Final Fantasy VII - Reader Re-Retroview  

The Electric Company
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

25-50 Hours
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   The eco-terrorist organization AVALANCHE is in conflict with the Shinra Corporation, which is draining the world's lifeforce with its Mako energy plants. Among its members is Cloud Strife, a warrior with a mysterious past and connections to an adversary named Sephiroth, who too bears a grudge against Shinra, albeit with vastly different motivations and ambitions. Square's Final Fantasy VII, marking the franchise's debut on the Sony Playstation, follows Cloud and company's pursuit of Sephiroth and unraveling of his mysterious past. To this day, the seventh installment of the fabled franchise proves to be one of the Playstation's definitive titles.

   Like its predecessors then, Final Fantasy VII features active-time battles, but this time, likely because of technological restrictions in the game's time, the player's battle party is down to three characters. Regardless, combat still retains a fast-paced nature, even faster than in previous installments, and some new twists, chiefly the Materia system, where the player can outfit the slots of each character's weapon and armor with orbs that grant them various powers such as magic, and also increase and decrease certain stats somewhat. Materia comes in various types, chiefly magic, but also summon, support, and the like.

   Each character also has various Limit Breaks they can execute when they've taken enough damage in battle, providing for powerful offensive or support abilities. Characters have four levels of Limit Breaks, up to two per level (except the fourth level), with a Limit Break level's second skill acquired through constant use of that level's first Limit Break, and an upper Limit Break level (except the fourth, again), gained by having a character kill a certain number of enemies. There are some minor flaws in combat such as the Wait setting for battle not always guaranteeing the action of battle will stop during moments such as when the player is choosing an enemy to attack normally, although the battle system still shines in the end.

Barret as Mr. T "I pity the fool who hangs by a bridge wire!"

   Interaction is clean in many respects, with easily-navigable menus and shopping, although there are some shortcomings in the controls, such as the directional pad's buttons not always leading Cloud in their respective directions in many areas, and the slight difficulty of shifting around Materia after exchanging characters (with players only able to swap characters at save points). There are also some instances where the game doesn't tell players very well how to advance, but nonetheless, interaction isn't bad, yet could've been better, as well.

   The Materia system was one of the seventh installment's main innovations in its time, as were Limit Breaks (while the sixth installment supposedly had them, odds are that players wouldn't see them at all through the course of that game, and they're far more noticeable in its successor). The story also showed plenty of creativity, with its advanced technological setting contrasting with the general fantasy milieu of its predecessors. It did retain series elements such as active time battles, chocobos, and airships, but was distinctive nonetheless in its time.

   The story is an excellent driving factor throughout the game, with some interesting twists and surprises (especially for those who have never experienced the game before), great character development, reasonable backstory, and decent conflict among the playable characters, the Shinra Corporation, and Sephiroth. The translation is a little spotty at some points, although the script itself is still even today one of the most mature in the franchise, with the plot itself having aged nicely since the game's release, as well.

Smashy, smashy One less window to wash

   The soundtrack fits the game nicely, with series composer Nobuo Uematsu providing a nice variety of music ranging from the energetic techno themes in the city of Midgar to the peaceful overworld theme; many characters such as Cid have their own themes, as well. The normal battle theme, however, can get a bit repetitive, and some of the sound effects, while certainly fitting, are a little odd at times, but otherwise, Final Fantasy VII is easy on the ears.

   The visuals were certainly advanced in the game's time, if a little inconsistent and at some points dated by today's standards. The high points of the graphics include the beautiful photorealistic pre-rendered scenery, the FMVs, and the reasonably smooth, if a little grainy, combat visuals and overworld. The character models outside battle (and occasionally in the FMVs), however, are a little blocky and anatomically odd at points, with everyone, for instance, having thick forearms making them somewhat resemble Popeye the Sailor. All in all, while many parts of the graphics haven't aged well, they were well more than adequate in the game's time.

   Finally, players can blaze straight through the seventh installment in around twenty-five hours (even sooner if they're lucky), or spend a fair bit of time on sidequests and possibly boost playing time to somewhere around fifty hours.

   In conclusion, Final Fantasy VII is perhaps one of the most overhyped RPGs ever, but with good reason, as its certainly has many things going for it, such as its gameplay and just about all its other aspects such as its story, music, and graphics, and thus, it's perfectly understandable why Square (since merged with Enix) would exploit it financially with a sequel movie and many spinoff games. Even so, the seventh installment of the legendary franchise is certainly one of the original Playstation's definitive titles, and those that haven't played it really haven't experienced Playstation RPGs.

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