Playing Final Fantasy 7 for the first time as a kind was something a defining moment for me. It arrived unannounced one Christmas morning alongside the PlayStation itself and was like nothing I’d ever played before. I don’t think I’d played a role-playing game of any kind before; The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was probably the closest I’d come to a role playing game. I know now that they were out there, somewhere, but we never crossed paths. Back before YouTube was in everyone’s pocket video game choices were mostly based on box art, what you’d played at friend’s houses and maybe television advertising – it was much harder to be adventurous. Final Fantasy 7, then, with its turn-based, strategic game play and lengthy character-driven narrative really shook up my perception of what a video game could be.
It was almost the perfect game to play with a sibling – engrossing, with a lot of story and cut-scenes to take it, but with game play that didn’t require you to wrestle the controller back and forth. For better or worse it could be likened to watching a movie. A very long movie. The downside of this became apparent one weekend: my brother completed it whilst I was elsewhere. I could have fired the latest save point and finished the game on my own. I could have, in the many years since, just opened up YouTube and watched the ending. I don’t know why I didn’t. Other than a quickly aborted attempt to replay it on Steam years ago I didn’t try and playing Final Fantasy 7 again until a few months back when I learned that the PS4 version has three handy ‘cheats’ that are accessible at the touch of a button. In many ways these ‘cheats’ are more like quality of life improvements that make renegotiating a twenty year old game much more enjoyable.
No More Random Encounters
Many older games are marred by random encounters. You’re exploring the over-world or a dungeon and, fwoosh – transition effect, suddenly you’re locked in turn-based combat with an enemy. Turn them off with this cheat and you can explore at your leisure – the disadvantage being without repetitive battles against foes you’ll not be accumulating experience. I found myself turning off random encounters a lot more than I intended to for the simple reason they’re unwieldy and turn simple tasks into time-consuming ones.
Another sign of Final Fantasy 7‘s age is its reliance on save points – you must reach a specific position in order to save your game and turn the system off. Half-way through a dungeon this is a huge issue as retracing your steps can be as time-consuming as pressing on. The solution? Disable random encounters and quickly nip back and save your game before your tea gets cold. Similarly, Final Fantasy 7 wants you to explore every where – there’s lots of items hidden off the beaten track, with many that you can ‘miss’ and never be able to obtain. Fwooshing into combat every few steps makes this hugely annoying, and the game is much more palatable without it.
Unlimited Limit Breaks and Auto-Healing
The hardest to recommend, this cheat is the only one that really makes the game easier. In fact, it makes it too easy – it eliminates all challenge from all but the hardest fights. With this enabled not only do your characters almost constantly have their most powerful attacks, limit breaks, ready to launch but their health and magic levels are refilled every turn. It has its uses, but the main practical benefit seems to be keeping the game reasonably playable if you’ve been skipping out on the random encounters or if you don’t know what you’re doing with equipment or materia.
If you’ve been in a particularly long or torturous boss battle and you find yourself losing it might be worth just sticking it on, healing up, and keep on going instead of devote in-game time to administrating potions and casting cure-all. There’s also the fact that it speeds up encounters even more; blasting your opponents with nothing but limit breaks makes grinding much less of a chore. Take not, though: it will not be enough to help you with the game’s super bosses. Characters can still be ejected from battles, instant-killed and subject to all manner of status effects. If you want to 100% the game you’ll still need to employ a fair amount of strategy.
3X The Speed
The biggest improvement comes from an option to make the game run at three times the normal speed. Walking speed, spell and summon animations, dialogue boxes and battle commands are all subject to this increase, while key animations and cut scenes all disable it. This makes it easy to take in the key information, and progress through the game, without being at the mercy of the original PlayStation’s best efforts. This is particularly welcome when it comes to battle animations which were, in retrospect, insane. Summon spells take so long to activate you’ll find yourself not bothering simply because you have things to do today. Even at 3X the speed the Knights of the Round materia is a considerable animation. The other main benefactor of this wholesale quickening is all of the side stuff. Chocobo catching and racing may have been an in-depth mini game but darn if it wasn’t time consuming, and having the misery of the grind alleviated it very welcome.
Taken together all of the options that speed up game play, minimizing the length of time between plot points, really emphasizes the underlying strength of the game’s story. Cutting down on the filler makes it easier to remember details and link them together, as there isn’t two hours of ho-hum dungeon crawling in between. There were moments and character quirks early on, that foreshadowed later revelations, that were long forgotten by the time they came to fruition the first time I played.
Overall this might not be the definitive Final Fantasy 7 experience as by using these cheats you’re not getting the ‘authentic’ experience. Without the uphill struggle and long slogs across the map I found I spent hardly any time with certain characters, particularly the hidden character Vincent, and was much less attached to them as a result. What this version does provide though is a much more accessible window into why Final Fantasy 7 became so beloved: it allows players without weeks to invest to experience its powerful moments for themselves. Its effectively condensed structure stops its flaws and dated aspects being quite so annoying and really shows off the story, tone and set pieces that made Final Fantasy 7 a classic.