Review by ulillillia

"A must have for any gamer!"

Final Fantasy 7 (FF7) is a gorgeous RPG with a superior story, excellent game play, and very few flaws. It starts out not so decent, but once you get past the first 8% of the game, it gets really good. The following highlights each aspect of the game by category (credits are weights - the more, the stronger the effect it has on the overall rating).

Game play (9.3/10; 5 credits):

FF7's game play is basically split into 4 parts: navigation and exploration, menus, battle, and other.

Navigation and exploration (8.5/10)
FF7's navigation consists of 2 separate elements - fields and the overworld. Fields (7/10) use a series of prerendered scenes. While the prerendered scenes provide a nice graphical boost, they can cause problems when it comes to using the "growing" and "shrinking" of objects to determine their distances, since the prerendered scenes don't move, aside from simply scrolling, in tact, across the screen. In the rare case it's hard to see or find exits and pathways, or climbable areas, the game provides a neat system that reveals where these exits and ladders are, making it much easier to navigate. I prefer to keep this active at all times, from game start to game end. There are a few times where the prerendered scenes become rendered. Instead of 30 fps for the frame rate, it drops to about 10 or 12, of which, for FF7, isn't a problem as it doesn't hinder game play or control to any noticeable degree. The one main thing I dislike about the field maps is that you always have to hold X in order to run as walking is extremely slow, and there isn't an option to keep running constantly active. Aside from one small area (if you're after an optional, low-usefulness treasure chest and don't want to take HP damage), there is no need to walk and running will always work fine. Another thing I don't like about fields is the fact you can only save at save points and they're often quite far apart from each other. Thus, if you have sudden chores to do, you'll either have to backtrack to the last save point quickly (if at all possible), rush to the next one, or lose any unsaved progress (especially bad if you've spent a few hours leveling up and cannot back track). Fields, however, have a lot of treasures and items lying around, in the form of bags, boxes, and even in plain form and are the only way to get some of the game's materia.

The overworld (10/10) is truly in 3D and nothing is prerendered. This is my favorite part of the game for an assortment of reasons. One of them is that you can easily judge distances and see where things are, except enemies (with one single exception). The overworld is easy to navigate, and you'll always be running which helps make things go faster. There are an assortment of vehicles present such as a car (buggy as it's known) and an airship. Controlling these is very easy. The best part of the overworld is that you can save at any time you want.

Menus (10/10)
FF7's menus are very well-designed and easy to use. You'll be using them a lot, from equipping spheres called materia (of which provide commands (like "steal"), magic (like "cure" or "ice"), and various other bonuses (like "HP plus")), equipping weapons and armor, using items, checking status, saving your game, and various other things. The cursor is a hand with the pointer finger used to point to the current selection. There's also a lot of degree in customizability as well, far more than most any other Final Fantasy game I've played (except Final Fantasy Tactics which is about tied).

Battle (8.5/10)
FF7's battle system uses ATB, like the previous installments since FF4 do. Basically, you have to wait until a character's ATB gauge is completed filled before a menu pops up. The menu has various battle commands like "attack", "magic", and "item", among many others, of which can be added via materia. There are a total of 13 or so possible commands that any one character can have, though there are two hidden ones that makes a character defend themselves (raising defense) or swap between the front and back rows.

In the front row, physical attacks with short-range weapons like swords and rods deal major damage, but the character often receives more damage. In the back row, short-range weapons do half as much damage, but the character often takes half the damage. Long range attacks like magic and guns deal the same amount of damage regardless of the row. I find this an awesome feature as it adds greatly to the realism of a battle.

There are only 2 things I don't like about the game's battle system. The first and the biggest is are the damage limits. You won't encounter it until near the end of the game, but when you do, it'll start to get annoying. I could easily have a character deal 17,000 damage near the end of the game (after maxing stats out, including level; based on regular physical attacks - limit breaks can make this even 50,000 or higher), but I find it very annoying that I can't do more than 9999. I also wished I could get more than 9999 HP and 999 MP. By having a character lined with mastered HP plus materia (each boosting max HP by 50%), I could easily get 50,000 HP or 5000 MP, but I'm stuck with only 9999 HP and 999 MP at best (or, with one materia, 999 HP and 9999 MP). I'm not much of a magic user though so the MP limit doesn't bother me much. It's mostly esuna (which removes status effects) and cure (which restores HP) that I use, occasionally attack spells (like ice and fire, though only to eliminate large groups of enemies quickly, for leveling up quickly), and very rarely anything else.

The second thing is the ATB system. The ATB system has a weak point at the fundamental level that hurts battles (of which this weak point is not present in FF4 and FF5). Since only one character or enemy can perform an action at a time, all others have to wait until the action is completed, and they're done in order. This almost causes ATB to be turn-based. Even with maxed dexterity, I'm unable to make 7 actions before the enemy does because of the ATB system having the enemy's ATB charge up while my character's near-instant ATB is stuck waiting for effects to complete, which gets more troublesome with spells. By cutting the battle speed down to the minimum, you can make the most out of it, but, unless your dexterity is very high, you'll have to wait a long time, several seconds, before you can act as the ATB gauge charges up very slowly. A high battle speed causes enemies to almost always go first, but the battle, regardless of dexterity, will almost be purely turn-based, in the same order they started with. Wait mode instead of active helps thwart this fundamental weak point.

Battles are rendered in 3D, but the scenes are overly simple and lacking detail. They're also run at 15 fps, always, so animation seems a bit choppy and it doesn't appear to be animated that well as the individual frames can be made out quite well (16 fps is the lowest frame rate for apparent constant motion for the average individual (I can see the individual frames at 30 fps)). Menus, however, run at 30 fps so at least the frame rate doesn't cause control problems in this regard.

