Classic Review: Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children (2-Disc)It’s time for American Final Fantasy fans to dance in the streets! Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the CG movie sequel to Square’s best-selling and much beloved Playstation RPG is finally upon us here in the west! The DVD and PSP UMD of the movie hits stores on the 25th, after many delays and much sighing among hardcore fans, who would NEVER resort to downloading the movie off the Internet or importing the movie from Japan . . . .

Final Fantasy VII Game & Guide Bundle PSX PS2Ok, truth is the majority of people probably did do those things, but we’ll just shrug it off and pretend you didn’t alright, don’t wanna make daddy SquareEnix upset now. We’ll finally get to see what all the fuss was about and witness what we pray will be great English voice acting. But better than that is that Square delayed the release to add lots of special features, and I for one can’t wait to soak all the goodness in. Hopefully this movie sells like gang-busters. To celebrate the release, I have here my retrospective review for Final Fantasy VII, which is spoiler-free for those who have never played the game. (and for those who want to read a spoiler-filled summary of the game’s storyline, check here). Click on “More” below to read the review. Have a great weekend!

Final Fantasy VII Review
This game is simply incredible, even by today’s standards. A game you simply must experience. A true masterpiece.

Developer: SquareEnix (Formerly “SquareSoft”)
Publisher: SquareEnix
Released: 1997
Origin: Japan
System: Sony Playstation
Disks: 3
Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Save: 1 Block
Rating: Rated Teen for: Comic Mischief, Mild Animated Violence and Mild Language

Final Fantasy VIIFinal Fantasy VII (7) is highly acclaimed by both fans and critics alike as not only one of the greatest role-playing games ever made, but one of the most important video games ever released, period. VII was the first game in the groundbreaking Final Fantasy series to be done entirely with 3D graphics, and was the first in the franchise to be released on Sony’s then-new Playstation game console, which also made it the first Final Fantasy game to be released on the CD-ROM medium instead of on a cartridge as in the past. SquareSoft, the game’s developer, was infamous for abandoning Nintendo in favor of Sony for FFVII, due in large part to the CD medium. It was popularly publicized that FFVII was such a large game that it would not fit onto a cartridge, due to the high-quality CG sequences Squaresoft wanted to use in the game to carry the story foreword at important scenes.

Final Fantasy VII Game & Guide Bundle PSX PS2Final Fantasy VII was also one of the first Japanese Role-Playing Games (RPG) to successfully break into the mainstream in the United States. It was one of the biggest video game releases of the year and was backed by a huge marketing campaign as a flagship title for Sony’s Playstation console. The marketing worked and the game sold like mad, quickly selling over one million copies, solidifying it as the best-selling and most popular Final Fantasy title yet to be released at that time. The popularity of FFVII in the US helped to launch the Final Fantasy brand into the stratosphere. While previous games in the FF franchise had been released in the US on the NES and SNES systems (albeit, with different numbers. The first game was released in the US as Final Fantasy on the NES, but the second & third titles didn’t see a US release. It wasn’t until the fourth FF game for SNES did the US see another FF, and it was released as FFII. Subsequently, FFV wasn’t released in the US either, but FFVI was released in the US as FFIII. Naturally, FFVII is the follow-up to our III, luckily Squaresoft scrapped the numbering nonsense and just released the game as FFVII here in the US, saving gamers any more headaches trying to figure the order out), Final Fantasy VII was the first game in the series to really break into the mainstream and sell millions of copies, Final Fantasy VII and it helped to both popularize the Final Fantasy series/brand and the RPG genre in the US. Because of FFVII, nearly any game that is Final Fantasy related has sold extremely well in America, including offshoots like Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube.

Final Fantasy VII forever set a benchmark in the RPG genre that fans now expected from their RPGs, whether that expectation was realistic or not (Final Fantasy VII was in development for years by hundreds of people and cost millions of dollars to make, which has now become the norm for many big games).

