Review by Fraghappy

"An breathtaking RPG that is simply amazing...."

Final Fantasy VII is one of those rare RPG’s that you come across that are simply amazing. Being one of the first RPG’s on the Playstation, it was the game that really set the standards, not only for future Final Fantasy games, but for all RPG’s to come. While previous RPG’s were usually programmed in a 2D “tile-based” system, Final Fantasy VII was very innovative, being the first game to very effectively produce a fully interactive 3D 3rd-person environment. Even now, with Final Fantasy XI around the corner, many elements from this game stayed throughout the series, setting the standards for the new generation of RPG’s.

The game centers around the spikey-headed hero, Cloud Strife. Living in a world ruled by the corrupt company, Shinra, he has recently been dismissed from their elite group of fighters, SOLDIER. Now, he has become a mercenary, willing to do a job for anyone with the money. That is how he winded up assisting AVALANCE, a small group of rebels trying to overthrow the oppressing Shinra. Based in Midgar, a huge city full of pollution, where the majority of the population lives in poverty in the slums, AVALANCE sets out to destroy one of the eight Mako reactors, which is only the beginning of a long fight against Shinra, and as the game progresses, a fight for much, much more. The storyline twists and turns, as it plays with our emotions as the game continues, leaving moments of joy, sadness, and apprehension trapped within our minds. The story is one that will definitely leave you thinking, and is a great discussion topic among friends.

The battle system of Final Fantasy VII is very versatile, revolving around mysterious orbs known as “Materia.” These can be equipped in slots in your weapons and armor, and add various abilities to your characters, and come in several different colors. Green, the most common, is used for ordinary magic spells. The main character, Cloud, begins with two of these, a Bolt and an Ice Materia. The second color, red, is used for the powerful Summon spells, which allow you to call forth the power of a great creature in order to do amazing amounts of damage to your foes. However, red Materia are very hard to find. Another color is yellow, used for secondary commands. With yellow Materia, you can use abilities such as Steal, Throw, and Manipulate. The fourth color is blue, which are Support Materia. These must be used in “linked slots” on your armor and weapons, and add special effects to the paired Materia. Such effects include allowing you to cast a spell on all enemies/allies, making a spell absorb HP/MP, or adding an element to your weapon. The final color is purple, or Independent Materia. These Materia add special bonuses to your character, such as adding additional HP/MP, making your character counterattack enemy attacks, or making them have long ranged attacks. By using these five colors of Materia, you can completely customize your characters abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. All Materia slowly gain “AP” (ability points) over time. After gaining a certain number of AP, a Materia will then be triggered to level up. Higher level Materia have more skills, or have a greater bonus on your character. For instance, when you buy a “Restore” Materia, the only ability it will give you is Cure, but once it gains 2,500 AP, you unlock the ability Cure2. This adds endless hours of enjoyable gameplay, due to the fact that many of the more powerful abilities take hours of AP gaining.

Another major feature of the battle system is the Limit Breaks. Over time, as your characters get injured, their “Limit Meter” rises. When it becomes full, the character than can use his or her Limit Break, a super-powered attack, capable of doing immense amounts of damage. Towards the beginning, your characters will have weaker limits, such as Cloud’s “Braver” or Barret’s “Big Shot.” Eventually, as you defeat more enemies, and use your existing Limits, your characters will gain more and more Limits, until they get ones capable of doing more damage than most attacks, such as Cloud’s “Omnislash,” which on average, is the second most powerful attack in the game (second only to Knights of the Round, the best summon in the game.) Almost all of the characters have 7 Limit Breaks to unlock, the exceptions being Cait Sith (who has 2) and Vincent (who has 4.) A major element of the game is the final, 7th limit, which can only be learned by obtaining the character’s “Limit Manual.” These are scattered about the game, and you must complete various sidequests to retrieve them.

The music in the game is one of its strongest points. The soundtrack was composed and performed by the one and only Nobuo Uematsu. From the overhappy “Gold Saucer Theme,” to the creepy “Jenova Theme”, and the soft and sweet “Aeris’ Theme,” the soundtrack contains hours of amazing music from all different styles and genres. Nobuo has been at Squaresoft from the start, writing music for the first generation of games, and has continued being the Head Music Composer for the company, continuing to write much of the music for the more recent games such as Final Fantasy X. With such great music, you would expect great sound effects to go with it. However, unfortunately it is not true. Even though they aren’t a real detraction from the game, a lot of the sound effects are very basic, and reflect those that you would expect on an older game. Some of them, such as the sound that the shower makes would be unrecognizable if they were not put into the context of the game.

The graphics, even though now very dated, were very ground-breaking when the game was first released. As mentioned in the overview, this was the first Final Fantasy game built on a 3D engine, and was really the first RPG to effectively use one. The graphics in the battles are actually fairly well-done also. It is easy to tell how much of the game’s budget went into making the spectacular summon animations, the breathtaking displays put on with the limit breaks, and the various spell designs. Aside from the actual gameplay graphics, there are about two hours total of FMV computer-generated scenes. While some of the more unimportant ones were done fairly quickly, there are some more important scenes that have simply stunning and beautiful CG animation scenes. These include the ending and a special event on the end of the first disc (I don’t want to give anything away.) To sum it all up, the graphics for the game were amazing at the time of release, and really don’t detract from the game in the age where such graphics are dwarfed by the power of newer systems such as the Playstation 2.

A major part of the game is all of the subquests that you can go on to unlock secret characters, find rare Materia, and gain special items. Probably the biggest is the Chocobo sidequest. Near the beginning of the game, you will have to catch your own Chocobo and ride it across a swamp, and around the middle of Disc 1 you will have to race on in the Gold Saucer. This is just a taste of what you can do later in the game. Once you get to Disc 2, you can spend hours catching chocobos, racing them up to perfection, and then breeding them. Legend says that there were green, blue, black, and even gold chocobos once. Can you be the one to bring back the long-extinct gold chocobo? There are also many optional areas to explore, including a crashed plane underwater (containing some of the hardest monsters of the game,) an ancient forest that no human has been in for years, and several strange caves rumoured to hold rare Materia. Finally, the last and most challenging sidequest is to beat the gargantuan underwater creature, Emerald Weapon, and the colossal lumbering Ruby Weapon.

Replay Value for this game is incredible. Having had this game for 5 years now, I have played it at least 5 times, enjoying it just the same, if not more, each time. It takes at least 70 hours to do everything in the game, if not more. This is definitely not a game you should rent, as you will find that there is no way you can finish it in the rental period, and you will most likely want to play it again sometime in the future.

Overall, I would have to say that Final Fantasy VII is one of the best RPG’s of all time. A timeless classic, it has stayed as many peoples favorites, even in a new generation of systems, systems with graphics chips producing graphics 100’s of times more realistic. Perhaps it is the storyline that drags gamers in, or the well-developed gameplay options. Whatever it is, it has helped to make Final Fantasy VII a game that has stayed with everyone who has played it, and it is something that all gamers should definitely check out.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/09/03, Updated 03/09/03

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