Review by ClessAlvein05

"That's cool...so when do FF4, FF6, FF3, and maybe FF8 get their Advent Children and Compilation Series?"

I guess Final Fantasy VII isn't too bad; however, I've never been able to understand the overwhelming praise for it. It was supposed to the modernize and Americanize the RPG genre (not the first,) bring visuals to a new level with its 3 CDs (it did,) bring audio to a new level in RPGs as well (not quite,) and bring gameplay to a new level (not even close.) So beyond all the additional games and the movie it spawned, how specifically did it really perform as a game? Let's break it down...

Graphics:

Still pretty beautiful after a decade. The FMVs did a great job at the time, as grainy and choppy as they may look now; I was amazed by the initial zoom towards the train when I first played. I liked all the up-close menu character profiles, particularly Cloud's sideways stare. Character designs are still more than adequate, as bad as some people think Cloud's hair spikes may look nowadays. The summons are still impressive, especially Knights of the Round, even if they are all a little slow and redundant after a few runs

The biggest strike against them is that as much as I liked to see RPG characters evolve out of waddling between 16x16 blocks (even if this'd been done before in games like Chrono Trigger and Tales of Phantasia) and into a fully 3d world (rendered in 2d or not,) the camera angles outside of battle are much too far back. Furthermore, perspective and wall clipping are often terribly chosen. However, these are much more a criticism of gameplay than graphics, so more on that later.

8.5/10

Audio:

Even most of FF7's critics say that this is still one of its strongest points, but the music was not one of Uematsu's best works!

I still liked most of the songs, but it was very inconsistent--Uematsu misused the extra resources he had in how he widened the scope of music styles.

There were some flat-out HORRIBLE songs, which FF6 cannot say at all and the other FFs cannot say to nearly the same degree. Lurking in the Darkness is one of Uematsu's worst songs ever (he cannot write slow jazz, and as bad as many of the slow-paces songs here were, they were better fit for a town than a sewer,) and I also really disliked Turks' Theme and the Honeybee Manor. There were some other songs that got annoying either in style or in repetition, but are not bad enough to specifically call out.

I did really like victory song that was different for the first time in FF history, and the battle songs--they never got repetitive, and I liked the hard rock/high tech flavor to them in instrumentation and sequencing. However, not every high-tech style song was perfect; as nice as Crazy Motorcycle may look at first, it gets annoying if you listen to it for more than a minute. Most of the military-style beats were first-class. Uematsu picked his usual stock of “incidental songs” (death, hurrying, sleeping, and so forth) reasonably well; the biggest problem was the “main theme” was repeated in way too many forms (multiple world map themes, airship flight, and so on.) The more major songs avoided that theme, the better; I loved pretty much every variation on the Sephiroth theme. Among other songs, Underneath the Rotting Pizza, the Mako Reactor, and J-E-N-O-V-A are just a few of my favorites.

Most of the instrumentation choices were proper, even if they repeated a little much for a PS game; they picked the right ones to fit into a 700 Kb .psf. (I remember when the game first came out I was confused as to how a 4 CD soundtrack could fit into 3 game CDs with room to spare for other game data, but it didn't have to use redbook at all, not to mention that most CD soundtracks repeat a lot.)

For all that some critics have complained about them, I mostly liked the sound effects. There were your pretty standard menu, enemy wipeout, etc. effects. I REALLY liked the limit break sound, and the higher-level Cloud slash (the more the better, like when it gets run down the enemies' throats in Omnislash.) The long noises for summons and most other effects are a little too fake for a PS game, though.

Looking at all three of the good, the bad and the ugly together, the audio was fairly impressive, but a strike against the game's supposed "one of the greatest ever" standing. You actually can't even compare it to many high-end SNES games without using the adage "doing more with less." For instance, even among non-redbook games there was nothing ground-breaking about One Winged Angel's audio track, even if I particularly liked it as a former scholar of Latin (I did prefer Dancing Mad and the Extreme.) Tales of Phantasia and Star Ocean had much more such audio, if not at as high a sampling quality, not to mention an extremely wide breadth of character vocals--it may seem like a tough challenge in any game where characters have a nearly infinite number of "speakable" names, but it can be easily done by just speaking the most relevant parts. Also, FF6 may have lacked true vocals, and this hurt the opera scene, but did more than adequate--shoot, it did absolutely phenomenal--with them in Dancing Mad's track, and the overall soundtrack was much better, both among the best songs and especially towards the bottoms of the respective barrels. 8/10

Story:

I had no serious problems with this, while it's not “light-years ahead of other FFs” as some may think. Yeah, people complain about the plot holes, derivation from generic motifs and other stories, and execution of these motifs even if every RPG borrows, but I don't really see those as big problems.

