Review by Archmonk Iga

"I'm not tagging along, I just think this game rules."

Final Fantasy VII is a part of my life, I'm not gonna lie. I've had it since it came out, and to this day I still play it. I'm pretty surprised that I actually get to review the very first game that I will forever cherish in my heart. Before, I thought GameFAQs wouldn't allow any more reviews because Final Fantasy VII already has so many, but looks like I was wrong. Well here it is— my review of one of the most revolutionary and life changing occurrences of the 90's.

STORY:
You are Cloud, an ex-SOLDIER. You have recently joined the terrorist organization AVALANCHE, lead by the big burly Barret. You are put into the action immediately after the mysterious opening FMV. The game starts off with AVALANCHE infiltrating a Shinra “mako reactor.” But blowing up the reactor is only the beginning, and you may wonder upon its completion: can it get more exciting? Yes my friend. No doubt about it.

You will come across dozens of amazing people as you progress through FF7. Many of them try to stop you in your goal, but some will tag along. First and foremost is, of course, Cloud Strife, the schizophrenic (?) main character. Boastful yet regretful about his past as a SOLDIER, he will remain a mystery for most of the game. The crap that happens to him is so depressing; at times you will just get really pissed off because of all the horrible things that he deals with. Barret Wallace is the husky leader of AVALANCHE, who will do whatever it takes to save the planet from its demise. He also has some heartbreaking events that you will witness when you get into the thick of things. Tifa Lockheart, Cloud's oldest friend, has one of the biggest hearts you will see in this game, for no matter what happens, Cloud can count on her to stand by his side. Aeris Gainsborough, a mysterious young woman, has a past that will take quite a bit of time to completely unravel, only to conclude in one of the most tragic scenes in videogame history. Red XIII is a strange beast that the group discovers while he is getting experimented on. Once again, his tale is one of love and loss. Cait Sith is a “psychic” cat who rides on top of a giant mog. He joins the group for unknown reasons, and has become one of this game's most despised characters (but I love him). Cid Highwind is a romantic with a strong heart and never-ending will. He hopes to one day take a look at the planet from space in a rocket that he built himself. Yuffie Kisaragi, an obnoxious thief, may seem to be more like dead weight at first, then as an actual threat, but eventually, maybe, her heart will take a turn for the better. Vincent Valentine is perhaps the most mysterious character in FF7, and remains that way throughout the majority of the game. The gang finds him sleeping in a coffin of the basement in an abandoned building. Yeah, that's kind of mysterious.

Still, despite these men and women who will fight with you, there are always enemies. Sephiroth is the man whom Cloud and Tifa despise (you'll find out why as you play along). You will frequently find clues as to what he has done in the area you are currently passing through… and most of them are pretty disturbing. Then there is Shinra, the government organization that claims to be saving the planet, but everyone seems to have reluctance to believe that assertion. They are using mako reactors for the citizens of the world… but is that really the best thing for the planet? AVALANCHE certainly don't think so.

Final Fantasy VII boasts one of the greatest stories ever told. Agree or disagree, I don't really care. But I stand firm in my belief that the ideas behind this game are pure genius. Existentialistic premises, religious references, real-life political issues, and outside allusions only add to this story. In playing through FF7's story, you will witness shock, remorse, mystery, love, hate, sadness, cross-dressing (what?) and the two big ones: BETRAYAL and DEATH. I know of people getting depressed, breaking out into tears, etc. at many points in this game. Whether it's discovering the truth of your friend's father, witnessing Sephiroth's insanity, finding a traitor among your own allies, or watching the cruel acts of the Shinra corporation, you will no doubt feel emotional throughout FF7's entirety. If you don't, I question your existence.
STORY: 10/10

GRAPHICS:
Okay, let's think for a second, haters. FF7 came out in… when? Oh yeah! In 1997! So by today's standards, of course, the character models are crappy. But back in the day, I'd say Square were pushing the limits in terms of graphics. Characters do things that are about as realistic as they came back then—shaking their heads, falling on their hands and knees, waving their arms, etc. Sure, they look like several deformed cubes attached to each other, but it's no doubt a huge leap forward in terms of RPG visuals.

In battle, everything looks great, say what you want. Gazillions of animations, tons of monsters, beautiful summons, and nice new camera angles all enhance the old school RPGs to the nth degree. Not to mention how everyone's weapons look different when they're equipped—you'll know when you have Cloud's Ultima Weapon equipped instead of his Buster Sword just by looking at it.

