Review by Fein
"Review that took seven years to write"
In the end, there's only ever been really one game for me, and seven years to realise it.
The tagline is true. And for thousands of reasons (can I even count that high?). Firstly because like any other game or review I have done, Final Fantasy VII remains the most personal one, unlike any other review, I've always tried to be factual, but with this game, it seemed impossible. And that I thought it would be endless (before I realised that the plot shouldn't be given away. Doh) I started this review after I had completed the game, which was around a month and half. But as I referred back to the game to clarify a few things, I discovered more and more things about it that would only contribute to this review. What I'm basically trying to say is, FFVII is my favourite game of all time and trying to express my feelings for this game is hard, which may make this review, or me perhaps, seem up my own arse. But this review is based on my relation to the game, it's the least I can do in return for what I actually got out of the game.
Final Fantasy VII was the first release for the PSX, a feat which was highly anticipated by fans worldwide. But the waiting time nearly diminished this. From mere speculation of screen shots, the game looked stunning, nothing like it before. Sure, now the graphics may seem like you're playing virtual lego compared to Squaresoft's latest releases but back in it's day, Final Fantasy VII was the business. Over seven million copies would be sold after the next two years it was released and still continues to soar as the greatest RPG ever made.
You see, it's somehow very vast and cliched to give this title to Final Fantasy VII, but it is true. No other RPG dares to breathe next to FFVII. It was just one of those games. And it's one of those games today. It could be Squaresoft's high point and low point. But ultimately, I am endlessly passionate about this game.
The opening credits mesmerise like no other game. There is a pattern of stars in the sky as the camera seems to move around, counting them until the stars form into a green sprite revealing a woman's face appearing and then walking out of the alleyway and into the dark, damp and very gloomy streets, she seems the most colourful thing amongst the other passerbys walking around, her figure can be sighted even when the camera moves out, until her pink outfit and brunette hair becomes invisble. The camera then swiftly moves out and shows the fulll view of the town, Midgar, revealing the distinctive and prominent view of "FINAL FANTASY VII". Then the camera suddenly flickers between the city and a train moving fastly. This occurs until the train stops and two people leap off, attack two guards and the main charater somersaulting onto the screen. His name is Cloud Strife....
The confessions of the confused minds.
The most breathtaking thing about FFVII, no doubt, is the fact that you're playing an epic adventure, but so much more than that deep down. You control Cloud Strife, an ex SOLDIER turned mercenary who joins a rebel group to bring down the industrial rule of Shinra, a company abusing the planet's energy. However, the plot becomes more complicated and developed as this. And the characterisation is the main strength. Cloud and his comrades soon find themselves caught up in a battle to save the world against a meglomaniac called Sephiroth, who is probably the most evil bad guy you'll ever come across. This is also a personal quest for Cloud, a person who subconsciously is searching for himself. The script is fantastically written evoking strong traces of love, hate, life, friendship, trust and so many other engrossing things, giving each character a personality span of their own, making them so much more than just supporting characters in battle. They are unique in their own way and have each got their own personal story to them.
This is similiar to FFVI, where the characters were all equally important as they had their own story and no one specific was the "leader". While Cloud is the main character, each other character proves to have their own emotional depth, which by seven years, I feel a little justified to go into. In my opinion, you could play the game under the pretention that for instance, Barret, the strong willed tough talking hulk was the "leader" or the reason to play the game. Some may feel that Aeris is more important than others - the characters are flawless, so to speak.
What makes Cloud Strife so unique as a hero and a main character is that he, himself has flaws. He is truly as enigmatic as the plot, you really don't know where he is coming from and it's a game of it's own trying to work him out. No doubt, the development he goes through is well scripted and effective. You'll discover some really shocking things about him that will undoubtedly evoke strong emotions, either attaching you to him or not. Cloud could be the bad guy, he could be many things. He is that mysterious that he's possibly one of the most interesting heroes ever. I mean this in the way that the love and friendship seems to elude him until it gradually grows on him, making changes and a step further for Cloud, and the gamer to discovering if he feels, how he feels and who or what he really feels for. You can follow the story as the fight for the planet or the fight for Cloud. It's two separate things if you wanted it to be. This gives the game at least two plays, even more if you need to tie up loose ends.
Another developed character, equally the most with Cloud is his childhood friend Tifa. I say this because part of this story sees them discovering themselves and their past. Partially and optionally, she is also a love interest for Cloud and the one who remains by his side, calms him down and is loyal to him. But hidden is her masked feelings, and she has her own personal journey with Cloud that is both touching and satisfying. Plus, like Aeris and the many perverts out there, it wasn't just her emotional appearance that attracted some.
Like other characters in role playing games, they are there mostly to assist you or have their own opinions and views about what you are doing. But Final Fantasy games have also linked the characters in some way. This is done terrifically in this one though. The characters are linked by their hate and revenge for Shinra whilst evolving to genuinely caring about what happens to the planet and to each other. Yuffie Kisaragi for instance, only joins in order to steal from you but near the end she'll remain loyal. Even the most flavoured of characters, including some of the bad guys, will go through either major or minor changes.
