in a lot of these stories, nothing to drive the plot forward.

The gap emerged in fiction because it made for an interesting story. It emerged in real life because the internet simply hadn’t been reigned in yet. Corporations were still scrambling to keep up with rapidly changing demands emanating from an unregulated hive mind. In both cases, the appeal was a sense of empowerment. Anonymity within an unstable system enabled anyone, theoretically, to mastermind changes in behavior of the masses and then slip back into the shadows. It was a utopian dystopia. It was too easy.

Today’s social media, integrated subliminal advertising, and tailor-made instant-gratification entertainment indicate a highly functional, invulnerable corporate society. The internet is a bleak, soulless place where people narrate their artificial lives to the wind, proudly displaying every ounce of their shallow identities. You might grasp the banality for a moment and try to spread the word, but open ears are hard to come by, and before you seek them you just have to watch this Youtube video about the 10 craziest moments in… something. C’est la vie.

But that is why internet and the 90s makes me reflect nostalgically on sweaty used car dealers in crooked toupees; Tokyo as an exotic, futuristic world; Groomed corporate elites snorting cocaine on their private jets; Sleazy, shameless advertising; Revolutions begun by untraceable, nameless figures in archaic chatrooms; The machine consuming itself and collapsing into anarchy; Most of all, the freedom to roam a vast, incomprehensible urban landscape without consequence.

Maserati are a post-rock band from the music capital of the southeast: Athens, Georgia. “Inventions” appears on their 2007 release, Inventions for the New Season (which I always thought was a really awkward title). Their line-up at the time included the late Jerry Fuchs, who was involved in a lot of significant acts before his tragic death: !!!, MSTRKRFT, LCD Soundsystem.

This song found its way into my mix as a result of my brief foray into RPGMaker. I got it in my head to make a cyberpunk RPG based loosely around a collaborative story that I took part in back on the Nintendo.com forums in ’98. Futuristic tile sets were pretty hard to come by, and I turned to music to set the tone of the game. I put “Inventions” to work when the player finished up the introduction sequence and became free to explore. The song captured for me the feeling of walking along the massive streets of a futuristic city in the dead of night.

On the Old Internet, I was Destined for Greatness

My childhood heroes all had the first name “NOA”. They were the living, breathing avatars of Nintendo of America. And Nintendo was God, for all practical purposes. But like Jesus, they were simultaneously divine and human. NOAPaul was a tough guy. A real street thug, with a tongue ring and everything. NOATravis, he was your boyband jock. Oh, the envy. And NOAAmy… did you know that she played Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger? I did. Imagine it: a girl who played RPGs.

One day, I was going to be a Nintendo Power Cyberjock too. It was my highest aspiration. Forget astronauts and fire fighters. If Paul and Travis could become Nintendo of America, so could I. And maybe I would make Amy my wife, though she was a withering old spinster of 24.

At 11 years old, I was dedicated to my future career. To become a professional avatar of Nintendo, you had to really know your facts. I was already on the right track, because I owned all 84 issues of Nintendo Power magazine. The knowledge was at my fingertips, but it was vast… so I decided to cheat.

I booted up my Gateway 2000 386/25–it was mine in practice, since my mother finished college–and I headed straight to WordPerfect. If I could quickly search a game name and know exactly which issue and page to check for information… A month later, I possessed a complete index of the entire Nintendo Power catalog. And you thought you were a lame kid.

But there I was, equipped for battle. Ask me about a game. I dare you. I had it down to a science. I could look up a relevant article and spit out an answer within a minute, and Nintendo of America would never know that I cheated. They would think I was just that good. I sent in my job application right then and there, along with a crayola masterpiece of Samus Aran battling Ridley.

I didn’t get the job, but that was probably for the best, since we did not actually subscribe to dial-up internet for another six months and “Cyberjocks” worked online. A minor technicality. Still, I kept Nintendo Power Issue 84 close at hand.

The fame. The glory. The honor.

*Section removed due to copyright issues. They were compressed scans of an out of print magazine spread welcoming you to the Nintendo Loud House with some amazingly dorky-looking staff members striking a pose.*

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My first actual experience on http://www.nintendo.com, some time in 1996, was overwhelming. I had waited so long for this. Line by line, the pixels of that jpeg unfurled in slow motion. “Nintendo Power Source”. “Welcome to www.nintendo.com”. I was there. And it was wonderful.

