Review by NeoTS

Reviewed: 07/23/04

A Great Game That Deserves All the Hype

Ah, yes. Another review for Final Fantasy 7. I'm sure that over the past few years, you've read plenty of reviews, praising and bashing, of this game, and are at the point where you couldn't possibly care less about materia or the spikey-haired hero. You might even ask me why I'm writing a review for it at so late a juncture. The series has moved well on into new territories, but still, the shadow of Final Fantasy 7 hangs over every single Final Fantasy game there is, and always will. FF7 and I have a fickle relationship. The first few times I attempted to play this game, I couldn't stand it, due to the little things here or there. But at last, I have completed it, and have come out with this lesson: it's never too late to experience greatness. And despite a few rough edges, Final Fantasy 7 is just that. Great.

The game begins with a daring raid on an industrial reactor, used to pump Mako out of the ground, which is essentially the life blood of the planet. Mako is used to power the massive city of Midgar, controlled by Shinra, a corporation bent on finding the Promised Land. This land, if it even exists at all, is said to be a mako-rich. So while it does power cities, it also drains the planet of its very life. The planet is dying, and a group of "terrorists", AVALANCHE, realizes this. And so they raid the reactor, which ends up getting them into more trouble than they can handle. Their leader is Cloud Strife, a mercenary who formerly fought with Shinra. As they get closer and closer to taking down Shinra, the main headquarters is attacked by Sephiroth, a being who can only be described as god-like. I do not doubt that you've heard of him before.

It seems Sephiroth is after the Promised Land as well, but he absolutely must not find it. And so Cloud's group sets off after him, across a dangerous world full of danks caves, sprawling deserts and huge oceans. With him goes the founder of AVALANCHE, Barret, the man with a gun grafted to his arm, and Tifa, his childhood friend. On their journey, they encounter many others who join their quest, such as RED XIII, a former test subject, but a proud and noble warrior; Cid, the hard-boiled sky captain who has only one dream: to reach space; Cait Sith, a radio-controlled cat (Don't ask me); and, of course, Aeris, the innocent flower girl from the slums of Midgar who just may hold the secrets to the planet. I do not doubt that you've heard of her either.

Final Fantasy 7 is an RPG that employs an active time battle meter like many of the other games in the series. You wait for a little bar to fill up, and when it does, you choose a command for that character, whether it be Attack, Magic, Summon, Item and so on. The game supplies dozens of these, so the player will never be at a loss. There is something for every situation, and no matter how hard that boss is, you can always find a weakness, or level up a bit more and simply smash him. Attacking with magic (Or defending), uses up MP, or Magic Power, which must be replenished just as your health would. Summoning great creatures to aid you in your fights also drains MP. You find that the combat is slow at first, but as you level up, and gain support magic like Haste, you'll find that fighting is a very enjoyable experience. I found it a joy to just run around the world map, getting into those (in)famous random encounters, just to see my EXP. build up at the end of each fight. Limit breaks are easily my favorite part of the combat, due to the fact that they are just flat out awesome. As a character takes damage, another gauge builds up, and when it is full, a powerful attack can be unleashed. These are great because they can end a fight that was about to go ill, and if you time them right, you can open up a boss fight with one of these vicious attacks.

Final Fantasy 8 has Junctioning, Final Fantasy X had the Sphere Grid, and Final Fantasy 7 has materia. It isn't the best system, but it is incredibly deep and very easy to understand. You can find or buy materia, which is essentially the magic spells, and a good variety of the commands. You can then equip this materia to your character's weapons and armor to give them access to more commands. Materia is a double-edged sword, as the game states, since most magic will deplete your health. So if you equip a lot of powerful materia, your health and other stats won't be as high. You can have all of the powerful spells, but you'll still be taking a risk going into battle with low health. It's up to the player to decide how to play the game. If you enjoy using all the spells, then equip them all and watch as your characters turn into black mages. Smart players will try to divide the materia between characters, creating a balanced party. For example, give each character one black magic spell, designate someone as the white mage, one for summoning and so on. It's a lot of fun to mess around with the materia, creating some truly interesting combinations. I used Cloud as my warrior, but he was also in charge of defense. Which means if an enemy is hitting particularly hard, he would have to put up a Barrier before attacking.

Getting around the world map can be done in a variety of ways, the most primitive being walking. You can also use a chocobo (which can even be bred to enter certain caves and run up rivers), drive a buggy, take to the skies in the Highwind airship, and even dive beneath the waves in a submarine. It's a lot more variety than FF8 had. My only complaint about the gameplay is the mini-games. It's true that you don't have to participate in most of them, but there are a few that make me wonder why they were even placed in the game. Such as one that has you performing CPR to save the life of a little girl. It isn't fun, it's just slow and boring, and takes away from telling a story. The only games I really enjoyed were the bike racing game and the battle mini-game. The rest are just a waste of time. Also, the game can be rather short, as the main bulk of the story is covered on the first two discs. I finished in about 30 hours, and I completed several of the sidequests. It isn't bad that the game is short, as an event in the story kind of makes it necessary for a short game.

The graphics are a mixed bag. The CG is quite good, even by the standards of later Playstation games. And Square has their subtle little way off seamlessly slipping CG into the background while your characters are still in the foreground. This awesome technique is what makes the graphics so revolutionary for the time, and it was this technique that was perfected in Final Fantasy 8. The world map is detailed, to a certain extent. Their are bridges, raging rivers and lots of hidden caves. For such an early Playstation game, such a world must have seemed huge, and to tell the truth, it is still quite large. Unless you bring Wind Waker into the picture, it's still a massive game world. The characters are animated in a very cartoonish sort of way, with big blocky arms and bodies. Their models during combat are very different, and even more different during the CG scenes. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but if cartoonish characters turn you off, this may be harder to get into than you think. The magic attacks and summons are very cool, and really show off the prowess of the in-game engine. The combat screen is my only complaint, as seams are extremely visible, and looks more like a painting than anything. Still, none of that will matter when you see Sephiroth in the flames. You'll know what I mean if you don't already know.

The music, as is tradition in an FF game, is phenomenal. The themes are usually quite sad or creepy sounding, but there are the triumphant tones as well. Final Fantasy 7 has the best battle music for them all, very dramatic and epic. Each area has a music that suits it perfectly. The Shinra theme sounds like something out of Star Wars, and Aeris' theme music is very beautiful and elegant, a nod to the very character. The music for the boss battles is bizarre, like a disco-tune, but very exciting and fun. You won't hear the very best music until the end of the game though. The sound effects are cool, from Cloud slashing an enemy with his Buster Sword to Bahamut roaring before unleashing his attack. Sadly, there are no voices in this game, but each character has relatively enough personality though where you can make up your own.

I'm not sure why I was so turned off the first few times I tried this game, because it's so great. It set the line for all RPG's from the day it was released to this day, and it is still called the greatest game ever by many. I'm not sure I could agree with this, as later iterations of Final Fantasy only improved upon what FF7 set up. The epic battle of Cloud vs. Sephiroth should not be missed by any gamer, whether or not you like RPG's or not. It brought millions of casual gamers into the world of RPG's, and it just might do the same for you. If you've played Final Fantasy X, and want to try some more, then this game is for you. Maybe you've been playing, FFXI, and want something a little less complicated, then this game is for you. Maybe you want a game that will make you laugh, make you cry and make you jump for joy when you watch a certain boss crumple in defeat. If that's what you want, you might as well start at the 'beginning.'

You want Final Fantasy VII.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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