Console: PSone Company: Squaresoft Release Date: August 1997 Genre: RPG Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? What do you think? :)
Final Fantasy VII is the game that finally put the Sony Playstation on the map. It actually lived up to all the hype (imagine that) and, nearly seven years separated from its initial release, FF7 is still one of the most talked about RPGs in the gaming community. This says a lot about the staying power of this legendary classic as well as raising the question of where this game stands in terms of the all-time greats. With its eye-popping FMVs, emotional soundtrack, engrossing story, and diverse gameplay, it is impossible to discount this worthy sequel to Final Fantasy VI.
Overview: In my opinion, Final Fantasy VII was the first truly great RPG to be released for the PSone. While Bust-a-Move 2 revitalized the puzzle genre with Mega Man X4 firing up diehard action fans, FF7 trudged into terrain where no RPG had gone before. At the time of its release, FF7 was so revolutionary that it was difficult to really compare it to any other game. Granted, you had Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI but these games were for an entirely different console. Final Fantasy VII was definitely in a class of its own.
What I really like about Final Fantasy VII is the beautiful mix of the old and the new. Although FF7 was for a new console, Squaresoft didn't forget their roots. This game really feels like a Final Fantasy game! The overworld, towns, battles, weapon/item/accessory shops, summons; there's a whole lot of tradition packed into this game. However, even with so many elements of previous Final Fantasies jammed into this 3-disker, there's enough new stuff to make FF7 unique; I.E. It's not just a rehash of previous Final Fantasy games.
So what makes FF7 different you ask? For one thing, Final Fantasy VII is simply chock-full of mini-games! Motorcycle riding, strategic battles on Fort Condor (an inspiration for Final Fantasy Tactics perhaps?), submarine missions; the list just goes on and on. There are so many mini-games in FF7 that a whole area is needed to contain them all! If you want a break from the serious nature of the game, just visit the Gold Saucer! This area is packed to the teeth with bonus games like Arm Wrestling (I swear that "Wrestler" looks just like Barret...lol!), Basketball (in an FF game no less!), a fast-paced Roller Coaster ride, Chocobo races, the Battle Arena, and Snowboarding (This game is so much fun!!) Not only are the bonus games a lot of fun to play but there is the incentive of getting some pretty rare items by mastering them! I applaud Squaresoft for making FF7 so interesting from a gameplay standpoint. As you progress through the game for the first time, you'll simply be amazed at the many twists and turns that the game takes in terms of gameplay. Jamming the "Fight" option isn't going to get you anywhere in FF7.
While the bonus games are a welcome addition to the series, they aren't the only reason why FF7 is unique. A discussion of Final Fantasy VII would be incomplete without mentioning the materia system. Materia truly revolutionized this game and, at least for me, made it all the more fun to play. Materia is sort of like the Espers in FF6 yet it's not the same thing. By equipping various materia on your weapon and armlet, you can learn new magic spells, commands, and improve overall status figures such as HP, MP, and speed. By equipping materia and receiving AP through battles, Lightning and Ultima spells, the Steal and Morph commands, and summon monsters like Odin, Bahamut ZERO, and the gaudy Knights of the Round can be used. Some spells/abilities require a lot of AP to be learned but trust me, the wait is worth it. The important thing to remember is that the appropriate materia has to be equipped for that particular character to use it. This is unlike FF6 where every character in the game could use the same spells if you had the patience.
While most materia functions just fine independently, learning how to use the unique Support Materia is so important in this game. Unlike all other materia, Support Materia is designed to compliment other materia and make it more effective. For example, if you equip "All" materia with "Restore" materia in linked slots (the availability of linked slots depends on the weapon/armlet equipped), that character will be able to heal everyone with Cure spells instead of healing just one character. This can be very helpful when everyone in your party is low on HP. Another possibility could be equipping "Elemental" materia with "Poison" materia on that particular character's weapon. This actually gives the weapon a Poison attribute and randomly causes enemies to be poisoned! (the Bio spells have the same effect) One last example could be using "Steal as well" and "Comet" materia in conjunction. This is a great idea because, while you're attacking enemies with the incredibly powerful Comet/Comet 2 spell, you can actually steal valuable items from enemies simultaneously! The endless combinations and overwhelming amount of variety make the materia system a real winner in my book. No two FF7 games are exactly the same because of it!
