Well, it’s time for the big one. I started this game ages ago and have finally completed it. Final Fantasy VII is a legendary game that just about everyone has heard of. I became a big fan of this timeline thanks to the Advent Children film which was a complete and utter success. Unfortunately, the game was unable to live up to this level of hype. I was prepared for an amazing game, but ended up with a rather disappointing game. In many ways, FF VII was ahead of its time and was certainly high budget. In other ways, it was simply not up to snuff and really held itself back from a better score.
The plot involves a soldier named Cloud. He doesn’t really remember his past and the villain likes to mess with him quite a lot. He meets up with some resistance members and they decide to take down the corrupt government and save the day. This gets a little complicated when Sephiroth shows himself. He is a being of near limitless power who wants to end the planet. Cloud and his friends are just normal joes, how can they deal with this? They’ll need a lot of Materia (Summoning/Magic crystals) and allies if they want to overcome him. It’s a race against time now.
That’s probably not the best plot summary, but the game is very long with a plot that is constantly adapting as new stories come into play. There are also a lot of side quests and bonus content t hat flesh out the story even more. It’s a legendary game for its plot and this holds up very well. I actually didn’t know much at all about the game despite being a rather big fan of the series in general. A lot of it was all new to me, which was certainly a blast. Cloud’s origin was definitely nice and convoluted and there were so many twists that even I was a little confused by the end. It was in a good way though as it was well thought out and you can understand it as long as you give it enough thought.
The game was also a little more intense than I had been expecting. To be honest, I didn’t notice that the game had blood in it until I stumbled into the lab level where the staff had been viciously attacked. It really came out of nowhere. I will admit that this level was extremely atmospheric and if anything this element made it all the scarier. This was also when the game’s plot started to pick up and get a little more exciting. The beginning of the game is fairly laid back and FF VII likes to slowly build towards the plot. That’s an element that all Final Fantasy games go for as it lets then plot develop the characters and get you to sympathize with them. It’s a good tactic so long as the payoff is really good.
The payoff was worth the wait. Sephiroth is still the best Final Fantasy villain and both of his themes are incredible. The One Winged Angel theme is extremely iconic and it’s certainly great to see the original version of the song. It has all of the memorable beats and is not something that you’d expect from such an old game. Rock/Opera themes like this didn’t really seem to get mainstream until a lot later. Sephiroth also had another theme, which was the surprise hit of the game. It’s a horror theme through and through and with Sephiroth fading in and out like a ghost the whole time, it was really fitting for him.
Final Fantasy is easily the most tense game that I’ve played. It’s the closest to a horror game at these points and as I’ve never played a full horror game before (Or if I have then I can’t recall at the moment) Final Fantasy VII was a nice glimpse of what that would be like. A horror game done well can certainly be good if handled right as this game showed. Even the final bosses had very intense designs as I don’t think you’ll be forgetting Jenova anytime soon.
The graphics are exceptional. In gameplay the character models all hold up well. They are kinda pixely and you can really see that when you play the mods of them in Super Smash Bros, but they are really good for this day and age. Even more impressive is the fact that it had fully animated cutscenes. They weren’t short either as some were quite long. Even the super attacks had them although that’s an iffy point. It goes without saying that the soundtrack is absolutely top notch. You’re not going to find any game that can completely destroy this one in that area as it’s just very solid.
I haven’t touched on the gameplay yet. It’s classic turn based style and that has always aged well. I do miss it to an extent in modern gaming, but if the alternative is that all future Final Fantasy games will go with Kingdom Hearts gameplay….then I have to say that Square Enix made the right call. Real time gameplay is absolutely better although I really love them both. There is a lot of depth to the gameplay as your level isn’t the only thing to think about. Your Limit Level, Equipment, and Summons are all absolutely crucial. A pro tip for any gamers who haven’t played this yet is to make sure that you switch Limit Levels when you unlock a new one. Having a strong Limit Level 3 or even a Level 2 will make a big difference when compared to level 1. I apparently unlocked Level 3 a while back, but I never realized it so I played the whole game on level 1 until the very end. It was a sad moment.
There is a lot of replay value to be found here. You can easily spend over 100 hours on this game and maybe even more. There are numerous pieces of equipment to find and leveling everyone up to the max will take a very long time. There’s a lot of exploring to be done and side quests to complete. Some aren’t even accessible if you wait too long so then you’ll need to start over again. This is the kind of game that never really ends for you unless you put in a crazy amount of time. Even if you just want to play the main story, that’ll last you a while as well.
