FInal Fantasy VII- Review

En Amaritudine Loquor Me Menti

By: Castomel

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Plot 9
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

25-60 hours


Title Screen

  Okay, so I'm not particularly bitter, despite the title. It's just that everyone's heard the preceding line to this one, I think. It goes a little something like this: "Estuans Interius/Ira Vehementi." It's a matter of fact that Nobuo Uematsu, the man responsible for the music of Final Fantasy VII ripped off not only the lyrics from Carmina Burana to make the song One Wing Angel sound that much better, but he also sneaked in some of the tune as well. Then again, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and it's probably forgivable in this instance, since the rest of the soundtrack, and indeed the game, is widely different from any prior titles. Final Fantasy VII changed the face of RPGs, and is generally viewed as the dividing point between old-school and new-school. Nonetheless, it managed to retain enough of the magic of older RPGs to become a favourite of many. This dichotomy is what has kept the game the subject of endless debate by its fans and detractors- and what makes it a very worthwhile title.

  The message behind Final Fantasy VII is none-too-subtle, and is introduced with all the delicacy of a brick in the face. The game begins with the destruction of a Mako Reactor, as orchestrated by the terrorist group Avalanche. As the mysterious character Cloud, the player quickly becomes engulfed in events, and motivation switches from money to saving the planet. Why? Well, it could be the painfully constructed love triangle that is central to the story. Or, it could be because everyone loves the planet at heart. Or it might just be circumstances spiralling out of control. Whatever the case, and notwithstanding the size of various polygons that might just influence a young man's decision, Cloud gets caught up in the adventure, and the quest to save the planet begins.

As in any such quest, there'll be fighting, and this turns out to be standard Final Fantasy fare. The materia system is functional, granted, but it reduces characters to virtual anonymity, at least in battle. When the only difference between a big tough man and a waifish teenage girl is whether or not they can cast Fire or summon Knights of the Round, reality probably isn't being adequately portrayed. Yes, materia is what drives the battle system(and incidentally, is also a Latin word cannibalized from the same section of Carmina Burana. Live and learn!). Materia, which is a wide array of shiny, varicoloured stones, comes in a number of different forms, and can be used to do anything from summon chocobos to adding skills. They are socketed into armour and weapons, which adds another element to what equipment is used; equipment holds varying numbers of slots, and since materia is advanced through obtaining AP in battle, the ability of some items to double or triple the rate at which this accumulates can be important in deciding what to equip characters with(or at any rate is a better basis for selection than how keen a weapon looks, which is more or less the best way to choose characters for use in the main party).

Get it? Cloud? That Unhealthy Green Glow? Rain? Bah...
Where Acid Rain is Made  

   Square can perhaps be excused for making things excessively simple. Final Fantasy VII was aimed at a much wider target audience than previous titles, and so simplicity in the battle system is probably a good thing. This functional approach was also taken with the game's mechanics, which extends to both the materia system and the equipment. Weapons and armour have been curtailed in number, creating a minimum of mucking around in equipment screens. Items remain fairly numerous, but the game's mechanics are quite reminiscent of Chrono Trigger's in their simplicity, which is by and large a good thing. Unfortunately, the battle interface can be slightly clogged, and a number of graphical options do serve to clutter the screen more than improve functionality. This is also true of dungeon screens, when the arrows and the cursor, while necessary at times, can be annoying at others. Nevertheless, all things considered, it is adequately done.

When Final Fantasy VII was aimed at a wider audience, every attention was immediately given to appearance, both aurally and visually. Nobuo Uematsu is perhaps at his best here, both in variety and in sheer volume. The game features a wide number of musical selections with an equally wide variety of genres. With perhaps the best final boss music of any game, Uematsu has done his work exceptionally well here. So too has Square's art department, who have provided what is a great-looking game for its time. While a few years have aged Final Fantasy VII's graphics somewhat, their groundbreaking nature, most notably what was awe-inspiring FMV when it first came out, and the pre-rendered backgrounds, which featured very careful attention to detail, the graphical experience that Final Fantasy VII offered left many people likening the game to an interactive movie rather than the RPG it is billed as. While the subsequent shift the genre made to keep up with the advancements the game brought about made this definition largely irrelevant, it certainly seemed at least partially true at the time; however, despite what could be considered the eye-candy nature, Square did manage to inject that ineffable quality that characterizes their better games and is responsible for the reputation the developer has.

Perhaps it is the game's storyline and the underlying themes that give Final Fantasy VII that certain something. Despite a pretty badly botched translation, the story that did manage to make it through came across as a very deeply thought-out plot, which possessed a degree of subtlety hitherto unheard of in a video game. The game's exploration of such themes as perception, good and evil, and humanity's influence on the world are just a few of the more obvious examples of what the story examines. At more subtle levels there is a great deal more to be explored, and it is thus necessary to play the game through more than once to fully appreciate just what is happening. While the translation is in part responsible for some of this obscurity, it is the fact that the game actually makes people think that lends the most complexity to the story, and the fact that the game's ending sequence is very ambiguous only adds to the mystique of Final Fantasy VII.    

Bad statue! Bad!
A Slap on the Wrist  

  Another intangible that Final Fantasy VII offers is its wealth of mini-games. Players have the ability to breed chocobos, play in a number of arcade-like games with seemingly no purpose, and for the true gambling addict, bet on chocobo races in which they aren't even involved. Each of these games, however, does serve a purpose, as a number of rare items can be obtained by completing the mini-games. These are the areas that give Final Fantasy VII much of its replayability; while the story, which is quite extensive, is certainly worth playing through the game a second or third time for, the mini-games themselves can occupy many hours of time. In fact, Final Fantasy VII possesses what are perhaps the best mini-games to be found in any title, save possibly for the Triple Triad game for Final Fantasy VIII.

I'll never use a hot tub again...
Yes, it IS That Scary Inside.  

Despite the fact Final Fantasy VII has a great deal of upside, its detractors do have a number of legitimate concerns. The battle system is rather incidental to the game, and the localization does leave a bit to be desired. Additionally, aside from the rich backstory that goes into each, character development is largely restricted to a few characters. Nonetheless, the good does outweigh these shortcomings, and does so convincingly. Any gamer looking for an enjoyable game that is sure to endure in their memory would do well to pick up Final Fantasy VII, because it deservingly owns a prominent place in RPG history.

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