Final Fantasy VIIThe game itself was absolutely MASSIVE for the time and featured an intricate storyline that spanned three CDs. It also featured a plethora of well-developed characters that would become beloved throughout the years by gamers the world over. The game had really good graphics for the time, including some downright insane monsters that the player could summon in battle to devastate enemies or give you the upper-hand in boss battles, and the game was interspersed with various high-quality CG movie-scenes used to propel the story forward and reward players with some nice eye-candy.

The game system itself largely stuck to RPG conventions (talking to people in various towns to move the story along, increasing in might by leveling up with points rewarded for defeating enemies, etc.) including its random, turn-based battles (when wandering around in certain areas of the world you’ll randomly encounter monsters every few seconds or so). The battle system in FFVII was called “Active Time Battle” and it featured a gauge that would begin filling as the battle started, and once full allowed you to use that character, or switch to another whose bar was full. Once filled you could choose to attack, use magic, summon a monster, use items or a number of other things, some of which are effected by what type of “Materia” you have equipped on your characters.

Final Fantasy VII Game & Guide Bundle PSX PS2Materia was a new system introduced in FFVII, and it is highly regarded as one of the best systems for its flexibility and the power of the player to customize their characters how they saw fit depending on the situation. There are several different types of Materia in the game. They are: Command, Magic, Support, Independent, and Summon.

Command (Yellow color) Materia gives the player new commands they can use in battle, such as Steal or Throw (allowing you to steal an item from enemies or throw an item with various effects at them).

Magic (Green) is one of the most important kinds of Materia, as this allows you to cast attack, defensive and curative magic on either you or your enemies. Different Magic Materia include everything from elements to attack with such as Ice, Fire, Gravity & Lightning, to magic used to cure your party when injured, to magic that increases or heals your status, such as Haste (which makes your ATB gauge raise faster, allowing you attack sooner) or Esuna (heals characters afflicted with a negative status effect like poison, which hurts the character when they try to attack).

Support (Blue) is used to enhance whatever magic it is linked to. For example, the Support Materia “All” will allow you to caste magic on all your characters or enemies instead of only one like normal.

Independent (Purple) enhances the characters status, giving you higher maximum HP (Hit Points, basically your health or life power), MP (Magic Points, used to cast magic), etc., depending on the specific Materia.

And last, but definitely not least, is Summon materia, which allows you to summon a huge, usually insanely powerful, monster to attack all your enemies, with often-times devastating results. The drawback of Summon monsters is that they lower your stats, such as attack and defensive power or your HP, and they also cost a large amount of MP to cast. Summon monsters however are one of the greatest parts of FFVII, and it was this game that made certain Summons really popular and have since become a FF standby. For instance, the Summon monsters Ifrit and Shiva, among others, have subsequently appeared in Final Fantasies VIII (8), IX (9) and X (10).

Final Fantasy VII Game & Guide Bundle PSX PS2The Materia system, although somewhat complicated, especially for beginners, adds a lot of strategy to the game. To use it, you have to equip the Materia that you find in the game onto slots that each weapon and piece of armor in the game contains. The number of slots varies from item to item, as does the items “growth rate”. When you defeat enemies, you obtain AP (Ability Points), which accumulate and will eventually cause that Materia to “grow” or “level-up”. As it does, it will learn more powerful abilities, in addition to allowing you to attack more enemies or use the materia more often in a battle. For example, the Magic Materia “Ice”, once it grows one-level, will learn a more powerful attack called “Ice2”. Eventually, once the Materia has fully grown you will “Master” it (at which point it can’t grow any more), and it will split, giving you another new Materia to be used elsewhere, although the new Materia starts out at the first level.

