Review by dragoon lover

"Good RPG and a great historical landmark"

One magazine's ''retro'' section described Final Fantasy VII as the best argument starter ever. Is it the best Final Fantasy ever? Or is it the worst thing to ever happen to the series? Is it the one that revolutionized RPGs? Or is it the one that killed the true feeling of Final Fantasy? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Final Fantasy VII is merely a good game. No more and no less. It does a few things that are innovative and have never before been seen in other RPGs and Final Fantasies. And since every Final Fantasy is a different story, it's unfair to say that Final Fantasy VII kills the spirit of the previous games. However Final Fantasy VII has many flaws that have only become more apparent as it aged, and many of its elements have been done even better in successive Final Fantasies.

Graphics: 8. You'd be hard pressed to find a game on the original Playstation with graphics this good. The polygons are polished and the backgrounds are breathtaking. The cinemas look like they almost rival what you would be able to see on a PS2. The summons and the spells are truly breathtaking and really take advantage of the system's processing power and give the battles a sense of majesty(see below). The only reason why I give this game an 8 instead of a 9 is because the facial expressions are non-existent, the character designs are goofy, and the acting is literally puppetlike. Cloud has blocks for arms(he looks much more convincing in Kingdom Hearts). Aeris is cute but very Mary Sue-ish. Yuffie is actually a well designed character. The huge cat character, however, is hard to look at, and Sephiroth's feminine design is either a stroke of genius or sheer madness.

Sound: 9. The one thing in the sound department that makes an RPG get noticed is the soundtrack. Every Final Fantasy always has that distinctive opening tune that has become the series' trademark. And the rest of the soundtrack is orchestrated in full glory. Each song compliments every dramatic moment, every funny scene. The overworld theme. The boss battles. The fights. All of them flavored by brilliantly composed music. Maybe it's not as wonderfully exotic as Panzer Dragoon music, but Final Fantasies are renowned for their music and songs. The sound effects in the battles aren't really anything spectacular, but they get the job done.

Control/Gameplay: 7. *throws controller across the room* Okay maybe not. But Final Fantasy 7's apparent need to make every scene look as cinematic as possible, with its unusual and exotic camera angles, makes for a very ambiguous control scheme. The game never took advantage of an analog control when it was released, so it pretty much amounts to controlling a digital character in an analog world of exciting camera angles, which can lead to trying to figure out which button to press to go in which direction. In other scenes, there's a lot of things going on in the background and foreground. The camera will stay fixed to avoid confusion, but often you'll have a hard time finding the path to the exit of the scene. Thank god that the game itself is so fun to play. Final Fantasy 7 introduces a few innovative elements. For one, the battles are in psuedo real time, making them feel exciting and fast paced. Like previous Final Fantasies, each character has a time bar that fills up, and when the bar reaches the end, that character can make his or her move. The monsters also have their own time bars. However unlike the previous turn based Final Fantasies, the monsters will not wait for you to make your decision. Depending on how you've set up the time bar options, monsters will only pause when you have certain menus open or they'll just attack you anyway when their bar has filled up. And when each character takes a certain amount of damage, he or she will utilize a critical, which makes for some very beautiful fights. I also like the concept of the ''materia.'' The materia items tie loosely into the plot of the stories, but they're really just neat excuses to justify the existence of magic. Every piece of weapon and armor you equip has slots that you can drop materia in. Different combinations of materia will yield different effects. There are materia for summoning lumbering monsters and material for casting some of the most visually awesome spells you'll ever see and materia for neutralizing effects and even stealing some enemy skills. Materia will also grow and level up the more you use it and will even divide when they've reached their maximum levels. Then of course there's so many minigames and chocobo breeding to keep you busy for hours after you've beaten the main game.

Story: 8. Here's where reviewing this game gets dicey, as the game's story is the subject of much debate. Truth be told, the dialogue's broken English translations are no longer cute. And as I've said above, the characters often just don't engage you emotionally because their animations and bodily expressions are just so puppet looking. It took a long time for me to warm up to Cloud whereas I identified with Edge from Panzer Dragoon Saga right away. The background story you'll either love or hate. This game is dark, like pitch black dark. Panzer Dragoon Saga got dark, but only when it suited the need. Final Fantasy 7 just seems dark in a ''just because'' kind of way. Cities are twisted pieces of metal. The sky is perpetually blocked out. Corporations are evil and greedy and sucking the land dry. And everything is shrouded in mystery and conspiracy. The game even tried to inject a tacked on motorcycle chase sequence to give the game an Akira-like feel. Playing this game, it's not hard to imagine one getting claustrophobic. When you finally reach the overworld you feel like you can breathe a sigh of relief as you finally see the sun, but then you realize the main hero has to chase the main villain. And around the two unfolds an increasingly complex story and backstory, not mention an even heavier plot about the fate of the world. In other words the typical RPG cliches and formulas. It's enough to make one's head spin. But while you're being dragged along, the heroes do go through some genuinely good and exciting story arcs. Personally I didn't mind Final Fantasy 7's unwieldy plot so much. I rather enjoyed it.

