Final Fantasy VII Review (PS1)

Following Sony’s E3 press conference yesterday with the announcement of the long awaited Final Fantasy VII HD remake, I only felt it right that I review the original Final Fantasy VII. ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN. IT’S IN FULL FORCE.

Overview:

Final Fantasy VII is a JRPG first released in 1997. This game goes down in history as one of the greatest games ever made. It was a pioneer, one of the first games to merge movie and video game into one being. This game has a cult following; the fan base always wants more. While the game has had many different games and even a movie to expand the lore, it has cemented itself into gaming history. However, with the game being almost 20 years old, does it hold up today?

Gameplay:

Setting a standard for JRPGs, this game was the first to do many things that would be seen in the later games of the same genre, but at heart it is a typical JRPG. It has exploration, random encounters, leveling characters and equipment, and turn based combat.

Every JRPG can basically be broken down into a few basic steps. Battle things, gain experience, level up, battle bigger things. The same holds true with Final Fantasy VII. Exploration is basic in this game. Explore every nook and cranny and you will be rewarded with gear or fancy items. There is a main quest to follow and many different sub quests that can also be completed. Completing sub quests is the key to getting the most powerful equipment in this game.

There are many different sub quests in this game. Some are very long (namely: the chocobo breeding) while some are short. There are a few hidden sub quests that can be missed (Wutai and the quest to unlock Vincent’s ultimate weapon) so if you are a completionist, make sure you explore everything as soon as possible and as thoroughly as possible (or use a strategy guide).

You have random encounters throughout the world as you explore almost every area with the occasional boss battle thrown in to test your abilities. The fighting is done through a turn based style. When the time gauge fills, a menu pops up. This menu allows you to perform commands such as attacking, defending, using magic and items, and various other commands. You have a total of nine characters to choose from (7 you will find naturally, 2 are hidden), each are supposed to have their own strengths and weaknesses in stats, but those really don’t matter too much, sadly. Out of these nine, you can choose three to battle at any one given time.

The first fight
The first fight

Another battle mechanic, one that is well known, is the limit break system. If you take damage in battle, your limit gauge increases. When it fills, the attack command is replaced by the limit command. Limit breaks are incredibly overpowered attacks that can really change the tide of battle if you happen to be losing. The only thing I don’t like about the system is you can’t use a regular attack if you have a limit break charged. At least it isn’t broken like Final Fantasy VIII.

The main mechanic for leveling outside of the character level is the materia system. Materia in Final Fantasy VII is the driving force for almost all the battle commands in the game, as well as a key story point. Leveling materia nets stronger spells, summons, and commands. You equip materia through your character’s equipment. Each piece of equipment has a certain number of materia slots, so you are limited. Some materia slots are linked, leading to materia combinations that can help in battle (such as the final attack/phoenix combination, which allows a character to cast a powerful summon that hurts enemies and revives dead party members when they get knocked out.).

Equip Screen
Equip Screen

Story:

Humble Beginnings
Humble Beginnings

Spoiler warnings for story. If you haven’t played this game by now, shame on you. It’s almost 20 years old.

This is as condensed as I can make this long story. To experience it best, play the game yourself.

The story starts in the town of Midgar, where you are thrust into the middle of things. You control the main character, Cloud. Things start off simple, with Cloud in a group called AVALANCHE trying to save the world from the evil corporation Shinra. Shinra controls reactors that suck Mako (the life energy of the planet) from the ground to power their city. AVALANCHE consists of Biggs, Wedge, Jesse, Barret (leader), and Tifa (Cloud’s childhood friend). AVALANCHE is successful in it’s first reactor destruction, but cloud is separated from the group upon the destruction of the second. This is where he meets Aerith, who we later learn is of an ancient race known as the Cetra and has a piece of materia known as the white materia that doesn’t do anything (Aeris in the game, that’s a typo though). He agrees to protect Aerith and she tries to help him find his AVALANCHE buddies. They find Tifa and learn that Shinra is going to destroy sector 7 (Midgar is separated into sectors) and blame AVALANCHE. AVALANCHE tries to stop the bomb but fail. The explosion takes out the entire sector and kills Biggs, Wedge, and Jesse. During the destruction, Shinra kidnaps Aerith. The group must rescue her. The group infiltrates Shinra headquarters and rescues Aerith. They meet a dog creature, Red XIII and try to escape; they’re captured and thrown into jail cells. The next morning they are free thanks to the murder of almost the entire building (including the president, Shinra), from a man named Sephiroth (more on him later). The team flees the headquarters and is forced to leave midgar. Meeting up at a nearby town, you learn Cloud’s backstory.

