Review by DullahansXMark
"Final Fantasy VII: Sweeter words can't be spoken"
Final Fantasy VII. This one game single-handedly sent Square from "beating out its competitors" to "just plain wiping the floor with them." Granted, they certainly had quite a few REALLY good games under their belt even before the dawn of this game's golden days, such as the sixth entry of the same series, and epics such as Chrono Trigger, but this game truly shone and got people's attentions.
Now, I'm sure that at this point, you're gonna be thinking that I'm just another one of those FF7 fanboys. Well, I'm not. In case you didn't notice, I gave the game a 9, not a full 10, because while this game IS a masterpiece, it unfortunately is a tad rough around the edges. In a few ways (particularly the graphics), this game has not aged very well, and that can be a bit off-setting for the new generation of gamers that doesn't quite appreciate classics such as this. However, I must stress that this game has so many redeeming qualities that it is, in the end, quite easy to look past these otherwise-glaring flaws and see this masterpiece for what it truly is.
Right here I would say to just go on the PSN and download the game right NOW for the measly $10 that it is. However, since I don't think that that tactic would actually work, I'll elaborate on just what makes this game one of the greatest classics to ever grace video game history.
Yeah, I'm not even going to be fair here. Outside of battles, the graphics are terrible, and inside of battles they're only a little better. If you're someone who plays games because of their amazing graphics, then I suggest you just turn away from this title now, because you're probably going to go into cardiac arrest if you don't. I love this game to death, and I know that for the time that these graphics were the best possible, but... still.
To be fair, you don't really play Final Fantasy games for their riveting gameplay. If you actually do, then I apologize. However, while the gameplay hasn't made a significant change from the past entries, it can actually still be quite entertaining... during boss phases, anyway. Those can get pretty heavily strategic, so you gotta stay on your toes and adapt to an enemy's attack pattern (the first boss, while easy, teaches this pretty clearly). When you're not battling, you're running around to find your next destination to continue the plot, and finding treasures hidden throughout the rather diverse environments.
The diversity of places you can go in this world is actually rather impressive. Sometimes it's one of those typical RPG environments, but sometimes you actually do go into some rather bizarre areas. There's a particularly glaring example of this, but as it would contain major plot spoilers to say, I won't. I'm sure anyone who's played knows what I'm talking about though.
There's quite a lot of secret stuff in this game. Not quite so much in terms of location like past entries, but in the way you get to them. It's always really exciting to find something that you probably didn't even think you could get your hands on so early. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find these without guides, but luckily Absolute Steve wrote the greatest guide ever on this game, so if you use that, you shouldn't have any problems.
As for battles, it's pretty much what you'd expect from an RPG from this era. Your human/whatever teammates take turns beating up on cute little creatures that frolic in the woods and stuff. You can select weapon-based attacks, or equip magical items known as Materia to learn additional skills that you can use any time, so long as you have the MP to do so, such as burn foes with Fire, freeze them with Ice, or zap them with Bolt. If that sounds too simple, how does summoning the almighty Knights of the Round Table themselves to each take a turn driving their superpowered weapons through the foe at maximum damage per swing sound? Thought so.
It should be noted that this game has a pretty simple learning curve. Whenever something really complicated starts happening, rarely is it ever actually required to beat the game, so don't worry if you just can't seem to get something right.
As with all of the notable Final Fantasies, the story is really where the games make themselves different from everything else. While it certainly is a love-it-or-hate-it type of thing just like anything else, the plot of this game does tend to get a lot of rather ignorant accusations thrown at it. I'll delve into that in the next paragraph, then continue the review. If you don't care for a history lesson, skip this next paragraph.
To elitists, the plot of the game is this: Spiky-Haired Emo Badass with a BFS tries to stop a Long-Haired Pretty Boy with a BFS of his own from destroying the world. Does this sound like something you want to play? Well, if you're an avid fan of JRPG's, then you probably already have. People call the characters and story "generic" and "unoriginal", but what they don't seem to realize is that this is the very game that POPULARIZED such things. These types of things have been done before in varying degrees, but Final Fantasy VII was successful to the point that, in order for other companies to keep up with this game's amazing sales, they had to emulate it to varying degrees. So, yeah, it may seem unoriginal to you now, but back in the day the plotline of this game was actually considered pretty much revolutionary... and in all honesty, it still is. Sure, you can shake the story down to its basics to make it look bad, but that can be done with anything. In short: This game was made back in 1997. There's a reason that it's a little outdated, it's almost 15 years old.
You start the game out as an ex-SOLDIER named Cloud, working for the AVALANCHE terrorist group to blow up an electric reactor that processes energy known as Mako. According to the group's leader, Mako is an energy that results from using a force known as the Lifestream, an energy of its own that heals the planet and keeps it running efficiently. In other words, these Mako Reactors are killing the planet, and AVALANCHE is here to save the day. However, things don't stay quite so simple: following a run-in with the owner of the reactors, Shinra Electric Power Company, Cloud witnesses the ghost of his past, Sephiroth, murder President Shinra, and embarks on a hunt to find Sephiroth so he can finish his worst enemy off once and for all. Even beyond that point, things take a turn for what some call epic, and others call convoluted. I call it both, and I love it that way.
For the most part, the character cast is great. There are holes though, but I'm not one to nitpick.
Most of the cast is actually pretty well-fleshed out. Cloud in particular, but given that this game is all about finding out about this guy, that's to be expected. Barret doesn't get the most backstory ever, but for what he has, he's actually a pretty likeable character, especially later in the story when he's not trying to act tough and burly. Tifa stays pretty static, but she's fine, just not the most exciting ever. Aeris is a pretty interesting character, too, but I won't go into too much detail on that, for new players' sake. The rest of the cast (save for Vincent, who I'll get into in just a moment) gets some of their own fleshing as well. Vincent, however, is barely touched upon. Throughout the entire game, this optional character has only a handful of things known about him. Yeah, he is optional, but so is Yuffie, and she gets sidequests and everything. He DOES get his own game in Dirge of Cerberus, but that was released 8 entire years later, and since Dirge of Cerberus is not Final Fantasy VII (related, but not the same game -.-), I don't quite count that. The non-playable cast, of course, play their parts very well; Sephiroth is nice and sinister, as well as clear in intentions and motives, Rufus is... well, he's Rufus, nuff said, etc.
Final Score: 9/10
The game isn't perfect. I didn't go into any detail before on this, but the game can be incredibly buggy--if you deliberately do so. The game plays fine as long as you don't actually TRY and make it otherwise. And that's not the only thing: the translation is a tad subpar by today's standards ("This guy are sick" indeed), and the graphics are just abysmal. But, if a powerful narrative, driving story, rich characters, pulse-pounding suspense, and a portal to the classic era are what you want, then look no further than Final Fantasy VII, one of the few games to gain the unanimous title of "best game of all time". And for a good reason, too.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/23/12
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/07/97)
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