Review by TheUgliestMan

Reviewed: 07/30/10

A Review of an Overated "Classic"

Final Fantasy VII: A review of an overrated “Classic.”

By TheUgliestMan

Final Fantasy VII was actually a decent game to play when I was a child in my mid to late teens. I had just picked up a copy at a toy store one day and was so excited to play the game that many gamers on the internet had dubbed the “Greatest Game Ever Made.” As a kid, I may have thought along those lines, but looking back, I don’t really think that I understood this game at all. I liked the action and explosions and big swords because I was deeply into anime at the time, which I also thought was the best thing ever, but that was all I needed from the game. I can’t argue with kids if they want a gaming experience like that, but the fact is that even people who are MY age (22) and older place this game on a pedestal made of gold (maybe even platinum) without even thinking about it in greater depth and defend it with remarks like “because it’s Final Fantasy VII” and “it revolutionized gaming.” I’m sorry, but if those are your only reasons for liking this game then YOU must either like it because it’s popular, or because “it’s Final Fantasy” and is therefore ALWAYS good. This game is completely overrated and liked by millions for incredibly lousy and unjustifiable reasons. I have gone over this game countless times with close associates in many of our conversations, but talking about it just brings up more plot holes and reasons to dislike this “SquareSoft Masterpiece.” I got tired of just talking about it and decided to write my own thoughts on Final Fantasy VII in reviewer format. I will state my opinions about the game in the following paragraphs. You do not have to like my opinions and are entitled to your own, so please have an open mind and understand that taste is in the mouth of the beholder.

The CG cut scenes can actually be enjoyable to watch at times and really show off the processing power of the Playstation. However, the use of pre-rendered backgrounds in combination with HORRIBLE 3D character models just doesn’t look right. I sometimes wonder what they were thinking when they decided that Cloud and the gang needed to have very skinny biceps and forearms that would make Popeye cringe. Even worse is that while playing, the backgrounds and the character models would clash in color so much that I would have to close my eyes in pain; I literally got a headache from playing Final Fantasy VII! The battle graphics and animations, on the other hand, actually look very good in comparison. Cloud and his party look very detailed for early PSone graphics, but that doesn’t excuse the utterly lazy and poor enemy designs that you constantly face; possibly the weirdest enemy that I fought was a missile launching doll-house the size of Cloud’s sword. My biggest complaint about the graphics is that this THREE DISC game has you staring at the over world graphics about 65% of the time. I’m sorry, but that just seems lazy on Square’s part. People also say that these same graphics were revolutionary for its time, but I fail to see how. For a 3 disc game of this magnitude, it just seems like a very lazily constructed game. Final Fantasy VIII, though it was certainly inferior in terms of storytelling, had way better graphics than VII. That was 1999, two years after the release of FFVII. Effort was obviously not poured into the overall look of this game.

Bottom Line: The game does not look good with its headache inducing pre-rendered backgrounds and lazily constructed character models.

4/10 Below Average

Game Play:
This is actually where the game supposedly shines the most and is more reminiscent of early marks in the franchise. As one would expect, it plays like a Final Fantasy game. You have all of your magic and summons and attacking options, which are fine, but the fights are the ONLY playable aspects of the game. The over world movements are stale, and often require you to press the buttons more than once in order for Cloud to actually move in the direction you want him to go or to simply run. I know that I complained about the graphics, but the controls also tend to clash with the pre-rendered backgrounds, causing Cloud to get stuck at times, which can be rage inducing because as soon as you get unstuck you immediately are thrown into a random encounter. Speaking of random encounters, did I mention that the constant random encounters with enemies on maps range from non-existent to almost ALL THE TIME!? No? Well… it’s not fun to witness, neither are the incredibly ridiculous mini-games that FFVII throws at you. These pointless and often repetitive side-games range from “dropping barrels on enemies to save Aeris from being captured” to “building robot armies to save a phoenix from being murdered by enemy bots.” How does it hold up…Poorly! These mini-games are often pointless and only serve to distract the gamer from where the game shines in other departments, like the combat.

Bottom Line: With often broken controls, a mediocre battle system, and the over-use of mini-games as padding, it’s amazing how people can keep coming back to this game.

5/10 Mediocre

I don’t really need to touch upon the music too much as I believe that music is a subjective medium, that is, everyone is going to have different tastes. However, if I were to rate the feelings and beats emanating from the soundtrack, I would have to say that the music is bland and repetitive. Music ranges from atmospheric (at times), like in the Shinra building and Nibelheim, to just plain annoying, like the ship during the scene where your party has to disguise themselves as sailors (kinky). The audio sounds like a bunch of beeps and boops and is very irritating to the ears during certain points in game. There are some memorable songs but they tend to be dwarfed by whatever instrument was used to play them.

6/10Slightly Above Average

Characters and Plot:
Many of the characters in Final Fantasy VII have moved on to become icons in the video game world and are cherished by cosplayers, gamers, and even angry Youtube commenters. Despite being popular however, the characters really aren’t as well thought out and developed as people praise them for. Many of characters really don’t have too much relevance to the overall plot either, like Vincent Valentine or Yuffie, even Cid Highwind. The main character, who the plot supposedly revolves around, is Cloud Strife, a mercenary and former ex-Soldier who joins a terrorist organization, called AVALANCHE, for a little money. The AVALANCHE is lead by Barret Wallace, a Mr. T looking man with a chain gun attached to one of his arms. Tifa Lockhart is also an associate of Barret’s and is a childhood friend of Cloud’s. Aeris (or is it now Aerith?) Gainsborough is a flower girl whom Cloud meets and “falls in love with” (supposedly) during the course of the story. The other members of Cloud’s party include Cid Highwind, a pilot and astronaut, Vincent Valentine, a member of Shinra’s Turks, a mossad-type of intelligence agency, Yuffie, a young konoichi (female ninja), and Red XIII, a dog-like creature who has the intelligence of humans and can speak their language. The main villain is a man named Sephiroth, a silver haired guy with a long black jacket and a nodachi (long sword) who seeks to drop a giant meteor on the planet for reasons that are barely established.

