Game Review – “Final Fantasy VII”

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 preceded 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.

4 replies on “Game Review – “Final Fantasy VII””

  1. Canthros says:

    Meh
    I finally played FF7 three years ago (I played it on the PC). While I found it a satisfying and refreshing change from the settings found in FF1 and FF2/4, I don’t think it’s all that different from FF3. And though it was graphically an outrageusly impressize game in its day, I wasn’t real impressed by the story, and found the magic system kind of frustrating.

    I had no idea, for years, that it had sold as well as it had, or that so many people looked on it so fondly in comparison to the games that were published under Nintendo. Especially given the rather mediocre opinion of it that I’ve got. I wasn’t real impressed with eight or nine, either (though eight is my least favorite of the three by far). Haven’t been inclined to bother with ten, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have already played all the parts of it worth playing, and will already be intimately familiar with plot, since they’ve recycled it at least four times now.

  2. Dave says:

    Knights of the Round?
    You DO realize how much of a trial it is to get the KoR materia, right?

    Warning: there may be minor spoilers on how to get the KoR materia. But it’s not like you can’t get that information elsewhere anyway. I’m also spoiling FF9, Star Ocean 2, and possibly my appetite.

    It’s just like in a LOT of RPGs. FF9 had the Excalibur (a well-named but slightly underrated sword which you could only get by making it to almost-the-end-of-the-game in under twelve hours, IIRC). Then again, if you rush through the whole darn game like this, you’ll need all the help you can get, since you won’t have had time to level up. At all.
    FF9 also had plenty of other weird optional quests like the Stellazio coins, Mognet, Ozma, and so on. In general, the reward is nifty (and you get to impress all your fellow otaku by saying you got all these neat specials), but the reward isn’t really worth the effort.

    Star Ocean 2 had the Tri-Ace (original name, that — the game was developed by Tri-Ace). It was only reachable by meeting one obscure NPC fairly early in the game, then almost completing the game (saving at the very last save point, which triggers some other stuff), then turning around, going back out of the final dungeon, hunting down another obscure NPC, who then sends you into a “virtual” recreation of an earlier part of the game, then in Virtual World, you go to a remote island that wasn’t reachable in the “real” world, fight through another massive dungeon… oh, as a bizarre plot consequence of telling you about this virtual world, the “power limiter” of the final boss is disabled and he becomes about a gazillion times more powerful than before. Though I haven’t yet allocated the

    FF7 and the KoR materia is similar. You have to invest a LOT of time and Gil in chocobo breeding, to go to this one particular remote island. In the process of earning all the necessary Gil, you’ll probably level up so much that by the time you get KoR, you can’t possibly need it.

    For me, the low point was probably the fact that Yuffie and Vincent get shafted in the 25-minute “end of the game” movie. I can understand why, though; they’d have to have made four sets of movies (depending on whether you had neither, one, or both of those two ‘optional’ characters in your party), and those movies take up a LOT of disk space. I fully expect them to do this if they ever come up with something wacky like “FF7 Remix for PS2” though.

  3. arashiken says:

    one of the greats
    FFVII was one of my all-time favourites on the PSX, and the only other game I got that immersed in was Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV(?). The drama with Aeris, the Weapons at the end, and the then-new idea of mini-games kept me occupied for hours (93h on the final counter, which didn’t count restarts from deaths). Nowadays I prefer my RPG’s on the computer, but FFVII will always be remembered as a great adventure.

    I think you should review Orphen next. That games seems to have been in the bargain bin at the local EB since the day it came out, and I want to know why. I’ve always wanted to see the anime it’s based on, but have never been able to find it.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: one of the greats

      I think you should review Orphen next. That games seems to have
      been in the bargain bin at the local EB since the day it came out, and I
      want to know why. I’ve always wanted to see the anime it’s based on,
      but have never been able to find it.

      Orphen: Scion of Sorcery will be my next game review.
      The short version is thus: it’s a decent game that has enough
      unpolished moments that make me think someone decided to rush it
      into release to keep it as a PS2 launch title.

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