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Final Fantasy VII - Review

Greatest story ever? Nope. Great game? Of course!

By: Fink Cantor


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 9
   Plot 9
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 9
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy - Average
   Time to Complete

30-50 hours

 
Overall
K-9
Criteria

Final Fantasy VII
 

   It seems as if I can't log on to an RPG editorial section anymore without seeing the title "Final Fantasy 7." The mere mention of the name invokes fiery passions in near any RPGamer. It represents the dividing line between the Old and New schools. It is Square's first foray in the Playstation RPG arena. Is it truly the be all and end all that many gamers (and critics) claim it to be? Or does it well and truly "suck?"

   If you cheated and read the above final score, you obviously know where my opinion lies. I do not see it as a poor game. In fact, Final Fantasy 7 is my favorite of the Final Fantasy series (beating out Final Fantasy by a narrow margin). For me, this, in many ways, stems from the gameplay. This is embodied in the very solid battle system. It starts out simply enough with typical sword action. However, the player will soon find themselves having to do with small gems known as "Materia." Materia is what provides you with spells, and therein lies the heart of the body system. Initially, you can place Materia nearly anywhere and it will just work. No questions asked.

   As the game progresses, you will be presented with many decisionsto make. Your Materia will grow at a certain rate, but it will grow faster on different weapons. So, do you want to jump for that new high powered sword with no Materia growth, or that lower powered sword with Triple growth? You can also make Materia combinations with varying kinds of magic. My friend has shown me a few truly wicked combinations involving Double Cut, Deathblow and Counter Attack Materia. Just scary.

   Unfortunately, for all the power of the Battle System, the Interface doesn't seem to quite measure up. It is generally rather cumbersome, and the player will soon find themselves spending *alot* of time switching Materia between varying characters. Seriously, how hard is it to include a 'total switch' option, Square? I mean entire Materia setups, not one gem at a time.

Fear Me! I'm GREEN!
Fear Me! I'm GREEN!  
The interface also has a difficult time with battles. The player will find themselves scrolling through menu's frantically yelling, "PLEASE!" as they search for a Megalixir before a boss does their attack.

   Thankfully, you can listen to some nice music while putzing with Materia or screaming in frustration (whichever comes first). Final Fantasy 7 has a nice soundtrack, if a little uneven. Some efforts are really very mediocre. The Sewer theme and the second Overworld them are just annoying. On the other hand, efforts like "The Valley of the Fallen Star," "The Fallen Warrior," the airship theme and first Overworld stand head and heels over the competition. It is here the FF7 rivals even the twin untouchables - Xenogears and Final Fantasy 6. Works such as "One Winged Angel" are truly in a class all their own. Even the boss music is rather exciting.

   The sound effects do well to stack up to the soundtrack. The sword strokes are crisp and the clank of machinery distinctive. However, more then any other Final Fantasy, I believe that the sound effects add very much to the spell effects. Many of the spells have loud sounds to accompany their spectacular visuals. Final Fantasy 7 sports the most satisfying Ultima to be sure. It may be only my perception, but the spells just *feel* as if they do more damage in Final Fantasy 7.

   The originality of Final Fantasy 7 and the plot tend to go hand in hand here. When the game was first released, it featured quite the original plot for an RPG. Set in a futuristic world ruled by a mega corporation known as Shinra (the quintessential Empire in this game), this is the story of Cloud Strife and his efforts to save the world. Of course, Square throws in plenty of twists to keep the player interested. A falling meteor, Cloud's psychological issues, a truly mad villain and a number of compelling questions drive the plot. This is buffered nicely by a set of compelling characters. Cid Highwind is my favorite character of any game - period, Red XIII comes in a close second. The characters all have their own back stories, and each gets his/her five minutes of fame. Yuffie even gets her own town. =D This all serves to brings us off of typical RPG fare and truly immerses the player.

   As much as I enjoyed the plot, I was very much put off by Square's poor localization. While passable in some ways, it is plain unacceptable in others. Bad grammar is rampant. Typos are everywhere. While one is able to decipher most conversations, they tend toward the incoherent.

I TOLD you those little red dots could kill you...
I TOLD you those little red dots could kill you...  
It is a real shame that Square paid as little attention to localization as they did. Final Fantasy 7 is the kind of game that really begs for the tight translations that were bestowed upon Final Fantasy 8 and Vagrant Story. You really dropped the ball on this one, Square. Let's hope that you can do better with Final Fantasy 9.

   The graphics in Final Fantasy 7 are nothing short of fantastic, and they do well to compliment the plot. The background art is very well done, and even the blocky characters aren't *too* offensive to the eye (even if they lack mouths). The game's real graphical strength lies in it's spell effects (better then FF8 IMO) and it's CG clips. Both are very well done. The venerable summon spells are, as always present, and they are very pretty to look at without being overly obtrusive (*cough* FF8). Sadly, it seems that Square was so into doing graphics that they largely forgot about something we like to call 'challenge.' The dungeons are essentially really long hallways with enemies and pretty visuals. If you are at the right level, the bosses are a joke (but FF8's bosses are easier). However, all is not lost. I made a special offer to stay in the lower levels in terms of strength. The result was a rather challenging game. I urge all of you to give it a try. However, if you aim to blow through FF7, then you can do it in less then 25 hours (my friend did).

   Thankfully, FF7 has a high degree of replaybability. First off, many players will feel compelled to play through the entire game more then once just to try and decipher the plot. Next, there are the delights of the stray Weapons - Emerald and Ruby. Finally, the little Chocobo stable located in the Highwind is sure to grab a player's attention. There is nothing more then breeding a Golden Chocobo and being able to snag such wondrous things as Quadra magic and the Knights of the Round summon. Besides, it's just plain fun to hang around places such as the Golden Saucer and putter around on the highly addictive snowboarding.

Here lies John Drake...stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
Here lies John Drake...stepped on the gas instead of the brake.  

   Sadly enough, this game isn't perfect. Many of the questions presented throughout the game are left dangling in the end, leaving the player to draw their own conclusions. A nice idea, but a plot as complex as FF7's really demands a resolution. The end is extremely anticlimactic save for Cloud's bit with Omnislash - you'll know what I mean when I see it. On the other hand, the journey is its own reward in many ways. For those of you who have never played Final Fantasy 7, don't you dare let yourself get spoiled. You will very much regret it. And if you haven't played Final Fantasy 7 then, I have to ask, "My God! Where have you been these past three years? Go play it!" The Playstation will one day be obsolete, but Final Fantasy 7 will live on as a classic.





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