Atmosphere: 8. Sort of tying in with the darkness of the game, the atmosphere of Final Fantasy 7 is decidedly mechanical. This is definitely a futuristic RPG. No there are no spaceships. There is an airship like all other Final Fantasies, but it's sleek and menacing and not as charming as the other games' airships. There are other vehicles and even an arcade, and cities use sort of nuclear reactors to process materia(which gives rise to whole other string of connotations). Final Fantasy 7 may very well be the coldest Final Fantasy ever, if not the coldest RPG ever. It doesn't have the lighthearted charm of Final Fantasy 9, nor its deep character relationships and lessons about love and life. It's not as romantic as Final Fantasy 8(which some people swear isn't a good Final Fantasy anyway). And no way is it as cinematic as Final Fantasy 10. But I guess this mechanical feeling is what makes Final Fantasy 7 its own unique game. It's what give it identity and separates itself from the other Final Fantasies as well as making it feel like not just another average RPG with the same old elements, same old story, and same old knights and dragons.

Length/Difficulty/Replayability: 8. Final Fantasy 7 broke new ground here and set the stage for other RPGs to follow, which followed its example of long and complex stories. Games would only get longer and more elaborate, but up until then, games this size had never been seen before. Final Fantasy 7 was such a weighty game that it easily consumed up to 40 hours of game time, which translated to a week to a week and a half spent trying to unravel the story and play the game. And if you did the chocobo breeding, and the minigames, and the optional bosses, and the treasure hunting, and completing your enemy skill library and finding all the ultimate weapons, well there's 45 to 50 hours right there. Not until I played Xenogears did I discover a game that was far longer than any Final Fantasy I've ever played(Xenogears took me 72 hours to beat). In terms of difficulty, Final Fantasy 7 delivers. Difficulty isn't everything to an RPG. As Panzer Dragoon Saga can show you, sometimes the easiest RPG is just as satisfying emotionally and narratively as the most difficult. Final Fantasy 7 is naturally not one of the most mind-numbingly difficult games ever made. But if you're looking for monsters and boss battles that'll threaten to chew you up, then Final Fantasy 7 doesn't disappoint. The amount of random encounters happens more times than I'd care to like, but at least it's not annoying, and you'll definitely be given a run for your money many times before you figure out how to take down that big one that's been giving you so much grief. You really get a sense of satisfaction when you deal one final 7,000 hit point strike and watch your enemy die. Replayability isn't an issue for RPGs. However as I've said above, there are always optional bosses to defeat, ultimate weapons to look for, chocobos to breed, skill libraries to complete and limit breaks to find, and the mini games are always fun to play, so you've never fully explored those areas, they will always be there after you've beaten the game. It is also said that there is one final most difficult boss waiting for you after you've beaten the game. And it is a testament to the power of a good RPG when the world leaves so much of an impression on you that you'd want to go back and visit it later on even after you've beaten the game and have found everything.

Overall: 8/10. Call it the greatest RPG ever(it's not). Call it the worst thing to happen to the genre(it's not that either). At the very least, give it props for setting the stage for better works to follow and for games that copied its innovative elements. At the very least, tip a hat for it earning a place in video game history both in terms of sales and for the mystique it and its fans seemed to have generated. For me, it's a good game. Nothing more and nothing less. It didn't offer the moon, just a fun time, and it delivered. It also delivered many moments of frustration, but at least it gave me a lot to chew on. Awesome battles, awesome spells, likable characters(for the most part). They're all here. If the successive Final Fantasies became novels, then Final Fantasy 7, at least, is a comic book, one that's silly as well as dark and weighty, one where the whole is definitely less than the sum of its parts, but it's still sometimes fun to just sit back and read a comic book instead of a novel and laugh if the world comes to an end.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/03/04


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