Review by Absolute Steve
"A game I've grown up with; A game I'll grow old with."
Final Fantasy VII: The name of a game you've undoubtedly heard of if you're part of the gaming community, or have been a part of in the past 10 years. A game that changed the lives of many, a game that still changes the lives of many, and a game that will change the lives of many more.
I'm not writing this to convince you to like FF VII, I'm here to tell you my story; To tell you my view on the game. I will not go very in-depth over all the aspects of the game - I assume almost everyone, say 90% who reads this knows enough of the game as it is already - so the emphasis lies somewhat on why people either like or dislike it. In practice, I'm basically analyzing some bashing arguments that I wholeheartedly disagree with.
The main story revolves around Cloud Strife, a young Ex-SOLDIER that seemingly suffers from amnesia and other irregularities around his memory. The game jumps into action as Cloud blows up a reactor in a city called Midgar. The player discovers fairly quickly that the powerful Shinra Electric Company is sucking all the energy out of the planet with the result that it's slowly dying. What follows is an adventure in which friends and foes are made, tough obstacles are faced and overcome, and in which one of the most well-known villains plays a crucial role: Sephiroth. I'm not going to spoil anything story related for you, but it suffices to say that the story is much better than most RPG stories, and the fact that it set a standard for many other RPG developers ever since makes this a justified statement.
More often than not people complain about the story and mention that it was either "too long, too complicated, too irrealistic, etc.." Irrealistic? You must be kidding me, we're playing an RPG and it has many realistic elements. Plot holes are nearly nonexistent and if you play the game while paying attention to the dialog - assuming you're not younger than 15 years also you may actually understand the story - you will discover a very deep story with many themes worked out.
On a side note, it is both funny and awkward that many reviewers that give the story a low score, actually don't understand the story. "Sephiroth fuses with the Mako Stream" "Cloud decides that Sephiroth is evil and everyone believes him immediately." Have these people not paid attention, or are they simply too young to grasp the story? Sephiroth clearly commits some heavy murders at the start of the game, and it is also never stated anywhere that he fuses with a Mako Stream. At all.
I also read a statement that only young little fanboys who don't understand the story are the ones who claim the story to be estatic. Not only does the previous paragraph show us that this is clearly not the case, I too enjoy the story and its depth, and I fully understand and grasp every aspect of it. I'm 21 years old, I don't think Shakespeare is boring, and I certainly don't get paid by Squaresoft to say this. I just think the story is awesome.
As for the characters being often described as stereotypical .. How the **** can you say, and seriously mean what you say, that a cast consisting of a speaking lion, a girl who is the last of her race, a psychotic main character, a giant fur moogle with a cat sitting on it, a vampirish looking bud, a swearing pilot with his heart buried somewhere underneath ... is a stereotypical cast? Well my oh my, god forbid that there are few stereotypical characters, Barret and Tifa, where Barret isn't even all that stereotypical in my book. A gun-arm? That's awesome! In fact, even the game itself makes fun of its cast at several times, which results in hilarious moments. Take the moment at the top of the Shinra Building for example, when Rufus makes his entry. You can't make fun of the cast in a bad way if the game is already doing it; That's called shooting yourself in the foot.
FF VII continues to expand on the ATB system that the previous installments from the Final Fantasy Series already established in a very innovative way. Battles are turn based and the player gets random encounters every now and then (maybe a little bit more 'now', than 'then'). The game introduces Materia, colored orbs that hold a special Magic Power. This system allows for an incredible variety of combinations that have never been so diverse in any other Final Fantasy game. FF VII has one of the most diverse gameplays ever seen in games, and it probably singlehandedly made mini-games in RPG's immensely popular. There are well over 10 different mini-games in FF VII which add to the replay value and variety.
Complaints are often directed at annoying random battles. I don't know the exact mechanics of all previous Final Fantasy games, but from my experience FF VI has just as much random encounters that FF VII has. Besides, once you progress through Disc 2 you can get a nifty little Materia called Enemy Away. One guess what it does.
