Review by Stinger31383

"Mediocrity in a game several will call "best ever""

''The greatest game ever!!!'' or, ''The worst game ever!!!'' These are the two comments you'll get when asking if a person likes or dislikes Final Fantasy VII. The battle raged over this game alone is worse than for any other game anyone can mention. The question is, which side, if any, is correct?

Better yet, what makes this game special anyway?

FFVII itself is a pretty old game, becoming legendary on the PSX. Undoubtedly it was one of the first, if not THE first, RPGs to actually engross such a giant audience. The reasons are clear: fresh new graphics, great looking characters, a brand new system on the market straying from old console technology, and ENDLESS commercials (I'll even go as far as to say that FFVII had the most commercials I had seen for any game, ever).

The game revolves around Cloud, a mercenary fighting temporarily for Avalanche. Their enemy is Shinra, a giant conglomerate basically bent on gaining power. However, enemies and targets change very quickly, and we soon realize that the ''enemy'' ends up being Sephiroth, a legendary swordsman. Along with his companions and others they pick up along the way, Cloud and his party search out for Sephiroth, his agenda, his goals, and attempt to stop him before he takes over the world.

With that in mind, on with the review.

Sound and Music (7/10) - Sound itself isn't that big of a deal in the game. It's there, you hear it when openning doors or going up to chocobos. Music, however, is very important in an RPG, but only comes off here as just mediocre. With the exception of one or two very excellent themes, the rest of the score is not very memorable at all. Yet, the music does fit the mood of the game when appropriate. Wutai's theme has the ''Asian'' feel with the flute; Cloud and Tifa have their own love theme, as well as Aeris; and of course, Sephiroth's theme and One Winged Angel. Still, there's also several themes used repeatedly in the game, and often much of it is recycled through the entire game.

Graphics (9/10) - Ok, play the game now and it's not going to blow you away, but when the game first came out, the graphics were top notch. The game is one of the first to show off 3D power to the gaming world. In a nut shell, the graphics were great, and though they are outdated, anyone can still go back, watch a scene, and get into the game through the visuals. Character designs were great, with the creation of much more ''realistic'' people in the game unilke the cartoonishly-drawn ones in previous FF games. Backgrounds and atmosphere in the game is just incredible, even by today's standards. Towns range from the dreary to the extremely bright to even the calm and serene. But there's one thing in this section that really stands out: the FMVs. The short movies are excellently rendered, and truly push on the story thorugh smooth movements, vibrant colors, and just very memorable scenes.

The biggest problem is the character designes when walking about. People are basically 3D objects with faces placed on their angular faces and spheres for hands. However, with these shortcomings the graphics are still impressive for such an old game.

Story (5/10) - This is where the game starts to do poorly. Here's a couple truths about the story in FFVII.
1. The story is not very original (especially in terms of specific parts parts).
2. The story has so many huge plot holes, I can drive a Ford Economizer through them.
3. The story is not especially good.

I have heard of people loving this game so much because of the ''gripping story,'' how the plot moved them, how the story was just the best they have ever seen. To these people, I have to say this: wake up and read a book.

For all its worth, the game ends up being this: man wants to have incredible power and (I assume) wants to take over earth, and a bunch of people try stopping him. That's it, nothing more, nothing less. For all the complexity presented at the start, for all the great suspense building up, the only thing the audience realizes is that simple first sentence. Is there anything wrong with that? Definitely no, this is the premise of so many games, but it still is an incredibly effective structure. The problem is that there's so much unexplained stuff in the middle, about Cloud and Aeris in general, about who they're really fighting, about events of the past unclarified, about actions taken by certain characters, about even the ending, that in the end of the game you're either awe struck or just wondering, ''what the heck just happened?''

What makes the story complicated is the lack of explanations presented. In fact, nobody can make much assumptions about why things happened, and even the ending's up in the air at this point. Why are you going after Sephiroth in the first place? Is Sephiroth even alive? In fact, people have been making THEORIES about happenings in this game. This isn't Hamlet where you're left to wonder if Hamlet really is crazy of just acting, this is a game where the plot writers just did a really crappy job explaining anything, and in the end made such a simple solution that they didn't bother explaining that either.

