As what has been a rather shitty status quo continues to get worse, I didn’t feel like the big new releases in Doom Eternal or the Resident Evil 3 remake were the appropriate antidotes. Instead, I’ve been relying on a little glimmer of light that’s been occupying my Switch since “social distancing” entered the vernacular: Grandia HD Collection.
The first game’s relentlessly optimistic adventure makes it perfect for these bleak times. It was something of a throwback even at release, with its Saturday morning cartoon storyline and colourful, sprite-based characters bucking the trend of dark and gritty post-FFVII RPGs. There are no brooding antagonists and tortured antiheroes – the main character is a young boy, the son of an adventurer and a pirate because why not, intent on making his name as a first-class adventurer by exploring uncharted continents and discovering ancient civilisations with his friends. There’s a militaristic empire on the party’s heels, of course, but it wouldn’t be a Saturday morning cartoon without its Cobra.
It’s a perfectly upbeat change of pace. Not overly challenging, with no esoteric systems to potentially snooker you later on. And it has what remains my favourite RPG battle system ever designed – a perfect mix of turn-based, active time and the spatial awareness of real-time combat that seems simple and yet, once mastered, rewards flawless victories with this soaring, gloriously of-its-time riff. I’ve spent most of my time with the game with a smile on my face. It’s a proper warm blanket of a game.
The HD collection also contains Grandia II, which is still a great game with Dreamcast era 3D graphics that upscale better than Grandia’s sprites – my one complaint about the first game’s remaster is the smeared filtering job on the sprites, which is bearable on the Switch’s screen but looks worse the bigger your display gets. But the sequel comes with a touch of post-FFVII brooding that I can’t bring myself to like as much. Think of it as a nice freebie, with the first game as the real reason to buy this collection.
Final Fantasy VII is a perennially popular game, but one that is almost as fashionable to hate. It’s true that it has its flaws and probably isn’t even the best Final Fantasy game, let alone the best RPG ever made, and it’s probably equally true that the reason for its popularity is because it was many players’ first RPG. But even so, there aren’t many games that have spawned a CGI feature film, an anime short film, several novellas and four spin-off games, and I think the only Final Fantasy that would be more anticipated than XIII would be the much-rumoured FFVII remake. It really is a franchise in its own right.
Anyway, it was the latest chapter in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, that originally got me interested in revisiting this world. The PSP game is very impressive, but I got the feeling that some things were going over my head, given that I’d never finished Final Fantasy VII. I hadn’t finished a Final Fantasy game full stop, with a save at the end of Final Fantasy IV Advance being the closest I’ve got. Yes, I’m ashamed.
Back when it came out I didn’t have a PlayStation and so had little opportunity to play it – I don’t think I even got out of Midgar around release – and my most successful attempt so far was almost three years ago, when I bought a new NTSC copy and actually made it to disc 2 (OMG Aeris dies!!!1) before petering out somewhere on Gaea’s Cliff, about 19 hours in. With custom firmware PSPs supporting multi-disc PS1 games, I worked out how to get my original PS1 save ported to the PSP – it involves a chipped PS2 and some homebrew voodoo -and, after familiarising myself with the abilities that I’d left on the characters, I powered on through the previous sticking point. Continue reading Revisiting Final Fantasy VII→
The current official version of the PS1 emulator on the PSP is quite limited – it only plays the handful of games available from the PS3 store, it requires a PS3, and it requires you to buy games that you already own at $6 a time – but, wouldn’t you know it, the hackers are well ahead of the curve and the emulator has been hacked to play games that you rip yourself.
If you need a reason to use the PSP, are there any better ones than Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, Symphony of the Night, etc? With any luck you’ll still be on 1.5, 2.71 SE, or another firmware that supports running homebrew, in which case I suggest you obtain 3.02 OE-B and whack it on there poste haste.