Review by ShapeQuest
It's hard to write a review for a game that is considered by many to be the starting point of modern RPGs (mostly from the two-dimensional aspect). With such world-wide critical acclaim, it is a mystery why you would listen to this one little review, years after the fact, in deciding whether or not to purchase FFVII. But the fact of the matter is, the seventh Final Fantasy is such a timeless classic that it's little wonder why so many people keep coming back to this game.
The unfortunate part of the whole thing is how players nowadays are so accustomed to eye-popping graphics that many are probably turned off by the clunky characters/scenery (and might even stop playing the game). Yes, it's true. FFVII looks pretty bad if you've played the newest Final Fantasies first. But I urge you to force yourself over that hill so that you can genuinely start enjoying the game.
As you probably know by now, you start the game as Cloud, a mysterious blue-eyed swordsman. Along the way you'll meet quite the colorful cast of characters, including a swearing pilot, a guy with a gun for an arm, a puppet, a ninja (the latter of which is a totally optional character), to name a few. There are PLENTY of playable characters to choose from (nine as I recall). Like most FFs, each can attack, use magic, and use items. Then they also have their additional unique abilities, called Limit Breaks. This was a totally new battle component at that point. When a character takes damage, a bar will fill up, and once it is full completely, that character can perform a much stronger move.
The leveling system is the same as most other RPGsthe more you fight regular encounters, the more experience you gain. Learning magic, however, is a different story. You'll need to equip materia, which is basically the core of this game, both for the gameplay system and also plot-wise.
The premise is simple enough. Let's say you want to teach Cloud the ability to cast Fire. Well, first you'll need a fire materia. You'll then equip that onto a spare materia slot on Cloud's weapon, and, after awhile, he'll learn the ability Fire. In the meantime, since it is equipped, Cloud can cast it whenever you want. Certain equipped materias can also lead to stat bonuses.
But it doesn't just end with magic-based materia. There are also support abilities, such as the All materia, which, when connected to a link with another materia (say, Fire) in his weapon slots, will allow Cloud to cast the spell Fire on ALL the enemies on the battlefield, not just one. Some materia you'll find in stores, but the more powerful ones can only be found in chests and sidequests. There is practically an unlimited amount of combinations you can achieve through this system, and that's one of the reasons why this game is so fun. Later on you'll even have the ability to equip Summon materia.
The game's plot is a little confusing at times. I don't fully understand every single detail of it myself. More towards the end, that is. Some of it even has a few contradictions. It can also be tedious because there are lots of overdone RPG plot elements in FFVII, such as a bad guy is trying to take over the world, the main hero has a mid-game crisis, etc, etc. And sometimes I felt Square must've been smoking something when they came up with this or that back-story. The good news is that every single character has a proper background, right down to the puppet thing. Anyone who knows me remembers that I love characters with their individual stories that led them to join the adventuring party. Some of their backgrounds are pretty sad (I won't say which ones, obviously), but this makes you appreciate a character that much more.
Also, another semi-bad thing about the plot is that sometimes the Japanese to English translation is not that good, which can lead to some small errors. For instance, Aeris should really be named Aerith. You'd think someone would have noticed how one of the MAIN characters has a totally different spelling oh well.
The sidequests are nothing to sneeze at. This game, for instance, is the granddaddy of all chocobo sidequests. You'll be able to raise your own chocobos, breed different colors of them, and race your bird against others in a race course for prizes. There are plenty of optional bosses with TOUGH conditions attached to them if you're bored with the main story bosses.
And as with most Final Fantasies, each character has his or her own ultimate weapon that you can set about obtaining. You can also strive to learn each character's limit breaks, which can take more than a smile, considering the time and the sheer number of characters you may choose from (in fact, it can be difficult in deciding a final partymost of the characters are pretty well-rounded, the puppet aside). Often, the limit break will help you decide which ones to use.
And the game is chock FULL of mini-games throughout the main story. My favorite is the Fort Condor game, where it's basically a version of Defend Your Castle in the FFVII world. There's another game involving you and a submarine. Or the one where you snowboard down a mountain. Or all the arcade games you can play in the Golden Saucer (you get the idea).
I'd say the replay value of this is pretty high especially because of one reason that annoys me in RPGscertain items are missable. You'd be wise to keep two save files in your memory card at all times, in case of just such an emergency. That aside, you might also want to play again merely so you can catch every detail with the plot. Perhaps you want to obtain everyone's limit break. Or maybe you just want to play a classic game once more! Whatever the reason, I don't think you can become easily tired of FFVII.
The audio is a mixed bag. The actual sound effects sound kinda MIDI , but what can you expect from the earlier years of the PS1? The soundtracks, however, are a totally different story. Many of them are so memorable to us fans. Nobuo really shined here. You will NOT become tired of this music. We like them so much that some of the songs have even become remixed multiple times for Kingdom Hearts and the other FFVII spin-offs.
So that's FFVII in a nutshell (in case you ever wondered what all the hype is about). Due to the problems I mentioned earlier (the clunky-looking characters, the occasional weird plot elements, the missable items), I cannot give this game a PERFECT score. However, I am going to give the game a final total as close to a perfect score as possible. This Final Fantasy has all the RPG elements that we've come to enjoy (and some have even started here, with this game!), so please, buy FFVII. You'll spend at least dozens of hours playing through and finding all the treasures placed throughout. If nothing else, you just might see why this is considered one of the greatest games ever.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/09, Updated 07/15/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/07/97)
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