An All-Time Classic
Final Fantasy VII is both a tough and easy game to review. It is an easy game to review because all I really need to say is that it is one of the best games if not the best game of all time (also one of my favorite games of all time) Done, the review could be over right there. When looking at the game though for critique purposes I started to look for negative aspects of the game on purpose to find its flaws. Safe to say, I really cannot find any negatives or things I didn’t like with the game.
FF VII developed by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) was released worldwide on the PS1 in January of 1997 to wide success and was a big system seller for PS1 consoles while also cementing Japanese & Turn-Based Role Playing Games as a top gaming genre going forward. FF VII follows the story of Cloud Strife and the other party members he meets throughout the journey as they attempt to take down the mega-corporation of Shinra all while the fate of the world is being toyed with by super villain Sephiroth. I don't want to touch on the story too much for this review, but get ready for 30 mins of fantastic emotional storytelling. Each one of the characters in the game has so much depth, story, and life to them, even NPC characters. There really is not a character I dislike in the game, even the villains as they all are developed into their roles so perfectly. FF VII contains some of the best writing, story development, and detailed story telling of all time. All of the story points converge flawlessly into the epic last chapters of the game. FF VII also features many full length storytelling cutscenes which were revolutionary at the time of release.
The turn-based combat in FF VII is very refined and a perfect formula involving many simple game mechanics that can also provide a ton of customization and depth. There are two major battle systems which are limits and materia. Limits are super moves that each one of the party members can perform. There is a limit gauge that fills up when a character takes damage. When the limit bar is full the character's normal attack will be replaced by a super move that will deal a ton of damage. It is important to manage the limits as well as possible to guarantee success in battle, for instance, it might be wise to defend and save a limit to start the next encounter or boss fight. Each character also has multiple limits to unlock and there are 4 LVL’s of limits that will level up over time with the 4th LVL generally being a special side quest or item to find that will learn the ultimate limit. The pacing of the game is also perfect as every different item or weapon/armor item found feels meaningful and gives the player a real sense of progression. Each character also has a special ultimate weapon that is unlocked through various different manors for each one.
The second main component to the combat and gameplay is the materia system. Materia can essentially be boiled down to magic. It is not that simple as there are multiple different colors of materia that do different things. Green materias are the basic magic spells such as ice, fire, and cure. Yellow materia are command materias which will contain an action such as steal, sense, or cut (2x attacks). Pink materia are boost materias such as increased HP or MP. Grey materia are support materia that grants an additional support to another materia when linked together such as attacking all enemies with fire instead of one, or draining MP from an enemy when that spell is used. The last type of materias are summon materias which have limited use and summon massive creatures that do a ton of damage (but cost a lot of mp) such as Hades, Leviathan, and Bahamut. Equipping a materia is simple, but getting the most out of materia and combinations makes a huge difference in the game. It is crucial especially in the late game to pair the right materias together and create the right combinations of special effects. Some battles are really tough unless you have your materia managed well. It is insanely fun to customize and level up the materia. Yes, materia levels up through AP which is accrued every battle. It is also very beneficial to maximize and master the materias to make them significantly more powerful. To me the combat and systems in FF VII will never get boring even when spending hours and hours grinding to maximize character or materia levels.
Final Fantasy VII does not only have nearly flawless combat, but many other aspects of the game are designed very well. The game features epic boss fights, and nearly every boss fight is cool and unique in its own way. The game has some of the weirdest enemy and boss designs mixing mutated creatures with highly mechanical machines. I absolutely love the enemy design and overall steam punk machina heavy world/setting design. Final Fantasy VII slowly progresses the player into the open world of the game by opening different parts of the continent, and by the end of the game the player gets an airship and can freely explore the entire game and discover new things to their heart's content. It is a harder thing than it seems to control a player's progression without overwhelming them, and the pace to FF VII is just perfect. The exploration part of the games contains a perfect blend of combat, puzzle solving, and dungeon exploring. There are a ton of sidequests and special little things to do as well including multiple side stories, side quests, and mini games such as Chocobo Racing. All of the extra content is 100% worth doing as every reward you get from things is meaningful and will help out in the game. The game takes about 30 hours to beat the story, but when you add in side content including fighting the ultimate weapon bosses you can easily sink 50+ hours into the game. For an RPG I would say that 30-50 hours is the perfect length, at least for me. I always need to unlock everything and get 100% every time I play the game! It is a game that should be played at least every couple of years to experience again. The game also hits on nostalgia strings for a lot of us and is another reason why I consider this one of the best games of all time.
Usually when reviewing a game I hold graphics and sound as two of the lesser components that determine a games rating. I need to change that a little bit here however, as FF VII has one of the best soundtracks/score of all time. I would say that includes video games and movies. I can listen to the full soundtrack over and over again and be blown away every time. Every single song and sound effect is magical in its own way and the game is worth playing just to hear some of the songs. Cosmo Canyon theme I am talking about you. Not only is the soundtrack great, but it plays in so well with the overall atmosphere and story which creates a really tremendous experience. Graphically Final Fantasy VII is good for what it is. The game uses static backgrounds and the characters are typical blocky 3D of the time, but the combat looks much better visually than most of the game with character models that are well done. From a technical standpoint for 1997 the game was ahead of its time and really used the technology they had well, especially with the story cutscenes.
Final Fantasy VII is a game I recommend everyone plays at least once, and most people like myself have probably played this game multiple times over the years. It is a pleasant, fun, and exhilarating experience every time I pick it up and play through the game. Overall I give FF VII a 10/10.