For mockers who think that battles are slow and lame.. Hey, guess what? FF VII has the option to crank UP the battle speed. That's right! Just like you can virtually adjust anything in the menu, you can simply make the battles go much faster by tweaking with some options in the menu. Also.. Circle circle circle I hear someone say? IMPORTANT NEWSFLASH JUST IN THIS MORNING: ALMOST ALL RPG'S CAN BE BEATEN BY JUST REPEATING REGULAR ATTACKS! FF VII has tons of useful attacks and I dare you beat the game by only using regular attacks. Enemy Skills, Magic and (admittedly more rarely) Summons are a fine addition to the game. Guess what? They make your battles go faster too, with the exception of Summons. Wise gamers save their summons for big fights anyway, because who the hell is going to use a powerful summon to wipe out some simple monsters in a simple random encounter?
In summary, grab two complaints (Slow Battles, Boring Battles), put them together in a cup, mix them up a bit and the result is another pro in the pocket.
One thing we can all agree on is that the game is somewhat easy. It's relatively easy to overlevel and most bosses are fairly easy, a few noteworthy mentions such as Demons Gate, Schizo, or Carry Armor put aside. You should keep in mind however that the knowledge of the game over the years has immensely grown, and most of us know exactly what to do where. When I played the game the very first time through, I actually had trouble with several bosses. Perhaps partly because I didn't know what I was doing, but also because it's not all so easy during your first playthough. With its easy difficulty, the game clearly tries to open up RPG's to the mainstream and you can hardly call that a fault. FF VII defined console RPG gaming, so it has succeeded in every sense of it's goal.
People complaining about the graphics of FF VII being bad, shut up now, because you are a graphic whore. In spite of what you may hear some people say, at the time of release FF VII was sitting at the very edge of technology advancement with textures and pre-rendered backgrounds that still look good, FMV's that are still stunning a decade later, and all-in-all top notch for the time. Complaints like these simply can't be taken serious, and if someone tells me that FF VII's graphics look bad, then I tell them what I just said in this paragraph, and that all games at that time looked either just like this, or much worse. As for the "lego people"? That's called the style of the game. In all previous Final Fantasies the characters were midgets. Look at FF VII as a transition process of making the characters from tiny 'children' to real life figures. In FF VIII this process was completed. Besides, you often hear this complaint about FF VII, but not about FF IX where the characters were again small - a typical style. It may also be quite possible that at the time FF VII was in the making (and for the record, we're talking about '94-'97 here, at the time we were all playing games with sprites for graphics) that they simply couldn't create full 3-D models. In any case, it made the game as it is.
Nobuo Uematsu was still a part of Squaresoft at the time of FF VII's creation, and I'm glad he was. I personally love almost every track of the inspiring, moving and touching songs that drown this game with emotion and suspense, action or intimate moments, wacky and goofy scenes; It's all in there, and it's all of a very high level musically. Nobuo confessed that he had been inspired by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. It can be heard, and that's meant as a very big compliment. I have read an argument somewhere that people only liked the music of FF VII because at the time they were used to SNES midi songs and their ears were blown wide open by the sheer beauty of music due to technological advancements. While this is certainly an improvement over SNES or Megadrive music, it doesn't explain why FF VII's soundtrack is still selling well, and why tons of people are still mentioning FF VII's tracks as memorable. The music is simply said splendit, and while one could argue that even music is a matter of taste, compared to other games there is good and bad taste. If you don't like FF VII's music, I feel for you.
Yes, FF VII has some bugs here and there. After more than a decade we've finally tracked most of them down with the help of many hackers. However, they're all tiny errors that most certainly don't distract anyone from the overall gaming experience. In fact, back in 1997 NO ONE knew about these errors. It was only at the very least five years later that they were discovered and that people started to mention them as an argument for disliking the game. Well, the errors hardly draw any attention away from the experience, and some even define FF VII in it's own unique way. The W-Item Trick anyone?
It almost seems like a sport to bash on FF VII. I can understand that you don't like fanboys, and neither do I, but if you have to look for errors or make up flaws then it's better to just let it slide. Also accept the fact that it's the most popular game ever, and that it didn't become the most popular game ever without good reason. If you truly don't like FF VII then that's fine. I suppose there are also some people in the world who don't like the Lord of the Rings movies, The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption and Memento, and write reviews about them in which they search for all the flaws they can possibly think of. Perhaps FF VII haters can become friends with them. In the end, it's all about good and bad taste.
I just wanted to throw this out there. Thank you for reading this.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/31/08, Updated 11/03/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/07/97)
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