Review by Osafune2

"One of the most thoroughly enjoyable and immersive experiences in video gaming history"

This is the first review where I have actually given a perfect 10, this game is that good. Final Fantasy VII was hyped an incredible amount, so much you could almost smell it in the air and when it was released in 1997 for the Sony Playstation, it received the highest critical acclaim and sales that any RPG had ever experienced and it instantly became a classic. Now as you no doubt know, almost everyone hails this game as the best game ever created, RPG lover or not and as you can see by the score given in this review, my opinion is exactly the same, I adore this game, it is without question the best game I have ever experienced and an absolute vindication of why video games were invented in the first place. This game has had an effect on me and many others like no other, it has made me feel emotional; from joy to sadness (you know the scene!) to anger born from frustration at some of the more difficult parts, not to mention the feeling of how excellent this game really is. You may be fed up, dear reader, of everyone singing the eternal praises of this game, but there is a reason for that, this game is worthy of the praise and only the very cynical and those who refuse to play any sort of RPG can fail to fall under the spell of this wonderful game.

Story – 9/10

Every good book, film or game needs a good story unless that game is Super Mario Brothers or Zelda, but that is irrelevant. I found the story in this game to be one of the best I have seen in any game, it is very immersive and addictive and you will find yourself playing just to see what happens next and to see what shocking revelations unfold, and there is one very shocking event that may or may not bring a lump to your throat… But doubtless you have all heard about that infamous scene before.

The story goes as follows, at least at first…

There is a large mega-corporation by the name of Shinra, and they run most of the towns and cities and provide power to all these cities in the world, they also have a very large military and they also once had a space program, so basically they have dabbled in almost every kind of business that there is. The way they generate all this power that they use for their technological developments and scientific experiments and also to provide power to the populace is through Mako energy. Now Mako is essentially the compressed Life Spirit of the planet and as Shinra are sucking it up and using it for their needs, it is consequently causing the planet to suffer and slowly die. Most of the normal townsfolk are oblivious to this and Shinra mean to keep it that way but there are some who are aware of it…

There is a resistance group of eco-warriors who call themselves AVALANCHE; they are lead by a man named Barret Wallace, a large angry black man who looks like Mr. T and has a gun instead of an arm, other members include Tifa Lockhart, a very attractive young lady with massive breasts, Biggs and Wedge, two people who pay homage to Luke Skywalker's wingmen in Star Wars and Jessie, a computer expert who makes fake IDs for AVALANCHE to use. They intend to oppose Shinra and bring about its downfall and therefore save the planet.

Now, the main character in Final Fantasy VII is a mercenary with blond spiky hair by the name of Cloud Strife, he is an ex-member of SOLDIER, an elite fighting force employed by Shinra, he has since left and Tifa hired him to fight against Shinra with AVALANCHE, at first he appears cold hearted and as if he doesn't care for the planet, just the money but there is a lot more to him and meets the eye as you would find out if you played this game. The game starts as you are off to destroy one of Midgar's many Mako reactors.

That is the storyline, at least as it appears when you first start playing the game, it gets a whole lot more complex as it goes on though and you are plunged into an adventure of a lifetime.

Graphics - 6/10

Well, it was released in 1997 and that was nigh on ten years ago now so naturally it is no longer the most breath taking game to behold, and indeed, nor was it even then. But that is not to say the graphics are especially dire, they do the job and some of the pre-rendered backgrounds do look nice and the FMV still looks pleasing to the eye. It is the character models that look pretty horrendous really, they have no features aside from eyes and they have huge blocks for hands and overall they are horribly blocky and ugly to look at. In the battles however, the character models look much better and more fluid, and less like something made from Lego by a three year old. The animation on the models in battle is passable and there are no complaints there, it is only the character models in exploration and on the over world that are displeasing to the eye.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, this game uses pre-rendered backgrounds, you will have seen it before in subsequent Final Fantasy games and the early Resident Evil titles, there is a fixed camera angle and you move the character around the static environment, when you enter a new area the camera angle changes. This is all well and good but there are a few problems with it, whilst many of the backgrounds are pleasing to the eye, some of them can look a little confusing, there is one part where you are required to climb a cliff and there is almost no indication of where to climb, there are also places where you are forced to run round behind large rocks or mountain peaks and you cannot see the character until he emerges on the other side, this can be very annoying and confusing, you can press select to have an icon above the character and also icons indicating NPCs, and doorways etc.

Now, while the above may seem annoying, it is only on a few occasions where it can momentarily hinder you at most and it does not detract from the overall exploration of the game world and various towns so there isn't much to complain about.

The other very impressive graphical feature is the various animations for spells and summons in battle, some of these still look really impressive even today and the summons especially are absolutely crazy, I'm talking huge dragons flying through the sky and blasting the life out of the enemies with a super-mega death ray the size of a sky scraper. Also when you level up some of the spells they look great, the first spells are pretty basic but when you get things like Fire3 and Bolt3 you will be most pleased with the level of destruction on screen.

Now I must mention the FMV, the game has many FMV sequences and while not as amazing as some of the graphics in the games of the current generation, they still look very good. Cloud actually looks like a person and Barret looks even more like Mr. T than normal! Not to mention the jiggling bosoms of Tifa.

Sound – 9/10

The music in this game was composed by Nobuo Uematsu and is one of the finest musical scores you will find in any game. The music is very catchy in the early towns, and sometimes you will find yourself humming it, especially the slightly sleazy reggae sound they have going on in Wall Market, which is Midgar's red light district, Midgar being the large city you start in. The music is written to match the overall feel of every area. Midgar is rife with technology, so a lot of the music reflects that, especially in the huge Mako reactors where there is a kind of slow techno-y music playing and it fits the mood perfectly. The music in the battles is also great, very fast-paced and lively and it really catches. Now, I love the boss music, when you are plunged into one of the many boss battles you are serenaded by some hard rockin' guitar and keyboards, it is a great riff if you ask me! Really fits the battle perfectly.