The best part about FF7's battle system is that of the limit breaks. As a character takes HP damage, their "limit" gauge will fill up gradually. When it gets full, a considerably more powerful skill can be used which makes the 9999 damage limit even more annoying. The limit break system allows you to choose between up to 4 levels per each of 9 characters (each with their own unique skill). Higher limit levels mean a character will have to wait longer before their limit gauge is full, but the limit skills are much more powerful and often tend to strike numerous times, a way to override the 9999 damage limit.

The next best part is that they're also quick. Enemies just fade away upon being defeated which helps make leveling up go faster, much faster.

The third best part is the fact I can get extreme stats well beyond what any enemy would have. It takes a while to gather all the "sources" needed to do so, but it's worth the effort.

Other (9.5/10)
There are several other fun things to do in FF7. My favorite is chocobo breeding. This is done by going out into the wilderness with a particular materia equipped and searching for them and catching them. Once caught, you can either keep or release it. If kept, you can race the chocobos and earn prizes. You even breed "super chocobos", special ones with special skills. The one thing I don't like about chocobo racing is when you have a fast chocobo, one so fast that it leaves the competition in the dust. What's the problem? You have to have a lot of patience as you wait for at least one of the other chocobos to cross the finish line, which, for the fastest possible chocobo for the long course (there's also a short one that's 55% as long), means having to wait over a minute, well over a minute. In that time, I could've won another race already! I wished that the game designers had a time-acceleration feature present so that, upon finishing a race, time flows 30 times faster or so, resuming normal time when one of the other chocobos gets to within 2 seconds or so of the finish line.

The second favorite part is the apparent lack of a maximum gil limit. Gil is the game's currency, used to buy equipment (weapons and armor), items, materia, or recover HP and MP at an inn. I've had 1.4 billion gil. Yes, that's billion, not million. No other FF game that I've played even gets to 9-figure limits, let alone going strong past 10 figures. Despite countless hundreds of hours at playing FF7, I have yet to see the limit. I suspect that it's either 2.15 or 4.3 billion, given 32-bit integers.

The third favorite part is the gold saucer, a huge theme-park-like area. It's complete with the chocobo racing stuff, but it also has a video arcade (the basketball game is a favorite, along with the submarine battle ones, available upon completing certain parts of the game's story), a haunted hotel, a roller coaster where you shoot things to score points, a scenic joy ride, a battle arena (where you fight various battle setups alone and get faced with various handicaps like poison, frog, preventing the use of magic, special commands, or items, lost physical attack power, and many others), and various other elements.

The load times are very reasonable, quite fast actually. This helps with improving game play. You rarely have to wait more than 2 seconds for something to load (and this is with the PS1 system).

Story (9/10; 3 credits):

FF7's story is the best I've seen, period. It has the best story over all movies, books, and other video games I've seen, read, or played. It starts with a group of rebels going against a corporation called "Shin-ra", of which has an evil nature. Eventually, a strange and powerful, long-haired man named Sephiroth comes into the scene, the game's primary antagonist. The story is filled with strange twists and bizarre events. The only down side to the story is the beginning part. I find it a quite boring. Once you get past the Wall Town event, the story gets much better, though there are a few other boring spots afterwards, but they're short (much shorter) and few and far between.

Graphics (10/10; 3 credits):

FF7's graphics are amazing for the time the game was made. The prerendered scenes look surprisingly realistic, almost PS2 quality. However, since they're prerendered, you don't experience the "growing" and "shrinking" of objects with changing distance, making it difficult to judge distances (see game play).

The overworld, however, uses standard 3D rendering. There are two parts to the overworld that makes it especially good which adds to the overworld being my favorite part of the game. The first is that is simply gorgeous. The textures are very vivid and very well-done. The water is especially nice-looking. The second is a special effect. This special effect has distant objects appear lower, giving the sense that the world is truly a sphere. This is easily noticeable with mountains, but all objects are affected. The only thing that seems to be lacking is fog - you often see objects abruptly disappearing, mainly just mountains though.

Sound (9/10; 2 credits):

FF7's audio is good, though the music seems to be a bit weak. The chocobo farm and chocobo race themes are the best tunes in the game, the latter especially. The others aren't bad though and they suit the setting/atmosphere very well. The sound effects are well done and are among the best in the Final Fantasy series.

Replay (10/10; 2 credits):

When FF7's story, side quests, graphics, and game play (outside the fields) are combined, FF7 is a game that makes you want to crave for more. Although I wished the damage limit wasn't present, but the chocobo racing and the fact you can make your party richer than rich makes FF7 a game I'd easily want to play again. I've already played it 4 times from start to finish since I wrote this review and I'm even considering a fifth play, another 130 hours. Normally, it won't take anywhere near that long, but I'm a heavy level grinder and I love the fact you can reach level 99 in reasonable time only about 1/3 of the way through the game. In the 4 times I've played FF7, I've never been to disk 2 without someone on level 99.... As a consequence, I can't say with certainty as to how difficult FF7 is, but I'd suspect it'd be more around the "easy-medium" difficulty.

Conclusion (9.4/10)

FF7 is excellent game, one of the best. Combined with a superior story, gorgeous graphics and numerous, often addicting, side quests, FF7 is the kind of game a gamer would easily want to spend their hard-earned money on. I actually wished they'd make a full remake of this game, using PS2 or PS3-era graphics though keeping much of the same game play elements (minus the damage limit and max HP limit though.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/16/10

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

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