Lastly, the environments also look great. Almost as nice as they do in FF9, I'd say. Areas such as Wutai are a treat to the eyes. They are all pre-rendered, so the only things you'll see moving are the characters. But still… they look amazing.
GRAPHICS: 9/10

SOUNDS:
As many of you may know, FF7 has some of Uematsu's most popular musical works. Tracks such as “Aeris's Theme,” “One-Winged Angel,” and “Cosmo Canyon” will probably get stuck in your head for, like, ever. They all sound great, even with all the cheesy electronic-ness. There's really not much for me to say, because it's already been said countless times.

The sound effects also sound very nice, even to me (I never really care about them unless they REALLY suck). Sometimes they actually help add to the moment in the story (such as the planet “crying”), which is important.
SOUNDS: 10/10

GAMEPLAY:
Once again, FF7 revolutionize the gaming world in gameplay as well. This might be awhile, so grab some popcorn.

I'll start with the battle system. Like all the FFs before it, 7's battles start randomly, with the screen blurring into a battlefield where up to three characters fight the baddies. Through the familiar ATB system, they can attack with their weapons, use magic, defend, and do other commands. The bulk of your battle plans will be in your materia, which are colored orbs that you equip onto your characters. Materia takes many forms: magic spells, stat improvements, command moves, magic bonuses, and summons. Magic is mostly what you'd expect from an FF—fire, ice, ULTIMA!!! and other things. There are some spells that are unique to FF7 though, such as the Contain materia. Summon materia is similar, except you actually bring in an entity who does some sort of big magic attack (Shiva, Ramuh, Odin, etc.). The support materia helps enhance your magic materia—say you want to have your Fire spell target all the enemies instead of just one. Easy enough, just attach it to an “All” materia and you'll be good to go. Then there's the command materia, which includes abilities such as Sense, 2x attack, and Enemy Skill. Lastly, you have your independent materia, which basically improves an individual character (HP Plus, Counter Attack, etc.). These all come into major play at all times in FF7, but remember to strategize. Magic and summon materia are great, but remember that they lower your HP and strength. Command materia can come in great use, but you may want to unequip some of it when you don't think you'll need it.

Along with materia, you have your weapons, armor and accessories. Besides the obvious boosts in strength, weapons have certain effects that can hurt or help you. Some may only have a few materia slots, while others may allow long-range attacks. Armor is similar—sure, it raises your defense, but it may make you weak or strong to certain magic spells. Accessories pretty much do only good, just to different extents. Some may make you resistant to bad status, some may raise individual stats, etc. Choosing your equipment also takes some strategizing.

One last notable thing about battling is the Limit Break. Each character gets at least two of these, and when he/she takes damage enough, he/she will be able to use one. They usually consist of insane damage or lifesaving. Each character's limit breaks are very exciting to watch.

Besides all that fun, you've got the sidequests and bonuses. There's the Gold Saucer, a sort of amusement park, with rides, mini-games, and interesting people to meet (you meet a certain feline there). Games there include basketball, the Battle Square, and snowboarding. It's a really fun idea that's great for you if you're tired of battling or want to take a break from the story.

There are also tons of sidequests, some of which might occur accidentally (where's my materia?!). These end up being some of the most worthwhile things you do in FF7, so give them all a chance.

Then there's the chocobos… FF7 is the beginning of the FF franchise's HUGE chocobo sidequests. In this one, you find, catch, breed, ride, and race them. Of course this is optional, which is good news since it takes a lot of time and patience. Still, if you give it that time, you will no doubt be satisfied with the results (KOTR what what?).

But there is one problem: WORDS, Squaresoft, WORDS. The Japan-to-US transition did not go quite as well as the future's FFs. We've got translation errors and misspellings galore, ladies and gentlemen. At times it's not very noticeable, but when someone says “This guy are sick” it just… kind of makes you chuckle. Not a big deal, for the most part it's all good. But still… this guy are sick?! Come on!!!

Even today, FF7's gameplay is some of the deepest you'll come across. Whether it's fighting, hanging around town, or raising chocobos, you're bound to get engrossed in FF7's limitless opportunities.
GAMEPLAY: 10/10

LASTING APPEAL:
It'll last you long. The main story without the sidequests will siphon away around 40 hours of your life, and adding all the sidequests and secrets could add another dozen or so. Then if you're one of those “I need to master all materia, get all characters to level 99, and get all equipment” type of people, it could add up to hundreds more. And once it's all done… you might want to experience it one more time. And then another. Yeah, the story alone is enough for multiple playthroughs. The bottom line: keep this game forever.
LASTING APPEAL: 10/10

OVERALL:
It's a classic, there's no doubt about that. Ranking alongside Mario, Zelda, and Halo (which it came before, by the way), Final Fantasy VII is an event that no one should ever miss. Buy it, play it, cry, laugh, and be in awe of the revolution that is Final Fantasy VII.
OVERALL: 10/10

Thanks for reading =)


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/30/06


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