Review by Priss Asagiri
"Gaming's Greatest Achievement."
When discussing older games, many people disregard any and all liking for them as looking through "nostalgia goggles", without realizing that nostalgia actually works against games just as much as it works in favor of them. There are a lot of things that I just can't really do anymore because they aren't as good or fun as I remember. However, every single time I play Final Fantasy VII, my appreciation and enjoyment only increases.
Final Fantasy VII's magic can be attributed to many different factors; it's graphics, it's style, it's gameplay, it's music, and all of the little things - the minute-to-minute gameplay. Here I would like to discuss all of what makes this game work, and why you should play this game.
The City of Midgar is a dark, lifeless city. Consisting of slums located on the ground and an upper level of the city resting on several metal plates far into the sky. Oppression is a constant for the people living in the slums, while the people on the "pizza" work for Shinra, inc., a provider of everything from precious "mako" energy to weapons.
Throwing you right into the action as opposed to a slow build-up, the player takes control of a fighter-for-hire named Cloud Strife. Cloud, a quiet loner, is hired to assist a terrorist group called "AVALANCHE" in stopping a mako reactor, built and maintained by Shinra, inc., from functioning. Mako, an energy that is the planet's life source, is very efficient but it's extraction makes the planet weaker and weaker until it eventually dies.
AVALANCHE's goal is to disrupt the mako's extraction, and eventually end it once and for all. They plan to do this by blowing the reactor up with a powerful bomb, a very drastic measure that showcases the members of this terrorist organization's determination and the sense of urgency. Though AVALANCHE is working to save the planet, they do so at the cost of lives - evil or otherwise, due to the explosions they cause. Cloud doesn't care about the morality of the situation what so ever; he just wants his pay.
After several jobs from the small band of eco-warriors, the team is ambushed by a high-tech security robot and Cloud is thrown from the reactor on the "pizza", the above ground circular plate consisting of seven sectors of the city each containing a single reactor, and falls to the slums below. Falling through the roof of a church, Cloud meets a flower girl who is in need of protection from Shinra's CIA-like group "the Turks". Cloud agrees to take her to her home, but leaves that night to reunite with the rest of AVALANCHE.
The story goes from a very small-scale encounter all the way to Shinra's headquarters high above even the "pizza", to the world beyond Midgar, and eventually to a much more direct battle for the fate of the planet that won't soon be forgotten by anyone. Great characters with great characterization throughout, you find yourself actually caring about the people you meet in your encounters. The story starts strong and builds, twists and turns aplenty. Coupled with outstanding pacing, Final Fantasy VII tells the greatest story that gaming has ever told.
Final Fantasy VII keeps a constant mood of a sort of hopeful melancholy, with something evil always lurking in the distance. The soundtrack for the game keeps, further enhances, and dives the mood home wonderfully. The world map theme, "Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII", is a perfect example of this - a melancholic yet determined theme that can best be described as an adventure in and of it's self.
The sound effects are also done wonderfully, with not a single one sounding out of place or annoying. This is the sort of game that you hope your television has a headphone jack for.
The constant mood of melancholy is contrasted by cartoony in-game graphics, which cements the game's style as a quirky, fun, yet serious one. Blocky overworld models give way to more detailed models come time for battle, complete with weapon models that change depending on what weapons your characters have equipped , elaborate monster summoning sequences, and fantastically animated limit breaks. The graphics actually help the pacing quite a bit: quirky and fun when it needs to be, serious and mature when it needs to be.
My only complaint is that the graphics can get a little blurry when playing on today's hi-def televisions. Play on a standard TV for optimal performance.
A turn-based role playing game, a majority of the gameplay consists of running around, talking to NPCs, and shopping for items. The part of the gameplay that most care about are the battles - random encounters outside of major towns that occur after a number of steps have been walked. Final Fantasy VII sheds the heavily class-based battles of former entries into the series in favor of a fully customizable system using "materia", a crystallized version of the planet's energy that contains magic. What this means is that the classes of the characters themselves are just for show, and you can equip any ability to any character. This means that you will be able to use your favorite characters in battle and customize them exactly how you want to without the game limiting you to only a few standard choices.
Aforementioned materia is also capable of leveling up along with characters, their abilities increasing over time. This makes the gameplay even more addicting; you're going to want to spend a lot of time making your characters EXACTLY how you want them to be.
Final Fantasy VII is gaming's grandest achievement, it's the epitome of RPGs. Not a single thing about this game isn't perfect.
The next time you hear someone say that old games can't be good simply because of nostalgia, don't believe them. Good games transcend nostalgia - good games are good games.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/11
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/03/97)
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