Nintendo.com was a disorganized sea of information that you could spend all day exploring (especially on a 14.4k modem). There was a frame up top filled with totally nondescript or misleading images that would link you to different parts of the site, and each of those sections had its own upper frame of links. They could take you anywhere. The internet had no rules yet, you see. For instance, there was a really buried subsection called the “N-List” that linked all kinds of random fan sites totally unmoderated by Nintendo, mostly hosted on Geocities. As a consequence, through Nintendo.com you discovered such wonders as this flattering photo of the founder of popular present-day gaming website RPGamer:


Ultimately though, I went to the Loud House. That was where the NOA gods resided. To get there, I had to travel underground, down an elevator shaft that consisted of scrolling really far in a narrow frame to the left. If I thought the main site enormous, the Loud House was madness. They had a proto-forum–everyone still called them bulletin board systems then, though it was not an authentic BBS–where topics appeared in a single endless list set to a fire-engine red background with the texture of an aluminum tool box. Damn was it beautiful.

I knew there had to be at least a few dozen RPG fans out there besides myself and NOAAmy, but I never predicted this. The realization that I could be a part of a secret society of hundreds of Square(soft) aficionados must have waylaid my dreams of working for Nintendo for a time, because I don’t remember doing anything but theorycrafting Final Fantasy III (sic) for the next few months. I would spend every school bus ride studying my official players guide, looking for minute typographical errors that could be exploded into radical theories to share with my peers. I actually killed 4,000 dinosaurs in that forest near the Veldt in the false hope of resurrecting General Leo.

<(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)> ^( ‘-‘ )^ <(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)>

Eventually the forums changed, and so did I. They became more manageable and subdivided into “boards”. Me, I became 12, and that meant responsibility. I couldn’t just be another anonymous Joe researching Final Fantasy VI anymore, aging in obscurity as fame and fortune passed me by. I needed to get back to my dreams, and that required becoming involved in the social community. So I did what anyone would have done back then to turn the page: I changed my name.

That was a principle of the Old Internet that runs totally counter to modern social media culture and may have culminated with 4chan and the birth of Anonymous–the hactivist organization that never actually existed yet frequented headline news throughout 2008. You were really empowered to dictate how a community perceived you. You could completely ‘reset’ your identity at the click of a button, experimenting with different personas until you found one that jived with the community. Nintendo Power even encouraged this behavior in Issue 72:

So died BobaFett207, and a new entity dove into the RPGs board with a mission to earn the unrivaled respect and adoration of its citizens. (His mom also lifted the half hour limit on web browsing, so he actually had time to read replies and stuff.)

<(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)> ^( ‘-‘ )^ <(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)>

What I found was appalling. My plans were immediately surmounted by a more pressing issue. The release of Final Fantasy VII was rapidly approaching, and people were actually discussing the Playstation.

The Playstation. The Sony Playstation, in what would one day be my Nintendo kingdom. These were the filthy traitors who planned to endorse Squaresoft’s debauchery, and they had to be destroyed. I charged head-first, furious and uncaring of the consequences. “JERK!” “IDIOT!” “HOW COULD U!” I let the hatred flow through me, channeling it into dozens of single-sentence replies, until a thread title appeared that gave me pause. It said “ATTN: SHADOW 4000”. That was me! Registered only one day, and my new identity was already known to the community! The post, no doubt, would praise me for my heroic defense of truth and the Nintendo 64.

It did. This was where, in retrospect, things got weird. I wasn’t banned by a forum moderator, or even told to shut up. No, I was invited to join the NES Knights–a legion of warriors who, like me, vowed to fight against the evils of the Sony Playstation. I was promptly recruited and informed that we were at war with the Freedom Knights, who had organized to defend forum-goers’ rights to enjoy non-Nintendo products.

I earned my first stripes when the PSX Invaders came to town. They were a band of ruffians that would show up every few weeks and ravage the RPGs board by posting hundreds of threads titled “N64 SUX”, “PSX 4 LIFE”, etc. Certain that I could stop the incessant barrage of spam posts, I set a clever trap. “ATTN: PSX INVADERS” the thread title ran, and when they clicked it… BAM! “***FIRE LANCE X***” As I am sure you expected, this worked phenomenally. Two invaders stopped spamming and engaged me with their own barrage of attacks. I parried them as best I could, while fellow forum-goers engaged them similarly in other threads. The battle was long and bloody, but we were victorious.