Which is not to say all of it is bad. The beginning of the game presents the story in a very good way. We assume that the questions will be answered, and we wonder what the story will turn to next. It's just that once in the middle, that drive is gone and all that is left is, ''how did it come to this?''

Which comes to the sad conclusion that the story, for all its worth, just is mediocre at best. And for an RPG, where story is about half of the entire gameplay, it hurts the game a lot.

Gameplay (7/10) - First, the good things. The materia system is an excellent and ingenious system. Players essentially mix and match, creating different combinations. You can basically assign certain characters certain roles in your party just by the materia put on the characters. The other plus is the introduction of limit breaks. It's incredible seeing Omnislash and then realizing you just did about 10,000 hp of damage. In no other RPG has that magnitude of attack ever been seen, and it gives it an even more fantastic look on the game.

Now for the bad things. No character really seems ''different'' from the other. There's no special abilities of each character, or special strengths. Nobody acted as the healer or the fighter or the black magic user after I played the game. Everyone had a load of materia, used it when they needed, and just attacked the crap out of someone most of the time. Strategy needed is very little, just level up your characters, buy the best weapons, and hit the attack button. The ''strategy'' more had to do with the strength of your equipment over anything else.

In fact, the only way you can tell the difference of the characters were by the graphics, the different weapons used by each, sometimes the armor/accessories used by each, and the level each character was in. Statistics didn't even matter; I could put in Tifa or Cid in the my party, and if I was blindfolded I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Also the game is very easy. Three characters in level 55 is usually sufficient enough to beat the last boss, though the two Weapons will need higher stats to be beaten.

These two also lead to another negative side: not much strategy is needed. I never died in the game, mostly because eventually, especially from the middle to the end of the game, I just hit the ''fight'' button 97% of the time and Cure whenever I needed someone to be healed. So even though you have have a very good magic system, with the exception of things suchs as 4x cut, long range materia, etc., the extent you'll actually NEED those spells is very limited.

Fun Factor (8/10) and Conclusion - In the end, take away FFVII's graphics and the name, and you get a very mediocre game. A very good game can survive even with just its gameplay, while an RPG needs both a story and gameplay. FFVII drops severely in one section and does just ''alright'' on the other. In fact, I'm going to go as far and say that the only real saving grace for this game is graphics...

and fun factor. Yes, pay little attention to the story, and you'll still think of this game as fun. I did. The game keeps you doing things, and though much of it is just wandering to move the plot on, the game is still very playable. Minigames alone are numerous and will keep you busy if you tire of the regular game. All in all though, it was fun, using your incredible power to attack helpless folk, getting new materia, looking for unneccessary combinations to make your life a little easier in an not-very-difficult game.

So in the end, the verdict is that the game is just ''ok.'' Yes, extremely anti-climactic, but coming from a guy who loves playing games and has played SEVERAL games of all genres, this one just ended up being in the middle. Mechancially, there are several pitfalls. Music, though decent, does not have many memorable tracks with the exception of a couple well-done themes. Gameplay is also just ''alright,'' mostly because of the ease of the game and the real lack of statistical differences between the characters. Story, however, does take a pounding, and the shortcomings of the plot, with the lack of originality and clarity, as well as just the story not being very good from the middle on, really hurts the game. What does save it somewhat from being completely bad is the graphics and the fun-factor. The game has some really well-done scenes, and the game keeps you engrossed for the most part, though, in all honesty, I've only been able to play it through 2 or 3 times, and after trying again, would stop after the first 30 min.

In the end, FFVII is just another game, only with a lot of advertising, some nice eye candy, and a famous name behind it. It may not be the worst game there, but it surely isn't the best either.

Sound/Music: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Story: 5/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Fun Factor: 8/10
Final Score: 7/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/02/04

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