Review by UltimaterializerX
"Final Fantasy 7 is not overrated. Shut up."
Way back in the year 1997, the anticipation for the sequel to Final Fantasy 6 was looming in the wings as if a gigantic storm were about to rip the landscape apart. A system called the Sony Playstation was gearing to wage a war with the folks over at Nintendo, and to do it they needed a legendary title to give themselves the edge. That title turned out to be Final Fantasy 7, and Nintendo hasn't been able to fully recover ever since. Between Final Fantasy 7 beginning the mainstream RPG craze, the mass of sports titles that help Electronic Arts become the richest gaming publisher in the world, or the massive library of titles that literally have something for everyone, it makes sense that Sony is currently dominating the gaming world with ownership of well over half of the gaming market. It can also be argued that games like Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot assisted in fueling Sony's dominance, but those games have faded over time. Whenever a new Final Fantasy title gets released, no matter how bad the game could potentially be, it's almost a guarantee that the game will still sell. If you don't believe me, go look at how well Final Fantasy X-2 did despite being one of the worst games ever. Final Fantasy, despite being a series that is bashed to hell by a ton of people, is a series that sells. Squaresoft sadly knows this fact and has put out some rather bad games of late, but this is all recent. The whole purpose of this is that Final Fantasy 7 was arguably the biggest catalyst for Sony to take over the market, and it is arguably the game among the group of successful Sony titles with the most staying power.
How did it work out so well? Anticipation and deliverance. Final Fantasy 7 was one of the most hyped games of all time, and it did not disappoint. Whether it was the rarely-before-seen FMV sequences, a storyline that grabs hold of its player and refuses to let him go until the very end, or the unique characters, this game truly had everything the public wanted and then some. And while the SNES era of RPGs arguably produced the best RPGs for the genre, Final Fantasy 7 began the RPG craze in gaming. Game are no longer about taking a character and killing everything that dares step in your way. In practically every game made now, characters need actual character. It's all about spectacle. Otherwise you simply have a game with a character running around mindlessly killing things, and who wants that? Everyone wants reasons for their characters acting the way they do, and I personally think that you can blame Final Fantasy 7 for this. RPGs are a mainstream genre at the moment, and though they are shunned on most sites outside of GameFAQs, the fact remains that they're still mainstream. A lot of people don't like this fact, so Final Fantasy 7 gets blamed and bashed constantly for doing so. Another thing that masses of people cannot stand about Final Fantasy 7 is its fans. Final Fantasy 7's fanbase has gained a reputation of praising the game beyond all limits despite the game having many faults within its system, and there are a mass of other people who let these fans hear about it constantly.
And that's where the difficulty in writing this review comes from. Separating Final Fantasy 7 the game from Final Fantasy 7 the fans is not easy to do, but we'll just review the game here. As such, we'll judge FF7 for what it is: One of the best games ever, even if a bit over-praised.
A pristine twilight hovers across the screen, with an erie mechanical whirring in the background. The face of a young girl appears amidst the green light, and the scene soon shifts to a sector in the slums. The young flower girl walks through the slums slowly, and the camera then pans out to reveal the city she lives in. The place is Midgar, where Mako energy and the Shinra are in complete control not over the city, but the world as we know it. Shinra has developed a method of harvesting the planet's own Mako to give everyone the power they need for their homes, as well as their basic lifestyle. The necessity for Mako has made Shinra the richest, most powerful corporation in the world.
But what would the most powerful corporation in the world be without enemies? Enter AVALANCHE, an elite spy force created for the sole purpose of taking Shinra down. In the beginning of the game, they are on a mission to blow up one of the eight reactors surrounding Midgar. As the camera continues to pan out and reveal the gigantic metropolis, the title of the game finally appears, to which you are then greeted with images of a train traveling at full speed through Midgar's railway system. The game finally settles on the train itself, which parks itself in front of the entrance to one of Midgar's Mako reactors. AVALANCHE comes pouring out, hell-bent on invading the property and blowing the reactor up.
