Review by Bleuet

"Final Fantasy VII: Seven Years Later"

Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997 by Square. Seven years have passed since then. This game introduced oodles of new players to the world of Role Playing Games (RPGs), and is considered to be the greatest game ever by many. So, what's Final Fantasy VII like? It's time to see what all the hype's about!

Opening in the city of Midgar, a gloomy place built on large metal plates, you find yourself in the shoes of a guy named Cloud Strife. Equipped with a buster sword, this spiky-haired male is the central character of the game. Cloud is one of the nine playable characters you get throughout the story. Let me mention that a couple of those nine characters are optional to completing the game and must be acquired through side quests.

Your party has an array of entrancing personalities. As previously said, there's Cloud-- an ex-member of an elite squad of soldiers. Aeris Gainsborough, a pretty flower girl. Tifa Lockheart, a hottie who packs a punch. And last but not least: Barret Wallace, a muscle man with a gun for a right arm. There are others, but I will not mention them lest I bore you with instruction manual information.

You'll find all the features associated with your typical RPG in this game. There's the random battles with monsters, leveling up your characters, side quests, magic, and the fun. What really stands out in this game however is it's story. Drawn into a world of intertwining plots spanning across continents, you realize just how complex the story is. Each party member has an extensive background and a purpose. Villages are bountiful and have meaning instead of being a means to an end. Some may be confused because the story has tons of characters and angles, so it's not always clear who's doing what and why. That's why I urge you to pay attention, you don't want to miss out on the best part. So you know what you're getting into, I'll lay out the beginning of the epic plot vaguely so as to avoid spoilers.

If you've ever looked at the game case for Final Fantasy VII, you have seen Cloud in all his glory pulling out the buster sword strapped to his back and looking like he's about to kick some @$$ on a giant robot. Well, at least that's what I think of when I view the cover. It turns out that the robot is not a robot at all, but the headquarters of an evil corporation called Shinra. Shinra is literally sucking the life out of the planet using machines called mako reactors. They suck out the mako and make materia, which they sell for lots o' gil. Destroying the world to make money generally isn't a good thing (unless it's you making the money, of course), so someone must put a stop to the corruption. That someone is AVALANCHE, a rebel group headed up by Barret. As you begin the game Cloud has just joined and AVALANCHE is on a mission to blow up a mako reactor. So there you go, this sliver of the game I compare to a match on the dark side of the moon. It's not much, but it's slightly better than no match at all. I use this analogy to point out that I haven't even scratched the surface of the packaging of this game. Three disks allow for a lot of story. No need to worry about spoilers, I gave you none. There are twists and new story arcs as you dive into the ocean of this game, and experiencing them is what makes this game what it is.

Another thing Final Fantasy VII does right is the magic system. Materia are tennis ball sized orbs that are used in conjunction with armor and/ or weapons to produce magical abilities. Weapons and armor come with slots in which you place the materia. Each piece of armor or weapon has a different amount of slots with a different growth rate. For example, take Barret's first weapon-- the Gatling Gun. It has two slots, which means two types of materia (magic) can be forged with his gun. Materia gets stronger the more you use it. How fast it grows (or strengthens) is decided by growth rate of the item it's in. As I said, different equipment have different growth rates. Some have a triple growth rate, some stuff doesn't make materia stronger at all. The materia system adds a layer of strategy to the game. Your characters have a limited supply of spells they can cast when going into battle, so you must equip materia wisely or end up seeing the game over screen. Nobody wants to see that. Materia is a double-edge sword, it will increase some of your character's stats when equipped while decreasing others. Again, this forces you to think more about the battles. I found the amount of detail that went into the design of the materia system awesome, and I think you will too, once you get to know it.

While Final Fantasy VII rocks in the story and magic departments, it suffers badly in the graphics section. I know, I know: graphics aren't everything. That said, this game's graphics are awful, absolutely awful. You can split the game up into three separate graphics categories (an idea I got from a board user here at GameFAQs): in-game graphics, in-battle graphics, and the cinematic scenes. Starting with the good, the cinematic scenes are crazy good! They are good even using today's standards to judge them. Cinematic scenes are eye candy. As for the graphics when in the heat of battle-- they're good. You have to remember that it's been seven years since the game came out, so they're not nearly as good as the stuff today. They've aged well, but they have aged. Now for the bad news. The in-game graphics, they make me cry. Not really, but it's about that bad. People in the game look like they're made up of blocks, faces are hard to make out due to fuzziness. I can't imagine the graphics being this bad, even seven years ago. This comes from someone who has no qualms with the original Nintendo Entertainment System games graphic wise. Sadly, the in-game graphics make up about 80% of this game. 15% for battle graphics, and only 5% of the game comes from cinematic scenes. Of all the games I've played, the in-game graphics of Final Fantasy VII rank near the top of the games with the worst ever graphics list.

Moving on, I want to discuss the side quests FFVII offers. I'm a big fan of optional games and quests, and this game has an abundance of them that makes me happy. The most obvious is the raising and riding of chocobos. Just in case you don't know what chocobos are, they're elegant, bird-like creatures used in Final Fantasy games as a means for travel. You get on their back and ride them like a horse. A farm allows you to keep and breed chocobos you capture in the wild. While the normal chocobo is a banana-yellow, you can breed different types which are distinguished by different colors. You can find hidden items by using different types of chocobos. Chocobos can be raced at the Golden Saucer, another great side quest. The Golden Saucer is basically an amusement park full of mini-games with items for prizes. Also, there's hidden characters and optional events to do that give you more story. Although some of the mini-games are through optional events, many are found throughout the main story. You'll find yourself riding in style when getting from point A to point B. There's a couple of different vehicles you'll use to transverse the flat world in which the game takes place. So much to do, so little time: FFVII's side quests are fun and rewarding.

Music sets the mood, and is an aspect often overlooked when it comes to video games. The score of FFVII is pleasant, but not phenomenal. You'll find that there is a lot of repetitiveness when it comes to the music. There's not much of an assortment for music when battling, so you'll quickly tire of hearing the same few songs again and again. At least I did. No doubt, some of the melodies heard in the game are classics, but most washed over my ears without a thought.

One thing I would like to squeeze in before I finish up: how slow Cloud walks. He moves slower than molasses You can, however, make him run by holding in the X button. You'll pretty much be holding this button in for the whole game, since walking is too slow even for the patient. This is a glaring error I would have thought Square would have realized and fixed. While not earth shattering, it's certainly annoying.

Final Fantasy VII a top-notch game, but I wouldn't consider it the best game ever. In fact, I wouldn't even consider it the best Final Fantasy. The reason people praise it so is because of nostalgia-- this was their first RPG, and the memories they have of playing through the game will always make it the greatest no matter what comes their way. Playing the game for the first time more than seven years after it's initial release, I wasn't affected by the nostalgia, nor the hype coming from those affected by the nostalgia. I liked the game, but I would consider it a disappointment if I did compare it to the hype. I didn't listen to hype, so the experience was still fresh and fun. Obviously, you should never listen to the hype, especially concerning this game. This game is a classic, if only for the story. I recommend picking it up, as it retails for only $20 these days. Remember, this is a game to be played and enjoyed, but not a game to be cherished for all eternity. Play it if you have a lot of time to pass, and enjoy while playing.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/17/04

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