Review by Alecto

"Not everyone is a fanboy"

I bought this game before I had made my mind up as to which next generation console to buy. Since I still considered myself a Nintendo-chick through and through and derisively referred to Sony’s product as the “Paystation” (I’ve since changed my ways, believe me), I decided to try out the PC version of the newest edition to this well-known series. Oh boy was I in for a shock.

The first thing that annoyed me was that the game came with some kind of Yamaha midi driver that I was forced to install onto my computer. It seemed rather arrogant of them to include a special piece of software just for listening to their game. It didn’t appear to make the sound any more impressive than conventional computer quality sound either.

Then the game began. It opens with a long sequence where the player gets to sit and do nothing but click as dialogue scrolls by. But this is Final Fantasy and although I despise that sort of thing, it’s to be expected with this series. Okay this is strange, the characters are all carrying guns and dressed like 20th century commandos. And they all talk like they’re morons from da hood. This dialogue is really getting on my nerves. Shouldn’t I be seeing a castle yet, and where are the swords?

Unhappily I soon had my answer as I discovered that the only sword in the game is a clownishly oversized one wielded by a brat with a chip on his shoulder and funny Dragonball-Z hair. I played through the game more out of a sense of duty than enjoyment, as it slowly and inexorably dawned on me that Final Fantasy was never going to be the same again.

Three fighters on the battle screen instead of four. A battle system where using magic takes far too long and quickly becomes tedious (I don’t care how pretty something is, after the 40th time seeing it it’s going to start to get boring), and an overall bleak and modern feel with a main character who I don’t feel the least bit of pathos for. I found myself fighting the urge to scream “suck it up, Sally!” at the screen every time he started with his mopey “who am I?” bit. And the horribly linear story progression. As a serious RPGer I resented this a lot. Just turn me loose on the world map and leave me alone!! Final Fantasy didn’t do this until very late in the game. In the meantime I was forced to trudge from Point A to Point B while clicking through seemingly endless scenes of melodramatic dialogue.

And the music was definitely an underachievement considering it came from one of the most hyped videogame composers ever. It wasn’t bad music, but it wasn’t instantly memorable like every single song in the previous Final Fantasy games had been. Even ambient music can have a certain kind of catchiness to it (Vagrant Story. Nuff said.) but the music in Final Fantasy VII was just bland. It seemed like the composer put all his eggs in one basket with Sephiroth’s theme, “A One Winged Angel” which was pretty cool in a Phantom Menace rip-off kind of way, complete with choir, full-blown orchestral flourishes and badly pronounced Latin. (ok I don’t remember which came first…it might not have been a rip-off. But that whole dramatic choir singing in a dead or made-up language is so overdone these days!) And then they go and do the same thing in FFVIII, so “A One Winged Angel” isn’t even special anymore.

How does the PC version compare to the console version? I couldn’t tell you, I’ve only played this one. Using the keypad to control everything isn’t bad, but unlocking some of the secrets proved to be a challenge as all the faqs said “press square, triangle, circle, circle, triangle” um...can’t do it folks…

The game did have a few goods points. Having Cid in your party was very cool. The chocobo racing was a fun little diversion, and some of the random elements like trying to date the girls in your party added at least some semblance of non-linearity to the gameplay. I also thought that the magic system was very innovative: characters could cast spells by fitting stones called materia into slots in their equipment. The game is fairly long and you certainly get your money’s worth in terms of gameplay hours. Not overly challenging…but long nonetheless. However in the end I just couldn’t deal with the fact that the game was so different than the other Final Fantasy titles.

Believe me, I’m not against change or trying something new. And unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that this game has since become insanely popular with legions upon legions of fanboys who never grew up with FF I - VI. There are even rumblings that it is one of the best games EVER. Well sorry, it isn’t. It isn’t even the best RPG ever, or even the best Square game ever. It is none of those things. What the game did do was usher in a new era for Final Fantasy. There is pre-FFVII and post-FFVII, and as valiantly as Square tried to bridge the two with the release of FFIX, it just didn’t happen. Final Fantasy VII is a caffeine-free, non-alcoholic RPG-lite that was designed to appeal to a mass market, and that it did. Yes, thanks to the success of Final Fantasy VII Square is assured to make millions of dollars each time they crank out the next bloated and increasingly formulaic Final Fantasy title. But I would like to think that there are those of us still out there who aren’t so gullible as to think that this is “the best RPG ever.” Nope, not even close. As for me I’ve all but given up on the series. Let the fanboys have it, I’ve moved on to other things.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 08/28/02, Updated 05/06/03

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