You then meet a young mercenary who goes by the name of Cloud Strife. He is an arrogant former member of the elite Shinra military known as SOLDIER. Cloud was so good at the job that he was once a Soldier First Class. Before the game even begins, AVALANCHE hired Cloud to help them in their mission due to his past. What follows is a small chain of events in which the party travels down through the reactor to its core. Upon finally arriving to the section of the reactor where the bomb is to be placed, Cloud falls on the ground and begins hearing voices inside of his own head telling him not to move onward. These random occurrences that Cloud goes through happen all throughout the game, and serve to further illustrate the difficult past that Cloud has seemingly gone through. They look like seizures to the naked eye however, and Barret Wallace, leader of AVALANCHE, soon snaps Cloud back into reality. The bomb finally gets placed, and the team makes its heroic escape back to its hideout.
What follows is one of the better storylines that I have ever witnessed. A war was raged between AVALANCHE and the Shinra on that fateful night, and the events set into motion would be the catalyst for a myriad of storyline elements to come. The first part of the game is all about the ongoing battle between AVALANCHE, Shinra, and the debate of whether or not the planet's own Mako energy is necessary to fuel the world. There is a real-life element there as well, because there is an ongoing debate on whether or not the fossil fuels we all use are killing the planet. Final Fantasy 7 touches upon this very well. It also touches upon our beliefs that the government cannot be trusted. Throughout most of the game, Shinra is portrayed as a power-hungry unit who cares about nothing but itself and its own needs, which is the personification many people have in regards to their own governments.
Throughout the part of the game you spend in Midgar, the storyline is amazing. Characters and organizations are introduced, and many different conflicts are presented during the game's expositional phase of the story. Shinra winds up showing its true nature before you ever leave the city of Midgar, and the setup that goes on between Shinra and everything surrounding them is wonderful. Many of the characters that you are to control are also introduced while you are in Midgar, and are all given sufficient enough screen and story space to give them all a purpose in the game. Most Final Fantasy titles start off such that the beginning of the game is sub-par, whereas the rest of the game causes the story to truly pick the game's pace up. Final Fantasy 7 does the exact opposite. This game starts off like an absolute bullet, and really draws you in. But right after Sephiroth is introduced, the entire thing slows down.
Up to the point where Sephiroth is introduced, the game had a true war theme going on. Shinra was the unbeatable force that pushed the world around, while AVALANCHE was the resistance. Between that storyline, its effect on the characters and the people in the game, and its effect on the party itself, Final Fantasy 7 had the makings to be one of the single greatest storylines ever made. But near the end of the game's expositional phase, Sephiroth is finally introduced. The game then takes a dramatic shift from a war theme to a personal grudge Cloud has with Sephiroth. And while the entire story between Cloud and Sephiroth plays out wonderfully, what happened to everything else that was introduced? Once the party leaves Midgar, you hardly hear a word from Shinra anymore. They appear every now and then, but their role in the storyline virtually takes a back seat to Sephiroth once you leave Midgar. And once you do, the entire game becomes a hide and seek game of following Sephiroth around and trying to stop his actions. I felt that while the story between Cloud and Sephiroth was very well-done, everything else suffered because of it. The biggest example of which would be how the situation with Shinra ultimately ended. In my opinion, it was far too typical. And not only that, Sephiroth was the entire reason that the team reentered Midgar. If not for him, the team may very well have simply ignored the Shinra altogether. To me, that's just wrong considering how much of a role they had in the beginning stages of the game in the first place.
On the brighter side of things, the characters themselves have more character in this game than they do in most of the other games I've played. They are all given unique backgrounds and demeanors, and they are so varied that the characters themselves are worlds apart in characterization. This is a good thing, simply because this meant that we were past the age of characters simply being defined by the way they looked and the words they spoke. Now the characters had a unique way of walking, talking, acting, fighting, and of course interacting with one another. The looks are all still there, but the rest of the qualities that we had never seen before really add to how well the player gets attached to the characters themselves. Add in that there is a character in this game for every mood swing one could possibly possess, and you have a real hit with this game's cast.
