Review by chelseaboy12
"Unquestionably the greatest game of all."
Final Fantasy 7 is one of those games that barely needs an introduction, but I will supply one nevertheless. It is almost a decade since the magic of the three-disk playstation RPG first captured me when Square released their seventh installment of the magnificent series, but this isn't a factor that hinders enjoyment when I get an annual, irresistible urge to load up Cloud Strife's world and immerse myself in a struggle to save the planet. Final Fantasy 7 is timeless, and will always be a remembered as a revolution in gaming, boasting superb FMV's, unique characters and a sensationally compelling story. Not once has replaying felt like a chore, not once have I failed to be disappointed when the game comes to an end, and not once have I ever changed my opinion that this is the greatest game to ever be made.
When the masterpiece first graced us, these graphics, including FMV's of a quality never seen before, were incredible. Nowadays, they still stand fairly strong, although as expected, they are somewhat dated. The backgrounds don't disappoint, but the blocky character models now look rather poor, even compared to its immediate successor, Final Fantasy 8. The characters look fine in battles (despite not seeming to have faces when out of battle), and the effects shown with spells and summons are still satisfactory. As previously mentioned, from a contemporary point of view, these graphics were incredible, and were considered one of the game's strongest points. However, when looking at the game after so much time, it is probably the weakest point. Those playing the game for the first time will quickly point out the dated nature of the graphics and criticize them, but it doesn't mean the FMV's aren't still very enjoyable, and that the game isn't unplayable. It's true that the graphics are one of the poorer points of the game but they do not stop the enjoyment. As long as they meet a certain standard (as these definitely do), graphics aren't as important as some of the other areas.
On the whole, this area of the game is still reasonably strong, and it's a testament to how good they were back in 1997. If you look at screenshots and decide against playing the game, shame on you. The only really poor part of the graphics is the presentation of the characters on the field screen (ie, outside of battle). The rest is perfectly fine and enjoyable.
One of the areas where Final Fantasy 7 really shines is this one; its plot. You take on the role of Cloud Strife, a cold-hearted mercenary with amnesia, who has recently joined the rebel group Avalanche having previously been a member of Soldier, an elite body of fighters for the Shinra. You commence the game in the huge city of Midgar, a technological place surrounded by mako reactors built by the Shinra, who are essentially a company running the city in order to fulfill their own greed and evil ambitions. It is Avalanche's initial goal to destroy these reactors, as Shinra, led by their greedy president, are consuming the planet's energy with these reactors to make their own brand of energy. The Avalanche leader, Barret, explains to Cloud that the planet will die if they don't put a stop to these reactors.
While this sounds somewhat simple, players should remember that this is a Final Fantasy game. The story soon becomes increasingly complex, as Cloud meets several new faces who join the journey, and the troubled protagonist tells of what he can remember from his painful past in Soldier, and of his ultimate goal to settle the score with the finest warrior to ever live: Sephiroth, who was a hero among those in Soldier (including Cloud) before he cruelly burnt down the protagonist's hometown five years ago. Sephiroth seems to have been unleashed on the world once more, and it is Cloud's ambition to finally stop whatever evil is planned by his enemy, and dispose of him with the help of his friends and colleagues.
The game spans over three wonderful disks, and much development occurs with the plot. The game contains the most emotional moments ever seen in a game, and possesses numerous plot twists and shock happenings. As well as the emotional, serious moments, several comic situations are also presented. Cloud dresses up as a woman at one point, and through much of a disk 1, you are often commanding our hero to make mini-choices between his two potential love interests, Tifa and Aeris. Such light-hearted moments allow escapism when the plot becomes a little intense. The truly amazing, constantly-developing story will keep any player enthralled to the end, but is unfortunately not helped by some shoddy translation and poor dialogue. One character states "This guy are sick", probably the most infamous of the bad translations, before another threatens "Try this on for size!!" (meant to be 'one'). Luckily, these errors don't really undermine the bigger picture, and the Final Fantasy 7 story remains one of the greatest ever seen.
In my opinion, the sound of Final Fantasy 7 is vastly underrated. In short, it is absolutely superb, and doesn't seem to get the recognition it deserves. Every track is excellent, and suits the situation. It's virtually impossible to pick a favourite piece of music. Aeris's theme, the battle tune, the boss music, the world map tune, Cid's theme, Sephiroth's theme ('One Winged Angel')...the list of sensational tracks goes on and on. Battle and boss music serves to get you in the mood to fight, and destroy anyone in your way, while darker music often makes you tense and nervous about what approaches. There's really not much else to say except that the music area of 'Sound' could hardly score higher.
In terms of the rest of sound, the game was made long before voice-overs were implemented, and the only other part that can be commented on is sound effects. These aren't perfect, but are a strong part of the game. Battles wouldn't seem the same without the neat noises made to accompany the magic, summons, and attacks. On the field screen, the effects are a little poorer, such as those for punching and jumping noises, but such less-satisfactory effects are actually rather few and far between. The music is really an area that shines, and even for the musical score alone, to give anything less than full marks would be a huge injustice.