<(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)> ^( ‘-‘ )^ <(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)>

I had found my true calling. Every evening, after school, I would log on to the Loud House RPGs board and train with my allies or engage rival groups. I even started my own, which amassed over 100 members. This was clearly my best route to becoming an official Nintendo-employed Cyberjock… while that dream lasted. It all came crashing down on Thanksgiving Day 1997. Nintendo deleted the Loud House.

And in its place, they created NSider. NSider was ugly, stupid, and it featured Diddy Kong instead of Fulgore.


Worst of all, by far, they renamed my precious board “Other RPGs”. Other! Lesser! Inconsequential! And why? The only reasonable explanation was to emphasize the Zelda board. Practically in tears, I called my RPGs brothers to arms. The Zelda board must pay. That war would last for weeks, because the Zelda board was well organized under the Zelda Alliance. (This same game had been going on there all along, despite there being almost no overlap in users.)

<(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)> ^( ‘-‘ )^ <(‘-‘<) ^( ‘-‘ )^ (>’-‘)>

As it turned out, the game was not just an RPGs board thing or a Nintendo.com thing, but a common trend throughout the internet. As we transitioned away from NSider to Geocities and forum hosts like VantageNet and InsideTheWeb, we encountered more of the same everywhere. It was as if thousands of kids were dumped into an empty field and told: “Play. No one is watching.” You will never find a Wayback Machine record of the bizarre, seemingly pandemic consequences, but if you were socially engaged in the 90s internet before high school, you probably belonged to some sort of guild.

I tended to see a change in people when they got to be 13 or 14, and the game for them might transition into an interactive story. These were shared universe worlds in which participants would write a collaborative fiction story through their individual characters’ perspectives. It wasn’t RP, but rather a real (poorly written and highly derivative) novel, and it could go on for years. The one that began on the Loud House RPGs board amassed thousands of pages (which were archived). Alternatively, the game would evolve into cyberbullying. Account security was non-existent and cracking tools were a dime a dozen on Yahoo!. A lot of sites also used forms to password protect their content, and the redirect link was usually embedded right in the HTML code. As a high school freshman, you were too “mature” to pretend you were a wizard anymore, so you pretended you were a 1337 hacker instead. It was not uncommon to see a Geocities site vanish over night, replaced by “Conquered by” so-and-so. My first email address got hijacked. It was actually kind of stressful.

But that was the 90s internet as I remember it. …Am I supposed to inject some sort of closing point or moral here?

A Glorious Fantasy: A World of Three Dimensions

Abbreviated boilerplate! Once again I return to this ongoing series, in which I attempt to play through every game in the Final Fantasy franchise that I can get my hands on, from FF1 through Lightning Returns, and a variety of the spinoffs and other titles not included in the ‘main series’. This list continues to undergo revision, and I seriously considered removing Final Fantasy 9 from it for personal reasons. In addition, no MMO titles will be played. Sorry, folks?

I think all of this is extremely important knowledge, and that the human race will be improved by my research. Let’s move on!


And, actually, let’s give this a little music, shall we? I hear that particular music in my head every time I see an image on the internet of the city of Midgar, or the logo for Final Fantasy VII.

Yes, that’s right. It’s time to talk about Final Fantasy VII.

Version Played: Steam-client PC port, with fun upscaled resolutions!

For those of you who have been following this series from its start, you probably already know that Final Fantasy VI is my favourite game in the series, and that this exercise was very unlikely to topple VI from its stance, astride the Final Fantasy world like a colossus. Despite having rediscovered how much of a bridge VI is between eras of the games, and despite gaining a much deeper and more interesting understanding of the franchise through this play experience… the dominance of VI, at the very least, has not changed. It is keeping this in mind, and knowing some of what must follow, that I want to preface this piece by saying the following: Final Fantasy VII is irrefutably a great game, and I wholeheartedly believe that, no matter what the rest of this article may contain.

