Review by _Spin_Cycle_
"Redefined a genre, shaped an industry."
Final Fantasy VII needs no introduction. This mega-blockbuster title re-defined the RPG genre by making it more accessible to a larger target audience, expanding the possibilities of epic storytelling, and evolving the tried-and-true RPG mechanics of the past to fit in with the ever-developing 3D revolution of its time. No matter your opinion on Final Fantasy VII, it is difficult to deny the importance and the impact of the game on the market, the games that followed, and the gamers that enjoyed them.
Final Fantasy VII was originally planned as another 2D adventure to follow VI on the SNES. With growing fears that Final Fantasy would become obsolete and forgotten due to the growing trend of 3D graphics, the decision was made to move the project to the Nintendo 64. However, the development team soon learned that the 64's cartridge-based input would not be able to hold the amount of data necessary to contain FFVII in its entirety, and the project was moved one last time to Sony's Playstation. The game would go on to be the best-selling and most well-received game in the franchise, spawning an entire compilation of prequels and spin-offs to be released years later. The game's popularity even led to a full-length CGI motion picture detailing the events after the game. There are even whispers of a rumored remake of the game for the PS3. Talk about cash cow!
Something that reviewers often forget when reviewing older games is perspective. In 1997, the graphics in this game were very impressive, especially to fans of the series. The now-famous Squaresoft cutscenes were unlike anything gamers had seen. While the game may feel aged today, it's important to remember that games like these greatly influenced what games look like in the present.
Don't forget that this was a transition point for the series in just about every way, including the graphics. The development team had a ridiculous task: take the charm of the 2D games and implement it into 3D environments and models. A transition from 2D to 3D must have been extremely taxing on the development teams of any series that has endured such an arduous test (Zelda, Mario, Sonic, etc.). This in mind, I think the achievement here is extremely impressive. And again, it was unlike anything Final Fantasy fans had seen before.
Tetsuya Nomura's character designs in FFVII are among his best. He stated in an interview somewhere that he limited his designs due to the limitations of 3D graphics at the time, but I feel that these are among his strongest designs.
Veteran Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu returns for another smashing hit. As a younger gamer, the music of VII was one of the things that kept me coming back for more, and it became something I looked forward to in each new installment. It's really difficult for me to put into words just how important Uematsu's music is to me. What really impresses me about Uematsu is that he's a fantastic orchestrator, not just a fantastic composer. The way he layers parts, teases the theme, and re-uses thematic material is extremely impressive. Even in the days of 8 and 16-bit music, his music commanded a presence.
The sound effects in this game are also memorable. At least a few of the more recent Final Fantasy games are still using sound effects introduced in this game. Overall, this game provides a killer sound presentation that is sure to keep you emotionally attached to the storyline to the end.
The game provides a compelling narrative that draws a lot of inspiration from previous Final Fantasy games. You're a member of a small resistance group that sets out to stop the mega-corporation Shinra from depleting the world of its energy. Of course, you should expect this premise to be twisted and turned upside down by the end of the game. In full Final Fantasy style, you meet great party members, enjoy their deep and often tragic backgrounds, and chase a great villain. There are hardly any times in which the story slows down and you're left wondering. It's difficult to go into this without spoiling anything, so I'll just cut it short.
The script is also great. I feel that the dialogue really explores the characters' pasts and promotes good character development (though there are situations in which I could have used a little more, such as Cid). Each character's personality shines through in the dialogue, and you can notice dialect changes very easily.
The development team did a wonderful job of translating the ease and fun of the older, sprite-based gameplay into three-dimensional environments. In fact, they did such a great job that I'm finding a hard time reviewing this section; it plays just like the older games. You walk around from area to area, encounter enemies, and keep going. There are lots of fun places for you to visit (Golden Saucer, anyone?) and tons of side-quests to keep you going. The environments you can explore are vast and deep, and each one tells its own story. The battle system is well-executed and Limit Breaks are an awesome addition. Also, the Materia system was very user-friendly, which added to the widened accessibility of the game.
There is a lot to do! Obviously, there is more to do in the NA/International versions. But even if you get everything, you will probably want to replay this game just for the sake of it. It's a really phenomenal experience.
The Verdict: 9/10
Although Final Fantasy VII is often considered to be the most overrated game in the franchise, it is important to remember there is a generational gap between fans of each trio of games (I-III;IV-VI;VII-IX, etc.). Each generation found something they liked about the games, and each generation is going to argue that his/her generation is the best. That said, if you are unable to appreciate VII as a source of entertainment, appreciate it as the influential giant that shaped games that followed, and continues to shape them today.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/19/07, Updated 01/11/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (Greatest Hits) (US, 03/27/00)
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