Final Fantasy VII Review

Nebojsa Radakovic
Final Fantasy VII Info

genre

  • RPG

players

  • 1 - 1

Publisher

  • Square

Developer

  • Square

Release Date

  • 11/30/1999
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS

rating

For a “Final” Fantasy, there sure are a lot of them.

Before the hate mail starts to roll in, take a look at the date of this review.

Final Fantasy VII has been out for 6 months now. The excitement has tapered

off, the apple has lost some of its shine, and more importantly, the gushing

hype has ended and we can take a long rational look at this best selling PlayStation

RPG just in time for the PC release.

Final Fantasy VII is even worth such a close examination (and this extremely

long review) because it does some terrific and amazing things; it also does

some very tedious things and some fundamentally terrible things. In fact, I

have never seen a game that was as much of a mixed bag as FF7. At times,

I would have sworn that ten different development teams all worked on different

parts of the game, at the same time, in secret from each other.

Lets start with the very first FF7 mystery combination (which includes

the best part of the game): the graphics. Like it or not, this is an ‘anime’

game. For those of you who don’t know, this means that it is in the style of

Japanese animation. Some people like it, others do not; no judgment here. What

is odd is that the anime style changes constantly throughout the game. One minute

the characters are short and goofy looking, the next minute they are tall and

lanky with a dark, heroin-addict look. And there are are many other styles in

between.

The quality of the graphics is not quite as mixed. They range from solid to

fabulous. The cut scenes are great and of movie quality. However, most of the

game involves moving your goofy-looking polygonal character around on pre-rendered

backgrounds. There is also overland movement which takes place on a large 3D

map. These graphics are pretty clean, and the backgrounds are well drawn, but

there is nothing inspirational here… until you go to combat.

The combat art style is less childish looking but still a bit cartoonish with

weird spiky hair and preposterously oversized weapons… and the graphics are

simply amazing! Regular hack and slash combat looks good, but the spells and

‘limit break’ special moves are just astonishing to watch. The variety is tremendous

also, with hundreds (thousands?) of different adversaries, weapons, attacks,

and spells throughout the game. Using a smart camera that has dozens of different

pans, rotations, angles and even editing styles, the fights rarely look

the same twice. Simply put, the combat graphics in FF7 are far and away

the best in any RPG made yet.

Robot bashing time.The

sound, however, is not so good. The oh-so-average midi tracks soon get old,

especially since there is only one main combat track used for 99% of the battles,

and there is (horror!) no way to turn off the music.

For our next bizarre mix, we have the gameplay itself, and again, the combat

is the best part. It is semi-turn based, semi action. Basically, everything

is timed, and you can move whenever your time bar fills up, based on your character’s

agility. You then can choose to attack, defend, cast a spell or other options.

The magic system is all about combinations of magic gems called ‘materia’. It

is complex, but has amazing depth and variety (did I mention the graphics?).

Finally, after a number of battles, your ‘limit break’ bar can fill up, at which

time you perform some very impressive moves indeed.

There are even a few games within the game. These include primitive motorcycle

racing and snowboarding, a fairly complex strategy game, some gambling, a fighting

arena, and the ‘chocobo races.’ Some of these are necessary to complete FF7,

while some are just for added depth and fun.

The rest of the game is less exciting. Exploring and looking for the next random

encounter is not so bad, but the towns and other slow parts can be awful! To

advance past these parts, you must spend hours just walking around ‘talking’

to people. (By the way, this is a CD game so WHY DO I STILL HAVE TO READ TEXT?!)

Ahem. Anyway, being stuck somewhere for hours because you haven’t yet randomly

discovered that you have to talk to the old man three times, after talking to

the child in the street and the lady with the hat, is not fun.

The depth of the gameplay is still amazing though. While the plot is pretty

linear, there are lots of places to go, things to do, monsters to fight, areas

to explore and characters to find that are totally unnecessary to completing

the game
. The smallest things have more depth than you can imagine, for

example the ‘chocobo races’. While they are a minor part of the game, if you

are dedicated, you can catch and breed chocobos. Select them for different traits,

race them, and ride your specially bred chocobos to otherwise inaccessible and

interesting parts of the map. Not only does this complexity increase the replay

value of FF7, but it gives it more of an immersive, real-world feel.Cait Sith

Speaking of the linear plot, the story is the weakest part of Final Fantasy

VII
. The characters (up to 3 in your party at any time) are a confusing

mix at best. ‘Cloud’, the main character, is a mercenary with a muddled past.

‘Barret’ is the leader of the resistance and a big black guy with a machine

gun grafted onto his arm. Dark, troubled characters. But then the cast also

includes ‘Aeris’, a flower girl who can conveniently destroy robots and monsters

by hitting them with a stick, ‘Yuffie’ a cutsie-pooh girl ninja, ‘Vincent’ the

vampire, ‘Red XIII’ the talking dog, and (my personal insane favorite) ‘Cait

Sith’, a magical cat riding around on the back of a big, magically animated

stuffed animal and fighting with a megaphone. Anyone want some drugs?

The story starts off simply enough with the terrorists-for-the-people ‘Avalanche’

blowing up the reactors of the evil corporation ‘Shinra’. However, it soon turns

into an unfathomable muddled mess involving the ‘ancients’, mad scientists,

mako energy (to which characters are coincidentally related), traitors, ‘Soldier’,

robots, dragons, ‘The Genova Project’, vampires, black ‘materia’, genetic experiments,

mind games, Sephiroth, a magic cat, the spirit of the planet, and which girl

Cloud is going to date. It’s not that you couldn’t follow it if you really wanted

to, but it’s so stupid, I don’t know who would want to. To quote the character

Barret, halfway through the game, “I been here since the beginnin’, an’

I still don’t know what the hell’s goin’ on.”

Well said.

Final Fantasy VII is truly epic in scope (3 CD’s worth), but it can’t

make up its mind what kind of epic it is going to be. There are too many ideas

all randomly smashed together. One minute you are in a dark, cyberpunk world,

the next you are riding on a giant chicken. You hit missile-shooting robots

with an ancient sword, and blast machine guns at fire-breathing dragons. You

fight creepy biological horrors, and robots, and big playing cards, and a cartoon

house on legs.

The amazing graphics, impressive spells, scope and depth of Final Fantasy

VII
do make up tremendously for it’s bad plot and total lack of coherent

vision. However, they also make me long for what could have been done. The world

of FF7 is huge, if confusing and completely unfocused.

Still, I recommend it wholeheartedly to fans of Japanese RPG’s (perhaps they

will be more forgiving than I). However, I only recommend it moderately to everyone

else. Final Fantasy VII is hundreds of hours of visually beautiful gameplay,

but its frustrating incoherence will make many people cringe and put the game

aside before they have even finished.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

4
Rating
Fabulous graphics
Amazing spells
Good depth
Inconsistent
Unbelievably bad 'plot'