What all this boils down to is basically giving the player the freedom to add or take away new abilities to fit the circumstance, which is always a plus in RPGs. For example, if you are fighting fire enemies, you can equip Ice magic and support it with All materia, allowing you to attack all the enemies with Ice, which harms fire enemies greatly (naturally. And that is a very simple, very basic exmple). It was this type of system and complication that hooked gamers, who made it a goal to Master every materia in the game and to obtain the most powerful materia through the many secrets and side-quests featured in FFVII. (There are literally tons of Materia to be found in the game)

Another great thing about the game is the narrative, which is treated maturely and was very sophisticated for the time. The games storyline revolved around protagonist Cloud and his group of friends, who include his childhood friend Tifa, the brutish, brash and foul-mouthed Barret, whose hand has been replaced with a mini-gun, the mysterious and innocent flower-girl Aeris (Aerith in the Japanese version) whom gets caught up in a somewhat subtle love-triangle between Cloud, Tifa and herself, and many other interesting characters that you’ll meet along the way.

Final Fantasy 7The storyline is interesting, and has many twists and turns, only getting more and more interesting and deep the further you get in the game. What starts out as a mission with a rebel-group called Avalanche who are trying to disrupt the activities of the massive Shinra corporation, explodes into a complex storyline involving cloning, the search for ones identity, romance, the loss of loved ones, and much more and concludes in what I considered to be an extremely satisfying manner, leaving you breathless by the end.

So how does a game released in 1997 stack-up in today’s world? Well it must be pointed out that while the graphics, music and FMV sequences were all magnificent for the time, they haven’t aged very well at all. While some people will be able to easily see past that and enjoy the game for what it is, it can’t be helped that the game simply lacks a certain amount of impact it would have if the graphics were up to today’s standards. The characters are very blocky looking, and some of the FMV is a little grainy with very stilted animation (it’s almost laughable today), although some scenes, including one near the end, hold up a lot better than others. It’s also hard to feel attached to the characters in many ways . . . scenes that were supposed to be emotional, lack that impact due to the bad graphics.

The music, while a bit simplistic, holds-up rather well.

Keep in mind that all of this is the opinion of someone who never played the game back in 1997 (I never owned a Playstation, and played all the later games before playing this one). So yes, I played it for the first time in 2005. While I did love the game and finally understand why it is regarded to be so great, what is considered to be one of the most emotional scenes ever in a game (I won’t mention it here for those who haven’t played it, but if you have you KNOW which scene I’m referring to involving a certain female character) hardly got any emotional impact out of me, since it was so laughably done by today’s standards. However, having said that, with a little imagination on your part, the narrative still has the ability to pull on ones heartstrings, if you simply try and put your self in the players shoes. It did for me a certain points, but amazingly not during that particular FMV.

Final Fantasy VIII personally loved the storyline of this game. And I think Sephiroth is definitely one of the top video game villains of all-time. He is simply INSANE and about as bad-a** as you can get. The storyline also gets extremely entertaining and WAY trippy once you start delving into Cloud’s past. There were many points in the game that just left me speechless with how crazy cool it all was, and had me dreaming about what this game could be like with nowadays graphics. It’d be downright wicked.

All in all, I’d say that Final Fantasy VII is definitely worth playing for those who have never played the game. It is extremely memorable, and is a VERY long game with lots of side-quests giving it a lot of replay value (and making a guide practically essential if you want to get everything, like most RPGs). Funny note too, I ended up playing this game for what I estimate is around 130+ hours. I can’t tell cause the time stops above 99 hours. 😉

Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children (2-Disc)And now is prime time for those who want to dive into the world of Final Fantasy VII, as the story is being expanded upon by the upcoming release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the CG movie sequel to the game that picks up two years after the events in the game, and many other games that expand the world and the narrative of FFVII are set for release, including one where you play as Vincent in a shooter! Now lets all hope and pray that FFVII is being remade on the PS3, there would be no better way for Sony to sell systems than using the incredible power of the PS3 to remake one of the greatest games of all time

Fun Factor: 8.0
Graphics: 6.0
Music: 8.0
Replay Value: 9.0
Reviewer’s Tilt: 9.5
Overall: 9.5

Is the game worth playing now? YES!

Best Feature: Interesting storyline, lots of Materia to collect and things to do.
Worst Feature: Extremely outdated graphically