Nostalgia plays a big role when you decide to play this game again. While we are quite far from the oft-requested HD remake, some people would be satisfied to have slight improvements such as upscaled graphics and pristine sound quality.
But we are talking about Square Enix, so you can bet there is a catch. Prepare for some tradeoffs (or rather, sacrifices) if you’re willing to pay 12 gil, specially if you really want to play the same game from 1997.
Let’s not save the best for last: the DRM is disastrous. Square Enix discovered the untapped potential of timed purchases and left their precious treasure in the hands of Digital River (remembered quite fondly by the Ni No Kuni fiasco victims). What happens here isn’t about shipping or availability of the product: it’s a digital game that can be downloaded anytime you want… oh wait.
You’ve got 30 days to download your game. After that, the download link doesn’t work anymore and you can only enter the page to check some basic info about your purchase (and not even this after more time passes). Before the time expires, the download link can be easily accessed in Digital River’s support page.
To avoid losing the game permanently, you have a pair of procedures to assure that it stays forever within your grasp:
The first is not as reliable, but it is conveniently portable: an executable downloader that weighs only 364 KB, named “Final_Fantasy_VII_DownloadManager.exe“. It’s the first thing you will get after purchasing the game. Once you run it, the game’s compressed files will be downloaded into the folder of your choice, ready to be installed. You can protect this small file with your life and make several copies to take advantage of its insignificant size, but there’s always the chance that the download will not work in the future.
If you are willing to sacrifice some gigabytes, there is a safer option: keep the compressed files that came from the Download Manager. You will end up with a folder weighing 2.31 GB, containing three files: “FF7_v1.0.5.exe“, “FF7_v1.0.5-1.bin” and “FF7_v1.0.5-2.bin“. Keep these stored safely and you can always transfer them to other computers you might have in the future to install the game again.
Thanks to the Cloud Saves, you don’t need to worry about your progress after installing everything again. But now, we have another problem: what if the game can’t find your save data? You see, the Cloud Saves feature stores your progress in Square Enix’ servers, which might not work successfully if your internet connection decides to stop cooperating with you. To avoid such cases, you can simply run the game offline to create a local save data file in your PC. After updating the game while connected, it just feels safer to always play it offline, not to mention that saving the game works faster.
The third problem is the sound. If you’ve ever tried to play or watch videos of the old 1998 PC version of FF7, you might have noticed that the sound seems off. Not just of a lower quality, but with different instruments. That’s because it uses a primitive MIDI format instead of the original Playstation release’s soundtrack. What I can’t understand here is why Square decided to keep the MIDIs for the new release instead of using the PS1 version’s music. Check out the difference:
It is a bit improved than the 15 year old release, but it might still feel different if you want the original experience. Many workarounds to improve the game’s music float around the internet, one of them being the Anxious Heart project. The goal here is to deliver a sound quality that does not rely on the Playstation’s archaic sound file format.
Aside from these specific problems, you can enjoy this classic game in 1080p if you want (not widescreen, though). If you are unsatisfied by the PC’s differences and maybe even a bit disencouraged by the numerous workarounds presented here, you can always consider playing the game on your PS3 or PS Vita. It’s much easier to install and slightly cheaper as well ($10). The choice is yours.
Now let’s hope Square Enix works harder on the next entry.