Review by Oren Murasaki

"Despite issues on its graphical quality, Final Fantasy VII is still arguably the best RPG ever."

I can imagine anybody reading has already heard it over and over: That Final Fantasy VII is the greatest RPG ever. People say it, its constantly voted, and due to outdated graphics some just can't 'see' it. But this review is intended specifically to revitalize a subject that is vital to the maintenance of Final Fantasy VII as a game. It delivers tremendously in almost every aspect of an RPG, is a true monument of what Squaresoft (now SquareEnix, of course) is capable of, and is hated by few, loved by many. Most know, but many ask why, and the newest generation of gamers that play this hurt their eyes on the visuals that get older as we speak . . . . But it is still true. That Final Fantasy VII, if not the best RPG ever, ranks high up there, and always will, no matter how flashy games get. It isn't just a game, but a game among games, a game by which other games are judged by, a game that sets the bar. Not only does it blend elements of technology, story, and gameplay, but it reminds everyone what Square has done, is doing, and hopefully will do.

Graphics:

*Insert ominous music here, lighting flashes, clouding skies* I felt I had to get the less substantial parts of the game out of the way, as GRAPHICS DON'T MAKE THE GAME. The people quickly forget that THIS GAME IS OVER SEVEN YEARS OLD and Final Fantasy VII was one of the first Squaresoft games to have pre-rendered backgrounds. The basis for the judgment of this games graphics lie in the standard of that time. In a word: Ingenious. The most blaring aspect is the amazing realism jumping out at you in the backgrounds. The environments are very carefully and flawlessly drawn and incredibly detailed. It is amazing how quickly people forget a game is over seven years old. The characters animations weren't as impressive as the current standards were, but considering the jump to three dimensions from Final Fantasy VI, they are actually quite good. I warn you that you aren't going to enjoy them if you're absorbed in today's standards. The cinematics were as good as FFVI's, and improved in certain areas. The Special effects in the FMV's were also a welcome addition, such as the sparks in the opening scene. Overall Square did a very good a job designing the environments and world map, and made the backgrounds and cut scenes very well.

Frames are not an issue, and due to the pre-rendered background, room is left there for an incredible amount of detail.

A high subject of drama these days is the one of the in game character graphics, which are now just plain spooky. If you are a true RPGer, then you can sense what makes a game, you don't have to like Final Fantasy VII to call yourself one. However, if judge that hatred solely upon the graphical content . . . *insert dramatic music, lighting flashes, etc.*.

The in-battle graphics are much better than in-game, and include many flashes from the materia based colors, to the smashing of spells. The pictures of the characters placed onto the menu are also quite nice, and the materia coloring is also done quite well. A slight problem deals with the extreme graphical conflict between the characters and environment. This is noticeable in later Final Fantasies but probably most so in Final Fantasy VII. This contradiction can sometimes be downright strange and makes the game seem a tad bit unbalanced, especially when there is a multitude of them in one pre-rendered area. Many effects in FMV's are extremely well processed, including the wonderfully bright effects from the lifestream, the fiery meteor, and certain smoke effects.

Graphic junkies moan to no end about this game, pay them no heed or beware, you are in danger of missing an incredible experience.

If you haven't played much FFVII and you want to, then play for an RPG, not amazing visuals by today's standards.

Gameplay: Wonderful! Although, new gamers be warned that the movement is much choppier than in other games, so don't be terribly expectant of controls. Almost all areas branch into others, the cities are well and mysteriously designed, the world map has the famously clever obstacles, and the environments are varied. You can do it all from shopping in the slums, to hiking the mountains of an Asian-themed city, to snowboarding down snowy cliffs. This game provides very varied and enjoyable game play and battles, while keeping it as a traditional RPG system.

The Esper system of FFVI was so successful that the same basic principal was used for Materia, orbs attached to weapons to give your character certain attributes. A weapon can hold varying amounts of materia, and joined materia slots give you all kinds of options. This is certainly a very enjoyable game just to play. For example, lighting materia has four levels: Lightning, Lightning2, Lightning3, and MASTER. To get to these stronger levels, one must obtain AP through battles in addition to EXP to level up general character strength. However, if you put the lighting materia in a slot with a connection to another, and then put 'all' materia into that connected slot, your materia can hit all enemies in one blow. Furthermore, support materia can be equipped with 'all' materia (such as haste or cure) to speed up or cure the entire party.