What should also be apparent to everyone, already, is the degree to which Final Fantasy VII infected our cultural consciousness. The fact is, the beautiful CGI video sequences and 3-D scenario of Final Fantasy VII make it perhaps the most memorable of any game in the whole series. It is worth noting that on this day, far more games have been released after VII than came before it. I actually find that statement astonishing, now that I consider it. Just imagine how a sequence like the incredible Opera House performance in Final Fantasy VI might have captured our imaginations if it had been given a full CGI treatment on the PSX… or the PS2… or the 360… Incredible, right? (Don’t bring up the ill-executed “Final Fantasy Anthology” collection). Well, while no single sequence in Final Fantasy VII might equal up to the Opera House performance, or Kefka seizing the statues and destroying the world, the truth is lesser sequences are more memorable for many of us (those who exist in both the 2D and 3D era, meaningfully)… and, in many ways, that is the power of Final Fantasy VII.

It has other things to recommend it. Final Fantasy VII follows a large, diverse party. Each character gets to experience complex characterization as things progress, with a couple notable exceptions…. including side quests, some unique abilities, and the powerful and diverse Limit Breaks that really set them apart in mechanical terms. Each character I used in Final Fantasy VII felt very distinct and different… for a while. But unlike a game like Final Fantasy IV, or even VI, where they have absolutely distinct features, many of which come into play every single battle… the primary – non-cosmetic, let’s get real! – differences between characters in Final Fantasy VII deal with their unique Limit Break techniques. Some of those Limit Breaks are incredibly memorable, and will probably come to define the characters of Final Fantasy VII in many ways for you as a player… but you don’t see them every battle, and they don’t establish an identity in the way that “this character can use Steal” does.

This is because the characters in Final Fantasy VII are so customizable. While it is true that Aeris Gainsborough is a better magician and a (far) worse physical attacker than Barrett Wallace… I could make Barrett into a magician if I wanted to. It would involve loading him down with Materia to change his stats, but equipping him that way is a matter of seconds of work. And, if I change my mind later, it will take only seconds to change him back. Final Fantasy VI eventually allowed a player to control the stat growth of each party member by strategic use of Espers, but the changes were a) permanent and b) permanent.

I suspect that this trend – this gameplay quirk – will be significant in the immediate future of Final Fantasy. But we’ll see.

When I see people extol the virtues of Final Fantasy VII, I typically see three big arguments. There’s simply no way to talk about this game independent of the billions of words and millions of hours that have already been spent on it.

1) THE STORY, MAN. I don’t even know if this is legitimately the #1 argument made in favour of Final Fantasy VII, but it’s a common one, and it is compelling. Does Final Fantasy VII’s story plot tightly together, eliminate all holes, answer all questions, etc? No, it sure doesn’t. But that’s not everything. Final Fantasy VII’s storyline (in case you somehow don’t know…) traces the fortunes of a group of people who have decided to resist the oppression of the ShinRa Electric Power Company. ShinRa provides electricity to the world to power all manner of modern conveniences, which they obtain through the harvest of Mako energy. Of course, as we quickly learn, Mako energy is also the literal life energy of the world of Gaia. In condensing that energy into Materia and using it to power TV broadcasts, the ShinRa company is quite possibly destroying the planet. Literally. Of course, it’s not that simple. Sephiroth, the greatest of ShinRa’s genetically engineered warriors (called SOLDIERs, cryptically enough) returns to the great city of Midgar, slaughters many of Shinra’s top personnel, and flees. Much of the rest of the game is spent in the pursuit of Sephiroth, whose objectives are unknown, but are almost assuredly not benevolent.

When things come together, about 75% of the way through the game, we know that Sephiroth has used the ultimate black magic, Meteor. In VII, this magic literally summons a wandering planetoid, diverting its course through space toward Gaia. It will strike the surface, causing incredible damage. Unlike Earth, however, Gaia has a defense mechanism to protect it against such catastrophic damage. The Mako energy – actually called the Lifestream – will be gathered at the spot of the gaping wound caused by Meteor. Sephiroth will stand there, become one with all of the planet’s energy, and become a God. Not a benevolent one.

Heavy stuff, man. And ultimately very satisfying. We don’t need all the ends tied off on this story. We don’t need to see every detail hashed out to the end. And, if you [i]do[/i] want that, there are actually resources available! Such is its popularity, that there is now an actually thing called Compilation Final Fantasy VII. The expanded universe around Final Fantasy VII probes many of its deepest mysteries, expands upon fan-favourite characters, and in general should give you the satisfaction that you desire.