Cloud and Tifa are from Nibelheim, Cloud dreamed of being in a group known as SOLDIER, controlled by Shinra. He gets accepted, becomes a high ranking SOLDIER, and eventually has a mission at the Nibelheim Mako reactor. He is teamed with the legendary Sephiroth. They explore the reactor and Sephiroth learns his origins and believes himself to be a Cetra (though he really isn’t). This causes him to go crazy, thinking he is meant for a higher purpose. He burns down Nibelheim.

Famous Villain, Famous Scene
Famous Villain, Famous Scene

The party decides to hunt down Sephiroth. They end up traveling the world, meeting Cait Sith, Yuffie (optional), and Cid. The group arrives at Nibelheim to find it completely untouched with no one knowing anything about the earlier destruction. The party meets Vincent (also optional). They eventually come to an Ancient temple, where they run into Sephiroth; they learn he plans to become a god by becoming one with the lifestream. He plans to do this by summoning meteor using the black materia and causing the planet to amass a collection of lifestream, which he will merge with. The team acquires the black materia, but it falls into the hands of Sephiroth. Aerith realizes her white materia isn’t useless and goes to stop Sephiroth using it to prevent meteor from being summoned. Aerith is killed. This is one of the biggest twists in gaming history and is very sad.

The group heads to the northern crater to fight Sephiroth and avenge the death of their beloved comrade. There they learn he is a clone of Jenova; it is also learned that Cloud also has Jenova cells in him, since he is a clone of Sephiroth. This allows him to be manipulated by Sephiroth. Cloud is manipulated to help cast meteor. He ends up falling into the lifestream. The planet awakens ancient creatures called Weapons to kill people to return as much of the lifestream to the planet as possible (meet the superbosses of the game). One tries to attack midgar and manages to kill the new president of Shinra before being forced back by a huge cannon (they just keep dying). Cloud is found in a catatonic state. He awakens to realize he was never a high ranking SOLDIER, but a low ranking member. He took on the memories of Zack Fair to compensate for the sadness of losing him (that is a story for another day). The party learns that Sephiroth is stopping the white materia from working, so they have to kill him to save the planet.

After the battle, it's the after-battle.
After the battle, it’s the after-battle.

They do. Happiness is had! The planet is hurt, but a scene shows many years later, it does recover. Hooray!

Graphics:

If you couldn’t tell from the previous pictures…. this game has NOT aged well. There are two “types” of graphics here. In battle and out of battle. While the in battle graphics are better… they’re not great.

Ah, the better character models
Ah, the better character models

The out of battle graphics are even worse. The character models don’t even have faces. Just eyes and polygons. The pre-rendered backgrounds are the best part, but that isn’t saying much.

Not a pretty sight.
Not a pretty sight.

Sound:

The sound, as opposed to the graphics, has aged wonderfully. The soundtrack is one of the most amazing things about this game.

This. The entire soundtrack. Just pick and choose. The soundtrack has everything. It is happy, it is sad, it has excitement, it has action. This is one of my favorite game soundtracks of all time. The songs will stick with you.

The sound effects are fine. There is no problem with the sound in this game.

Final Thoughts/My Experience:

Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite games of all time. My one problem is that it is incredibly easy (barring the superbosses). The last time I played through it, I did a self imposed challenge; it was the LLNIIENACMO (low level no item initial equipment no accessory command materia only) run. It was incredibly difficult, but very fun. You know you’ve played a game too much when you have to impose crazy challenges on yourself to make it hard.

The game is by no means perfect, nor is it meant for everyone. The final Sephiroth fight gets a little annoying thanks to one of his attacks, because it takes 3 years to complete the animation.

There are many people out there who claim that Final Fantasy VII is overrated. I tend to disagree with those people. This game is one of the most famous classics for a reason. It was incredibly innovative for its time. I don’t think it’s the best of the series, but it definitely had an influence on every JRPG to come after.

If you don’t like RPGs, this one probably won’t make you love the genre, but for everyone else? You should definitely play it. 100%. If you are someone who needs good graphics to enjoy a game, I would wait for the remake though, since one of the few flaws in the game are the dated graphics. This is definitely an RPG that everyone must experience at least once.

9/10

+Materia system
+Gripping story
+Plenty to do
+Brilliant villain
-Graphics
-Story can be confusing
-won’t make you love RPGs

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