Review by I2ico

"An unbiased Final Fantasy VII review? Preposterous!"

Opening Statement - Final Fantasy VII is one of the most recognized RPGs in existence, and perhaps even one of the most recognized games in existence. It broke the sales records of its time and was a great factor in moving the RPG genre into the mainstream. The game is still widely popular today due to the nostalgia it gives many fans, considering for many it is their first RPG. The following is an attempt to give you an unbiased review of this 'masterpiece', as it has been called, and let you in on why this game has caused such a stir in the gaming community ever since its release.

Gameplay -
Final Fantasy VII's gameplay consists of--as usual in the Final Fantasy series--exploring towns and dungeons while taking part in random and boss battles. These battles are fought using the Active Time Based system, which will be familiar for those who have played Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI. Whether you are fighting a rabid dog or a towering mass of what appears to be nuclear waste, you'd better watch out, because the fast-paced system will send your three characters to their death if you don't keep on your toes! (Don't worry though; you can tone down the ATB speed to suit your needs if you wish.) That's right, unlike previous Final Fantasys, you will only be allowed to have three people at a time in battle due to graphics restraints. This is acceptable, however, as you can always change your party--and right from the world map, too! In VII, instead of buying magic, using the Job Class system or equipping Espers, you equip materia in order to give your characters special abilities. Materia comes in many shapes and forms, some able to poison the enemy and others able to summon great beasts to do the bidding of your party. Either way, there is an endless amount of materia combinations you can try out in order to customize your characters, which is a very nice freedom to have. The only thing that appears to separate the characters in VII due to this freedom, unfortunately, are their limit breaks. Limit breaks are a completely new addition to the Final Fantasy series, and they occur when a character becomes enraged after taking a certain amount of damage. This allows them to carry out an attack--or a set of attacks--unique to the particular character, that are devastating in both damage count and graphics pushing. They are a fantastic addition to the game, and 'grow' over time, revealing new limit breaks and adding on to what each character already has.

Other than that, Final Fantasy VII offers the players many other fun things to play with. From minigames that appear to be a rehash of Battleship to snowboarding and helping moogles find their wings, there is a lot in this game to keep you busy for hours aside from battling. Chocobo breeding and racing, and we can't forget the many sights and sounds Gold Saucer--you'll see when you play the game--has to offer. Have a motorcycle race while thwapping people with your oversized sword, attempt to arm wrestle a sumo wrestler, or participate in an epic battle in the Battle Arena--which may be familiar to fans of Final Fantasy VI--the choice is yours. And what a nice set of choices you have!

Due to fast-paced, exciting battles, genius customization, and many mini-games and sidequests to keep a player busy in the gameplay department, Final Fantasy VII gets a 10/10 in the Gameplay department.

Storyline -
Final Fantasy VII's storyline is one of the reasons it is so popular. The only storyline that has ever remotely rivaled that of VII is Xenogears, which was unfortunately overshadowed by VII during its release. Final Fantasy VII is about a man named Cloud, stuck in a skyless city called Midgar. Midgar is littered with the poor and the awful; it's a very enclosed metropolis, consumed in capitalism and corruption. Cloud is part of AVALANCHE, a terrorist group who is against ShinRa Electric Power Company, the company behind Midgar. What begins as a small explosion in a reactor erupts into a spiral of misinformation, mystery, and a struggle to save the very planet on which the game takes place.

While VII's storyline is epic, the storyline presentation itself is horrible. By 'presentation' I mean the way in which it is carried out. Due to translation errors and poor timeline design, most players will have to play the game three or more times in order to fully understand the game without the help of a storyline FAQ of somekind. In fact, some long-time fans of the game still do not have a firm, complete grasp of the storyline due to this.

Due to one of the greatest storylines with one of the poorest presentations, Final Fantasy VII gets a 7/10 in the Storyline department.

Characterization -
The characterization in Final Fantasy VII is fatigued. While each and every character have long pasts that are fully elaborated (if you take the time to look into them) and intertwine into the storyline excellently, the characters themselves are mediocre at best. From stereotypes to lifeless, 2-D dialogue, none of the characters actually jump out at you. Somehow, they don't seem human--from sentences that don't make sense, to a script fifth graders could have devised, to translation and grammatical errors that shame Sony, what the characterization could have been was scarred.

However, it does not ruin the characterization at all. You will still be able to name that character's mother and this character's brother, and many surprises lay in wait concerning who particular characters actually are. Depending on how sensitive you are, you may or may not be effected (in an annoyed bad way) by what the characters say over the course of the game, though.

