Final Fantasy VII - Retroview

A Good Game Chained To Its Stereotypes

By: TheShroud13

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 4
   Plot 6
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-50 hours


Title Screen

   Final Fantasy VII, the RPG that did what Mystic Quest never could, welcomed newcomers into the world of RPGs. Seemingly designed for the mainstream, Final Fantasy VII sold incredibly well. It started the mutation of role-playing games from niche genre, to one of the premiere genres. Final Fantasy VII proves that you have a fantasy game in a futuristic setting. Final Fantasy VII is a wonderful game, but a few flaws in the game really hold this game from being all that it could be.

   Final Fantasy VII uses the Active Time Battle that has been around since Final Fantasy IV. Polished greatly, VII's spin on the Active Time system is much greater than its archaic counterpart, and adds a new twist to the battle system, Limit Breaks. These new attacks would allow you to use a devastating attack on your foes after you had taken enough damage to fill up your limit bar. This new twist adds a bit to the system, and makes the battles a little more tactical. The battle system still suffers from the same ailments that the Active Time Battles of the past had, battles using this system require very little thought. Surviving the majority of the battles in this game is basically a matter of hitting the X button until your foe is dead. There is never real any sense of danger in battles, and while they are fun for a time, they quickly grow boring.

   Like most Final Fantasies after IV, Final Fantasy VII uses a unique system that determines your skills. As opposed to having each character being given predetermined abilities, you use Materia to assign your character magic spells and abilities. You can fine-tune your characters to mutilate your enemies in a number of ways. While the freedom of customization is indeed new, having to rearrange your Materia every time you get new Materia is frustrating. In addition to that, none of the characters really has a "feel" to them in combat. You can design your characters to be anything you want them to be, which is nice, to a degree; however, it also makes it so your party will essentially consist of the same members throughout the game, as there really is no reason to use your other characters. A number of materia also have the ability to imbalance an already easy game even more. While the materia system is a good idea, and is fun at the beginning of the game, it quickly becomes one of the game's biggest chores. Fortunately, everything else about the game flows smoothly, and is easily accessible in a token Final Fantasy menu.

What a beautiful surrounding.
What a beautiful surrounding. 

   Final Fantasy VII does a pretty good job with its audio. The sounds aren't really groundbreaking, but they show improvement from the SNES. The musical score is not a masterpiece, but it is still a very good selection of songs. There are few very exceptional songs, but the songs are placed appropriately, and fit their environments nicely. The game does, however, have a few stand out songs that help bolster this soundtrack. There are also some pretty bad songs, but the majority of the soundtrack fits perfectly with the story, and although not a magnificent work, it does get the job done, as well as enhance the game.

   One of the most important aspects of any RPG is the number of aspects that affect the game's plot. While Final Fantasy VII does not have a bad story, a number of aspects that would have contributed in making Final Fantasy VII's plot more believable and understandable are not done adequately enough to consider the game's plot good. One of the most annoying things about the game is the way it moves from point to point. As opposed to using dialogue and events to progress the story, it uses awkward transition scenes to progress the story, making the game both less believable, as well as more difficult to understand. Another major weakness to Final Fantasy VII is its character development. While some characters in the game are very well developed, the majority of them are not, and even more are subject to terrible stereotypes. Grand dialogue scenes are appropriate for developing some characters, however, others are left with a few strings of, "@#&%*&!" to develop their personality. The characters are very poorly done, and the characters are amazingly unbelievable, even for a fantasy game. After spending enough time in the game to realize the characters are so poorly developed, you begin starting to simply not care what happens to them, and since the entire plot is focused around them, the plot doesn't carry the kind of punch it would if the characters were developed well. In addition, the world in which the game takes place is not well developed either, making you simply not care about it, and since the whole game is your typical save the world game, the entire point of the game seems pointless in the eyes of the gamer. While the story is well crafted and complex, you end up just simply not caring due to the awful development by Square's part in the characters, and the game's world. There is so much potential in this game that has been squandered by the Square's poor execution.

I'm not sure what they are, but they don't look nice.
I'm not sure what they are, but they don't look nice. 

   The originality in Final Fantasy VII is a tough thing to judge. On one hand, it is a groundbreaking game worthy of full originality marks, on the other, it is a game filled with stereotypes. Final Fantasy VII is one of the first games to set a fantasy game in a futuristic cyberpunk world, and it does a marvelous job in doing it. It has a very original plotline, and some very original aspects to it. The characters are a different story. Bound in shackles to character stereotypes, you can look at a character and already determine their personalities. It's a real tight squeeze, but overall, the good original aspects outweigh the bad, and make this game more original than most.

   Final Fantasy VII doesn't sport the world's greatest localization, but it doesn't fail miserably either. The grammatical errors are existent, but never really get in the way of the understanding of the game. There are also some awkward phrases and errors around that interfere with your understanding of some speech, but that is mainly from minor characters, which although still unacceptable, does not interfere with the game, does not really impede your understanding of the game overall, so it is more forgivable. While it still falls short of par, it isn't so gloriously awful that you can't enjoy the game because of it.

   If there is one thing you can do with Final Fantasy VII, it is playing it over and over again. The abundance of minigames, if nothing else, will keep you coming back. The mini-games are fun, and the battles are fun enough to keep you through the game a second time. One of the things this game does well is making sure the game doesn't sit on your shelf forever, which is admirable.

The people look like they're made of Legos.
The people look like they're made of Legos. 

   Final Fantasy VII is also a very pretty game. While the character models outside of combat and FMVs are relatively unimpressive and blocky, the battle graphics are very good, and the FMV graphics are amazing. Beyond that, the game has very good backgrounds, and the landscapes look amazing. While the character models probably won't impress you at first, the game does a brilliant job of painting the world, and you will be amazed at what Square did with during the earlier days of Playstation.

   All in all, Final Fantasy VII is a relatively good game. It definitely seems engineered toward the mainstream, and it has succeeded well. Unfortunately, the game does not satisfy all the needs that I look for in a game, and never really feels complete. While Final Fantasy VII broke the plane of RPGs as a mainstream genre, and there could not have been a better game to do it, few aside from mainstream gamers will ever consider Final Fantasy VII a masterpiece. This is a good, long quest, however the pieces of the puzzle to make this game a masterpiece are missing.

   TheShroud13's Final Word: While Final Fantasy VII is a good game, the stereotypes and poor character development hurt this game more than I ever thought it could. A worthwhile game to play, but don't believe the hype.

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