While all of this might be acceptable for a “normal” and “clichéd” RPG, the fact that fans consider this “The Best Game EVAR” just begs the question of “What makes these people relate to anyone in this game?” It could be that people want to escape from reality by subconsciously pretending to be one of the characters in the story, most likely Cloud and Sephiroth. I suppose that’s alright, but these characters really aren’t life-like for such a game that tries to put more emphasis on a complex plot rather than the traditional and clichéd Final Fantasy plots of games in the past. Cloud is the central character that goes through personality changes rather rapidly throughout the course of the story. Now, this would, in most cases, mean that Cloud would have to have experienced events or characters in the story that altered his views of himself and the world he lives in, which the game implies, but what comes out of it is a complex mess of convoluted plot points (and holes) that really don’t derive any real sort of motivation from him. You will also find this same problem with most of the other characters, mostly because thinking deeply into their own stories brings up more questions about who and what they are, or even why they have certain things attached to them that really don’t fit their social class or character. Why does Barret, for instance, have to pay his terrorist organization for a cause that they all will die for and where does he get funding for it if he is so dirt poor? How does Tifa have memories of Cloud as a child when Cloud is implied to not be who the players think he is? Why does Cloud care so much for Aeris, who really doesn’t present the player with any reason to like her as a character and who sends often very mixed signals to our hero (?), instead of Tifa, who is more than willing to lend him her support? Questions like these make the characters seem two-dimensional, and their development simply stems from the overuse of ellipses and dialogue that barely makes any sense. The dialogue is very boring to read by the way, and gamers will often wonder what any of the random conversations have to do with the characters or the plot. The answer is that they usually don’t. A lot of it seems very forced and characters really don’t seem very real at all, not adding any sort of dimension to their motivations or their personalities. This same blandness and lack of dimension doesn’t help the plot along either.

The plot is essentially an overly-complex mix of “stop the bad guy from destroying the planet” and “just who in the hell is the main character?” It’s not a very good plot despite its praise and adoration by millions of FF fans. Sure there is allegory and a message involved about not polluting (or destroying) the planet in the name of fascist totalitarian corporations, but that doesn’t even last. Instead, the focus switches from the “good guys trying to save the planet” to the “good guys chasing after another vague bad guy whose motivations are also debatable.” Sephiroth is THE bad guy of Final Fantasy VII, but his reasons for doing what he does don’t add up. One minute he wants to be with his mother, and next thing you know he wants to become a demi-god for reasons that the game barely even brings up in its dialogue. Fans can debate the plot all they want but Square just did a lazy job at story telling. Instead of throwing in TONS of plot elements that are never resolved and calling the game deep, Squaresoft should have thrown away all of the useless padding and comic relief, which is forced and makes the game seem surreal, and actually focused on how ALL of the characters relate to their world.

Another thing to mention is the narrative and the overall message that this game tries to impose. For one thing, the dialogue is one of this game’s major shortcomings. It is poorly written and translated to the point where it just doesn’t make any sense. Characters usually respond with more than enough ellipsis to play connect-the-dots with, and many of the major plot points that they try to convey contradict many of the other themes introduced throughout the drawn out and overly vague narrative. For example, Shinra (or is it THE Shinra?) can somehow compress the spirit of the planet into a type of useable energy to power cities and machinery with. This makes sense until one of the other characters explains that the lifestream is made of the souls of every living being, which also makes sense to an extent, and these souls always return to the planet. The contradiction lies in the anti-industrialist and pro-environmental message that this game tries to present. Characters imply that spiritual energy is an intangible and metaphysical concept, yet Cloud and his gang are utilizing the same product of the planet, known as materia, in order to defeat the evil corporations who are also using spiritual energy for different ends. So if Shinra is using the dead souls of the planet, and that is considered bad, than do the souls just disappear? If that is the case, than wouldn’t this major plot point in which the entire story turns around contradict every single concept and message imposed upon the audience? I’m sorry if people think otherwise, but Square really doesn’t explain any of this. This is an example of incredibly lazy story-telling with plot holes abound, yet people still call the narrative “gripping.” Once you really get down to it, Final Fantasy VII’s story is poorly written and muddled in overly complex plot points that are never expanded upon. This game is simply unfinished, and players will not be satisfied with the final outcome.

Bottom Line: What Square thought was deep for this game turns out to be the complete opposite and its silly use of padding and drawn out dialogue with no real narrative drive makes the overall plot and characters of Final Fantasy VII utterly two-dimensional and bland. It is simply an unfinished mess of a game.

Characters = 3/10Plot = 3/10

If you are diehard Final Fantasy fan seeking to add a game to his/her collection of Square merchandise, than this game might be for you. If you are a true game lover who prefers content and deep story telling along with 3-dimensional characters that you can identify with and gameplay that is actually appetizing, than you are better off picking up something else to fill your RPG cravings, because Final Fantasy VII is overrated for all of the wrong reasons. It may have introduced gamers into the RPG genre, but time has not treated it well at all.

Final Score = 4/10 Below Average

Maybe it’s time to loosen the nostalgia goggles a bit folks, they might be on a little too tight.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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

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