Graphics: Even though I didn't get to play FF7 until last year (2003), I still found the game's graphics to be very impressive. While they are by no means perfect, they were way ahead of the pack back in 1997. The FMVs, towns, overworld, background graphics, bonus games; dang, these graphics are good!
The first thing that I have to mention is the outstanding FMVs throughout the game. I don't care if it's the year 1997 or 2004; you just can't top graphics like these! The opening FMV with the "mysterious flower girl" was a perfect intro for the game and set the tone nicely. I liked how the movie itself actually took you right into the game's first scene; this happened quite a bit throughout the game and really helped in terms of continuity. The incredibly emotional FMV with Aeris, the one where Weapon comes to life and attacks Shinra, and the ending FMV which took up nearly the entire third disk; I have nothing but praise for Squaresoft's efforts.
Regarding the actual game itself, the graphics were excellent with the backgrounds and the attention to detail being simply outstanding! The junkyards, dirty slums, playground slide, and graffiti in Midgar gave that area the perfect feel. In terms of eye candy, I found the statues in Wutai to be very impressive. It was cool how they looked exactly the same close up as they did from a distance. It is so obvious that Squaresoft pulled out all the stops with FF7 and that they really wanted to make this game better than the rest. I can't emphasize enough how the graphics in the game create the perfect atmosphere. While FF7 definitely has a darker feel than most FF games, I actually like it that way. The whole futuristic feel really grows on you. Although I nearly jumped out of my seat when I saw the FMV where Cloud crashes out of Shinra HQ with a motorcycle (in a FF game?!), it actually works...really!
Even with the majority of the game being dark, the graphics do a great job of bringing some of the more lighthearted and cheery areas like the Gold Saucer to life. I love the mega-conglomeration (Is that a word?) of colors and dazzling effects in this area! The fireworks in the background, the FMVs during the air ride, and the amazingly smooth graphics during the snowboarding mini-game are simply not to be believed! In terms of visual effects, the snowboarding game is truly jaw-dropping. I am still enthralled at the sense of speed that you feel when playing this game.
Although most of the graphics in Final Fantasy VII are 5.0 material, the characters are where the visuals slip a little. While Cloud, Aeris, and the rest of the characters look okay from afar, some of the close-up graphics are quite scary. Some of the characters' heads look slightly too big, their hands seem nonexistant, and they just have an overall blocky appearance. I couldn't help but think "Final Fantasy meets Legoman!" when playing the game for the first time. Seriously, you have to wonder what Squaresoft was thinking when it came to the character graphics. Thankfully, there were vast improvements in this area in future FF games so no worries. What I can't understand is why the characters look awesome in the FMVs yet their appearance in the game is so hilarious! It's actually laughable when you move Cloud right up to the screen; his appearance would give an aspiring artist like Mandi Paugh (see the Mega Man Home Page) a migraine!
Music: Of all the Final Fantasy games, I don't know if any have a soundtrack that fits the game's graphics as well as FF7. FF6 could probably make a strong case but, from start to finish, the music in this game conveyed the overall mood and created the right emotions perfectly! Anxiety, sorrow, a sudden rush of adrenaline, despair, hope; the FF7 score touches all of these emotions and more. My respect for Nobuo Uematsu grew quite a bit by playing FF7.
Of all the Final Fantasy soundtracks, however, this one might be the most difficult to fully appreciate upon the first hearing. Like Chrono Cross, the music really grows on you with time; the more I played FF7, the more I grew to appreciate the music. By the time I finally reached the end of the game, I was very pleased. Only Final Fantasy VI and even IX to a certain extent touched me emotionally like this one.
Personally, I found some of the more mysterious themes to be where the music really shines in FF7. "Anxious Heart" is an incredible track that plays in Cloud's hometown of Nibelheim as well as some of the other mysterious locales in the game. I get goosebumps whenever I hear that tune at night! "On That Day, 5 Years Ago" was a great fit for a key flashback scene while "Chasing the Black-Caped Man" was perfect for the Sleeping Forest. Another decent track was "Sandy Badlands." It created the perfect feel for being lost in the endless desert and besides, I love the whistle; it reminds me so much of Shadow's Theme in FF6. Lastly, "You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet" was a great track for the Forgotten City. Dark and ominous, it created the perfect feel for the desolate city of the Ancients.