One of FF7's claims to fame in this department is holding one of the biggest "non-spoiler spoilers" around, namely the death after the first CD that even casual non-RPG gamers have known since shortly after its release; but this doesn't really hurt the game.

The biggest problem, one that doesn't strike you as too serious right away but grows as you play it over, is making Cloud too emo. Every time Cecil or Terra stared at the ground is magnified into your face with Cloud, except that in this case he always has to express it with that stiff, annoying shrug.

Most of the minor characters were well-written (Don Corneo is hilarious!) Like in FF6, every character fits into the larger lore somehow, and they are all integrated into a wide variety of towns, caves and other map areas. The flashbacks and other long story scenes are reasonably well-executed and don't run too slowly.

8.5/10

Gameplay:

I'm sorry, but this really is the worst part of the game.

The overall inconvenience level is bad enough that many early RPGs that lack things like auto-target have to be considered less painful, in spite of their inherent disadvantages of earlier programming.

No, you haven't had to waste turns attacking dead enemies since the Japanese FF2, but everything else is done to waste as much of your time as possible.

Battles are very slow. Even forgiving CD load times, the way they are executed is inexcusable. You have to wait several seconds for the map scene to wipe out and the battle to rotate in place, several more seconds of rotating for every turn (even if you limit rotation,) and for some VERY boring special attacks or even normal attacks. They are still nice to look at, but slow. I don't want to wait around forever for an icicle enemy to crack! Sometimes the spinning is gratuitous; other times it is flashy (I like the victory rotations, even though they get a little tedious after a few hundred battles.)

The mini-games are the worst part of the game, period, including the weak songs and all the other parts of gameplay. Let's start with the Gold Saucer: you can lose all your credits by leaving to take a necessary break, chocobo racing is slow (if a little clever in its betting style,) the colosseum is several steps back from FF6 (particularly the repeating battles you can waste a lot on,) not to mention you HAVE to chase Cait Sith around, mini-game or not. And the chocobo breeding...you have got to be kidding me, and yet you need it for other extra parts of the game. It's not even particularly original for Square; Bahamut Lagoon's dragon feeding was a simple precursor. Marching with Shinra soldiers is stupid and annoying too; I could go on and on, but I'll just say that I miss being able to do simple item wagers in FF6.

The sidequests? Wutai was somewhat annoying and VERY easy to get stuck in on the last room. Don't get me started on the Weapons (the submarine scene is irritating enough as it is, and is a big step back from the simple submarine areas in previous FFs.)

I didn't have too much of a problem with the materia development, weapon, and armor systems or specific strengths of individual characters.

Moving around on the map is painful. Not only are you usually either much too close or much too far away, but the diagonal and forward movement is often terribly skewed in an effort to make the game into a fully 3d environment. You will find yourself wrestling around to get through some passageways and jump onto pipes and ladders, all while getting random battles every couple steps trying to figure it out.

The actual difficulty of the game is reasonable--neither too easy nor too hard 95% of the time--once you look past all the inconveniences. Battles are fine if you prepare, and save spots are reasonably spaced (although sometimes you can lose track of how far you wander from one, and how much time it'd take to get back or to the next one once you consider how much time battles take.)

There is quite a bit of replay value due to the number of items and paths to them, although these have been so-well documented that any value is severely diminished by the hours of frustration you need to get back to those locations in the game. Even if the secrets are well known, it doesn't save you from having to wander around for an hour at a time, all while getting stopped by battles every handful of steps.

5.5/10

Overall:

I've done my best to rate this game on its merits and not out of spite for its fanboys or fanboyism in general. And it's really not too bad--but has been grossly overestimated in how it'd survive the test of time, even how much it stood out in its initial release. On average, the scores above come out to (8.5+8+8.5+5.5)/4=30.5/4 = 7.625. I can just barely round it up to an 8; its legacy just barely overcomes its inconveniences, so it can't be "tilted" too far either up or down. Again, this game deserves to be no better than the 4th and possibly 5th best Final Fantasy.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/29/07


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