Final Fantasy VII- Review  

The Crisis: Chapter 1
by Lucky Melchior

40-60 Hours
+ Outstanding musical score.
+ Stunning FMVs.
+ Tons of fun, addictive minigames.
+ Deep, complex story with interesting characters.
- Story can be too convoluted at times.
- In game character polygons are blocky.
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    In 1997 Squaresoft released Final Fantasy VII, the next chapter of it's epic RPG series Final Fantasy, in North America for the Playstation. The game stood as a change for the Final Fantasy series as it featured a non-fantasy world set in a more modern technological era. Also it was revolutionary in it's use of FMV to aid storytelling.

   Final Fantasy VII features the Active-Time Battle System(ATB) that is present in many Final Fantasy games. Each character has a time gauge, as soon as this fills up you can imput a command. Your battle party consists of up to three characters at a time. Each character can either attack or use an item. Each character also has unique Limit Break skills. Whenever a party member sustains damage their limit break guage will fill-up slightly. Once it fills all the way up the character will be able to use a powerful Limit Break skill. The Limit Break guage is cumulative from battle to battle. As mentioned these are the basic skills characters have, any additional skills are gained by equping materia to either you armor or weapons. Materia can give a character access to magic, powerful summons spells and various other skills. After defeating enemies you will not only gain experience and money, but also AP. AP is used to level up materia. Once materia is leveled up more spells and skills become available. For example if you equip fire materia you gain access to the Fire spell, but if you level up the materia you also gain access to Fire 2. Some materia slots are connected and you can sometime pair materia for added effects. For example, if the aformentioned fire materia is paired with all materia then the Fire spell can be used on all enemies. There are countless combinations of materia and, espcially considering materia effects your base stats, it allows for full customization of your characters. The one drawback to this system is that characters lack uniqueness even a frail girl can be beefed up with HP and strength raising materia and given offensive skills. On the otherhand a powerful gun touting male can be made the primary healer if equipped with tons of curative materia. Limit Breaks are the only unique feature to each character.

ATB battle system ATB battle system

   There is a lot more to the gameplay of Final Fantasy VII than the somewhat basic battle system. The game also features a ton of fun, innovative and addictive mini-games. The innovative aspect of the minigames are that most of them are seemlessly woven into the story and are not optional. Early on in the game you will be fleeing ShinRa troops and Cloud riding a motorcycle must protect his allies in a van by swatting at enemey cycles with his sword. Sometimes the simplest thing will be incorporated as a mini-game, such as performing CPR on a young girl who fell in the water. There is also an amusement park, the Gold Saucer which hosts many mini-games that can lead to tons of special prizes. The massive amount of mini-games prevents the game's battle systems and gameplay from becoming too mundane and boring.

   The game's score by the famous composer Nobuo Uematsu is outstanding. The battle theme and boss theme in particular are uptempo melodies that really pull you into each fight. Almost every musical track is outstanding and fits the emotion of the scene. Sad and emotional scenes have moving melodies. While on the other hand, the Gold Saucer, the world's amusement park features an upbeat cheerful theme. The only possible drawback to the soundtrack is a lack of variety late in the game. At that point the battle theme may have become tiresome to you as it will not change throughout the game. That being said, the soundtrack is still outstanding and one of the best in RPG history in my humble opinion.

   The plot centers around Cloud, who is an ex-member of ShinRa's elite military branch, SOLDIER. ShinRa is a power company, which generates electricity by draining Mako from the earth. They have a strong military branch and de-facto control the world. The story starts out with Cloud joining an environmental terroist group called AVALANCHE in their bombing of a ShinRa mako reactor. Early on one of the primary antagoists in revealed, Sephiroth, who was once the greatest member of SOLDIER. It is interesting how the protagist's group has two seperate antagonists who are also opposed to each other. This interesting dynamic is expaned upon throughout the game as the history between Cloud, ShinRa and Sephiroth are developed. The story is very deep, complex and features a lot of interesting characters. The one drawback is that the story is almost too complex at times and becomes convoluted. You may have to replay the game and unlock certain hidden scenes to truly understand what really happened. Overall though it as a very good story.

Stunning FMV's Stunning FMV's

   The visuals are another key component to the game's enjoyable experience. In each individual town or area you maneuver your characters around gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds. While on the overworld you move around in 3d and you experience every lush forest or winding river and it really makes you feel part of the world and enhances the gaming experience. The game also features a generous supply of stunning FMV's to aid in telling the story. The one drawback to the visuals is that in game character models use crude blocky polygons. Besides this one flaw the visual experience is outstanding.

   Final Fantasy VII has excellent interface and interaction. The menu system is well laid out and fully customizable. It is easy to manage your extensive inventory of items, equipment and materia. Moving around the overworld is a breeze too as there are many modes of transportation available to you throughout the game, ranging from Chocobos, to boats, to submarines to airships. Also the control of the camera angles on the overworld are easy as well. The one drawback to the interaction is that the pre-rendered backgrounds are so detailed and complex that your character can get lost in it and it can be difficult at times to know where to go. Thankfully by pressing the select button your character is highlighted and the exits are labeled. Overall Final Fantasy VII interacts with the player reasonably well.

   Final Fantasy VII was a landmark game, it brought the RPG genre out of the obscure shadow of a niche genre into the main stage of video game generes. It's use of FMV revolutionized the video game industry. Overall it is a wonderful game that has a deep complex story, although convoluted at times and an epic score. If you have never played this game before I highly recommend tracking it down and playing it. If you have, you may want to replay it and enjoy this absolute classic RPG.

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