on 22 February 2005
You most likely will be reading this review because you already have the game, are just reliving memories, and laughing at people who possibly put the game down. To these people, I salute you, a fellow Final Fantasy gamer. To the others, who have not played the game, and are possibly checking out earlier games from the series having experienced the later ones, I give you one the best gaming experiences you will ever have.
This game first appeared on the PlayStation in Autumn, 1997. It already had a big fanbase because of it's history on the Nintendo systems, and it did not fail to disappoint them. The PlayStation allowed Squaresoft to launch Final Fantasy into a whole new 3D world, which left players mesmorized.
So what do we have? Well, there is the main player of the game, Cloud Strife (though you can rename him, and every other player you control), joining up with a terrorist group called AVALANCHE, in order to halt the workings of Shinra, an enormous organisation slowly but surely destroying the planet by sucking up it's energy to fuel it's city, called Midgar. His entrance off the top off a train marks the beginning of an epic 80 hour story (get a memory card) where you battle with a host of other characters to stop the planet from dying. The sheer depth of this game is mindblowing. There are many side-quests to be completed (I give you Fort Condor, Chocobo breeding and Weapon destroying) which leave the gamer with plenty to do other than go through the story. Like me, if you play the game again, you will most likely find something that you didn't see before.
The graphics are outstanding. The PlayStation had many years in it after this game and, although they look dated now, still produce some of the finest art I have seen in a game. I particularly remember Cosmo Canyon. Something about that place just makes me want to find somewhere in real life just like it. The characters themselves are not exactly life-like but appreciating the level of detail surrounding them, this is an extremely minor flaw. The FMV is gorgeous for the 60 minutes that you can see it.
For me, the music is an extremely underrated part of this game. It's really memorable. The rush of the boss battle, the slow melody of Aeris' theme and the beautiful music in Bugenhagen's dome - they all combine to make a brilliant soundtrack (noticably, it's available to buy as an OST to the game - along with orchestral and piano versions, though these are predictably rare to buy now). I freely admit to playing the game again sometimes in order to hear the music put together with pictures.
The levelling up system in RPG's is often a cheap way of extending game time but here, it really works, and you're rewarded for putting time in to make your characters stronger. To level up, you fight battles with enemies - monsters, animals, soldiers or just simply other people. These battles appear randomly as you travel around the world (or sometimes at set points). This is often an area where gamers get annoyed, and just want to get on with the story. This is undoubtably a fair viewpoint, but to me, they add something to the game as you feel like you're truly involved with how your characters are developing.
There is a fair amount of strategy involved as you decide who has what Materia (magic stones that give your character more power). This part is difficult to understand at first, but, before you're given a chance to use it, you're made to go through tutorials early on in the game which give you ample time to understand it before you carry on. This materia comes in different forms and what makes it so great is that it can make your character completely customisable. If you give your character lots of materia, they become excellent with magic but not very strong physically. Obviously this works the opposite way. You'll have to juggle them around in order to suit how you want to play the game. Personally, like many, I balance it all out. Some people are naturally better with materia than others, however. To help you away from the magic, the characters can all find and purchase new weaponary, armour and accessories to aid them in battle.
The story is gripping. This was the first ever game where I felt slightly confused about having feelings for characters, and wanting them to succeed in the game. I almost felt guilty putting the game down and switching off the machine. I have read previous reviews and can happily say I'm not alone in feeling this way. It's like a well-written big book, where you understand the people involved and are keen to see what happens next. People cry at this game, it's that simple. I have to admit I didn't get that far (well, I maybe had a lump in my throat, but hey - I was 13-14) but at a certain point in the game it's certainly possible to feel such a way. The characters are all different in their approach to things and the player will always feel that there is one they like more than others (this is mainly because each has their own background which is always gone into in depth at certain points). But the character themselves will always be wanting the same thing in the game, and therefore so does the player.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy VII is the most complete RPG you are likely to find. The games following it in the series are all magnificent in their own right, but they all lead back to here. It really is the biggest bargain available.
The games in the Final Fantasy series don't endear themselves to everyone, but each of them (particularly this one) are creating a legend that, in my time and my life at least, will never be forgotten.