On the more lighthearted side are some of the Chocobo, Gold Saucer, and Shinra tracks. If you want a good laugh, listen to "Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony!" Better yet, talk to the Chocobo's by the fence at the Farm; my sister laughed so much when she saw their silly little dance! "Electric de Chocobo" is a nice, friendly tune that has to rank among the best Chocobo tracks in the series while "Tango of Tears" is simply as funny as it gets! Gotta love Cloud and Aeris dancing off the stage in ballerina fashion! Another very nice track was "A Secret, Sleeping in the Deep Sea." This serene tune was simply perfect for the ocean area of the game and I found it strangely nostalgic as well.
In terms of pure emotion, it's awfully tough to top Aeris' theme. This track was simply perfect for the given situation and created the right emotions; Aeris' character was so lovable and this track conveys that. For some reason, I found the soft "Life Stream" tune to be very nice as well. "Interrupted by Fireworks" is a very touching track as well; a great fit for Cloud's roller coaster ride with Aeris. While it may not have been all that emotional, I found the final dungeon track, "Final Judgment," to be surprisingly full of hope. This track is one of my favorites in the game and fits the situation nicely.
While all of the above music is wonderful, any review of FF7's soundtrack would be incomplete without mentioning the battle music. In my opinion, the battle/boss music throughout this game is the best of the series and that is saying something! I mean every battle theme in this game is incredible! I found "Even More Fighting" to be a great adrenaline-pumping boss theme while "J-E-N-O-V-A" is ominous yet upbeat. The final battles with JENOVA and Sephiroth are simply awe-inspiring as well! "The Birth of God" conveys Sephiroth's mindset perfectly while "One Winged Angel" is still the rave of the RPG community. The Latin voices and menacing undertones fit the final battle theme so well!
Finally, the all-important ending theme didn't disappoint either. It had quite an act to follow in Final Fantasy VI's marathon track and, while I still prefer the FF6 ending song, FF7 has a very nice one as well. While the ending remains a controversy in the eyes of many, I feel that the music clearly depicts a happy ending. The final two minutes or so of the ending theme are so cool! I love the connotations of hope and a familiar face greeting the gamer before rolling to the credits. The credits music was exceptional as well!
If there are any problems that I have with the game's music, it would have to be the overall sound quality. While the music itself is excellent, the quality can't quite measure up to Final Fantasy Tactics or Chrono Cross standards. This is quite strange too as FFT was released in very close proximity to FF7! What gives?
Play Control: Unlike the vast majority of RPGs, Final Fantasy 7 is actually quite interactive when it comes to the controls. Some of the mini-games thrown throughout the game mix things up nicely and require you to master new controls in a rush! This was a nice touch and allowed FF7 to break away from the traditional RPG model. No longer is learning how to jam one button going to be enough; you've got to do so much more in FF7! Snowboarding, taming a motorcycle, underwater submarine battles; even a basketball mini-game found its way into FF7! The controls are very good too which surprised me coming from a company that tends to shy away from the action genre.
The more traditional controls for navigating and engaging in battles are pretty standard stuff. If you've played a previous Final Fantasy game, you should pick up the controls in no time. You can even customize them to fit your particular playing style which is a nice touch. Overall, the controls in FF7 are slightly better than your normal RPG simply because of the variety. It's hard not to respect Squaresoft for trying something new in FF7.
Challenge: In terms of difficulty, Final Fantasy 7 is probably somewhere in the middle. I never got all that frustrated with this game expect for when I fought those Emerald and Ruby Weapons from hell. I hate those frickin' bosses! AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!
Seriously, the challenge level was very good in FF7. There were boss battles in the game that could really push you and finding secret characters/items usually required a keen sense of observation. If all that seems easy, consider all the mini-games! You could literally spend hours just trying to master the Snowboarding and Motorcycle games at the Gold Saucer! 100+ hour games are not uncommon in FF7; the game is truly that large or I'm just too much of a perfectionist but I digress. I enjoyed the fact that there were literally hundreds of secrets items (i.e. weapons, armlets, materia, etc...) hidden throughout the vast world in the game. If you think that you've found everything, I'd wager to say that you haven't. Beating this game is only half the fun which is the way all RPGs should be.
Storyline: When I first purchased Final Fantasy VII, the futuristic story didn't really appeal to me. Where were the days of knights, dragoons, and medieval forests that had made the Final Fantasy series...well...the Final Fantasy series? This was only compounded by the fact that FF6 had gone a similar direction in terms of story (emphasis on technology; fighting the evil Empire). Would the story in FF7 be original enough?