I have not yet decided whether to include any of these Compilation titles in my own quest to explore Final Fantasy’s depths.

2) It was my first Final Fantasy.

This one is more difficult to break down point by point, but it is definitely worth addressing. My first Final Fantasy (that I completed) was VI. I know for a fact that this creates a nostalgic bias on my part toward the game. Now, of course, Final Fantasy VI is universally heralded as excellent, so my opinion has never proved unpopular. But so many people were introduced to the genre by Final Fantasy VII at a ripe, young age that the game’s explosive – and enduring – popularity make total sense.

3) It was the first 3-D game in the franchise.

Let me add on to this that the 3-D combined nicely with the sheer scope of this game, to create something that – at the time – was utterly without precedent. This is another reason why this game’s flaws are less important than its triumphs. They were when it was released, and they still are today. When I played this game for the first time, in my buddy’s basement (he had the PSX before I did), he and I decided to trade off the controller periodically, and counsel each other on game decisions and so on. All of that was fun, but one thing I remember as much as anything else, was how incredible this game looked by the standards of the time. To this day, some people still prefer the sprites and the beautiful hand drawings of games like Final Fantasy VI… but the first time I saw this game, I knew that we were never going back.

Well. That was a load of nostalgia. Let’s talk about the game when looked at through modern sensibilities. I’m going to knock this out in list format.

1) Was it any good?

It sure was. I had a lot of fun playing this one. I enjoyed it enough to explore all of its various nooks and crannies, including breeding the Golden Chocobo, and using the power of Knights of the Round to unseat the mighty Emerald and Ruby WEAPON monsters. I played the shit out of Final Fantasy VII, and it didn’t matter how many times I had played it before.

2) How’s it hold up?

Unfortunately, Final Fantasy VII’s graphics have aged even more poorly than the sprites from early consoles. The nice resolution upscale of the Steam port made the character models look unusually sharp, while the matte backgrounds through most of the game looked fuzzy and out of focus at best. Unfortunately, even ‘sharp’ looking polygonal character models still look crappy compared to modern games. But what do you want? It’s between 17 years since Final Fantasy VII dropped. And, ultimately, it held up well enough for me to sink 50+ hours into it, and defeat the superbosses, so the graphical considerations weren’t so bad.

Of equally important note is that Final Fantasy VII has one of the series’ better soundtracks. While I personally think several games have better battle music – and yes, that includes the widely beloved One-Winged Angel, Final Fantasy VII has a vast soundtrack that includes a number of mood-setting tracks that are simply superb – tracks like Great Warrior, which plays as Red XIII learns the truth about his family legacy. Within the game, it plays only twice to my recollection, but it’s an incredibly compelling track. The same could be said for Launching a Dream Into Space, a theme composed explicitly for flashbacks about the failed Shinra space launch. Considering scope as a major factor, some would argue that VII’s soundtrack is Nobuo Uematsu’s triumph. I’m not sure that I would agree, but I do think that it was squarely at the center of the “golden age” of Square’s music, which ranged from Final Fantasy VI through Final Fantasy VIII.

3) Is Final Fantasy VII really overrated?


It probably depends on whose rating you use as a baseline. The manic Sephiroth fans of the world probably do overrate the game. I think, however, most modern gamers who go far enough back to have played and enjoyed Final Fantasy VII when it was shiny and new have given it the due it deserves, and have come to accept its faults as well.

Well, this piece was probably not exceptionally helpful, since everyone has played the effing game, but thanks as always for reading. Next time, I’ll plunge into the depths of Final Fantasy VIII.

Review: Suikoden V

Konami’s Suikoden series has been a fixture in the Playstation console systems since the PS1. While not as graphically beautiful as Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy series of role-playing games, Konami’s own Suikoden rpgs more than held its own in complexity of character development and storylines. These two factors have become something the Final Fantasy rpgs have really lacked since Final Fantasy VII. I would even say the Final Fantasy series hit its high-point in Final Fantasy VI and has been downhill since. Not so with the Suikoden series. From the beginning the series has beautifully combined characters and storylines to create a game that still uses the basic stats and experience mechanics of most Japanese RPGs but with a unique brand of npc recruiting and a wholly realized complex world which grows and reveals itself with each successive game in the series.

