Review by Andy007

"Despite its release in 1997, our files are still incomplete for one of the greatest RPGs ever made"

Out of the blue, Squaresoft cut ties with Nintendo in 1997 and agreed to work with Sony for future projects. Their next gaming project must have been innovative; seeing that they disbanded a close business partnership. This next game would be a total surprise – possibly a revolution. It would dramatically affect the sales of Playstation and Nintendo 64 – two newly competing systems in 1997. What Square revealed on the Playstation was a masterpiece; a game that changed our standards for a good game. Final Fantasy 7 has greatly influenced the world of video games spiritually and physically – a game that everyone has been destined to play.

The Final Fantasy VII adventure sets off in Midgar, a heavily polluted industrial nation. A struggle between a powerful industrial corporation and a rebel group of planet protectors ensues. The AVALANCHE, led by Barret Wallace, struggles to save the planet from the toxic Mako Reactors – the unseen destruction of the Midgar people and the environment. These rebels resort to terrorism to stop the ShinRa; their missions consist of raids on Mako Reactors – setting the bomb and running. Though their act may save the world from industrial wastes, the Shinra beguiles the people into believing that the AVALANCHE are the evil-doers. Nothing stands in the way of the Shinra, a power-hungry authoritarian organization. Because of the production of Mako energy, people are deceived to trust the Shinra as a power who is helping through their hardships. Society struggles under ignorance and oppression - manipulated to view the AVALANCHE’s acts to destroy Mako reactors as nefarious. Barret and AVALANCHE hire the help of Cloud Strife, an ex-SOLDIER member. Cloud, the main protagonist, does his job only to get paid – indifferent about the condition of the world and its people. However, fate brings Cloud to new adventures that will force him to leave behind his mercenary-ways. With the sudden return of Sephiroth – thought to be dead – Cloud must pursue Sephiroth, whose intentions are unknown. Now, Cloud and his friends must confront Sephiroth and continue a stand against the Shinra corporation.

The battle system is somewhat similar to some of the older Final Fantasies. Turns rely on a speed gauge; once it fills up, the character earns his/her turn. Time spells can affect how fast the speed gauge fills up. Attacks, magic, summons, and items can be used during battle. Remember the “desperation attacks” from Final Fantasy VI? Now, they’ve become more defined. As your characters take more damage, their limit meter will fill up. Once full, a character gets the option to use a limit break – a unique attack or spell that does tons of damage or significantly benefits your party. The materia system is nothing you’ve seen before, however. This unique magic system requires you to place crystals of magic into sockets of your weapon and armor. In battle, what you’ve socketed becomes available as summons, magic, or commands. There’s even support materias to combine with your main materias, giving you battle bonuses as you cast a spell or perform an attack. The materia system is easily learned. Pairing up materia as combos is also possible – this enhances your attacks in battle.

The story of this game is touching and extensively made. Throughout your journey, the story line gradually progresses at a pace that will keep in touch with Cloud and everyone else. The way the story line diverts its attention away from the Shinra to Sephiroth is done very well. You’ll find that Sephiroth is the most destructive and reckless villain, yet the coolest villain of any game you’ve played. Sephiroth, a fallen legend, returns to take back one of the Shinra’s experimental possessions. But as Sephiroth gains a great part in the story line, the influence of the Shinra weakens. It seems as if Sephiroth becomes a godly figure while the Shinra deforms into a insignificant pesky group of death-wishers. Character development and focus somewhat stagnates after Disc 1. Instead, we must focus on fending off Shinra troops underwater, going into space, and finishing a million side quests (the pain of chocobo breeding!). There is a tremendous focus on Sephiroth’s ambition to overtake the world instead. The Shinra just seems to disappear and loses its almighty image. Disc 2 also possesses a lot of heart. Some scenes reveal Cloud’s past and motives, nearly completing his entire character. By the end of the game, you’ll find your efforts rewarding. You’ll develop sympathy or affection for every character. The long ending is terrific, and still manages to leave you with mind-boggling questions at the end of the game – answered by your personal connections to the game. Unlike other games, Final Fantasy VII gives a personal connection to its player.

One common misconception is that this game revolves around Midgar. This is not the case. Though it seems so, the game actually evolves early in the first disc. Roughly only 1/10 of the game takes place in Midgar. In fact, there is a world map, and it’s a great big world out there. There are plenty of side quests to commit yourself to before the final hours of the game. The frequently talked about “Knights of The Round” summon will take a lot of your time to obtain (ever heard of chocobo breeding?). And it’s definitely rewarding in battle. Fortunately, side quests contain rewards that will make the last bosses easier; you can still survive through the game without doing any side quests – it’s just troublesome to go through the last area and struggle against the last bosses.