The turning point is in the character Aeris Gainsborough. Cloud meets her after a specific assignment with AVALANCHE (The rebel group he joins at the start) goes, shall we say, painfully wrong. They form a quick arrangement for Cloud to be her bodyguard, then later on becoming her friend. But as it turns out, Aeris is a marked girl. She is the last surviving Ancient, a race that was wiped out centures ago and is in deadly demand by the Shinra, who see good use for her in their labs. But Shinra is not all they have on their "to do" list. Former SOLDIER and heroic legend Sephiroth has returned from the dead to find the Promised Land, an area imagined to be paradise, an Ancient's legend. And it's the Ancients who supposedly know the way to this land. Suddenly, the plot seems naive no more, Sephiroth is bigger fish to fry...
And I mean that literally (as you'll notice specifically in the game). Sephiroth is one of those characters you'll love to detest. He truly is more evil than what can be possibly imagined. As the plot unravels, which would be spoiling it if I told you, and confusing, you'll discover that Sephiroth is very sick and twisted making it more fullfilling for you to destroy him. But that's not easy I'm afraid. Sephiroth and Cloud have one of the most biggest and most intense rivalries I have ever seen, backed up testimonily with the script. As a player, you have to take a backseat watching these two as you don't know what they do until later on in the game, or should I just say, what Sephiroth knows and what Cloud may know.
From there on, it is when Cloud and his companions journey becomes an epic adventure. Not only does he deal with Sephiroth and the Shinra, but personal issues as well. And the character chemistry is also vital, another thing well mapped out by Squaresoft. Although the plot can erupt in lunacy, the lurid development of the characters and their own personalities is nothing short of engrossing and heartwarming.
Some felt the ending, however, was quite irrelevant or unsavoury towards the game as a whole. I didn't. It gave you your own questions and views and gave the conclusion to the penultimate issue at the end of the game. Anything else that wasn't mentioned was irrelevant or just subtext Squaresoft wanted you to figure out for yourself. That way, it lives on immortal.
Kicking the butt, falling in love, and messing up big time.
The play of this game seems so inferior by now but I assure, it isn't. The battle system is improved and plays much better than the prior games. This time, you involve partial strategy in each battle as the usual case of attack, use magic to defeat foes will be thrown out of the window. It also contributes that not an instant is wasted, there is always something going on in this game.
Probably the best thing about the battles is the atsmophere, with the pulse racing battle music combined with the fact that you can just about customise your character to make them have their own skills in battle.
The graphical layout of the battle screen is just an updated version from that of FFVI except now you have the extra slots for other skills or magic you've acquired (which I'm going into detail later). For instance, what not could not be achieved in the previous game, this game also has a physical and magical barrier you can place on yourself to deflect some damage inflicted on by enemies. But the new personal achievement is the limit breaks each character has for themselves.
The limit breaks are basically special moves from each character. Each character has their own according to their poise in battle and they each have their uses. For instance, Cloud has major sword attacks, that can either slice up one or many enemies. Aeris has the healing and magic defense limit breaks while Tifa has a slot that determines her karate moves. There is a specific bar for this, which levels up the amount of times you are struck or the amount of damage you are dealt with. Once on it's maximum, the time bar speeds up and you can use the limit break, it has twice as damage as the character practically attacks on beserk mode. But the limit breaks also have their levels, you can aquire a total amount of four levels, with two limit breaks in each level amounting to eight totals. They both have advantages and disadvantages. But the interesting thing about this also is the graphic design of the execution of these breaks. But this is not the only new system accomodating in Final Fantasy VII.
By this, I don't mean, weapons and classes and such. But by the modification of the "materia system". This is a system where you equip materia, as in magic to your slots, decreasing you health but raising your magic in the process. You can specific certain magic to certain characters. And like other FF games, the basic magic you can have, must be levelled up to gain higher and more effective magic for the harder and more advanced levels of the game. For this, you need AP, which can be awarded at the victory of each random or boss battle you have. Your materia slots increase and decrease depending on the types of weapons and accessories you have, therefore making you budget what you use. But basically, the more slots, the more materia. It is a tad more complex than it's prior games, but it's commendable and beneficial as the game goes on. It adds to the difficulty as you'll have to attribute your characters more.
The materia system is significant because it gives each character a use or a growth point. At first, understanding the complexity of it may seem impossible, but as you learn how to deal with it, you'll find it more judgemental and useful in the longrun. This is also rational to the employment of the strategy in the battles; you'll have to ration what you use to keep up your HP, and sometimes just use the magic that is a neccessity to winning. This is extremely relevant to single battles, where a character takes on a boss by themselves.
One worry discounted is the controls, they are simplistic and very easy to handle making Cloud move around easier, and the battles are straightforward. The camera angle is also a non worry as you don't have one. You won't need one either, the only times it is used is on the world map, where you explore.
