Final Fantasy VII

excellent
key review info
  • Game: Final Fantasy VII
  • Platform: PSP
  • Gamepad support: N/a
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by: Alexandru Stanescu
  • Show system requirements
Sephiroth, the nemesis of the game

You should be familiar with the fact that PlayStation games are compatible with the PS3 and PSP by now, which is a pretty good piece of news, specially if you've kept your PSX titles laying on some shelves, covered with dust. It's time to wipe them clean and give them the spin and the glory of the old days by re-playing them. One of the first titles I've replayed on the PSP and PS3 is Final Fantasy VII, produced by Squaresoft (back then), turned into Square-Enix for quite some time now. Don't be harsh, don't criticize the graphics, as it's a 1997 game I'm going to review here, but one that generated millions of fans, motion pictures and even sequels.

Story
Final Fantasy VII features the best storyline I've ever seen in a game... It's a tale of love, hatred between clones, the dangers of technology and magic. Now, when there's a movie to be seen, Advent Children, serving as a follow-up to this game, you'll surely understand the story better, specially if you also play Crisis Core, on the PSP, FF VII's prequel. Back to this game's storyline, you'll control Cloud Strife throughout the title's action spanning 3 CDs (quite an achievement for a 1997 game) and witness as he becomes the Planet's savior after getting to know him as cold-blooded mercenary.

The game starts with the blond main character (Cloud) aiding Avalanche (a rebel group) blow up reactors belonging to Shinra, the greedy corporation that's leading the world right now. As you progress, you'll find out that each new character who joins your party has his/her own complicated story and you'll have to vanquish their enemies and get to know their past. In case you haven't played the game, I could go on talking about it for hours, but I would spoil the experience, so I'll let you find out for yourself how Cloud and Aeris, one of the most important feminine characters, fell in love. The arch-nemesis of the title is the famous Sephiroth, probably the best designed and the most complex villain I've ever seen. He's pretty quiet, but when he does talk he can be the most diabolical creature ever and his actions are also an argument supporting this statement.

Concept
Final Fantasy VII is Square-Enix's RPG, pertaining to an extremely successful series that doesn't quite seem to end. You could call it a turn-based RPG, since the battles feature a waiting time and turns for each character's attack. All combat sequences are randomly triggered by walking on the world's map or any location in the game, which is a trend pretty much fading away these days, when we can see the enemies approaching and get ready for some serious walloping. It's hard to say how many hours you can play Final Fantasy VII before finishing it... I would say about 15-20 if you're an expert and you want to go through it in a hurry, but it can even reach 70+ hours if you check out all the minigames, the Weapons (monsters) and additional quests and storylines. Square's hit features battles that are separated from the regular action (walking on the map, talking to NPCs etc) through a special fading screen.

One might think that such a feature can fragment the action, but they're wrong, specially because you'll get to like the sound of a battle starting plus Square couldn't have implemented on-screen monsters roaming on the map in 1997, because they would have been poorly drawn. You control a party of three almost always including Cloud Strife, the game's protagonist, but there will be times when he'll be out of the group of controllable characters, due to "health" reasons. There's a wide range of characters to choose from and there are even optional ones, like Yuffie or Vincent Valentine, a mysterious vampire-like man, so fascinating that he was featured in 2 other Square-Enix titles (Dirge of Cerberus and a Final Fantasy title for mobile platforms). The other characters are: Tiffa, Cloud's childhood female friend, Aeris, Cloud's great love, Barret, a tough one-electronic-arm dude, Cid, a crazy pilot, Red XIII, a wise ... feline of some sort and Cait Sith, a talking toy shaped like a cat.