Though this game starts out slower and more linear than its predecessors do, roaming around the junkyard of Midgar is plenty of fun. After a few reactor raids and a conflict with Shinra, Cloud and co. will escape to the world map, where there’s an abundance of adventures. Enemy encounters are often easy battles for a well-built party. The game progressively becomes more interesting and entertaining. The whole world can not be completely explored until late into the game. Therefore, most of the game you’ll be limited to going to required areas to progress through the story line.

Reminisce on old Playstation graphics. The character models in Final Fantasy VII are simple polygons – dully colored. Yes, the graphics may not be impressive, but at least it offers a little of the Playstation’s capabilities. At least there is some three-dimensional depth in it – something you can’t pull out from SNES games. The backdrops and environments in this game are more detailed than the characters. With the availability of the game in disc form, cg cut scenes get the chance to exist. This game contains over an hour’s worth of cut scenes – movies at certain parts of the game. With cut scenes, the characters’ appearances become enhanced at important parts of the game. It’s interesting that the graphics don’t significantly affect gameplay. And it shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment for this game.

The music of this game is without a doubt a masterpiece within itself. Nobuo Uematsu did a marvelous job for all the character themes and music. Many of the themes – Aeris’s theme, Tifa’s theme, the main theme – have become popular. The melodic themes greatly influence your view of a character, or how the developers want you to perceive them. The moods of the music are very distinguished. Music adds to the heart of this game, a substance connected to the story line – making us “feel” at turning points in the game.

The difficulty level of this game solely depends on your understanding of materia. Materia grants its user with all kinds of bonuses, spells, attacks, commands, and magic. An extensive understanding of materia allows your characters to be stronger than they’re supposed to be. Linking materias and creating combos is especially helpful in battle. You can take out enemies faster with certain combos, absorb HP or MP, or add more attacks to every turn. Of course, materia requires leveling. They must be equipped on single or greater growth weapons and armor. After every battle, AP is gained – the Experience points of your materia. Materia get the chance to level up as well; at higher levels stronger versions or different versions of a spell become available. Summons can be summoned more frequently battle when they level. When materias attain the highest level (master), a new crystal of that same materia is born at level 1. Those who have no clue what they’re doing will find out as soon as the first hours of the game. There’s plenty of tutorials to teach you about the game.

My only complaint about this game is its easy difficulty. That can be favorable to the first time players, but for the people who love the game so much and are going for second runs, they find no challenge whatsoever. Even Emerald and Ruby Weapon – supposedly much harder than the last boss - are easy enemies for veterans. Even first time players find this game no so hard. For the ambitious, they might look for a harder game. But if you are unwilling to depart from this game and want a big challenge, try a “no materia/initial equipment/whatsoever” file for the heck of it. Now the game becomes extremely difficult. The rest of us however, like to try our hardest to attain perfect files. Perfect files are really satisfying.

Veterans of this game – those who beat it once or twice – now find themselves motivated to make “perfect” and legitimate files. Why would they spend countless hours perfecting a game they’ve already beaten? Simple. Satisfaction; everyone wants to be a FF7 master. Everyone wants the right to say that they’ve obtained Master Materias, beat the game under handicaps, defeated the behemoth American creatures, maxed out the stats of their characters, and conquered the game with low levels. But importantly, the plot is so complex and aspects of it are left questionable at the end of the game. Because of this, people spend their time playing the game over to analyze the characters and story. They need to find evidence to assume answers to the mysterious plot holes of this game. Square has definitely left us bewildered and pondering. I don’t mean plot holes as an incomplete story line; I’m referring to plot holes as branches of small sections of the story line intentionally left unfulfilled. This game becomes a huge puzzle and a part of us. We assume what we like to believe, or assume from the biases we hold towards the characters.

This game is definitely replaying – especially if you implement handicaps for yourself like “No Materia.” Also, the story of Final Fantasy VII cannot be understood completely the first time through. It requires a second run. The elements of the game require a second game to fulfil. This game is enjoyable enough for you to play a second, or perhaps third time to obtain all the things you missed in the previous game. What makes it entertaining? Two words: Story line.

Fortunately, copies of Final Fantasy VII still exist on shelves (although in the forms of Greatest Hits) for a cheap price: $19.99. Missing this game? Go bring it back home and play through it again. You’ll never regret getting Final Fantasy VII. It is a revolution within the world of RPGs and will change the way you perceive most games. After completing the game, you’ll realize how hearty and flawless it is. Final Fantasy VII is certainly a masterpiece. Most would agree that IT IS or ONE OF the best games they’ve ever played. And it doesn’t need top-notch graphics to retain greatness.

Hopefully Final Fantasy 7-2 is in the works. A sequel would enlarge the already popular Final Fantasy VII world. It’d also keep Square fans happy.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 09/13/03

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