Review by SMuffinMan
"It couldn't receive more undeserved hate"
Squaresoft at the time had seen a massive success with it's previous entries in the Final Fantasy series, and it was time to bring the franchise to 3D. Final Fantasy VII would be the first Final Fantasy in 3D and it took the world by storm, not to mention carried the Sony Playstation nearly by itself. Thirteen years later, the game has both gained and lost some momentum. Still to this day, fans of different Final Fantasy games prowl the Final Fantasy VII boards and claim that their favorite is better, or that the villain from their favorite is better. These arguments still run strong today, based solely on how popular the game is and people want to knock it down a few pegs. Regardless, some still stand strong in their claim that Final Fantasy VII is the best game in the series, if not the world. To exacerbate matters, Square-Enix has released the controversial Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, because the original game was their biggest money maker. Now hating Final fantasy VII has become the "cool thing" to do. It so happens that Final Fantasy VII is still a great game, just as good as it's predecessors and two immediate successors, FFVIII and FFIX.
Story-10/10: This game opens by starting you off right in the middle of the action, as a character named Cloud Strife. Cloud is a mercenary for hire that was hired by the freedom-fighting organization known as "AVALANCHE". Avalanche seeks to destroy a power-producing reactor, called a "Mako reactor", which drains the very life force of the planet. The owner of these Mako reactors is a man known only as President Shin-Ra, owner of the Shin-Ra Electric Power Company. Shin-Ra Inc. has a stranglehold on the world with it's powerful military force known as "SOLDIER". SOLDIERs are humans that have been infused with Mako, and Cloud is an ex-SOLDIER, who now only seeks to make a decent wage to keep on living. Avalanche functions within the Shin-Ra capital of Midgar, which is divided up into 8 Sectors that are held up by massive supports, and those who cannot afford to live up top, live in the slums below. Cloud meets a flower girl after his assault on another reactor and eventually they are all captured by the Shin-Ra. A massacre ensues however while they are under captivity, and Cloud and Co. are mysteriously set free. The president is found dead with a massive sword driven through his back. This sword belongs to Sephiroth, a man thought dead for five years, and was considered a national hero until he snapped. He too hates the Shin-Ra, but only seeks to fulfill his own delusions of grandeur. Cloud's past begins to catch up with him as he and his friends go on a quest to save the world, and find out exactly what Sephiroth is up to. Each character goes through a stage of personal growth in this game, and many surprising twists await those players who have somehow managed to miss this game. The character development is great, and each character is dynamic, none of them really feel static or "flat". Many people have come to love this game's story, while others see it as too complex or too full of holes. It depends on the person I suppose, but if you have a decent understanding of human psychology, you'll see that there are no holes here. There are just things that go on in a character's mind sometimes without being explicitly stated. That being said, you do have to do some reading between the lines, but it all comes together very nicely.
Gameplay-10/10: This is one the place the game really shines. Some games are meant to have set classes, this one allows for total customization of each character. Before getting to the battles, let's discuss the materia system. Materia are made out of mako, which contains the wisdom of the planet. Materia allow humans to cast para-magic by equipping them to weapons and armor. Each weapon and armor piece have materia slots, which would be where the materia is placed. Some materia can be paired together if the materia slots have a link to each other. Materia allow the player to cast magic, summons, to steal, have more Hit Points, and a ton of other features depending on what materia you equip. Again, this allows for maximum customization of every character, which can turn them into brutal tanks if you play your cards right. If you're looking for more of a challenge, you can try a low level or no materia game, or even a combination of both. They aren't necessary to win the game but can be a major help in the long run, particularly in the later stages of the the game. If you want more difficulty, you have to limit yourself. That being said, this game is very friendly to new and casual players. Players shouldn't find themselves too frustrated with the game, and the first time through provides a fairly decent challenge at least.
Like many other Final Fantasies at the time, you walk around the world map and explore dungeons. When in these areas, you will get into random encounters. For these, the screen will go to the battle mode for the game with a swirling effect. The battle system works much like the game's predecessors, in that you have a bar in the right called an Active Time Bar. When it fills up, that character can select a variety of actions to perform in battle. Among the ATB bar, you will also find the Limit Bar. Each time a character is attacked by an enemy, this limit gauge will fill up. Once it's full, the attack command becomes replaced by the Limit Break command. Limit breaks are what differentiate the characters in battle in this game. Some characters' limits are out of the ordinary, while most of them deliver a devastating attack to the enemy or group of enemies. Tweaks of this concept would later be seen in Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX. There is once more gauge on the screen, the Barrier gauge. This tells you how long the effects of a barrier and magic barrier will last once cast. Also, throughout the game, you will find many treasures, and even materia in dungeons. There are also materia shops, and of course the wonderful Chocobo has made it back into this game as well, and there's a very fun mini-game involving Chocobos that becomes available later in the game. The world is pretty large and there's a lot of exploring to do, though it does start off fairly linear.
Music-10/10: Nobuo Uematsu once again returned to compose the game's musical score, and like every game before it, he does a fantastic job here. The battle themes are exciting and get your blood pumped, while other songs will accentuate certain events on the game to help you connect with the characters. The game's final boss theme has become so popular that it has played in every video game he has made a cameo in, and pretty much every Final Fantasy fan has heard the song at least once. Around the world, symphonies and orchestras have covered Uematsu's fantastic musical scores from this game, and with good reason. Final Fantasy VII has arguably the most memorable soundtrack in the series, if only because of how recognized it is in today's world. The sound effects are pretty good as well. When the character Red XIII howls, it really sounds like a canine howling. Some, however, may be fairly disappointed because this game doesn't have voice acting. Well, that's too bad. If that's stopping you from playing this game, then you're most certainly missing out.
Graphics-10/10: I know what you're thinking when you see this score after looking at screenshots. No, the graphics haven't aged reasonably well. At the time, however, they were pretty ground-breaking, especially to fit all of that on three discs. The full motion videos look spectacular as well, and stand out from the game's in-game graphics. The graphics still work fine however, it's not like you can't tell who's who and what's what. They aren't fantastic high-definition graphics, but they get the job done. Another thing that looks exceptional in this game are the environments and backgrounds, which is where the in-game graphics really shine. The graphics don't stand up to today's standards, but they exceeded the standards that were current at the time of the game's release.
Overall-10/10: Love this game or hate it, it's legacy continues to draw in new players even to this day, and the soundtrack is considered one of the best in the series. The game is often overrated, I agree, but I love it just as much as the other Final Fantasies. Final Fantasy VII won't be forgotten any time soon, and I'm sure that for years people will still be arguing over this game about theories, superior villains, and tons of other things. It's no better and no worse than the other eight of the first nine games in the franchise, and was a strong entry that paved the way for Final Fantasy VIII and IX. If you love Final Fantasy, this game is at least worth a try and you can buy it for $10 on the PSP and PS3 from the Playstation Network store, so you don't lose much if you still end up not being a fan of the game.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/03/97)
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