Review by LordShibas

"For my 100th review on gamefaqs I decided to replay a classic"

Final Fantasy VII is truly a game that needs no introduction. It's often coined as being one of the greatest games of all time, and RPG fans all over the world adore it. The scope of Final Fantasy VII has transcended that of a normal video game, and it has become a living, breathing universe of commercialized propaganda. Final Fantasy VII has received multiple video game spin offs, a prequel story, a full length movie follow up story, and many different types of tangible products. It's really in a league of its own amongst all of the other Final Fantasy games.

I recently played through Crisis Core for the PSP, and it's a prequel story to Final Fantasy VII that explains a lot about the events leading up to Final Fantasy VII. Since my memory was a bit shoddy concerning the events of Final Fantasy VII, I chose to do the only prudent thing that I could think of, and that was to replay Final Fantasy VII to refresh my memory and see if it was as good as I remembered.

I must confess that over the years, my appreciation for Final Fantasy VII has declined quite a bit, but I can conclusively say that playing Final Fantasy VII again has jogged my memory, and I now remember why this game gets so much damn praise: it's just an excellent game, period.

As a regular on the gamefaqs boards, it's quite frequent that I come across conspiratorial claims about how over rated Final Fantasy VII is, and in some regards I agree with these claims, but it's hard not to recognize what this game has done for RPGs. Final Fantasy VII turned RPGs into a mainstream gaming genre, from its prior niche status. It had a slightly lower entry barrier than other RPGs, it was a masterpiece of artistic design, the story was appealing to people of all ages, and even hardened RPG fans could find something to like in the depth of the Materia system and the additional side quests.

In my reviews, I usually explain a bit about a game's gameplay and a bit about the story before proceeding with my review, but I'm going to assume that most people are familiar with Final Fantasy VII, so I'll get right to my review.

Graphics 10/10

Final Fantasy VII has aged quite a bit over the years, and 3D games these days blow Final Fantasy VII away, but in 1997, it was one of the best looking video games ever made. The pre-rendered backgrounds were immensely detailed and almost every screen seemed like a beautiful painting that you needed to navigate through. The opening cinematic in Midgar showed the exceptional potential of the CDROM format, and proved that picking the Playstation over the N64 was a wise decision by Square, since they were looking for a more realistic art style.

While the pre-rendered backgrounds were incredible, the in-game character models were somewhat blocky and lacked detail, but this is to be expected from early 3D games during the Playstation era. What gave the game its graphical boon was how well the in-game characters meshed with the pre-rendered backgrounds. Everything looked convincing, even if the areas were sometimes confusing to navigate. Square did an excellent job of bringing the Final Fantasy series into the world of 3D gaming, where it has resided ever since.

Another graphical highlight of the game are the summons that aid you during the battles. Prior to Final Fantasy VII, summons in the Final Fantasy universe were nothing more than a quick, few second long appearance of a creature that would attack your enemy or buff you. Final Fantasy VII upped the ante on the summons and each summon was given its own in-game cinematic that pushed the Playstation far beyond anything that had come before it. Dragons would breath down energy beams from the heavens, knights would relentlessly attack one after the other, and old favorites like Shiva and Ifrit were bolstered in true 3D fashion.

For its time, Final Fantasy VII was graphically awe-inspiring. It spawned many imitations, but none of them seemed to measure up in overall graphical quality and art style.

Sounds and Music 10/10

Most Final Fantasy games are known for having excellent soundtracks, and Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy game to have a CD quality soundtrack that blew all other RPG soundtracks away. The OST spanned four cds, and it was conducive to the overall atmosphere of the game. CD quality RPG soundtracks had been done before Final Fantasy VII, as in the Lunar games for Sega CD, but Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack was just far more expansive than previous RPG soundtracks. Every track seems memorable to some degree, and One Winged Angel is still my favorite battle music of all time.

There is no voice acting included in the game, but that was not a bad decision on Square's part since voice acting in games was abysmal up to this point in gaming.

The sound effects match the game perfectly and I can't imagine a game that compliments the gameplay with more appropriate sound effects.

Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack was the first video game soundtrack that I purchased because it was just so incredible, and I still have it to this day.

Story 10/10

Final Fantasy VII has a deep and well developed story from beginning to end. It contains some of the most memorable characters in the RPG genre, and Sephiroth may very well be the most recognizable villain in RPG history.

The main character, Cloud, is a perplexing enigma that struggles to find his true self during the course of the game. Mental breakdowns, odd alliances, and heart wrenching scenes are commonplace in Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII also gave the player the option of acquiring optional characters to further add to the story. By doing some additional side quests, you could uncover more back story about the characters and discover the inner demons that each one is hiding deep inside.

While the game starts off with the simple plot of trying to stop the Shinra Corporation from using up the planet's resources, things quickly spiral out of control to epic proportions, and the fabricated story is nothing short of mesmerizing.

RPGs in the past have attempted the whole “Save the planet” angle before, but Final Fantasy VII's story was so intricately weaved that it truly did feel like the world was in a crisis. Throw in a tremendous amount of character development, a daunting villain like Sephiroth, and you have an RPG story that goes far beyond anything previously in the genre.

Gameplay 9/10

Final Fantasy VII keeps the active turn based system from Final Fantasy VI and adds the Materia system for some much needed diversity. Materia are stones that can be added to your weapons and equipment that give you the ability to use magic, summons, and special attacks. The one thing I liked about the Materia system is how the Materia retains its gained exp regardless of which character it's currently equipped on. It's useful if you want to try out newly acquired characters, since a good Materia setup can make them formidable right off the bat, regardless of their level.

However, loading up your characters with Materia is not always your best option. Some of them adversely affect your stats, so having a ton of equipped Materia will make your character have slightly lower hit points and base stats. Overall, the Materia system is slightly asymmetric and seems to favor having a lot of Materia equipped. The lower stat factor just doesn't seem as hurtful as it should have been.

The nuanced gameplay also gave rise to Limit Breaks for each character. Limit Breaks are basically super moves that can be used in battle when a meter fills up. Some of these are capable of wiping out entire enemy parties in one hit, and the on-screen chaos that ensues during Limit Breaks is a site to be seen.

The overall gameplay style is a bit more cinematic than that of previous Final Fantasy games. You will still have the option to explore the world map during a good portion of the game, but a lot of the game hinges on story based, scripted events that will take you from one area to the next. That's one thing that I really enjoyed about Final Fantasy VII. Gone are the days of exploring endless dungeon after endless dungeon. An action sequence in Final Fantasy VII may consist of storming the Shinra building, or it may be exploring an ancient temple to obtain knowledge of the planet. Final Fantasy VII does a great job of keeping things fresh with the gameplay environments and locations.

Final Fantasy VII is an exceptional piece of gameplay design, and the game offers a ton of depth with the Materia system, which hardcore RPGs fans will like. The only downside to the gameplay is that it's a fairly easy game, and doesn't offer much challenge if you are already familiar with how the game works. However, there are bonus missions that offer some additional challenge, like fighting the Weapons.

Longevity and Re-playability 9/10

Final Fantasy VII is a game that can last you as long as you want it to. I've played through the game before, and I was able to get through the main quest and finish up some of the side quests in 44 hours this time. There are extra summons to get, side quests galore, and tons of Materia to master. You could easily put 50-60 hours into this game if you wanted to see everything.

However, the main quest is not very difficult, and those seeking a real challenge will have to look into the side quests and optional bosses. The best thing about the game is that it's just so much fun, and it's easy to warrant a second or even a third play though of the game since it's such a great experience overall.

Conclusion

Final Fantasy VII is one of those rare games that will confound the player from beginning to end. Square did a wonderful job of bringing the Final Fantasy series into a 3D world, yet they were able to maintain the long standing fidelity of the series. I can't recommend Final Fantasy VII enough, and I think it's an essential game for any RPG fan.

On another note, I'd like to say that I'm really glad that I replayed Final Fantasy VII. I had forgotten how incredible it really is.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/22/09

Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (Greatest Hits) (US, 03/27/00)


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