Review by Apathetic Aardvark
"A good, solid game with some glaring weaknesses."
Once again Squaresoft puts out a Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy VII was by far the most promoted game I’ve ever seen them hype. Is Final Fantasy VII a good game, yes, it is. It may even be a great game, though it is far from the best game or even the best RPG ever. Most importantly, Final Fantasy VII certainly doesn’t live up to the hype it receives.
The Final Fantasy series had for several games been known for great music, good graphics, differentiated characters, side quests, and of course, great storylines. Final Fantasy VII kept true with several of these, but not all of them. Furthermore, Final Fantasy VII gets closer to the future than other Final Fantasy games to date. You journeys will take you around the world, under the sea, and through the skies.
Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy game to not be released on a Nintendo system; instead, it was released on the Sony Playstation, where it was able to make good use of CDs. Did Final Fantasy VII go for the looks rather than the guts? It seems that it did. Several elements which could have turned this good game into a great game just aren’t present.
Final Fantasy VII in a nut shell was too easy. The random enemies are weak and encountered far too often. Bosses attacks just don’t cut it. They can seldom overwhelm a single character, much less the entire party. This is the reason why many repeat gamers attempt the game with severe handicaps. The average enemies in the final areas of the game have very small amounts of health compared to the damage you can do back to them. They give off too much experience allowing you to level well beyond them in a very short amount of time. This is true of most enemies in the game, if you spend even a few minutes training on them, you will advanced very quickly and won’t have any difficulty for several bosses.
The controls are easy as well, except in areas where you find yourself crawling around towards or away from the camera can get a bit annoying. Other than that though, they are well done controls. The addition of running without an accessory is a needed one for the series. Characters still climb ladders and ropes far too slow, which get tiring, even if it is realistic. If you have difficulty targeting an enemy or party member, you can hit select to bring up the name of the target in a separate window, this helps with some bad camera angles when some targets may appear totally blocked. Final Fantasy VII continues with the ATB battles. Your character needs to wait a certain amount of time before he/she is allowed another action, which is different from a lot of older turn based Rpgs.
The Materia system is a new way to learn magic. Basically, your materia levels up when equipped, just like characters, though slower and with a different kind of ‘experience’. This system has many advantages; it allows players to design their characters in a nearly infinite amount of ways. This is a large amount of variety compared to other Final Fantasy games where you were given a character that could only use black magic for example. The disadvantage to this system, as previously mentioned, is that it makes the game far too easy. Characters can equip too much materia; allowing a player to prepare for anything. Many late game materia are preferred over the early game ones, due to the sheer power of the materia. This may sound good, but it is not, these late game materias do not frequently have spells that you learn, but an increase to your stats, such as boosting your exp received by 50% or more. Combine that with character stats that are already too good and you have a game in which it takes effort to lose.
Final Fantasy VII has an excellent storyline, which is a good thing for any RPG to have. Although a large majority of the story does focus around Cloud, he is the main character, which is understandable. The Optional characters, who do appear in the instruction manual, appear in very little storyline. They each have very short stories and side quests dedicated to them, but major storyline events are not affected by having or not having them.
At times, especially for subsequent times through the game, the story is just too long. There are three very large chunks of storyline which can take in excess of twenty minutes if you’re just holding the talk button down trying to skip over it as fast as possible. Replay value of Final Fantasy VII is hurt severely by these instances.
In addition, there are several side storyline features that you will have to go out of your way to find if you want to get the complete storyline down. Some of these sequences are very well written and well worth viewing. The problem is, not a lot of people go out of their way to find these, leaving them with a poor perception of what occurred
The story on the whole though, as mentioned before, was solid. It is an intertwined story that may take some gamers two or even three times through the game to fully understand. This is bad if you only like to go through the game once, because you may miss what really happened.
Due to the fact it was made on a 32-bit system, when all of the previous Final Fantasy games were made on 16 or 8 bit systems, the graphics are a huge step up from the previous games. One very nice installment is the rotating battle camera (you can leave it fixed on a side view if you don’t like it) the camera shows the battle at several angles, from the sides to the back and so on. This can give spells and attacks particularly nice looks, however, with large enemies on the screen, the camera can sometimes become blocked. Furthermore, sometimes the camera altogether spins the battle off of the picture thus you can’t see anything that’s going on. You’re still able to see what commands are issued though.
The World map is done very well, a nice use of perspective to create depth to mountains and hills. Oceans and other bodies of water have very poor wave effects though, could have done much better here. The skyline looks very plain too; the whole world seems to be sunny all of the time, no rain, nothing. Another good thing about the graphics is that it is easy to tell what you can and can’t touch and where you can and can’t go. Final Fantasy VII also has computer generated movies, on all of the discs. While they are few and far between, they are very sharp looking.
One frequent complaint about the graphics of Final Fantasy VII is how bad the characters look. The style they are drawn in is obviously not intended to make them look as human like as possible, it does look nice for what it is though.
Summoning spells look incredible; sadly, many of the normal spells are not as appealing, until you get into the late game. A big problem with summon animations is the large amount of time it takes to cast them. Even the shortest ones take a good fifteen seconds all the way up over a minute for the longer ones. As a general guideline, more powerful spells look much better and take longer. Weapons look very good on characters, though you’ll notice Cloud seems to have his initial sword (the buster sword) handy on him during events. Armor is not visible on characters, which is not a change from previous games. Enemies look fairly average though. Bosses are done well, but random enemies often share similar looks with other random enemies. The enemy death sequences are very unappealing as well (they turn red and fade away quickly).
While Final Fantasy VII does have a lot of new features, it still does not have characters speaking (that will not occur in the series until Final Fantasy X). Many of the spells sound good, though they tend to share the sound with other spells or events in the game. The sounds won’t make you feel like you’re in the game, you will simply hear them. Doors sound like doors; Chocobos say wark, nothing too great, just average.
As usual, Final Fantasy puts out one of the best musical scores. There are approximately 80 songs scattered throughout the game, most of them being very well done. My few complaints with the sound are as follows. There is only one random battle theme, you will find you fight a lot of random battles, this song, while good, gets very old, very fast. The other is the world map theme in the middle of the game, it sounds horrible, and this is the one time you will wish the random battles didn’t stop. Other than that, the music is top notch and enjoyable.
This is a difficult one to say, on the first time through the game, you’ll likely miss a side quest here or there, saving time, but most likely take longer playing the game, so plan on twenty to thirty hours depending on how good you are with rpgs. If you’re trying to get a perfect game, you can very easily max the clock out doing it.
Once you get tired of the storyline, the replay factor is very low, mostly because of the long chunks of storyline; until then, however, it’s fairly high, since there are nine characters, you may want to try them all out, though you can only have three in the party at a time (and Cloud is frequently required to be one of them) you may need a few games to do it.
Due to the sheer length of the game, I would recommend buying it. Since it is a Playstation Greatest Hits game, you will be able to pick it up for $19.99 anywhere you get video games at. This game will require a memory card, only one save slot though.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/25/03, Updated 04/25/03
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