Yes, everyone has played Final Fantasy VII by now. Everyone has loved it and left it--but never really left it, judging from the countless fans still clamoring for a high-definition remake of this classic JRPG. Although no word has come out on that front, we have some very good news for those of you who lacked a PlayStation in 1997 and chose to buy the PC version of Final Fantasy VII instead (assuming that you managed to hang on to the game for the past 15 years).
Thanks to a dedicated modding community--something that few console ports have the good fortune to foster--Final Fantasy VII doesn’t just run well on modern PCs, it looks and plays better than the PlayStation version ever could. Grab your game installation CDs (all four of them), and let’s begin.
Start with the Install CD, which should walk you through the normal install process. The only two things you have to watch out for are the "Run the entire game from the hard drive" or "Maximum Install" option (always select this for older games, as disk space is no longer at a premium, and it works wonders for a game’s stability) and the outdated "Install our painfully old video codec, which will probably ruin whatever version of DirectX you currently have” option. If you've installed a game in the past five years, you don't have to worry about updating your DirectX files to play Final Fantasy VII.
So far, so good? Super. Next you need to patch the game: Download the latest Final Fantasy VII patch you can find (you can get the Final Fantasy VII 1.4 patch at the Strategy Informer site), extract it into the directory where you installed the game, and allow it to overwrite any redundant files. Simple as that (the '90s were a simpler time, with nonexecutable patches).
Now it's time to install some mods. Start by downloading this OpenGL mod, which translates the game’s old 3D-rendering techniques into something that modern systems can more easily understand. The second verse is the same as the first--unzip the mod into the FFVII install directory. Next, open the ff7_opengl.cfg file and change the following four lines to reflect the resolution at which you’d like to play the game:
window_size_x = 0
window_size_y = 0
preserve_aspect = yes
fullscreen = yes
Updating these lines with new values should be fairly self-explanatory; keep in mind that if you have a widescreen monitor but you want the game to render at its normal, unstretched, 4:3 resolution in full screen, you should set window_size_x and window_size_y to your native widescreen resolution (for example, 1680 by 1050) and set preserve_aspect to yes. Now you just need to run the FF7Config program, set the renderer to Custom, click OK, and ignore any warning messages.
Next, download the latest version of the NPC Reconstruction Project mod, which replaces FFVII’s rather gnarly character models with graphics that would’ve looked perfectly acceptable in, say, 2002. This time, extract the archive to someplace other than your install directory, and follow the instructions inside in order to pack the new models into the FFVII program files.
Done? Congratulations, you’re (probably) finished! There’s a chance that you’ll need to install the video codec used to play the in-game FMVs; it's called the TrueMotion 2 codec, and you can follow the in-game instructions to download it or just pick it up as part of the ACE Mega Codecs Pack. Once you have it, double-click the extracted archive; Windows should automatically install the codec. I’d recommend trying the game without it first, though: These days, the multiple-codec packs that most users already have installed (such as FFDShow) tend to do a very good job on their own, and you ought to avoid messing with them if you don’t have to.
With that out of the way, you’re officially ready to enjoy Final Fantasy VII as it would have been, had Square decided to make a bucket of money by rereleasing it for the PlayStation 2. Happy Limit Breaking!