For the vast majority of the game, you control Cloud. The spiky-haired, blonde protagonist is moved around the field screen with the directional buttons, with random encounters following every few steps. When you enter a battle, three characters are allowed in your party at once, and all are allowed to take their turns when the respective 'Time' bars are filled. As more battles are fought and won, characters will gain experience (EXP) in true RPG fashion, and will gain a level when you get enough experience.
As for battle preparation, Final Fantasy 7 plays host to the materia system. A piece of 'materia' is basically a magic sort of rock, which allows a character access to new abilities, such as magic spells, summons, attribute improvements (such as improving HP or MP) or commands such as the ability to 'steal' or 'throw' an item. There are five types of materia, and these are green 'magic' materia, yellow 'command' materia, red 'summon' materia, blue 'support' materia, and purple 'independent' materia. You will find and buy lots of materia on your travels, and the system is instrumental in making each character a strong and formidable fighter. Each weapon and armour has a number of materia slots, allowing you to equip a limited amount of materia. For example, Cloud's first weapon (the gigantic 'buster sword') has just two materia slots, but as you get stronger and more powerful weapons, you will generally have access to more materia and more slots.
Like characters, materia is allowed to 'level up', as you receive AP as well as EXP for every battle (a materia requires a ceraint amount of AP to reach the next level). For instance, one of the materias you start with, ice, has 4 levels - Ice, Ice2, Ice3, and the master level. When you acquire so much AP, you will 'level up' the materia, and Ice2 (a stronger attack of the same element) will be made available as well as 'Ice'. When a materia reaches its final level (master), the materia has grown as much as it can, and a brand new one of the same type will be born, starting on level 1.
Each character has a number of hit points (HP) and magic points (MP). These figures will increase with every level up, or if you equip 'HP plus' or 'MP plus' materia (of the 'Independent' type). If your HP is reduced to 0, the character will be KO'd and has to be revived. Spells and summons consume MP, but there is no real penalty for if your MP is lowered to 0.
Another feature of the battles are limit breaks. When a character is attacked, their 'Limit' gauge fills. Upon a complete fill of the gauge, a character will have a 'limit break' made available. These are character-specific, and are powerful attacks that can cause massive damage to either a single target or multiple enemies. A character's limit level will also increase as time goes on, with new limit breaks being learned as a reward for either using certain limit break attacks a specified number of times, or by killing a specified amount of enemies.
Aside from the battles, the game consists of exploring a huge world map, as you enjoy visits to several towns and other locations, such as a theme park known as the gold saucer, and an amazing observatory, where the characters learn more of the true nature of the planet. As well as the more enjoyable locations, the characters are also forced to endure painful treks over mountains and valleys, journies through dangerous caves, and tricky climbs up devilishly cold peaks.
The gameplay is a hugely strong area, with exploring being fun and exciting, and lots of epic boss fights (supplemented by the awesome boss music) as well as battles, being highly memorable. The materia system has been criticized for taking out any character originality, but organizing the materia you have gathered lets you create your own style for each character. The success in this department ensures that Final Fantasy 7 really excels in all areas. The beauty of the game on a whole is helped considerably by brilliant, enjoyable gameplay.
As I mentioned at the top of the review, I find it impossible to resist the urge I get every year (usually the summer time) without fail, to play through Final Fantasy 7. When I get the urge, I can't be content until I've finished my latest playthrough. I find myself thinking about it for days when doing other things - imagining moving Cloud around the world map with the music reaching its climax. To play through this game is a special experience, no matter how many times you do it. Admittedly, it's not quite as special as when you did it all for the first time, but when you get going, it still beats every game of today. Maybe other players feel differently, but I could never find it in myself to put Final Fantasy 7 away without the intention of getting it out again fairly soon. Even within playthroughs, there are mini games to go back and enjoy (including motorbiking, snowboarding and chocobo racing) as well as optional weapons to fight, which are much harder than the actual final boss. Although some of the gloss is taken off slightly when you play it a second time, and subsequent times after, the game still scores very highly in this department.
Graphics - 7/10
Story - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Replay Value - 9/10
Overall (NOT AN AVERAGE) - 10/10
Perhaps I'm just sad, but in a strange sort of way, I both pity and envy gamers who are yet to play through Final Fantasy 7. The first playthrough, for me, was just bizarrely brilliant, an experience that everyone should enjoy. I don't think you can really consider yourself a true gamer until you have played through such an amazing, revolutionary game at least once. If you have lived under a rock for the last decade, and are yet to play it, what on earth are you waiting for? The game is simply a masterpiece, and no game of today competes with how truly incredible Square's seventh Final Fantasy installment really was, and still is.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/10/06
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