Review by zack2544
Final Fantasy VII. When it first came out, it was one of the most revolutionary games ever made. It had it all: great graphics, amazing story, fun gameplay. I realize that there are probably plenty of reviews that say exactly the same thing as this one, but thanks for reading this one.
Most of the time, RPGs will be more focused in the story areas of the game. Final Fantasy VII is no different, but on the down side, it's something we've all seen before: a group of rebels rise up against an evil conglomerate bent on the destruction of the world (essentially). Fortunately, Square pulled through with other interesting story elements and plot twists, including that one part at the end of the first disk that I'm sure that everyone already knows about. Despite its lack of a new main idea, the characters are incredibly deep, each with their own back stories and well-written dialogue, from the macho Barret to the mysterious Cait Sith. And it all comes to a satisfying ending that brings the long journey to a thrilling conclusion. The translation is also a minor problem. Throughout the game are various dialogue choices that I probably would not have made, as well as grammatical errors, the earliest of which being a scene in which the characters Cloud and Aeris come across an ill man, as Aeris proclaims, "This man are sick."
A long journey it is. The game spans across three disks and well over two full twenty-four hour periods worth of RPG goodness, and that's just the main story. Though in more modern games developers can fit dozens of gigabytes of data on a single disk, this game was made in 1997.
The game borrows elements from several other genres that are incorporated into fun minigames. Action elements are found in the motorbike chase scene, where the player must swing there sword to fight off attackers on motorcycles. There is also a chocobo racing minigame, which incorporates aspects from the racing genre, and an RTS-esque game where the player places units to defend a main base.
But of course, the most important gameplay mechanic is that of the game's fighting and leveling systems. As in most RPGs, players explore vast continents, fight monsters and gain experience needed to level up. The difference here is that, unlike past Final Fantasies, spells and abilities are not learnt, but are distributed to each player via the Materia system. Materia are small orbs that are attached to the players weapons are equipment that can provide any number of new functions for the player, like new spells, abilities, or even enhancement of a specific spell or ability, like being able to cast a spell on all enemies (or allies) or making the character immune to that type of spell. This makes for a very, very flexible system. Maybe if the player needs a certain character to be a fighter, then they can put more fighting-related Materia on the character, or if the player needs a healer, they can add some restorative Materia.
The in-fight mechanics are solid and are mostly stable. The game uses an active time system, where the player waits for a small meter to fill before an action can be performed with the character, as opposed to a turn-based system. They can use many sorts of magic and abilities, as well as standard attacks. My only problem is that there can be only three characters in the player's party, which can be easily outnumbered at times.
This is where the game is a little lacking. Here's the thing: the games visuals are, for the time, absolutely stunning. The game's cutscenes have three levels of graphic beauty: the standstill scenes with mere text, the slightly more impressive scenes with moving characters and environments, and the FMVs. The FMVs are absolutely amazing, even compared to some of today's games, which is a shame because they are very sparsely placed throughout the game, especially in the first disk. The more common cutscenes and text scenes include blocky, almost face-less character models that have only their limbs to show their emotions. Though this was the first Final Fantasy to be released on 3-D consoles, and the world was still coming out of the SNES/Genesis era, Square still cheated and put 2-D objects throughout the world that seem very out of place in front of the richly detailed standstill backgrounds.
That's where the major problem with the graphics comes in: The environments inside cities and dungeons are all standstill. Since the characters are generally the only moving objects in the area, it can sometimes be easy to lose the character behind a house or even a rock, and it can be hard to find doors and exits without the optional arrows that are placed in the appropriate areas. And the strange thing is that this is not the case at all with the world map. The map is chock full of incredible details, from wide grasslands and forests, to tall mountains and flowing rivers, all spanning across three continents and several islands.
Final Fantasy VII carries the Final Fantasy tradition of having an utterly beautiful score. The game trades in the old bells and whistles of its older SNES brothers for a surprisingly deep sound range, which emulate the sounds made by violins, horns and brass, drums and other instruments. The first evidence of this is actually in the opening credits. Most of the time, the credits are really just something to skip through, but it's well worth it this time just for the wonderfully haunting anthem that themes the Final Fantasy series. Other evidence is found in that scene, with a song that perfectly captures the mood. As for the sound effects, the swift slashing of a sword, the burning of monster flesh, the strike of a lightning bolt, all very nicely captured with the PlayStation's superior sound engine.
The game is definitely worth its status as a classic. It's an excellent game that any RPG fan should play, and is a great entry-level RPG for those wishing to explore the genre, though several minor problems mar its chances to meet perfection.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/08/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/07/97)
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