Review by Hannayman

"Is this the greatest game ever made??"

Question: why decide to write a review of 1750 WORDS on a game which is now almost 10 years old?
Answer: if I hadn't stumbled across this game about 6 years ago, I wouldn't have played this gem, I wouldn't be interested in RPGs and possibly even decent games. First off, Final Fantasy VII is awesome. I'm deciding to write about and trumpet it to however will decide to read it and I really can't comprehend how good it is. You really have to play it yourself to believe it.
After all, thousands of people say: "This is the greatest game EVER. Full stop"
Others: "this is a complete pile of pants, it's a joke."

How could I convince you from one way or the other? Let's just say if you've never even played this game before, you deserve a good whack on the head. Or an even bigger whack if you've never played at least one final fantasy before. You could ask why people make a big deal of one particular game. Final Fantasy VIII is a great game. Final Fantasy IX is a great game. Hell, so is FFX if you let your heart rule your head. So why is Final Fantasy VII described by many, and by me, as probably the greatest game ever made? To me, it the overall feeling you get while playing this game that makes it special in so many ways. And that feeling, which is so difficult to convey in so many games, is that you actually give a damn about the characters and the events that follow.

Right from the beginning, straight from the off, you CARE. The story, while slightly sagging in small parts, is extremely well told, and is an emotionally over wrought rollercoaster of a ride that swing in roundabouts before coming to the epic conclusion. The cast, one of the biggest set of characters created in a game at the time, are described in rich detail, every point of their story and lives are poignant and very dramatic. The games' leading protagonist and evil entity are brilliantly portrayed and by the end, you really do give a damn. It's not just that, by the end, you want to win and save the world, you MUST.
I class the first 5 hours to be it's best and if it doesn't grab you from the off, there's no point in playing the rest. Most of the sub characters, which are regularly involved in the rest of the game, are actually introduced in the beginning. The story is brilliantly two-faced as it has you concentrating on a particular point, only to shift miraculously in a different direction as the story bolts into another direction. This is not to say that the rest of the game doesn't have the same impact, far from it. You could say that sometimes it is even more so, and there is certainly one or two points in the game which, like me the first time round, will have your jaw crashing to the floor. This game definitely knows when to throw bombshells at you and it makes you keep playing for more. But while the story has more twist than a country road map, the game wouldn't be so effective if Sephiroth, the games' main enemy, wasn't so brilliantly described.

You could describe Sephiroth to be a cold blooded maniac but it wouldn't do the character justice. There is a REASON why the man is so bad and evil in his way, and the story effectively choreographs the characters sad decline into obsessiveness. It shows what happened to him and why he turned into a super-human emotionless killer. The same could be said for Cloud the games protagonist, and while the other characters are described and portrayed well, we wouldn't have the same attachment to the story and the characters as a whole if Cloud turned out to be the same as Sephiroth. This man too, has a complicated past, which again, is expertly told, but the man is portrayed with such emotion that you can't help but feel sorry for him and what goes on around him with his friends as the world slowly edges towards degradation.

Apparently, I have another 1000 words to get through, so let's run through that wall at full speed.

Squaresoft(or SquareEnix which they are now formally known as) are a bunch of completely lucky bandits. In 1987, the company had serious financial problems. With their backs against the wall, they created and revolutionised the role playing area of gaming. This game was called Final Fantasy, and it was called this for one reason: it was Square's final chance of a major hit, to be in the big league. And thankfully, for thousands of gamers, they were able to continue and innovate one of the greatest series of games in gaming.
Squaresoft, it seemed by 1997, were still incredibly lucky. Final Fantasy VII cost them a truckload to make, because it was their first game on a new console, the Playstation, and that it also was the first to include CGI FMVs'. And considering that the game was probably the longest they had ever made, spanning an impressive 3 discs, with lots and LOTS of CGI, it is no surprise that by the end of the game, where the graphic look their best, that the game is slightly cut short, simply because they had managed to run themselves up quite a few million pound of debt. So, think yourself incredibly lucky that VIII, IX, X and X-2 were made. It is because of games like Final Fantasy VII and beyond, that you can actually say that you benefit from playing them the whole way through. How many games can you say that about, really? These games, because they tackle many points of view within society, can actually improve your understanding of the world. That sounds ridiculous, I can hear someone say, but that is the brilliance of these games and in particular, Final Fantasy VII, that life can be improve in this aspect.