Due to a great attempt at characterization but the poor translation of Sony and mediocre script developers, Final Fantasy VII gets a 7/10 in the Characterization department.

Graphics -
Final Fantasy VII had been held--at its time--to have the best graphics that could be offered back then. Contrary to popular belief, the graphics could have been far better. In fact, this is blatantly obvious over the course of the game.

While the pre-rendered backgrounds are a nice touch to the series, they are the sprites in particular that disappoint. The map-screen sprites are small, detail-less, heavily pixelated and polygonal-obvious. Square could have done far better than giving the main characters blocks for hands. Anyone could have mistaken Final Fantasy VII for LEGO Island. Square could have used the in-battle sprites--which are excellent in contrast--but they didn't, for unknown reasons.

Another obvious reason why VII's graphics aren't top-notch concerning what they could have once been are the FMVs. The FMVs are not only blocky, even though computer animation is not held back by anything at all, they are inconsistent. Cloud will appear a sprite here, and then fully rendered there. The computer animators didn't even make an attempt at making anything consistent; they could have done a lot better.

Due to less-than-average graphics that are literally an eye sore, Final Fantasy VII gets a 6/10 in the Graphics department.

Sound -
The music and sounds of Final Fantasy VII are a real treat. Nobuo Uematsu, the composer of all the scores, has taken a 'mechanical' approach that perfectly fits the setting of the game. From the emptiness-inducing melody of Anxious Hearts to the nostalgic Aeris' Theme, there are many tracks that stand out in not only the game itself, but the Final Fantasy series as a whole. Final Fantasy VII has released its own soundtrack and a special Reunion Tracks with selective orchestrated pieces, and soon to appear is Final Fantasy VII: Piano Collections, all three albums with the ability to stand alone. Nobuo has struck some of his best with this game, such as the videogame reknown One-Winged Angel.

The sound itself is another story. Final Fantasy VII uses synth, as expected, but the sound quality really isn't all that bad. While not really presented in Surround Sound or anything like that--games really weren't expected to have such features back then and I'll excuse it--the synth is comprised well enough to portray emotion. Along with the crisp opening of treasure chests to the explosions and--opera music?!--that takes place in FMVs, the sound of VII is great.

Due to excellent music and great sound, Final Fantasy VII gets a 9/10 in the Sound department.

Replayability -
Replayability isn't an issue in Final Fantasy VII. You will probably be required to play through it more than one times in order to understand the storyline! Not that you will mind, since the game itself is very fun and most people tend to play RPGs over and over again. There is no real replayability since once you beat the game, the end is the end, but I am sure you will be able to discover new things on your second and third times through the game. If you wish you can do what some die-hard fans have done: play a speed game to see how fast you can get to the end, or play a game without materia! There are many handicaps you can give yourself in VII, and yet still overcome at the same time, due to its freedom of customization. The game itself is on average, fifty hours long.

Notes -
There is no analog support; you will have to use the directional pad. This game was translated by Sony, and so it has many grammatical and localization errors. If you do not understand something, don't worry; you are not alone. It is highly suggested that if you do play this game, you do NOT use the Official Final Fantasy VII Strategy Guide in order to assist you on your first time through. Why? Because it is littered with spoilers that WILL ruin your gaming experience.

Fun Factor -
Final Fantasy VII could have been more fun. The battles eventually become repetitive, and the dialogue becomes very annoying if you play the game several times through. You begin to notice the errors, and not what the characters are actually attempting to portray. However, racing and breeding chocobos never gets old, and it's impossible to tire of the motorcycle and snowboard games. (Too bad they didn't add more features!) Fact is, the odds are, you will enjoy VII a LOT during your first time through as long as you look at the big picture and not the small details. Since this is my personal opinion, it will not be included in the final score.

Ending Statement - Play this game. It is a classic and a masterpiece in its own way, and you won't want to miss out on it when it becomes hard to find! I highly reccomend you buying it since the Greatest Hits version can be found commonly for a mere 20$. Final Fantasy VII may have its set of flaws and mistakes, but that doesn't take away from the fact that there is a reason it is the most popular Final Fantasy: it, quite generally, rocks.

And so, Final Fantasy VII gets a:

10+7+7+6+9=39/5=7.8^ROUNDED= 8/10

And that, as they say, is that.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/10/03


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