Review by Kikoman589
"Final Fantasy VII is a game that shouldn't be missed."
It is January 31, 1997. You are a Japanese gamer who is an avid fan of the Final Fantasy series. An immense amount of hype has been built up to the release of the next entry of the franchise. Having been impressed with Final Fantasy VI, another entry which fans consider to be the best among the games, you impatiently drive towards the big electronics store. Best of all, Final Fantasy was going to be in 3D for the first time! Many questions are in your head. When you arrive, you see loads of people gathering up, also waiting to buy the game. When you receive your copy, you drive back home, put in Final Fantasy VII and switch on the Playstation.
Final Fantasy VII was then later released in the US on September 7, 1997 and Europe on November 17, 1997 (both according to Wikipedia). It revolutionized RPGs and the gaming industry as a whole as well. However, are these claims true? Does it really show itself as one of the greatest games ever made? We'll find out in this review.
Final Fantasy VII drops you off in the beginning of a bombing mission. The main character, Cloud Strife, has just recently been hired to join AVALANCHE during their mission, an eco-terrorist group with the intent of destroying all the reactors supplying the metropolis of Midgar. Along with him is Barret Wallace, the violent but good-hearted leader of the group, along with most of the other members Jessie, Biggs and Wedge. These reactors are sucking the life energy of the planet, called Mako and over time will destroy the landscape further and further from the outskirts of the city. And just who got these reactors built? The Shinra Corporation, a company that will do anything to get money into their greedy hands.
Just what makes the story so good from that beginning, you may ask? Well, the game's story gets more complicated and fast-paced as you progress further. The whole thing doesn't just involve AVALANCHE and their quest to destroy the reactors. Many new conflicts and discoveries arise in FFVII's immersive world, particularly in the backstory of the game. Eventually, the plot will leave you at the edge of your seat, just waiting for more.
During your journey, you will encounter various characters that will ultimately join your party. They all have a story of their own and contribute greatly towards the impression the story leaves on you. What I disliked about the story though, is that sometimes the game could have went on a bit more in detail on certain events to clear up some questions and that left some gaps in the story.
Final Fantasy VII contains the elements of your typical JRPG, but with twists. You explore an interactive world while fighting in random encounters with many monsters. You level up by collecting experience points gained from these monsters while collecting money to buy new items. Final Fantasy VII also features the ATB battle system from its games in the SNES era, where after every turn you make you must wait for a bar to fill up before issuing another command. This is different than the turn-based RPG battle system, as battles will be much faster but as a result of this you will have less time to react. This can be easily configured between three options to fit your preference, though.
What's special about Final Fantasy VII's gameplay is the introduction of two new mechanics, Materia and Limit Breaks. Materia are little balls of compressed Mako energy which also play a major role in the story of the game. By equipping materia to a party member, some of their stats will decrease but in return will allow them to learn new spells and abilities. What's better in this system from the usual way of learning spells when you level up is that any materia can be equipped to any character. This allows for a huge amount of customization and some replay value. Also, along with experience and gil, there are AP points. These are basically experience points but for materia instead. You need to level up materia in order to access the more powerful versions of the spells and abilities, for example you get Ice from a materia but you need to level it up to reach Ice2 then Ice3.
The other feature I mentioned before is Limit Breaks. These are like Desperation Attacks from Final Fantasy VI, but with more depth added. Next to your HP/MP meters is a pink bar. When you take damage, this bar will fill up. When it's full, you will be able to unleash a powerful move unique to each character. Most of them deal a lot of extra damage, while others have other special effects. These are very useful in certain situations and add a bit more strategy to the game. When certain conditions are met, you will also be able to learn new limit breaks (still unique) that are usually more powerful then the last.
What can I say? Final Fantasy VII's graphics are by no means the best, but for 1997 it was really good. The characters are in full 3D even though they're a bit blocky, which might affect the experience for modern gamers but for me it didn't. In battle they look even better with improved models. Each town and area in the game has a distinct look of its own. The environments are detailed. What really makes the graphics shine are the FMV cutscenes. These cutscenes are gorgeous with many cool effects added. You'll love every second of them.
Once again, Nobuo Uematsu comes to impress with his beautiful music tracks. Each song has a meaning of their own and fit the situation the characters are in. The battle themes are epic, the town music is calming and the character themes reflect their personality and actions. Some of the sound effects during battle are muffled, however, but it isn't a problem big enough to deter the score.
Replay Value: 9.5/10
If you go through the game because you're so wrapped up in the story and only do a little bit of sidequests, then the game will take you around 32 hours. But that's only with the story. There is many materia and items to collect in the world and plenty of minigames too. There's also a great amount of optional bosses and sidequests to occupy you and it'll take a long time to prepare yourself for them. A drawback though is that some things might be tedious, but that just depends on the play style of the player. As mentioned before you can customize the various materia your characters have when starting a new game. You can also set various limitations on yourself, such as initial equipment, no spells and stuff like that.
To summarize, let us go through the pros and cons.
+ Story that will leave you hooked
+ Various and interesting characters that will join your party
+ Highly customizable party with materia
+ Limit breaks offer a bit more strategy
+ Awesome graphics for 1997
+ Music is absolutely beautiful
+ Great amount of content that will keep you coming back
- Story would have been a bit better with more explanation
- Characters are a bit blocky and might decrease the experience for modern gamers
- Some optional stuff might be tedious
It's legacy and effect on the gaming industry has been huge and there's a big chance that you'll like this game too. It's a fantasy that stays within the player, even years after playing the game. Are you prepared to spend the next days experiencing a game unlike anything you've seen before? If the answer is Yes, then buy this game. You won't regret it. Final Fantasy VII is a game that shouldn't be missed.
Final Score: 9.7/10 (Superior)
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/08/11, Updated 08/07/13
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/03/97)
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