Review by RPGOverlord
"Not just the greatest Final Fantasy ever, nor the greatest RPG ever, but the best game ever..."
In September 1997, Final Fantasy VII was released in America, eight months after its Japanese counterpart. The world had never seen such a brilliant game, from its enthralling plot, amazing graphics, and unrivaled gameplay. It quickly became one of the PlayStation’s greatest hits.
Almost five years later, a 13-year old Nintendo fanatic (who was in love with RPGs, as paradoxical as it sounds), got bored the lack of titles for his GameCube. He borrowed his friends PlayStation, along with a copy of Final Fantasy VII, and he has never been the same since. For an entire summer, he did nothing but play FF7. When he had finished the game, the school year rolled around and he was given a new computer. He spent an entire week finding the perfect Final Fantasy VII desktop theme, screen saver, and even mouse pointer for it. That obsessive nut, I’m not sorry to say, is me. Final Fantasy VII changed this nerd’s life, and I’m about to tell you why.
For its time, the graphics of FF7 were simply breathtaking. No other game had ever done 3D so well. It had beautiful backgrounds and breathtaking FMVs. The game displayed reactors, ranches, mountains, and craters, and it was all done with perfect detail. There are realistic explosions and the summons look simply amazing. Many animations still leave me drooling, even after I’ve gotten used to the GameCube’s graphics. The super-deformed characters have their own charm, but they had one feature that always puzzled me; they didn’t have hands, but instead the featured big blocky things that more resembled hooves than anything. This wasn’t too distracting, but occasionally I would stop to wonder how Cloud could climb ladders or hold a sword without fingers. That is my only real problem with the graphics; the rest is amazing.
The best soundtrack in any video game. Period. I didn’t just download 16 (and counting) MP3s from FF7 onto my computer because I loved the game, but because I genuinely like the music. Each character has their own theme that perfectly emulates their personality. The music always seems to fit the occasion. When you’re in a relaxing spot like Costa del Sol, a nice tropical tune plays, but when you’re in a cave or crater, a foreboding theme keeps you on your toes. Probably the standouts of this soundtrack are Aeris’ Theme and “One Winged Angel”, the final battle theme, though every song is excellent. The musicians of Square did a helluva job. The sound affects aren’t bad at all either.
Simplistic control scheme, like most RPGs. Select button, cancel button, menu button. You can change the button assignments if you don’t like the default (like me), so this really isn’t a big deal. Having to hold down a button to run isn’t so bad once you get used to it, but sometimes it’s hard to angle yourself right to get onto ladders or stuff like that. Probably the only part of the game that doesn’t feature anything special, but fortunately it’s also the least important part in an RPG.
Oh boy, here goes:
In a town called Midgar, a company called Shinra rules all (these guys make Microsoft look like small commerce). Thanks to their seemingly endless supply of Mako energy, Shinra’s power reaches all across the Planet. They get the Mako by using reactors to suck it out of the ground. It can energize almost anything, such as cars, appliances, but most importantly, destructive magic.
A few years ago, Shinra’s elite militaristic group called SOLDIER, whose members are all treated with Mako to achieve superhuman strength, defeated Wutai in a huge war, thus ending all opposition towards Shinra. They were led by Sephiroth, who, though in his teens, was considered the greatest among the ranks of SOLDIER. However, five years ago, Sephiroth disappeared without a trace, but it scarcely matters.. Shinra has now seized total control. Midgar is only a bunch of little slums with a few Mako reactors, continually sucking away at the Planet’s life source.
In an effort to stop Shinra’s abuse, a terrorist sect known as AVALANCHE destroys the reactors in Midgar. A mercenary named Cloud Strife, a former member of SOLDIER, joins AVALANCHE, but soon finds himself in a conflict greater than him or even Shinra, one that he cannot turn away from.
If you play this game, and the gameplay somehow doesn’t hook you (which, trust me, it will) this storyline will get the job done. This could have made a great movie or even novel. It will take you across a wide range of emotions and back again.
The characters are incredibly well developed. There’s Cloud, easily the best main character of any Final Fantasy, who at first seems like a jerk. It is obvious that something in his past is haunting him, and once that’s unraveled, you’ll really be pulling for him. There’s Aeris, a gorgeous girl who for some reason is being tracked down by Shinra. Barret, the leader of AVALANCHE, is a brash, outspoken black man who seeks revenge against Shinra for whatever reason. Tifa, Cloud’s childhood friend, seems to have an ulterior motive for staying by his side, and it’s not just saving the world. Red XIII is a clever and wise creature from Cosmo Canyon, last of his species, captured by Shinra for experimentation. Yuffie is a material thief from Wutai, who would rather gain riches than save the world. Vincent is a former Turk (member of the Shinra mafia), who has a moody, show-no-emotion persona. There’s Cid, the bitter pilot who cusses WAY too much. Last is Cait Sith, who seems to be nothing but a fortune-telling mascot, but in actuality is much more.
Though this cast of characters seems rather cliché (main character, white magic user/love interest, loud guy, hot girl/other love interest, thief, dark shadowy person, and then animals and beasts), keep in mind that this was probably the first RPG to feature characters along those lines.
Final Fantasy VII also features some of the funniest scenes in any game (Don Corneo, he he…) and some of the saddest (those of you who have played the game know what I’m talking about). However, despite the simplified run-down I’ve given you so far, this plot is by no means uncomplicated. If you really want to understand what’s going on, you will be searching through the Plot Analysis FAQ trying to get a grip. This game is not for the dense.
A game wouldn’t be the best of all time if it didn’t have amazing gameplay, now would it? Final Fantasy VII, of course, excels in this area. The Final Fantasy battle system, in general, is fun, so this one’s no different.
The Materia system is the best since the Job system in FFV. Here’s how it works: there are little slots in your weapons and armor. In these slots you place round stones called Materia. Each Materia contains a special ability. There are five types of Materia: magic (green), summon (red), support (blue), and independent (purple). Now here’s the kicker: some of the slots are linked, and if you put two Materia in linked slots, they may affect each other. For example, say you have a Restore Materia equipped in one linked slot. Restore allows you to use the Cure magic. If you put an All Materia in the other linked slot, it will allow you to use Cure on all of your characters, rather than just one. You can level up Materia, sort of like you would a character (except it takes a lot longer). Leveling a Materia up could give you access to a more powerful or useful ability (leveling up Restore Materia once will give you Cure 2), or maybe you will just be able to use an ability more often It may sound simple, but there are a ton of combos, and you will spend a lot of time trying to find the best setup for each character.
The battles are fun and challenging, and the “dungeons” (though most of them really aren’t dungeons) are varied, each containing different “puzzles” (though they’re disguised so as not to look like puzzles) that will never get boring. There are interesting awesome bosses to fight, each requiring their own strategy. The normal game should take at least 40 hours, and the subquests will keep you occupied even longer, about 10-20 hours. Those willing to “perfect” the game will easily get up to the 99:59 limit at which the game stops counting. The best part is, you won’t even mind the total disappearance of your social life.
Well, after this game I’d say that the only thing left for Squaresoft to do to make every one of its employees qualified for sainthood is to come and develop exclusively for Nintendo. Since that’s not likely to happen, we’ll just have to say that they’re the best development house in the world and leave it at that. Final Fantasy VII is the greatest game ever created. My room is its shrine and its strategy guide is my bible, and it won’t be long until you can say the same.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/17/02, Updated 10/26/02
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