Review by Myzery_Clown

"Huddle around the fireplace, children. It's time to hear a story."

Some things are simply so hard to describe. Whether it be something that dazzles so much that it simply can’t be put into words, or likewise with something that causes one to wretch at it so profusely that describing it is a much too great of pain than one deserves. It works for both sides of the spectrum. Final Fantasy VII is one of those things, and it is on the side of the spectrum that dazzles. Squaresoft had a lot of hype for Final Fantasy VII. It is questionably the most anticipated product to ever hit the video gaming market. However, FFVII is more importantly one of those few products that actually exceeds their extremely high expectations that originally were made for them. Where some have viewed the watching eye of hype as a preparation for disappointment, Final Fantasy VII is something that defeated the evil eye of hype and emerged as one of the greatest video games of all time.

And there is one real reason that Final Fantasy VII achieves these expectations so brilliantly. It is not the beautiful visuals or the awesome musical score that fills its lengthy and pleasurable journey with an almost godly status among the most elite of games. It is something that is just as possible on the ancient Nintendo Entertainment System as was possible on the Playstation. This is the simple yet so complex art of storytelling.

Shinra, a corporation out for their own profitable gains, is, in short, depriving the planet of its energy. A rebel association dubbed Avalanche, lead by Barrett Wallace, is out to stop this sadistic act of selfishness and greed. Barrett hires a mercenary by the name of Cloud Strife, and it is Cloud and his companions that FFVII’s story revolves around. Yet Cloud must be given his own mention in the praise of Square’s unmatched ability to weave a story that grips its subjects in a relentless grasp, refusing to relinquish even the slightest of its death hold until the final credits have faded from sight. And this is simply because of Cloud. Cloud, the character the game in the end will truly be based off of. And while the Shinra organization will expand into something much more psychological and drastic, it will always be the inner mind games played by Cloud, his accomplices, and the game’s primary villain that set FFVII’s tale apart from the standard run of the mill role players.

And yet, the story, while the basic muscle behind FFVII’s strength, is by no means Final Fantasy VII’s only aspect that simply glows with an aura of pure supremacy. And while the story proves to be more than enough to warrant a playthrough, or even two or three, through Final Fantasy VII, it is the game mechanics that make it what it was expected to be. Materia, the basis of the planet’s energy, is the main source of FFVII’s gameplay, as very much of the game revolves around it. Materia is everything, from the substance from which magic is derived, to the factor that will lure chocobos near you to allow easier capture.

Materia is the solidified form of that energy that Shinra is sucking from the planet, causing the planet’s flame to dwindle and die by the day. And despite being so much of FFVII in both gameplay and story, is very easily handled and organized. Throughout the game, you will, of course, obtain new weapons and armor, all of which have slots where materia may be inserted. Equip materia in said slots, and the character that is using that piece of equipment can utilize the materia. Some equipment will even have two slots for materia linked together, which can cause materia to be grouped for even more helpful tactics. For example, if Cloud has two joined slots holding the ice materia and the elemental materia in his sword, Cloud will not only be able to attack with ice based magic, but he can also have all of his physical attacks deal ice elemental damage alongside them. In the same way, a character could link a curative materia with a materia known as an all materia, and this would cause the curative magic to spread to all party members as opposed to just one determined character.

And so, the simplistic treatment of materia is somehow manipulated into a complex and enjoyable system. This makes dungeon crawling and pounding through enemy after enemy more inviting than nearly any other game in the RPG genre, but Square wouldn’t stop with that. Minigames are abound in Final Fantasy VII, all having the joys of simplicity wrapped in them, and yet being, much like the core game mechanics, very pleasing and a delight to partake in. Everything from soaring down a steep slope on a snowboard to breeding and racing wild chocobos is something that not only causes a break in a storyline that by no means needs it. They also, as they’re intended to do, provide just that much more ecstasy in making your way through the world of Final Fantasy VII. Fascinating.

The hype machine more often than not doesn’t misinterpret visuals. While a lot of titles are released with much anticipation to have horrible soundtracks, stories, and game concepts, everyone knew from the start that Final Fantasy VII’s visuals would be the bar for future games to attempt to vault over for quite a long time after its release. After all, this is Squaresoft. This is Final Fantasy. And Squaresoft only puts out the best in its games.