So…this sounds like a really positive review at the moment right? Well, lets get into the negatives now. One problem with the game is that it got a little too focused on showing off its graphics. Every time you summon a monster, you have to watch a very long and unskippable cutscene. As you’ll be going for many summons, this really ends up dragging out the fight. You’re gonna get sick of watching these cutscenes and there is seriously enough time to go to the kitchen and grab a snack since you can have all 3 of your characters prepare a summon. This means that you have to watch all 3 back to back to back which can take almost 5 minutes. Lets not forget that Sephiroth has his infamous solar system attack which is the longest one in the game.
The first negative was just a mild inconvenience next to this one. This negative is the fact that the map is very bad. Nothing is labelled so you’ll want to have a note pad on hand to write down what all of the islands stand for. Otherwise, you end up being lost for a while as you try to find the location. Wait, it gets worse. There are times in the game where you are given nothing to go on. I got stuck 3 different times in the game and I spent around 10 hours working to get unstuck. I was victorious the first two times, but in the end I finally cracked and ran to Gamefaqs to see what they had to say. I never would have guessed that I had to go into the ocean and find a secret cave towards the top where there were some designs for a cool mech that would lead me to the robot that would break into Sephiroth’s lair. There was absolutely nothing to even suggest this and this felt like a very unfair puzzle. The game had quite a few moments like this and it made the whole experience lose a lot of its enjoyment.
It’s also not very fun to be attacked by minions constantly for taking even a single step. The minions are everywhere and they just keep on coming over and over again. If you made a wrong turn, too bad. You’re gonna have to fight yet another monster. You can run, but then you will still be taking some damage in the mean time. Did I mention that leveling up in this game takes forever? Seriously, don’t expect to get to level 100 anytime soon. The minions are pretty durable and don’t give all that much EXP anyway. That’s why your top priority is developing your limit and finding cool weapons. Those will ultimately make the difference along with some ribbons to protect you from status attacks.
This game can also be a little mean spirited. If you made the mistake of saving once you were in the area of the final bosses and didn’t make another file…then you’re stuck. If you’re at too low a level to defeat Sephiroth, there is now nowhere to safely train and gather your health back. Luckily, I made around 5 files to be on the safe side and gathered a lot of supplies before attempting the boss again. It took me 2 tries, but I managed to secure the hard fought win. I was pretty proud of myself to be honest even if the area before the final boss gauntlet was way too long.
In the end, my main problem with the game is parts of its design. It was just lacking in some basic areas like the map and quality of life concerns. I shouldn’t have to wait through really long battles thanks to the cutscenes and getting lost for hours because the game sent me on a random goose chase is no fun. It’s a shame because the game is a technical masterpiece and the plot is solid. It’s like an AAA game that just didn’t get a great deal of quality control to back it up. I need my quality control which is why I can safely say that Deca Sports was the more enjoyable game. “But that’s crazy!” I’m not saying that Final Fantasy VII is a bad game, but it just wasn’t a fun game most of the time. I was expecting to have a lot more fun with it.
Overall, Final Fantasy VII was a little disappointing. It’s probably my fault for skipping ahead and playing the glorious FF XIII games though. The tough question here is whether to give the game a 5 or a 6. On one hand, my main negative is alleviated if you just buy a guide book or use online resources to get through the puzzles. On the other hand, that’s kind of a cop out. On the other hand, how can you give a game with 5 star graphics/soundtrack/plot and good gameplay a measly out of 10? It’s definitely one of the tougher decisions that I’ve had to make. It also brings Majora’s Mask into the picture as it’s in a very similar situation to FF VII. It has many of the same negatives with regards to the unfair puzzles, but its strengths are a bit weaker. That game I had been leaning towards a 5 on as well, but that puzzle wasn’t even as unfair as FF VII’s. The 3 day system is madness, but at least you can still make it if you keep on practicing long enough and looking for clues. It’s still a poorly conceived puzzle to be clear, but it’s not as drastic since you at least know where to look. Why can’t more games be like Layton? I was stuck there for around the same time as this game, but it never got upsetting as the puzzle was just very fair. Well, I gotta go with my gut here. Being enjoyable is still a game’s top priority. FF VII messed that up and so I can’t really cut it any slack. It will join other legendary titles like Star Fox Zero, Mario Party 10, Sword Art Online Lost Song, Frogger, and Nintendogs in the 5 star ranks. Hey, it’s still not a bad game and if you don’t mind wandering around for a while and being constantly attacked by enemies, then this is right up your alley. In the mean time, I’ll be looking forward to the remake as the gameplay shift should end up helping out a lot.