In 2006, Konami released Suikoden V in North America and there were some trepidations on how well the game would turn out. The previous game in the series, Suikoden IV, was abit underwhelming in its execution. A rarity in the Suikoden series in that the game was just ok; with some fans calling it awful. But even Suikoden IV still played better and its story less cliche than most rpgs coming out of Japan. Suikoden fans needn’t have worried about this latest entry in the series. Suikoden V doesn’t bring anything new or innovating in terms of graphics to the genre (but then these games never has in the past) but what it did was bring back the series to the high-standard of character development and storyline the series was very well-known and critically-acclaimed for.

Set six years before the events which played out in Suikoden I, Suikoden V takes places in the Queendom of Falena whose current Queen has in her possession the Sun Rune. The Sun Rune is one of the 27 True Runes which makes the backbone of what makes the critical events of the Suikoden Universe so unique to the role-playing genre. Queen Arshtat rules Falena with the Sun Rune but events prior to the beginning of the game (told in flashback) has set into motion a dangerous game of political machinations and powergrabbing between two powerful groups in the Houses of Barows and Godwins with the Sun Rune in the middle of it all.

The player is given control of Queen Arshtat’s only son to figure out just what sort of secret plans either Houses has in store for the Royals. Accompanying the player are Arshtat’s sister Sialeeds, his bodyguard and lifelong friend Lyon, and Georg (a familiar face for those who have played the previous games in the series). As the game’s story unfolds the complexity of the power struggle between Barows and Godwins and those of the Falenan Royal Family becomes more than a struggle for the realm of Falena but for its ultimate survival as something powerful and beyond human comprehension has slowly influenced those in close proximity. There’s moments of extreme sadness and ultimate sacrifices and love. Machiavellian plots and counterplots from both the protagonists and antagonists keep the player guessing as to how the story will play out. There’s also betrayals and genocidal actions which gives this entry to the series the dark edge the previous fourth Suikoden lacked.

Unlike most JRPG’s (Japanese RPGs), Suikoden V doesn’t have an end-of-the-world storyline but one which stays regional, but makes the plot no less epic and actually gives the game more freedom in how the story unfolds. The game’s story has to rank up there with Suikoden II‘s as one of the best rpg storylines ever and only lags behind the second game due to that game’s having a brilliant and memorable villain in one Luca Blight. The main characters and most of the 108 Stars of Destiny characters were well-written with their own distinct personalities and motivations for joining the fight. The dialogue during the game is mostly done through text with each character show in anime-style profiles. The cutscenes on the other hand uses voice acting which for a rpg was done pretty well with voice actors who actually gave each character voiced a distinct personality. It would’ve been nice if Konami had included the Japanese voice-acting in addition to the English translation. It’s a minor gripe, but nothing that takes away from making Suikoden V such a great game.

The gameplay mechanics returns back to the 6-party formation from the first three games in the series. There’s still the usual co-operative attacks when certain combinations of characters are put in the battle party. The co-op attacks could involve just two characters all the way up to six characters combining to create devastating non-runic attacks. There’s also co-op attacks between characters using runes. These combined runic attacks are some of the most damaging attacks in the game and allows the player a reason to actually bring a balanced party of 6 characters that’s made up of fighter strong in physical attacks and those adept in runes. The newest change in the battle mechanics occur in the war battles. Gone is the turn-based system that’s worked well in the first four games. Suikoden V‘s war battles now takes place in real-time which makes for much more hectic battles. The player must constantly know where each of his units are and how they’re stacked up against the opposing forces.

Suikoden V is a great game and also brings the Suikoden series back to great form after an interesting but lackluster attempt at innovation with Suikoden IV. This fifth entry did everything right in what made the series great. It had a great and compelling storyline with complex and distinct characters. Suikoden V misses surpassing the great Suikoden II in greatness just due to that game having certain classic and memorable characters. This is an unfair comparison but something that still puts the second game ahead of V, but just barely. That shows just how great this game really is. Already announced by Suikoden’s creators that V will be the last Suikoden game for this current generation of Playstation console system. While the title hasn’t made a return to consoles that’s not handheld if this was the last game in the series then it was a proper send-off.