Thankfully, in true FF fashion, the story in this game is quite innovative and engrossing as well! While there are elements of the FF7 story that veterans will recognize from previous installments (e.g. Doesn't Shinra remind you of...say...The Empire?), there is enough new material to make this story very enjoyable. While the main plot involves a group of renegades fighting Shinra and the mysterious "Black-Caped Man" in an attempt to save the world from Meteor, it's the subplots and the outstanding character development that make this story click. Like usual, Squaresoft went the extra mile with lots of subplots, character stories, and flashbacks. There are several times in this game where you'll receive a revelation and think "Oh my gosh! That's who he was! That's what actually happened!" The unpredictable nature of this game is really cool as well; few games possess this quality. By the time I reached the end, I honestly had no idea of what to expect.
Unlike FF6 where there was no clear cut main character, Cloud Strife is clearly the main man in FF7. This spiky-haired ex-Soldier who wields possibly the largest sword in history has to be one of the best characters in the entire Final Fantasy series. He is just too cool! While he has a serious nature about him, even Cloud has a soft side. As the game progresses, I found myself liking Cloud more and more. Unlike many other video game heroes, Cloud had plenty of struggles; he was human! For the longest time in FF7, Cloud searches for who he really is. Aeris even desires to know who "he really is."
Other characters in the game include the beautiful Aeris, surprisingly strong Tifa, Mr. T wannabe Barret, trash-talking Cid (this guy swears like a freakin' sailor! My gosh!), mysterious Red XIII (a cat-like creature), and comical Cait Sith. Granted, Cait Sith may very well be one of the worst characters ever included in a FF game but I digress. At least there was Vincent and Yuffie (the secret characters in this game).
The villain in FF7 didn't disappoint either. In my opinion, Sephiroth was heads and tails above Kefka from FF6. While Kefka was still a very good bad guy, he was sooooooo annoying! Although I hated Sephiroth for some of the things he did (don't want to give anything away!), he was as good a bad guy as any. While you hate the guy with a passion by the end of the game, you have to respect his power.
Overall, the story in Final Fantasy VII was very well done. It succeeded the brilliant FF6 story and is probably just as good! While I do wish that certain areas of the game weren't so dark and tragic, I like how things turn around late in the game. Even in the darkest moments, there's always hope! I do wish that the ending could have been a bit longer but still, it's quite impressive.
Funfactor: While it may not be the greatest game ever, Final Fantasy VII still comes awfully, awfully close. Everything about this game is great and the endless variety gives the game virtually limitless replay value. Feel like taking a break from battles? Take a pitstop at the Gold Saucer! You've beat the game and you still want more? Breed chocobos in order to discover new areas! Want an extra challenge? Try fighting the Emerald and Ruby Weapons! I have spent countless hours just searching the world over and looking for secrets. Even at the 100 hour mark, I still haven't found everything! Only Final Fantasy IX can match this game in terms of length. Of course, everyone and their monkey's uncle knows that my all-time favorite is still Chrono Trigger. Even so, I found Final Fantasy VII to be simply stellar; contrary to many, this legendary game is not overrated. Trust me; it's the real deal.
Negatives: The character graphics! While FF7 is a visual masterpiece otherwise, the close-up character shots are just plain icky. I mean, you can't really see Cloud's hands and what you can see looks ridiculous! Everything just looks too blocky and unrealistic even by 1997 standards. If Super NES games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI can have clear, detailed character graphics, it's not too much to ask that a PSone game do the same. Thankfully, the character graphics in FF7 look okay from a distance and the FMV close-ups are incredible! (see Aeris picture)
While I found the game's soundtrack is be a wonderful listening experience, it's too bad that the sound quality couldn't have been up to Final Fantasy Tactics standards. Can you imagine how awesome the FF7 music would be had that been the case?
It's really a shame that FF7 had these small flaws because it truly had a legitimate shot of catching Chrono Cross for the PSone Crown Jewel. The smallest of details proved to be the deciding factors. However, keep in mind that FF7 still finished with an outstanding score and that it really is one of the best games out there!
Ratings: Graphics: 4.6 Music: 4.7 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.8 Funfactor: 4.7 Overall Score: 27.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
Back to Playstation PowerLast Updated: May 21, 2006