Final Fantasy VII is a game of epic proportions.
The Final Fantasy series will always be one of those gaming series that grips and captivates the players, and it will always be regarded as one of the greatest gaming series of all time. Yet despite the success of the series it was taken to a whole new level with the release of possibly the greatest videogame in history, and the genre defining Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII sticks close to the series isometric roots, delivering brilliant gameplay and with a complex but brilliant story line that will blow your mind, but Final Fantasy VII does strays from the series roots a bit, leaving behind the old-fashioned style setting and replaces it with a futuristic one, so in this sense Final Fantasy VII is less like a typical Final Fantasy game than the games previous to it.
The games main protagonist is Cloud Strife, who is an ex-member of SOLDIER, an elite group of warriors that go on sometimes suicide missions under the command of the Shin-Ra. After certain events he quit Soldier and now works as a mercenary, going around finding jobs, and this leads him to Midgar, the main city on Final Fantasy VII, where many people thrive. While it's one whole city, there is a clear divide in classes. All the poorer, less well-of people live in 1 of Midgar's 8 slums, while the richer people live in better places, above the slums. The Shin-Ra, the corporation in control of Midgar, is mine a material called Mako and using it to power up Midgar. But the Shin-Ra is putting the earth at danger because if the earth's natural source of Mako runs out, it will come to an end.
Because of these events Cloud gets grafted into a mission to destroy Midgar's Reactors by Barret Wallace, the leader of a rebel group called AVALANCHE. Yet during all these events the Shin-Ra are plotting to find the Promised Land, a myth of a land, a land so rich it's said to have unlimited amounts of Mako. They plan to build a new Midgar, Neo-Midgar, on the Promised Land and create Mako powered weaponry. Yet these turn of events, merely cover up a more sinister plot.
A man called Sephiroth, believed to have died 5 years earlier, has magically returned from the dead. No one is sure how he has returned, but he has returned with a vengeance and anyone who gets in his way will be struck down. He plans to find the Promised Land and use its power to activate Meteor. Once activated Meteor will destroy the earth but only one person can stop it, Aeris. She is a friend of Cloud, and the sole survivor of the Ancients (Cetra), a race of human believed to have died thousands of years ago. With the power the Ancients have to talk to the land, she plans to wish to the gods and stop the activation of Meteor, and this will enable Cloud to kill Sephiroth. With all the life of the planet at risk she is more important than she thinks she is.
The story in Final Fantasy VII is magnificent, but it is very complex and this may result in you getting completely mixed up by it and you won't know too much about what you're exactly doing. This is down to the fact that the story has many twists and the fact that each character has their own complex background. When I first played Final Fantasy VII the story confused me, but after a second run through it, it started to make more and more sense.
In typical Final Fantasy style you'll meet many people that will change the course of the adventure, but none are as important as the 8 main characters. Although there are a total of 8 characters you can use in Final Fantasy VII, including Cloud and Barret, you don't have to find them all. While you always find Barret, Aeris, Tifa, Cait Sith, and Red XIII, Yuffie and Vincent are optional characters, but I recommend getting them because it will make the last boss easier.
Like I stated earlier, the gameplay for Final Fantasy VII is near the same as in the 6 previous games. You keep the top-down perspective when you're not in battle, but this sometimes changes, and when you're out of battle you can access the games menu and check on or upgrade you characters. And in battle it keeps the same battle style of other games, where your characters are all stood one side of the screen and the enemies are all on the other side, and can only move when they attack. It may sound rubbish, but for me, the battle system is what made Final Fantasy VII so good. It's done brilliantly, and it had to be because you spend more of the game in battle than you do out of it. Final Fantasy VII also keeps the world map screen off the previous games too, and this is delivered better because Final Fantasy VII was actually the first ever 3D Final Fantasy game. When you're on the World map the entire game is 3D, but this is different in places like cities because in cities the games backgrounds are 2D, but the characters and certain other things remain 3D.
Also in typical Final Fantasy fashion you'll have to level up your characters to cope with the games menacing enemies. Levelling up does make the characters abilities like attack, defence and magic increase, but doing this alone results in them not getting that strong. Possibly the main items in Final Fantasy VII are Materia. Materia is frozen Mako, and when a character holds some they gain strange powers, but sometimes Materia may decrease one ability to increase another. When you acquire a new weapon or piece of Armour they will have slots, and depending on how many slots there are in the weapon you're using or the armour your wearing you'll be able to hold more. Materia is split into 5 groups: Magic (green), Summon (red), Support (blue), Independent (purple) and Command (yellow). Depending on which colour the piece of Materia is, the characters will gain different skills. While the Red and Green Materia, give you magic, like the ability to set your opponents on fire or summon monsters to attack the enemy, or even the power to heal, Purple, Blue and Yellow Materia is there to support your characters. You can also combine two pieces of Materia together and this will have added effects. For example, if you combine 'Ultima' Materia with 'HP UP' Materia, every time you use Ultima, your character is healed, depending on how much damage you inflict. To combine pieces of Materia, 2 slots must be connected on the weapon or armour you're using.
While Materia is essential to the game, it's not as simple as giving a piece to your characters, each piece of Materia has to be individually levelled up. If you have the 'Restore' Materia, for example, it gives the user the ability to use four moves, Cure, Cure2, Regen and Cure3, but you can only use Cure when you first acquire it, so to get the others, you have to level it up. But not all Materia gives you more than one ability. Most Purple, Blue and Yellow Materia only give you one ability each, and if you do get one with more than one ability, it tends to be very difficult to level it up. Even if a piece of Materia only gives you one ability you still have to level it up because the higher the level the stronger you become using that certain ability. The levelling up of Materia, while it is difficult to get them mastered, is easy because you get 'AP' points at the end of each battle and it's these you need to level it up, so levelling up Materia is similar to levelling up your characters.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest videogames ever made. Its brilliant but complex story and its magnificent gameplay go together brilliantly making for a truly unforgettable experience. The game houses possibly the most famous cast of characters ever created and the Materia system works an absolute treat. Not many games fill me with as much joy when I play them as Final Fantasy VII does.
Review by: James Widdowson
Achievements: Final Fantasy VII won huge critical success upon it's release and in 1997 and was voted by many gaming magazines as their pick for 'Game Of The Year'. It was also lauded for it's breath-taking story line which included many twists, the main one been the death Aeris, which has been voted the most shocking turn-of-events in any videogame of all time. Still, even now, 12 years after it's release, the games story is still praised and the game will forever live on as one of the most memorable titles to ever be released.