Warning: I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler-free, but those who
do not wish to be exposed to information revealed on the first
game disk would probably not want to read the review.

Company Credits

Title: Final Fantasy VII

Developer: Squaresoft

System: PlayStation 1

Release Date: 1997

Game Type: Console RPG

Premise

A simple mission to hurt an ecologically damaging monopoly
corporation
turns into a quest to save the world from a man-made madman.

High Point

Cloud’s quest for self-discovery. I think Cecil is the only Final
Fantasy lead character who approaches this much depth. It’s a
nice
change to have a personality with so many flaws as the hero of
the
world.

Low Point

The “Knights of the Round” materia and its effect on the game
balance.
That one summon is just far, far too powerful relative to any
others
in the game. The limit breaks, like Omnislash, can only be used
at
specific times, even with the characters in “Fury” condition.
“Knights of the Round” can be called up once at the start of the
battle, and then mimed until the enemy falls every time. Without
that
materia, Ruby Weapon pulverizes me every time. With that
materia
(linked to “HP Absorb,” and with a mastered “Counter” linked to
“Mime”) I can attack him once and then go eat supper while
Ruby dies
an inevitable death. There just needs to be a greater middle
ground.

The Scores

It’s hard to stay original when you’re working in a
series.
The Final Fantasy games found an interesting way around those
problems, though; the sequels are disconnected in terms of plot,
related only through thematic elements. (The first direct sequel is
due out in the English-speaking world later this year, and is titled
Final Fantasy X-2.) Thus, they have the freedom to
create a
new set of characters in a new world for each game, and that’s
usually
a freedom they take advantage of. This was the first of the
PlayStation generation games in the series, and while the
character
models have a lack of detail not seen since the first 8-bit
Nintendo
entries, the 3D nature of the players and the non-tiled world
make for
a much smoother game, breaking into new technological territory.
It
still plays out very well today, with an excellent story, and
dynamic
character building system, and some interesting new spells and
mini-games. It still feels original enough to warrant a 5 out of 6.

The story is one of the best developed stories in the
Final
Fantasy series. The heroes and villains are all tied together in
some
intricate ways. Every character, including the optional ones, has
some sort of tie to the larger scheme of things. Some are even
tied
directly to the villain. The side quests often involve the larger
picture as well. We’ve got substories of self-discovery all over
the
place, along with redemption, love, loss, and the other major
themes
in literature. The departure from the Nintendo systems allowed
more
freedom in content, such as Barrett’s foul dialogue, to allow more
diverse and dark elements to come into play. Cait Sith was
transformed from some goof that seemed to be nothing more
than a
merchandising gimmick into a significant player in the grander
scheme
of things. Vincent, Barrett, and Red XIII all have ghosts of the
past
to deal with. Cid, Yuffie and Tifa find themselves facing a villain
who has attacked those close to them without facing a direct
assault
against themselves. Aeris, Red XIII, Vincent and Cloud all have
to
deal with the direct actions Shinra took against them. The Turks
serve their purposes, while Hedeigger, Scarlet, Tseng and
Reeve make a
plausible executive branch of the Shinra company. It’s a very
impressive array of developed characters, especially compared
to the
rest of the series and the genre. I give it 5 out of 6.

The graphics were a technological step up from the
previous
games in the series, but the handless arms and the faces made
only of
eyes remind me that the components of such wireframe
characters are
referred to as “primitives.” It looks more like a game to me than
some of the sprite-based graphics that preceeded it. The use of
the
primitively shaped characters against such detailed backgrounds,
in
and out of the video sequences, is often jarring in contrast. I give
it 4 out of 6.

The sound is well done. The battle and sound
effects are
effective, and the music is the familiar Nobuo Uematsu
high-water
mark. The technological ring to the instruments works in the
context
of the game environment, particularly in Midgar. I give the sound
5
out of 6.

The playability of the game has its ups and downs.
Some
screens are hard to navigate due to odd choices in the
orientation of
the game axes. For example, running straight across the Junon
Harbour boardwalk requires making a 90 degree turn on the
controller.
In other areas, holding down the controller in one direction when
entering a room through a door will make you turn around and go
back
when you reach the other side. This was a common irritant for
me. As
far as the game mechanics are concerned, the battle controls
and
materia system are sufficiently well described in the game to
ensure
smooth play. There’s really only the one obstacle to playability,
but
it’s a prominent one. I give it 4 out of 6.

The immersion is hampered only by the lack of detail
on the
characters. The story is interesting and involved enough to pull
me in
the same way a good book does, and the dynamic in-battle
camera
movements pulled me in far more than the old sprite-based
graphics
did. I got over the lack of character detail by the time I left
Midgar, and was only jarred out again later when the other
members of
the party would magically walk in and out of Cloud’s person. I
give
it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a solid entry in a good series, despite
its
dated look. While Final Fantasy IX was more
enjoyable the
first time through, this entry in the series holds up far better when
being played through repeatedly. I’d strongly recommend this as
a
player’s first exposure to the Final Fantasy series. I
give
it 5 out of 6.

In total, Final Fantasy VII receives 32 out of 42.

Next Up: You Decide

Which game should I review next? The list of options (which is
always
available here)
includes Eternal Ring, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VIII, Final
Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy Tactics, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery,
and
Summoner.