Release Date: June 2nd, 2009
Original Release Date: 1997
You play as spiky haired Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy 7 (My first of it’s kind, and my first numbered FF game as well) you’re a former member of Soldier, an elite class of mercenaries that work for a huge energy conglomerate names Shinra. This does have some metaphorical attributes to it, like the obvious illusions to class struggle and environmental conservation. These are pretty broad themes to be sure, and they can only really be properly addressed by a huge arching story with many different characters. Luckily video games are up to the challenge. The story in this game is huge, and rightfully so, there are a lot of interesting characters, and it’s full of betrayal, joy and heartbreak, no wonder why this game is legend. If you don’t get very attached to certain characters you can always just kick them out of your party. But as the game develops the characters do as well, and you can find many skeletons in the respective character’s closets. There are some memorable scenes to be had in this one, if you’ve managed to stay away from spoilers on this one I applaud you, or welcome you to the 21st century, because I had one large twist ruined for me. The story did keep me interesting though, well worth the time spent.
This is my first numbered Final Fantasy game (my first ever FF game is Crisis core, a prequel of sorts to this one, and certainly worth playing), and I thought I would be bored to tears by the combat, as I knew it was turn based. But I found myself really getting into the battle system, which is odd because I’m usually a bit of an action junkie when it comes to games, and hadn’t done much in the turn based realm since I was in the super cool chess club in elementary school. There are regular attacks, magic, and summons, and the canned videos when you cast a spell or summon a creature are quite entertaining and really well animated. Though if you have a few favorite spells/summons they’ll get a bit boring after the 100th time or so. Luckily your character keeps getting stronger (as they do in RPGs), and you’ll gain new and more powerful spells and summons.
What is interesting is this material system, where your spells and summons seem to come in little marbles and you can level them up so you gain extra spells, and more powerful healing etc. This does keep the game interesting, and even though it’s micro management to the extreme, it doesn’t make it tedious (as long as you don’t switch up characters that often). There are also lots of accessories and weapons available for each character, some at the end of the game feel really powerful.
Though, there are a few problems with the gameplay that I found quite annoying. Getting the “Max Limit” move for your character is quite a pain, while playing through a friend of mine who had already played this game numerous times told me to go on a quest to gain Cloud’s Max Limit skill, OmniSlash, which is the most powerful skill in the game. After a few hours of mindless grinding through a mini-game I got the skill and then I couldn’t use it until my character was at level 99, about 35 levels higher than I was. At this point I was 39 or so hours into the game, and the final dungeon was available to me. I could have spent another 30 hours plus raising up my character with mindless grinding, but I decided against it, because that’s BORING. In FF7’s defense though, this was the only time I felt like I needed to grind to get past the final dungeon, and even then it was a good challenge, as the whole game is.
Gameplay wise there is a great core battle system, and there are always mini-games and special events that give you new gameplay controls and it keeps everything fresh. Overall I give it an A in this regard.
This game was released in 1997 and the in game over world graphics are laughable, it looks like there are only a few triangles that make up characters on the screen, and I was disappointed when I started playing. Although! In the battle sequences the characters become more detailed and then the game started to look a little more interesting. (Hello Tifa!). The graphics do leave something to be desired, but after a few hours of play it really won’t matter.
The backgrounds of the game are pre-rendered and look great, although there are sometimes where even though the path is in front of you, you don’t know how to get onto a bridge or plank of wood etc. I even had to look at a walkthrough just to get through one screen at the start of the game! Once you get the hang of it though, it the “platforming” elements are not uninteresting, though that is a bit of a problem from the graphical standpoint, it does feel like you’re finding out secrets when walking along in a straight line, I don’t know if that’s supposed to be deliberate or not.
The full motion pre-rendered cut scenes are really spectacular. They are cut into the gameplay seamlessly (which is great to watch but also funny when your triangle character goes into a pre-rendered vehicle looking like a million bucks). A lot of the game I found I was just itching to see what the next pre-rendered cut scene would be about, because they were directed really well, and are certainly one of the highlights of the game.
How does it Final Fantasy 7 hold up today?
This game has been celebrated as one of the best RPGs of all time since it was released all those years ago. It was my first time playing through it, and I’m starting to see why it is so beloved. There are a few problems in the game, but overall the execution was great, the story was well developed, the pacing for the most part was spot on, and you did feel by the end that you were really fighting for something, even if it was for the lives of the pixels you see on screen.
Despite a few flaws this game is a must have, and holds up today as a great experience that you owe it to yourself to play.
Game time is around 45 hours, but you can make it much more. Well worth the money.
P.S. don’t ask for a sequel if you haven’t played the original first!