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Final Fantasy VII - Review

The Once and Future Game

By: Kevin Harper


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 9
   Plot 10
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 9
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

40-50 Hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   When Final Fantasy VII first came on the market, I was still an avid supporter of Nintendo, which in turn demanded that I turn my nose up at anything that would compete for the title of "greatest game ever" or "best RPG ever". To tell the truth, I had not even heard of "Squaresoft" although I knew what Final Fantasy was. It was not until 4 years later that I first heard the opening theme of Final Fantasy VII.

   Having played every Final Fantasy at least once, and some of them many more times than that, I think it is safe to say that Final Fantasy VII was, and in a matter of speaking, IS one of the most original titles to date. Ever since FFVII stormed the market, nearly every game, including the successors to bear the name Final Fantasy, have seemed to be only an imitation, save Xenogears.

   Final Fantasy VII was a turn away from the fantasy lands of the previous titles, although some may argue that Final Fantasy VI was the first step into the futuristic world of corrupt corporations and genetically altered beings. But thanks to the power of the Playstation this world was able to become much more real in 3D as opposed to its 2D predecessors.


Shrek....I'M LOOKING DOWN!
Shrek....I'M LOOKING DOWN!  

   Squaresoft has a reputation for having very involved plots, and to say that Final Fantasy VII's plot is merely "involved" is a poor understatement. From the opening scene until the last moment of stars, the game draws the player in. Even in previous Final Fantasy games plot always seemed to come second to "Features". While Final Fantasy VI boasted the most developed storyline up to that point, still it seemed that there were extraneous characters and extraneous locations which seemed to be included for effect, melodrama, and other non-important qualities rather than having bearing on the story. Minor details some may say, but to this reviewer, it weakens the game that much more. A little here, a little there, and suddenly the game does not seem to hold itself together. FFVII is crafted so well that there seem to be no loose ends, no unnecessary bunk.

   As for the characters, many people felt that Cloud Strife was cheesy, lame, and unlikable but I felt him to be perhaps the most well-balanced and well-developed main character an RPG has seen, even today (Squall Leonhart anyone?). He has a past (which is extremely relative to the plot, NOT just added to fill a plot hole), and he has a continually developing present. Turning from a heartless mercenary to someone who comes to grip with his problems and changes, no game has or had done that as well. The friendship and honor of Barrett and Tifa, the shattered dreams of Cid Highwind, and the peaceful and caring mind of Aeris are all so well-done that one feels that there are very different people in the game, not just a gang of like-minded punks.

   The continuous love triangle between Cloud, Aeris, and Tifa is, at times, comical, but for the most part I felt it to be one of the finest points of the game. Never did it enter into the realm of sentimental. Even the important ending to the first disk has dignity and repose. Although Tifa was not nearly as developed as Aeris, her role as Barrett's friend and a member of Avalanche is important nonetheless. Her relationship to Cloud, too, is not extraneous, but rather it is very relevant.As for the "other" characters in the game, aside from maybe one, each has its own role to play, reason for being there, and, above all, RELEVANCE. Their language, too, is very well done. From Barret's ghetto slang to Cid Highwind's rough and tough attitude, each character is unique. Unfortunately, Square did not remember this when making later games.

   And what would this game be without Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack? Each piece of music is crafted to suit each location, emotion, mood, and battle perfectly. The love song is not sappy, but rather is bittersweet and gentle. Often times I found myself entering battle simply for the sake of hearing the battle music, or entering and reentering a town to hear the music again. In short, there is not one track that is out of place. Is not "One-winged Angel" the greatest Boss Battle music yet?


No Vacancy
No Vacancy  

   As for the battle system itself, not much is new from previous games. The ATB is still present, but this time everything was in 3D. Each battle starts with the camera circling the battlefield and then jumping right into the fight. It is short and sweet. Even though the summons were long (Neo-Bahamut) I still got much more satisfaction out of watching them repeatedly than I did in FFVIII (*snooze*).

Graphically speaking, I have no complaints. Many people felt the characters to be "blocky" and "unrealistic", but I challenge that to say that the movements and actions of the characters in FFVII are much more relevant and "real" than in Final Fantasy VIII. In VIII, all the movements seemed to be there simply because they "could". It reminds me of the quite by Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park (to quote another reviewer here): "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should".

The FMV sequences in FFVII are well placed and to the point. They are inserted at only the most necessary moments, unlike VIII *ahem*. While they are not of the quality of later games, they were the first to enter a Final Fantasy, so what would you expect? A game that is story driven as opposed to graphics driven *ahem* VIII and IX *ahem*, one finds that these things are only bonuses and rewards and opposed to "necessary".


Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed
Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed  

So you are probably asking the question: "What DIDN'T this guy like about this game?"

To tell you the truth, there was not much that I did not like. I thought that Cloud and Aeris' relationship could have been developed more in the beginning instead of Aeris suddenly liking him and wanting Cloud to be his bodyguard. A little more time on this one and they would have had it just right. Also, the enemies were too easy. While the bosses posed a mediocre threat, the random-battle foes were a little too easy right until the end where they are suddenly much more difficult. Unfortunately, most people will not have felt a reason to level up before the final stage and will become frustrated and angry with the difficulty at the end. And perhaps my biggest complaint is:

This game is too short! While 40+ hours is long enough, the game is so good and so well crafted that one is left desiring so much more. Perhaps that is why we have such big expectations for the "next Final Fantasy". None of the present titles have lived up to the artistic level of VII. I have not played Final Fantasy X yet, but I hear it is the heir to the throne. We shall see, we shall see...





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