But as for fights and bosses, Final Fantasy VII has more to offer. You also have a dynamical set of side quests and mini games compiled with the gameplay. For instance, on an escape route, you steal a motorbike and ride down the freeway, while enemies employ their own transport and attack your comrades car, you have to attack them while riding the bike. Or the snowboard challenge, which is like Coolboarders, except you need to travel down a snowfield on a snowboard to get to a certain location. Or even the submarine game, where you have to blow up the enemies. These can also be repeated in the most bright and colourfol locations, the Gold Saucer, where you can play a tirade of mini games.
In fact, for some, the gameplay is the shining light of Final Fantasy VII. It certainly is one of the best systems I've ever experienced.
Everybody hail Nobou Uematsu.
Musically, Final Fantasy VII is in a world of it's own. Composed by Nobou Uematsu, the music is emotionally descriptive and just simply amazing. Each character has their own personalised theme tune which gives them their own background, and quite effective tunes also. And the battle music is creative intensity. But there is also great romanticism in some of the music (aka "Fireworks"). I remember once discovering the internet, I had downloaded the Midi themes of Final Fantasy VII. The sound affects are only demonstrated in battle and are not important really. But back to the music, you should enjoy this music as it's just another great aspect of what Final Fantasy VII is. No two ways about it, I love this music, and so should you.
Fallen legend now reserved to be a "don't judge a book by it's cover" cliche.
Accompanying to the magical land that Final Fantasy has already become by now in this review for me, the graphics were also something demonic and awe dropping (pun). Although now, to look on the characters in this game, they would seem disfigured or highly deformed but there is a certain crisp feel to them that makes them still wonderful today. But I fell in love with the detailed towns and backgrounds, that were rendered to supremeness which resembled oil paintings at times. And in battle, the graphics are magnified and hardcore to a virtual anime feel. It is a whole lot different to the the other graphics in the game, which make this outstanding, and the FMV will always remain iconic in video game history. And the miniscule details of the generic people doing things, the smallest of things can only appeal I presume. But, for many, the unrealism of the graphics may annoy them.
Now, for the hard part.....seven years though (pathetic but...hey, screw you!!) Barret Wallace. Genius.
Even the greatest games have their flaws. People too!. Anyway, as much as I love this game, there are few things that should be mentioned in each aspect bar the sound.
To say the storyline is complex is an understatement. In fact, without making a chronologic order of the events in the game and eye balling the list afterwards makes it near enough impossible to fully understand what is going on. This isn't a major flaw because it was in fact a technique Squaresoft used, but the detail they go into seems uncalled for seeing as we don't exactly understand the basics first. And the ending, as said, will upset some as to why some key plots won't be answered. True enough, to get a full view or understanding of the plot, you'll need to play the game again and concentrate even harder.
For example, Disc One has more of the action displayed and is exciting all the way through, the ending of the disc is now legendary. Some may feel the subsequent discs are more mellower, and lacking in the adrenaline factor. Needless to say, the two other discs rather concentrate more on the storyline, when it truly begins the strange and bizarre twists to the storyline.
And the gameplay has it's minor flaws being in the difficulty factor. There are few bosses that consider you to wonder if they were there to be comical or a distraction. It's morbid. My examples would be some of the Turk bosses, or even Palmer, a guy who eventually runs into a van when you really could have kicked his fat ass yourself. The mini games seem to be careless and very reckless - meaning that there was either no point or it was a rushed job. It only makes you care less about doing them and bordering yourself onto being uninterested.
But neglecting these gives you a grade A game which fails to disappoint. The twists are unbelievable and not to mention the side quests that answers a few questions and adds more appeal. There are hundreds of secrets and things you can do to perfect your game. And you'll massively get around 40-60 hours out of this game, slightly less if you know what to do. The thing I found, and surely others did also, is that you'll find something new about the game amounting to more enjoyment and time on the game. This is a game that will be played again and again and again and so on.
Final Fantasy VII manages to let less than a handful of mistakes into the game, one being that bosses are sometimes easy, easier if you're character is levelled up by number, not statistically. And the plotholes that could have been bullet pointed and explained more carefully. But despite this, Final Fantasy VII will always been something that will never compare to other RPG's let alone any other in it's saga. It truly is a once in a lifetime game. Perhaps.
And to sum up my review, I feel I got what I needed to say out of my system. Because Final Fantasy VII changed the face of RPG's everywhere, it's also Squaresoft's greatest effort and will always be. It entices everything that movies and drama incorporates, memorable characters and a deadly storyline. As for the rest, the compelling side of Final Fantasy VII is what sold it so much. To me, it's the saviour of RPG's. And also, my favourite game.
- Mesmerising graphics
- Memorable characters
- Immaculate gameplay, length of gameplay
- Oustanding soundtrack
- Unique storyline
- Maybe too complex storyline
- Some bosses aren't a challenge
- Disc 3 is perhaps too short for a whole disc
- Uh...I did struggle with the above ones you know...
And with that, I'm finally done.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/14/04, Updated 07/30/04
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