Review by Tenshi No Shi

"A new era of RPG starts here."

I can still vividly remember the day I bought Final Fantasy VII. I was in college, seventh quarter, with but one class to worry about and a whole lot of time on my hands (those were the days). Two of my friends skipped class for the occasion, taking an hour long bus ride with me to reach the nearest mall where I had Square's latest masterpiece reserved. Immediately upon reaching the mall, we headed straight for the software store that held my prize, only to discover there was no prize to be had. I would have to wait another week for the second shipment to arrive as not enough copies were received to fill the order. Not one to give up, we dashed to the mall's other software store in hopes that maybe, just maybe, they had extra copies. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as the second software store wasn't expecting their shipment of Final Fantasy VII until the next day. Angry and dejected, my friends and I wandered out of the store to wait for the bus that would take us, empty handed, back to our dorms. In our sullen mood, we almost missed the delivery person wheeling a shipment into the software store we had just exited. Daring to hope, my friends and I rushed back into the store, waiting as the clerk carefully opened one of the boxes to reveal the treasure within: Final Fantasy VII. As luck would have, they did have a few spare copies, one of which I promptly purchased. The bus ride home was agonizingly long, but we survived, all that much more anticipating Final Fantasy VII. Word spread quickly and by the time I was ready to unleash the epic game contained within the three seemingly innocent CDs, a small crowd of nearly twenty of my friends had gathered in the tiny dorm room. The television was on, the stereo cranked, and as the Playstation logo faded away, Final Fantasy VII began to weave its enchanting spell over all of us...

Like any good story, Final Fantasy VII's complex plot is impossible to sum up in a single paragraph. The main character is Cloud Strife, a young man with a distorted memory of his origins. He becomes involved with a rebellion group called AVALANCHE who seeks to stop an all-powerful corporation known as Shinra. Shinra is responsible for draining the very energy force out of the planet, without which all life will cease to exist. Cloud's struggle will not only save the entire planet but also unlock the mysteries of his past. All of Final Fantasy VII's characters are unique and memorable, each with his, her, or its own story. The incredible thing is, each of these background stories enhance the overall plot of the game rather than separating themselves from it. Though the story may be somewhat confusing, it still stands out in my mind as one of the greatest tales ever told.

Final Fantasy VII's visuals are some of the most beautiful graphics to ever grace the Playstation. Period. The first thing you'll notice is the incredible quality of the CG cinemas. Not only do they herald the best work of their kind ever for a game, but also the variety and style of them enhance the mood of the game. The stunning pre-rendered backgrounds are simply breathtaking, even putting to shame Capcom's work in the Resident Evil series. The characters themselves retain the somewhat unique look of older RPGs while wandering about locations, but once you are thrust into battle, this look gives way to a far more mature and realistic style that helps to draw you into each struggle. Of course, what Final Fantasy game would be complete without fantastic spell effects? No need to worry about that since Final Fantasy VII has an abundance of gorgeously animated magical attacks, including the now movie-like summoning spells. In short, it's mind-numbingly impressive.

The Final Fantasy series has always been known for its incredible soundtracks and the latest installment only reaffirms why this is. Quite possibly the most epic music ever orchestrated for game, Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack will haunt you with its beautiful melodies long after you have finished playing the game. The audio effects that compliment the game are equally impressive, enhancing each visual splendor you witness with an appropriate and realistic sound. Square has once again set a standard by which all others must follow.

Control for Final Fantasy VII is nothing short of perfection. The entire menu system is simple and easy to use, allowing for an incredible amount of options without adding any confusion. Controlling your party on the overworld and at location is also performed with ease- polygon characters interacting well with pre-rendered backgrounds. The most important aspect of a role-playing game is, of course, the battle system. In Final Fantasy VII the battle system is sheer bliss. Armed with a wide array of both offensive and defensive options, even the most minor of battles in this game can take on epic proportions. I simply cannot find flaw with any aspect of Final Fantasy VII's controls.

Each Final Fantasy installment not only brings with it a new story with new characters, but also new design features and improvements over previous designs. Final Fantasy VII adds many fresh and innovative design elements to the mix, the least of which is a Chocobo breeding system. You can now enjoy the advantages and disadvantages of various colored Chocobo's all through the proper care and breeding of wild Chocobo that you capture. Another new feature is the helpful and powerful Limit Breakers. During battle it is an inevitable fact that your characters will be attacked. Each attack, successful or not, registers on a special meter. When that meter is full it will begin to flash, thus allowing you to perform a devastating attack upon you enemy. More often that not, these Limit Breakers will be your salvation. Finally, perhaps the greatest new feature to Final Fantasy VII, the Materia system. Materia are little balls of energy endowed with special powers. The abilities of Materia can range from a Chocobo lure to a healing spell to a summoning spell, depending on the type of Materia you discover. The great thing about Materia is it can be set into your characters weapons and armor, giving them the abilities of that Materia. Finding rare Materia is almost as fun as discovering new ways to combine it, eventually creating lethal and unstoppable parties. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy VII does have a design flaw. Though it is but a small one, it is nonetheless a nuisance. This flaw that I speak of is in the execution of the summoning spells. While it remains one of my favorite things in the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VII's summoning spells are a cinematic event. Don't get me wrong, they represent some of the finest animation for spell effects ever created in a role playing game, but when you are in the thick of battle, spending ten minutes or more watching a creature summoning can get a bit tedious. I have made lunch and eaten it in the time it takes to complete one of these spells! While this does nothing to harm the playability of the game, it is a shame that Square didn't have the foresight to include some way to skip the animations of a spell.

You don't expect to find many bonuses in a role-playing game, yet Final Fantasy VII is full of them. It is possible, through the course of selective breeding, to create a Gold Chocobo. This Chocobo can go anywhere, including a well-hidden cave on a remote island that contains a secret Summoning Materia called Knights of the Round. This summoning spell is the most powerful (and longest) spell in the game, each of its thirteen hits dishing out between 3000 and 4000 points of damage. Perhaps the greatest thing one can discover in a role-playing game is a hidden character. Final Fantasy VII has two of them. These two character, Vincent and Yuffie, can become invaluable allies in your struggle and add interesting plot twists to the story. Finally, there is the added bonus of two new, completely optional bosses, to battle near the end of the game. These bosses are unique to the English release of Final Fantasy VII, though they were included in the Japanese re-release of Final Fantasy VII International. All in all, Final Fantasy VII contains an impressive amount of bonuses.

If you are any kind RPG gamer you absolutely must have this game. Fans of the Final Fantasy series should already own this title, if not, what the hell are you waiting for?!? If you've never played a role playing game before, Final Fantasy VII may seem a little daunting, but if given the chance, it will likely impress even the most cynical of gamers and non-gamers alike. Bless you Square.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/12/09

Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/07/97)

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