While the story of Final Fantasy VII is key and is the crux of the game, it does have many underlying motives that ride through it inconspicuously. People's emotions play a key role in this game. Sephiroths' anger and rage at the world and his lust for vengeance, even though you could say he is confused and even frightened. Clouds' strength of characters in believing that what he is doing is right; his trust for his friends and his courage and morality cannot be faltered. His compassion for other people and his need to defend them through even his own crisis of self identity is certainly evident. Even including Budgenhagen, the wise old man from Cosmo Canyon is a masterstroke as he believes in defending the planet from supreme terror, and it even causes you to think about the planet in general and how it really does suffer from the hands of the population. Although the analogy is fictional for the story and a fictional game, a lot of the points made and theories about even life, and how it is so fragile, ring true through the rich dialogue, which occasionally clunking, is unbelievably vibrant and powerful.

It is clear that Squaresoft put an extraordinary amount of effort into creating their fables. Final Fantasy XII has taken them 4 years to make and it better be fantastic. That's the kind of expectation and pressure that Square are under. It has to be magnificent and capture the hearts of their audience. Final Fantasy VII for them was no exception. Taking three years to make on the back of the success of VI (which is also really good, and the best of the older games), while creating an awesome story, formatting it to a completely different code and experimenting with completely new graphics and audio shows that they were in no hurry, and it shows throughout. From the moment you are whisked through the streets of Midgar, you KNOW you are about to witness and experience a game unlike any other. Six, seven years later, it is still the case. While the definition of the graphics are suspect (blocks for hand and feet, anyone?), the backgrounds, photorealistic by the way, and the CGI, are phenomenal. They seriously capture the look, mood and feel of the game superbly, whether you are getting depressed or are in an upbeat place(Costa Del Sol, anyone?) they evoke the right atmosphere from the situation. The power of the Playstation was here, and even now, you can't help but feel nostalgic and sympathetic to the graphics, which have aged quite well, even in the light of square hands and feet. What really stands out though, and in this case, one of the main reason why this game will always be revered as brilliant is for it's excellence in music. Having about two years to create new music paid off for Nobuo Uematsu who seriously, quite possibly made the greatest set of melodies for a game. It is simply epic from the moment you hear it. Some are depressing, some are uplifting, some are happy, some are vengeful, spiritual, desperate, exciting, mysterious, climactic. It is all here and in full force. The gameplay might be a bit simplistic now in the futuristic world of 2006, but it holds itself steady through the rocky periods. Battles never get old, even if they do come randomly. The use of materia and limit breaks makes battles strategic as well as exciting, and when different music starts up for a boss battle, you know your in for a heck of a fight. And the enemies in this game are no pushovers either.

Simply put, by the end of your journey through the dark and desperate times to catch a madman, through the trials and tribulations of losing friends and challenging enemies and then getting to the last 5 hours and knowing you have reached the end of the line, where you have built up a crescendo of emotion, which must be unleashed upon Sephiroth in the final battle, where the minds simply tells you one thing: he MUST be defeated by any means necessary. And that is what Final Fantasy VII is really all about: the understanding of the events that transpire and why you must hate this man. There is only a handful of people I hate with a vengeance and Sephiroth is one of them.

So there you have it. An incredibly long take on why Final Fantasy VII is possibly he greatest game ever made, and it is all down to one man. The aura and emotion that runs through you the first time you play this game may never be replicated the next time around, but the fact that still CARE about what happens and the fact that by the end of the game, you still feel like you achieve an incredible feat in destroying the worlds' most loathed and feared man in gaming history, then that just shows how special this game really is, and why, once you've finished this game, you too, will understand why I am right: this fable IS probably the greatest game ever made.

Graphics: 8 Gameplay: 9 Battles: 9 Story: 10 Lifespan: 10

Overall: 10 out of 10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/10/06

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