Final Fantasy VII - Retroview

A Glimpse Of Things Yet To Come


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 7
   Plot 7
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

45-60 hours


Title Screen

   I've avoided, and put off reviewing Final Fantasy VII for so long, that I can't help but think my review might be too biased. But, with a game that so utterly shook the foundations of conventional wisdom, and hearkened the beginning of a totally new era of RPGs, there's hardly a way not to be opinionated one way or the other. The, now common, battle between the 'New School' and 'Old School' gamers, fairly well started when this game came out. It has had more impact on the gaming industry (in every gaming genre) than anything else I have ever seen... And it is not likely to be forgotten any time soon.

   The Final Fantasy VII battle system redefined what was possible in RPGs. Even though it uses the tried-and-true ATB system with menu lists of options, it also took away a vital standby of the series; FFVII only allowed you to have 3 characters in your party. While this is only a nitpicky thing, I, for one, rather liked the idea of 4. That small detail aside, FFVII brought back the classic magic naming system that we all know so well. But, where the earlier games focussed primarily on the difference between 'white' and 'black' magic, this game tends to be more ingrained on separating things into 'summon' and 'magic' classes.

   Basically, you learn magic from items called 'materia', in much the same manner as in the previous title of the series. The major difference this time is that the materia themselves learn the magic. Thus, when Cloud has an ice materia equipped, and it levels up to learn Ice 2, if he unequips it and someone else equips it in his stead, it will allow them to cast Ice 2 as if it never left Cloud. The five colors of materia can generally be divided into:
Yellow: Command Magic - These generally add more options to your combat menu, e.g. Steal, Throw, etc.
Blue: Support Magic - Blue materia can be equipped to enhance Green materia in various ways, e.g. allow the spells to target multiple characters/opponents, drain MP with their attack, etc.
Purple: Enhancement Magic - The Purple materia give characters bonuses to their stats or effect them in other ways, e.g. HP + a certain total percent, long range attacks with short range weapons, etc.
Green: Magic Spells - These cover both 'black' and 'white' magic spheres, e.g. everything from Fire to Ultima, Cure to Life 2, Esuna to Demi, etc.
Red: Summon Magic - These ultrapowerful materia allow the user to literally 'summon' forth mystical creatures to visciously savage your enemies, e.g. Bahamut ZERO, Knights of the Round, Shiva, Ifrit, Ramuh, etc.

This Is The First FF To Really Emphasize Summon Magic
This Is The First FF To Really Emphasize Summon Magic 

   There is yet one more aspect of the FFVII battle system that needs mentioning. The primary thing you'll notice in combat, is that underneath your ATB meter you have another bar that gradually fills up as you're attacked. When this meter maxes out, the character unleashes their ultra attack, or Limit Break. These vary widely in effect and, although there is some convention to getting new ones, I'm not really sure what it is. You can always find a FAQ to tell you. The one slightly irritating thing about Limit Breaks is that they replace your 'Attack' option on the menu when they're active. I, for one, like to save things that quintuple your attack damage for times when you actually need them... But where would the challenge be if you could do that, ne?

   The sub-menu system of FFVII is nothing too grandiose to be unusable. It's set up effectively and is very easy to maneuver through. As you gain items, and go through the various tutorials of the game, more options become available to you. Simple practice will get you through.

   Now... I'll admit that I'm biased toward Nobuo Uematsu. I think that he's probably the greatest game music composer of all time (although I can see the point-of-view of people who like Motoi Sakuraba and Yasunori Mitsuda, too). The one down side to the FFVII soundtrack is that everything sounds so similar. Granted, a game needs to have a musical theme throughout, but this is taken to extremes in FFVII. The other complaint that I have is that Uematsu used a song from Final Fantasy VI's absolutely stunning, mad-pimpin' soundtrack over again (and not the Final Fantasy Prelude, either! That doesn't count!). Overall, as good as it was, I was considerably less impressed with the music in this game than in most of the others in the series. Sound effects are passable. I have a hard time recalling anything especially great or terrible about them, honestly.

   Originality is a very debatable topic where this game is concerned. A good portion of the things that are plot related in FFVII had been done far prior to the game itself. But, with the myriad of twists and turns along the way - and taking into account that the main character is hopelessly lost in psychopathy - it tends to pull some originality into the stream afterall. When you add that to the non-characteristic setting of the game (as compared to the rest of the saga), you have a fairly unique experience. Just don't play it more than once or you'll start pulling everything apart.

Pre-Rendered 3D Environments
Pre-Rendered 3D Environments 

   To attempt to fully explain the story of FFVII would be asinine. This is mostly because of the finale to the game. A brief, if cliché, explanation would go something like:
The sinister ShinRa corporation is using a technology known as 'Mako Reacting' to drain the life (literally) out of the planet for the profits of energy production. A small rebel faction known as 'Avalanche' has been working tirelessly to thwart and destroy keys facilities in the conspiracy. When a former member of the ShinRa elite military force, SOLDIER, joins the group and goes on a mission with them, it becomes clear that there is more at work than meets the eye, and that maybe events in the past are still shaping the present... Esoteric enough for you? If you think that's bad, wait until you see the ending. It's been the topic of endless debate since the game came out.

   As compared to earlier games, FFVII has probably the most brilliant localization of all time. It is well translated, they left nothing out of the American version of the game, and without Nintendo's censorship, there was even foul language (a mighty step forward for RPGs). I can't say anything bad about it. If it seems like something is wrong with a phrase, or if parts of the story don't quite 'jive' or make sense with what you already know... That's because of the story itself. Finish the game and you'll understand.

   I remember thinking, "Good lord! Is disc one EVER going to end!?" Sadly, the rest of the game is rather short. FFVII set the recent standard play time, so don't expect anything that you haven't seen recently. It's not megalithic, I'll give it that.

   Graphics... Where do I even start? At the time, the graphics of Final Fantasy VII were so phenomenal, so astounding, so utterly gorgeous, that people would sit wide-eyed and stunned as one of the various Full Motion Video sequences would play out. The in game graphics, though blocky, were equally as astonishing. There is simply no comparison point for the graphics of this game in the days that it came out.

   Final Fantasy VII boasts very few truely difficult spots... That is, if you discount Emerald and Ruby Weapon. Included only in the American (International, too?) version of the game, were 2 monstrously difficult creatures that sport more HP, MP, damage, defense, and skill than even the final boss, Seraph Sephiroth. Simply put, there is no feasible way to defeat them short of having the 'Final Attack' materia, and a group of nearly maxed out characters with 'Knights of the Round'. This trend of having creatures stronger than the final boss has carried over into newer members of the FF saga... I wonder what FFX will hold for us..?

   I'll admit that I've played Final Fantasy VII through more than once... More than twice, in fact. But, the fact remains that there is almost no good reason to do so unless you have lots of free time. RPGs are typically designed to be worth playing once. If that's all you do with FFVII, you won't be missing anything.

Black Magic Is NOT A Toy!
Black Magic Is NOT A Toy! 

   I don't know what else to say about Final Fantasy VII. It was so awesome, and incredible for the time that it deserves a '10'... But there were others in the era, too... And they prove, more than anything else, that Final Fantasy VII was far from perfect. Hence, although it put a lot of things in a pretty mighty shadow, it isn't quite the 'lord & master' of RPGs that a lot of gamers tend to think...

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