Summon Materia and other classic non-physical moves are contained in materia. Usually, stronger weapons have more slots to equip materia, and more connecting slots. Equipping materia can add or take away from particular stats, as well. There is also the existence of 'Enemy Skill' materia, to give the nifty ability learning certain abilities of enemies you encounter.

The challenge is pretty moderate, giving you some real tough battles, and the legendary WEAPONS for the hardcore gamers to fight. Throughout the huge world map, there is a multitude of extra things to do. This game play can be choppy in control, but serves as a very responsive battling system, a very innovative system of strength, and a world full of extras, mini-games, exploration, and side-quests.

Music:

The only tracks I compare to wonderful ones like FFVII are Chrono Trigger/Cross, other Final Fantasies, and Xenogears. As usual, genius Nobuo amazes with his soundtrack varying feelings of pain, to fear, to happiness, to silliness, to downright drama and sadness, and all through this soundtrack. Wonderful pieces include "Holding My Thoughts Inside My Heart", "Cosmo Canyon", "One Winged Angel", the particularly good songs number too many to be reasonable, check the soundtrack reviews.

This portion of the game is not to be confused with sound, which will be addressed later. The music, as mentioned, is emotional and fitting to the situation, and truly enhances the experience. Listening to this game makes it unique, and it is an excellent soundtrack to own.

A particular song worthy of note is the Opening Theme. This theme comes in early and switches from a sense of overall calm, to desperate urgency, to somewhat of a battle theme, all flawlessly.

Another is One Winged Angel, the instrumentation and Latin vocals truly and properly illustrate the mood of the epic battle that it chronicles. If you want something nice to listen to while you play, then this is a great game to have it.

Although I admit it isn't my favorite soundtrack, it is still simply excellent, and words to speak the complexity and emotion are just plain hard to find.

Sound:

The sound is often an area of conflict as to its quality, and I agree with many of its downsides, but not to the extent that its sounds awful. The sound of slashing and hitting is varied, does not become repetitive, and gives a feeling of satisfaction. The effects of sound outside are done pretty well, but the main feature that sound effects is the music, playing in almost every scenario. The music is still excellent, but hear for yourself to truly judge the way sound effects the overall experience. In battle its great, outside it could use work every once in a while, but when it comes to music, regardless of its stats, the emotion and mood remains unaffected.

Story:

The last particularly important element. This story is very complex, once again a story that gives you the option of knowing a little more. Everything is connected in a very entertaining and compelling way. You can check almost anywhere to find out the basic layout, I will only reveal the basics. You play as 21 year old man named Cloud, with a foggy past, and intents to stop an "evil" corporation.

At first, Cloud is simply a mercenary hired by AVALANCHE working alongside Tifa Lockheart and Barret Wallace. Their first duty in the game is to blow up a particular Mako Reactor.

These reactors suck the life, the "Mako", from the planet, and as a result, it is beginning to die.

The enigmatic ex-SOLDIER (an elite force that fights for the company, Shinra) named Sephiroth *insert dramatic music* is suddenly re-appearing after a period, during which he was presumed dead. It turns into much more, play to believe. Every stop leaves a new surprise, realization, or thought. This game has a tendency to question morals, and the line to be drawn in ambition and revenge, black and white, good and evil.

Summary

All areas FFVII impresses, and it is evident in the game the immense amount of thought an complexity poured into all aspects of the game. Squaresoft had done a wonderful job in the presentation and final delivery of this game that became momentous.

No matter what anyone says about how the game has aged, and no matter how many people complain in ignorance about the features that stand less polished in today's standards, Final Fantasy VII remains in the hearts of all who love it.

Final Fantasy VII is loved by many, and hated by few. In the shadows, Square is probably trying to do what they did then, and smash a game into the status of legend like they did FFVII. This game is in the opinion of myself and many others the greatest RPG ever.

If you want to play an RPG that boasts graphical content, and presentation, play Final Fantasy X, Xenosaga, Dark cloud 2, or maybe Suikoden III. But if you want a game that casts all fears aside and shows the potential of not only one of the best RPGs but also one of the best games, the play Final Fantasy VII.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/08/04


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