The most fascinating thing about FFVII from a visual outtake is probably the ironic fashion in which the character designs are well done. While the bodies are disproportioned horribly, with deformities abound on every surface, they somehow have a finalization about them that seems right. There’s a way that they look so appropriate, despite being almost a mockery of the real human body. Perhaps they can be best thought of as what a human race far into the future would be like, much in the same way that today’s humans would look extremely odd to the CroMagnons and Neanderthals of ancient times far gone.

Enemy designs are also excellent, although they are not excellent do to ironic exactness in their making. These enemy designs are simply beautiful, no matter how important. The smallest annoyance of a creature, like the creepers in a cave far below Cosmo Canyon are gorgeous to behold in the same way the game’s intimidating bosses are. This unquestionable artistry is carried over into the rest of the battle graphics. All of the spell animations are well done, from the cold appearance of blades of ice striking down opponents to the visual feast of the almighty Ultima. Yet these are topped once again by FFVII’s summon animations. Easily the best of their time, graphical perfections such as Bahamut filling the screen with his devastating Megaflare are still considered attractive in the world of stunning light effects and pinpoint environmental visuals.

Environmental effects, in fact, are quite nice themselves. They are there to carry the story though more than to amaze. The world is in obvious peril from the first glance, as Midger, the game’s opening metropolis, is forced to be encased in a dome do to the content of the air outside. You can tell the planet is in below average shape, and this adds to the game’s basic storyline as well as provide some good looking eye candy. However, when called for, things like the chilling radiance of a snow covered cliff are masterfully designed, as are the murky depths of the aforementioned underground terrain.

FMV’s… What a touchy subject, no? Final Fantasy VII does exactly what should be done with FMV’s. Let’s get the obvious things set straight first. These are simply glorious full motion videos. However, it is the extreme care with which they are used that makes them so wonderful. Whereas some games will have you watching FMV after FMV, forcing the game into a more movie like atmosphere than that of an excellent video game, Final Fantasy VII only calls upon the FMV when it would be best used. During key points of the party’s journey, FMV’s will be used. But they are not used every time you enter a new surrounding or confront a boss. This causes their impact to be redoubled when their dramatic presence fills your television.

Equally as dramatic is the breathtaking musical score that Final fantasy VII hosts. From the opening theme of Final Fantasy, not a track is extremely bad. There are those though that just sit atop the rest, and a lot of these are viewed as some of the best compositions a video game has ever pleased our ears with. Themes ranging from the gentle theme for Aeris to the sound of instruments slamming with the aggression and hatred that can only accompany the final battle are all renowned as nothing short of musically awe inspiring. The more underappreciated tunes are also indefinably fantastic as well. The adventurous track used for the world map sends adrenalin surging through your body. Even the song used for the Gold Saucer, Final Fantasy VII’s amusement park of sorts, shouldn’t be tampered with in the smallest of ways.

Sound affects, while not as pleasing to the auditory sense as the beautiful musical selections, also keep Final Fantasy VII’s perfection in tact. The spell sounds are the prodigies in this case, from the deep crackle of fire to the sizzling electricity that is accompanying the lightning spells. Aside from these though, there’s not a whole lot worth mentioning in FFVII’s sound effects department. It does its job well, and nothing in it can detract from the game… No menu beeps are annoying, no sounds of battle will grate your nerves, but the cold slash of Cloud’s sword across enemy flesh, along with all the other sounds, aren’t revolutionary in the same way the rest of the game is.

And revolutionary is just the word to describe it. Final Fantasy VII can’t be said to be a perfect game. No game is perfect. However, it is possibly the closest any video game has come to that godlike state. The amazing ability of Square to tell one of the most intriguing and fascinating stories ever told leads the troops of top of the line character development, superb game mechanics, and then unmatched aesthetics into battle. And Final Fantasy VII is victorious in that battle. A revolution is Final Fantasy VII, and a revolution you should play. It is the closest a game has come to complete and untarnished greatness. After playing through its amazing quest, I doubt you’ll wish to argue.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/29/02, Updated 07/29/02

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