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Final Fantasy VII - Retroview

The One That Started the Craze

By: Robust Stu


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

35 Hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Final Fantasy VII
 

   Final Fantasy VII has been credited as the game that made RPGs cool. With a multimillion dollar development and advertising budget, this was perhaps the top game, RPG or otherwise, of 1997. For me personally, this is the game that turned a casual interest in RPGs into a major pastime. With a great storyline, awesome graphics and sound, and some *FUN* minigames and side quests, this game had it all.

   You play Cloud Strife, a former member of the military group known as SOLDIER. Now that you're out of the service, you're hiring out your services as a mercenary to whoever has the cash. As the game opens, you're helping out Tifa, a childhood friend, and her vigilante group known as AVALANCHE as they bomb a nuclear reactor in the city of Midgar. Along the way you, Tifa, and several others embark on a classic quest that will have the fate of the world hanging in the balance. I'd love to tell you more about the story, but really telling much about it would give too much away, and this is a great story that would not take kindly to being spoiled.

   Battles have the patented Active Time Battle system, meaning it has the menu system of turn based games, but the action keeps moving, so if you decide to put down the controller during a battle and go get a soda, you might be dead when you come back. This game introduced Limit Breaks, which are special attacks you can use when your character has taken enough damage. For the first time in the series, the enemies and characters move during battle, which I thought was a nice touch.


Disassemble those robots
Disassemble those robots  

   While they have long since been surpassed, at the time the graphics of Final Fantasy 7 was state of the art and absolutely blew away just about anything else on any system. All the backgrounds were painstakingly detailed. Midgar has always been one of the coolest looking places in any game I have ever played, and even with today's superior hardware it still stands up as one of the most detailed locations in any game ever. Even the characters were good looking and well animated.

   The music was one of the best features of this game. There was a wide variety of really, really great tunes, and it feels like every piece was specifically tailored to the scene in which it appears. Some of my favorite tunes ever come from this game, such as the music from Junon, Midgar, and the JENOVA boss battles. The sound effects weren't too impressive, however, and sounded pretty unrealistic.

   One good thing about having a game with such an awesome story is that it can help to cover up a subpar translation, which is exactly what happens in this game. I love this game, but the crappy translation made some parts of the story hard to understand, which was a shame because you really had to puzzle some stuff out in this game.

   This as probably the last Final Fantasy game that had a good amount of side quests rather than treasure hunts to do before the final battle, so that gives it a decent amount of replay value, because if you don't get to see and do everything the first time, you'll definitely want to take a second trip through the game to do the stuff you missed. Plus, who wouldn't want to try and take down the WEAPONs?


The Junon Cannon
The Junon Cannon  

   This game had a few original elements worth mentioning. We've already talked about the Limit Breaks, but also there is the Materia system, which is sort of like a cross between the Relic and Esper systems of Final Fantasy 6. You equip a piece of materia, each of which has its own innate spells and abilities, like relics. However, like espers, you can gain ability points on the materia towards getting new abilities and spells. The downside is that when you remove the materia, you lose the abilities and spells that the materia holds, but the upside is that the materia itself retains any abilities that have been gained while it is equipped so you can just pop it back on a character and be good to go.

Just going straight through the game start to finish with no diversions of excessive leveling up, you're probably looking at about 35 hours spent playing Final Fantasy 7. But the side quests, unlike most games, are really fun, and are actual QUESTS, not "catch 70,000 butterflies to get an item which you then have to take to the undertaker in the graveyard to get an item which can then be leveled up into your ultimate weapon." So with the side quests, including defeating the two WEAPONS, you'll likely spend closer to 60 hours.

Final Fantasy 7, like I said above, is what turned RPGs from being a largely ignored niche genre into the large part of the video game market it is today. This has been both a good and bad thing, good because we went from getting 3-4 RPGs per year to...well...a lot more than that, and bad because we got a lot of really crappy games that companies were just trying to make a quick buck off of by saying "hey look, we made an RPG!" But that aside, this game is not only interesting for historical reasons but is also a really good game well worth a play or two.

Highly Recommended.




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