Once out of Midgar and on to the world map you will be treated to the rousing main theme of the game and in the various towns dotted about the music is well written, depending on the town, it may be peaceful if the town is small and relatively un-inhabited, or it may be lively reflecting the bustling crowds going about their business.

The sound is standard fare really, the creaks and squeaks of the various robots and machines found in the more technological areas, the cracks and bangs of spells and the swish of a sword being swung are all as you would expect and they are perfectly adequate but there is nothing that really stands out. The sound in this game gets high marks purely for the music, which I love, especially the theme One-Winged Angel, but you are just going to have to play hear that.

Gameplay – 10/10

Being a fan of the RPG, I was naturally going to enjoy the Gameplay, because I am all for turn-based battles, character development and levelling up after battling monsters. But the gameplay in this instalment of Final Fantasy is great, even more so than any others in the series. The battle system is intuitive and quick to learn and manages to be fun and not boring, which is how many turn-based battle systems turn out. But the battle system in FFVII isn't turn-based technically; it is given the title of ATB, or Active Time Battle. This means that while you are waiting about, deciding what spell to use, the enemy can still attack you. This adds some sense of urgency to the battles and makes you work a lot faster, this may seem annoying that you cannot take your time, but I think it works very well and is a very good system.

Also, using the ATB system, you have to wait for the ATB bar to fill up next to the character before you can enter any commands, so whoever's bar fills fastest gets to attack first, though you can skip turns, or rather delay them with a quick tap of the triangle button. While mostly this runs smoothly there is a problem I encountered, once you accumulate many items, and you wish to heal yourself with a potion or resurrect a comrade with a Phoenix Down, you have to open the item menu and find it, and remember that your enemies can attack whilst you are messing about with the items, if you cannot find an item quickly it can spell disaster, especially if it is a boss with a powerful attack.

I have an example, on a recent play through I was in battle with a boss, now this boss happened to have a rather powerful attack called Lapis Laser which does rather a lot of damage, now my characters were all low on MP as well as HP due to not keeping on top of my healing. Therefore I decided I would use a Megalixir which can fully restore HP and MP for all characters, I frantically selected the “Item” command from the menu and had to scroll down rather far to locate said item, in my haste I had scrolled past it and then had to search more carefully and whilst doing this the boss decided to destroy me entire party with one attack. Game Over.

While this does not often happen and usually you can find items easily, sometimes it can take a while to find the item you need if you haven't arranged your item menu beforehand like I hadn't.

Now on to the Materia System. If you ask me, the Materia system in FFVII is one of the best magic systems in any Final Fantasy game ever, basically, Materia are little orbs with various properties magical or otherwise. There are several types of Materia, Yellow Materia is command Materia and this allows you to use commands such as Steal in battle, or Enemy Skill. Then there is Green Materia, this enables magical spells such as Fire, Lightning, Ice and the usual. There is also Red Materia, this allows you to summon a spirit to aid you in battle, these are normally rather impressive to watch and cause a lot of damage. Aside from the main three there is blue Materia which supports the effects of other Materia such as All, which can enable spells to hit all targets. Purple Materia allows things like Counter Attack, causing the equipped character to counter attack sometimes after being attacked.

Now to equip Materia you need weapons and armour that contain slots, now pretty much every weapon and piece of armour in the game has slots. To do this basically you go to the menu and insert the Materia you wish for the character to use into one of the slots and he or she will be able to use it in battle. If the slots are linked it means that you can use support Materia such as All to allow the spell to hit all targets, or Elemental, which adds the element of the spell it is paired with to the users weapon and other things like that.

This is a good system because you can alternate Materia between characters, so there is no longer a specific Black Mage who casts offensive magic or a White Mage who heals, any character can effectively become any class they want, but no one is assigned a class or anything. This removes limitations and allows you to do as you wish. I think this is the best magic/ability system in any Final Fantasy game so far.

Oh, the exploration and travelling side of things is no different to any other Final Fantasy; eventually you can make things easier by getting various vehicles to traverse the world faster, from a buggy to an airship to a submarine. Pretty much full marks on the gameplay front for Final Fantasy VII.

Replay Value – 9/10

Well, for starters such an awesome game would surely merit more than one meagre play through? Aside from that there is a wealth of side quests and mini games to participate in; there are also optional bosses to defeat and getting to Level 99. There is a place called the Gold Saucer in which you could potentially spend a long time playing the mini games, though mainly the motorbike game I would say, the others grow old fast.

There is so much to do that I am still searching for secrets and things to do, bonus scenes and the like, also levelling my characters as much as I can and getting all the ultimate weapons and enemy skills. Should keep me busy for some time, and I should imagine it would keep you busy as well.

Overall – 10/10

Final Fantasy VII is an absolutely sublime game and one that everyone should play through, it set the benchmark for all the RPGs that followed and any self-respecting fan of RPGs should certainly get hold of this game. This is one of my favourite games of all time and will always remain a classic. It has an easy to use battle system and experience building system, but the thing that really nets it a high score in my book, is the fantastic story and the wonderful characters that you really form a bond with. You simply have to experience this game.

Story – 9/10
Graphics – 6/10
Sound – 9/10
Gameplay – 10/10
Replay Value – 9/10

Final Score – 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/09/06, Updated 07/18/07

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