Review by Sonofyoungwood

"Although a good RPG and Square's third excellent game in a row, Final Fantasy 7 is overrated in some ways."

INTRODUCTION:
Is Final Fantasy 7 Squaresoft's third masterpiece in this person's eyes? Yes, to a degree.

You all know the drill associated with Final Fantasy reviews. It's one of the best series ever, as well as the most popular, blah blah blah. However, most of the time, people say that their favorite RPG is Final Fantasy 7 (this game). It is a good game, but in several ways, logical reasoning will prove that the game's storyline and music are quite overrated. This is all opinion (perhaps with a few logical facts thrown in), so, if FF7 fans are reading this, don't take offense, I'm trying to be fair. I just want the reader to set reasonable expectations for the game and not be disappointed if it's not what they enjoy.

STORYLINE: 40/50
This is where FF7 is a bit overrated. Basically, the story goes like this. Cloud Strife, a man with a mysterious past, is hired to aid a resistance group called AVALANCHE in the New York City of FF7, Midgar. Midgar has eight districts (including beautiful houses on the top of the city-wide plate and horrible slums beneath it), each powered by a Mako Reactor. Mako is the source of energy in FF7. Also, the central building is Shinra HQ. Basically, Shinra is the largest corporation in the world, and basically the government as well. Groups like AVALANCHE despise Shinra, and their goal is to destroy the Mako Reactors (Shinra's major monopoly) to cripple Shinra. Mako, after all, is the energy of the Planet, and it is being sucked out for power usage. Cloud helps the group in their missions for a while, until some twists occur. Cloud, some AVALANCHE members (like his old friend Tifa), and new allies join on an adventure with several goals. Then, you will learn more about Cloud's past, battle with a madman named Sephiroth, and tango with Shinra on several occasions. Sounds perfect, right?

Think again. Character development is good (they may have tried too hard, which leads to my next point), but, again, there are several contradictions and events either not explained right or not enough. Character and event pasts are not explained or delivered well enough, and the game seems to focus on only a few elements during the special scenes present, thus leaving unsolved or unclear segments. The storyline is slightly complex, but it's not confusing and elaborate enough to carry as many loose ends as it does. In other words, FF7 is full of plot holes. This is most likely because the storyline was rushed and poorly done in several parts (such as the beginning of Disk Two), and many things were left out. A foolish mistake by Squaresoft, taking precious points away from their third magnum opus. When you stand back and look at the entire storyline, so much stuff is not explained or forgotten. A little more effort would have truly made this game the best ever, but laziness (or lack of time, I'll need to talk to Square about this, because it may have been the problem with some other Square RPGs released in '97-'98, heh) has caused FF7's storyline to become it's major weakness. Don't think it's absolutely horrible, it's above average, but overrated. FF8 has a few plotholes, but not as many as FF7. Which makes me wonder: people must have been expecting a sequel due to the unsolved mysteries. Yes, both FF7 and FF8 have plot holes that add mystery to the end of the game, but FF7 has too many for my taste.

A few other things: I really enjoyed the overall development of some locations, but it seemed that they slacked off in places such as Rocket Town. On the other end of the spectrum, Midgar was one of the best locations ever designed in a RPG, but it still didn't develop all locations and some places only touched upon, such as the land above the plate. The twist as the end of Disk One was one of the things that really made this game interesting, although the player may almost forget it's impact during the next disk. It's these minor issues that made me disappointed with the overall feel of FF7.

Bottom line: FF7 has a good story, but the plot holes made me sit and shake my head in shame. A grade B storyline, really.

MUSIC: 33/40
Sadly, the second most overrated part of the game is the music. Music is MIDI, as usual for FF games, but they OVERUSE the flute and a certain annoying "Aaaeeerrrr" sound that is present in Aerith's theme and a few others. Some themes, like battle and boss music, are excellent, but look at other themes. Many people say this game has the best music ever, but I honestly feel that FF8, 10, and even 6 to an extend have an overall better sound. Bottom line: the music is fine, but overrated in my eyes. Don't set your hopes too high.


SOUND: 20/20
Sounds are good, not too many are cheesy. I'll leave you to decide on that once you play the game. For the sake of giving music a rather mediocre rating, I'll give sound a perfect 20. I really should give it a 19…

GAMEPLAY: 48/50
FF7 has one of the best battle/gameplay systems in the series (probably second or third). It's the famous Materia system. In short, it's an improved version of FFVI's Esper system. Basically, you obtain weapons and equipment as usual, but they have so many slots on them. These slots let you put spheres called Materia inside. There are several types of materia, such as Fire (Fire-elemental magic attacks), Time (Haste, Slow, etc), Restore (Cure, Cure 2, Regen, Cure 3), stat-boosting ones (HP Plus, MP Plus) commands (steal, mug, etc), and so on. Basically, each materia either has a group of magic attacks/abilities, or one constantly changing ability (HP +10, 20, 30 percent, etc). As you fight battles, the materia will obtain AP and eventually grow to a point where you can use another magic attack from that materia. It's actually quite simple. In order to use the magic, you must have the corresponding materia equipped. When you equip some materia, your stats may go up and down. This, and other small factors, ensures fairness with the materia. It also provides a lot of strategy if you are not the type to level up so much (this game is quite easy), because magic is actually decent in this game (like FF5). A player may want a black mage, so he/she will put more magic and summon materia on one character (reducing HP and attack, but increasing MP and magic). Then, the player may want a powerhouse, so he/she will put stat-boosting materia on that player as well as ones that don't decrease HP/attack. You can spread it all out if you want. Get the idea? Good : )