The storyline, while somewhat lacking once you exit Midgar and ultimately the first disc, is still heads and shoulders above most other games. The biggest faults in this game come with the gameplay itself.
First and foremost, a large chunk of any RPG comes with its battle system. Final Fantasy 7's system was the first Final Fantasy to feature its battle system in three dimensions, but the fact of the matter is that the battle system itself is still the same thing seen in other titles. All you really need to do is throw your strongest attacks at the enemy and heal when necessary, which causes the game itself to be rather easy. The only battle that has ever given me any trouble at all is the Carry Armor, but aside from that, all you really need to do are equip your strongest Materia and let it go. You don't even need to worry about all of the combinations in the game, for the battles are easy enough without ever having to do so. The targeting system within battle is also rather flawed. It can be very difficult to target the character or enemy you're looking to, and even then you might target the wrong character on the screen. This will cause some people to have to press Select to bring up the help window, thus cutting a full inch off of the screen. This may not seem like a big deal, but the camera in battle like to move around to create more realism. With the select window up, damage that appears on the bottom of the screen is never seen. To counter all of this, you may want to have the help window and a fixed camera angle, which goes against the original idea of the three dimensional battle graphics in the first place.
Translation is another issue. Everyone knows these quotes by now:
"This guy are sick."
"Some guy in a black cloak goes walked east toward a grassy cape!"
These sort of mistranslations appear throughout the game. They are never anything particularly annoying, but they're still there and serve to take from the stigma of Final Fantasy 7. A game being billed as the best game of all time and having those sort of errors is never a good thing.
Lastly, there are the controls. They game is easy enough to play through, but certain parts, specifically the submarine, are a real headache. The sub itself has three different control systems for when you have the mini game, the above water controls, and the below water controls. The game is fairly easy other than that, unless of course you've played more recent titles and have gotten used to X and O doing the exact opposite of what they do in Final Fantasy 7. If you decide to switch the controls around, the Chocobo Ranch doesn't recognize the fact that you actually switched the controls and you must then switch them back before being able to do anything. It's a true pain in the rear.
It doesn't mean the gameplay is bad per se, just not as good as people remember. It's too easy even by JRPG standards, with some weird controlling.
The FMV scene was something that Final Fantasy 7 made famous. They are absolutely wonderful, and all of the pixels that appear within them run very smoothly together. But what of everything else? Graphically, I find the game to be somewhat lacking. Outside of the amazing battle and FMV graphics, the characters are nothing more than polygons slapped together in a very sloppy manner. The characters also have some issues blending in with their environment because of this, and the same problem is also on the world map. While flying around on the airship, I often encountered some of the polygons not blending in with everything else, and the result the the world map looked very glitchy at times. The game's graphics are good overall, but some parts simply look rushed and out of place.
Final Fantasy 7 has been one of my favorite soundtracks since I first played the game. It's my personal favorite, and I don't feel that one track is out of place. Every piece of music in the game fits the part of the game it appears in perfectly, and it serves to add to how good the game is overall.
When you first play this game, one of two things will happen. Either you will play this game for how good a game it is, or the negative stigma left by this game's reputation will have you not giving this game a fair chance before you even start. And while it may be hard to separate Final Fantasy 7 the game for Final Fantasy 7 the fans, it is a necessity in order to enjoy the game. That said, the game does have a couple of flaws, although they are easy to look past.
Overall, I feel that the game itself is absolutely amazing. It's just that some of the gameplay/graphical flaws paired with how predictable the game gets after the first disc leaves more to be desired once all is said and done. Once I was done with the game, the first thought that crossed my mind was 'That's it?'. For as good as this game is at the start, it does not finish nearly as strong. It's a great game and very deserving of all the praise it gets, but it's very very topheavy.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/05/04, Updated 09/27/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy VII (US, 09/07/97)
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