Limit breaks are back from FF6, except this time they are more common (obviously) and play an important role. As you take damage, your limit gauge increases until it's full. You may then use a special attack, AKA Limit Break. Players obtain new limit breaks as they defeat enemies and as they use them in battle. Some are great like Omni slash and Meteorain, while some are terrible (I won't name these horrible ones). Some are fun and innovative, yet many of them are simple, boring attacks. So, in the end, limit breaks are an inconsistent portion of gameplay.

The game has your typical Level, HP, MP, EXP, and currency systems typical of an RPG. Items and Levels are capped at 99. Damaged is capped at 9999, and so is HP. There are also two rows avalable in battles. The front row is good for attackers, but the back row is good for mages. The back row halves physical damage both offensively and defensively, but not magic. You should set rows wisely if you are not going to give each player a certain type of materia (to create a mage, attacker, etc) which is yet another way to play the game. I think each character needs to be a bit more unique in terms of battle, though. Everyone seems to do the same amount of damage and have similar amounts of Hit Points.

Other than that, this game's stat scale is a little high. Your characters start at LV 6-7 at the beginning, and have roughly 300-400 HP. You'll start doing 40-60 damage, but by the end of the came you can easily do 5000+ (or even the max. 9999). Some attacks can do a LOT of damage, hitting multiple times for a total amount (not single amount) well over 9999. Some bosses have over 1 million HP, like in FF8 and FF10. Everything else is typical of your average RPG.

GRAPHICS: 27/30
They were good for their time, yet I was disappointed in several different features. The backgrounds look decent, but the character graphics are horrible! Sprites look better! They are deformed and blocky, as well as slightfully influenced by Anime. No mouths or noses, sorry. Everything else is fine, well, for it's time. I think they could have been improved a bit (and there is no voice acting), but they're fine with me. A true video game player doesn't judge a game completely by graphics.

What IS annoying is that creatures will sometimes just do very slight, boring moves, or they will sit there moving for ten seconds before they attack. Other than that, the load times are excellent (FF7 has screens, so screen changes are a little slow). Summon monster sequences are quite short, unlike FF8, FF9, and FF10 (ahhh!). That's all for graphics.

CONTROLS: 28/30
Controls in this game are fine, although I really hate not being able to use that joystick. Sometimes, moving Cloud around is extremely tedious. Other then that, controls are perfectly fine.

CHALLENGE: 12/20 (Medium to Low Difficulty)
Let me say this first: FF7 is the first (chronological) RPG to offer a good encounter rate (besides Chrono Trigger, but that wasn't random encounter-style, and FF6 tried, but failed in a few areas). It's not too high, and not too low. This game can be of average difficulty if you don't level up or use a little strategy. However, if you do the above, the game is VERY EASY. I usually give an automatic 10 points to challenge, so in reality this is a 2/10 here, which is disappointed. I guess it was part of Square's tactic to bring Final Fantasy mainstream in places outside of Japan. However, challenge in this game, like FF8, is all what you make it to be. You can spend hours leveling up and have no challenge, or you can go through fairly quickly and have a tough time later on. Most "old-school" RPG fans will breeze through this game, because it doesn't require hours upon hours of leveling up like FFIV did.

REPLAY VALUE/FUN FACTOR: 29/30
Replay in FF7 is good, because there is a lot to do. Chocobo breeding, optional bosses, obtaining secret materia, and dozens of Minigames are just a few. Very good side quests, indeed. I won't go into detail, but let's just say that you can spend quite a lot of time on the mediocre, but fine minigames.

The game itself is fun. However, sadly, I'm big on story, so that took a chunk out of FF7's rating. Just don't get over hyped, and this game will be perfectly fine, perhaps one of the more fun RPGs out there. Not the best (due to the large shortcomings) but not the worst. Overrated, yes. Horrible, no.

OVERALL: 239/270
Percentile Score: 88/100 or 17/20
Grade: B+
Final Score: 8/10

Game Length: 30-40 hours

PROS:
+ Tifa, Aerith, and Yuffie
+ Sephiroth (sure he's overrated, but that sword is excellent)
+ Some great FMVs and battle scenes
+ Fun Factor
+ Good Gameplay
+ A few good background and battle themes
+ Minigames
+ Creative in some ways (Midgar, battle system, et cetera)
+ A wide variety of themes in the storyline (Rebellion, love, life, death, etc)
CONS:
- Too many plot holes
- Overrated music/storyline
- Annoying movement controls.
- Too easy
- Some annoying segments
- Some iffy graphics (characters and a few enemies)

That's it for my FF7 review. As I said above, don't set your expectations too high and you should be perfectly fine with this good RPG.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/03/04


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