Since I mentioned minigames above, I might as well say that they're pretty exciting, from the snowboarding you'll have to do in order to reach Sephiroth's lair to a submarine hunting game or Chocobo racing. What's a Chocobo? In case you don't know that, you haven't played many Square-Enix titles till now. It's the companies trademark mascot, so to say, like Mario is for Nintendo and Sonic for Sega. A chocobo is some sort of huge golden ostrich, used for transportation and racing, just like a horse. In Final Fantasy VII you'll breed these birds and grow them in order to obtain racing champions, in their purest form and race. There's even the opportunity of riding one on the world map in order to get around. Having mentioned that, I must remind you that the world hosting these adventures is huge, so you'll need means of transportation from time to time, from a buggie to a plane or some sort of Zeppelin-style airship, called the Highwind, plus a nice submarine. The list of enemies included in the game is impressive, some of them being mythological creatures you might have heard of, zombies, robots, wolves, snakes, poisonous plants and even human enemies.

Everything I've said so far seems pointless unless we figure out one thing: the purpose of our journey. Cloud travels accompanied by his mates in order to stop Sephiroth from summoning Meteor, which pretty much would mean the Armageddon for the planet. The protagonist has also personal reasons for hating Seph, but I'll leave you to find those out for yourself. Back to the actual game, the battle system isn't too complicated, featuring regular attacks, special abilities, an items option, magic and a summoning ability. You won't be able to master those moves from the beginning, since you'll have to do a bit of customizing, when it comes to your accessories and weapons. You see, the world Cloud lives in is based on the Lifestream, the source of all life on the Planet. It makes flowers bloom, trees grow, people get born and keeps the whole planet alive.

However, the highly advanced Shinra corporation have started using Lifestream as a source of energy having depleted the coal and oil resources. As such, this powerful energy can be compressed into materia orbs, which grant humans magical powers. This pretty much explains why the entire battle and customization system is based on Materia. These pieces of solid Lifestream can be attached to slots in your armor, granting you special abilities, magical powers and allowing you to call on and wake huge beasts, through summons. There are many types of materia you'll be using during the game and you should know that they come in all colors, a different one for each type of ability they bring. The red materia is used for summons, the yellow one is used for special abilities, while the green one allows you to do magic, the purple one increases your stats and the blue one has various effects on other materia orbs.

Since FF VII is an RPG, it's pretty obvious that characters evolve, gaining EXP points and increasing their general levels. By doing that they'll gain more HP (hit points, the "life" of characters") or MP (magical points, or mana points if you want, that allow you to do magic and summons). Also, increasing your level means that you'll unlock new limit breaks for your characters. These limit breaks are probably another one of the elements that define this title and the Final Fantasy series. During a battle, if you get hid badly and enough times to fill a certain limit break gauge, you'll be able to trigger an extra powerful attack, which pops up as an option instead of the regular attack. It can either inflict huge damage on your enemies or cure the entire party of status ailments or increase their HP (this only applies to Aeris' limit break).

Your Materia can also increase its levels, as you collect AP (ability points) that can level-up your magical attacks or summons, plus most of the supporting materia. As such, you'll either end up using Ice 2 or Ice 3, evolved from the original Ice attack, or leveled up summons that do more damage or a purple piece of materia, that adds 50% more HP, instead of the initial 10%.

Gameplay
This being a huge game, you'll have to save quite a lot, in order to make sure that your progress is stored and you won't lose your hard work. These save points surface in the shape of a lighted question mark, available in towns, or any other location, but the world map, where you can save any time you want. By the way you can check out the entire world map, once you get out of towns and start traveling, in order to decide which route to follow in order to reach the next place Sephiroth has visited. The AI of the foes should be mentioned, as it's pretty challenging, specially when it comes to bosses and hidden enemies, like those pesky Weapons.

They're the giant beasts spawned by the Planet to protect it from Meteor, but they'll cause of lot of rampage to the surrounding environment and to you. One of the coolest materia you can use in FF VII is the Enemy Skill yellow orb, that allows you to learn a couple of special attacks from the enemies that use them. They'll be remembered by the characters wielding this materia and used against them. This RPG also focuses on elementals, so you should be careful when attacking a fire-based enemy with a blaze or a snow wolf with Ice 3, as it will only heal them.

Cloud and his companions can suffer from status ailments, like poison, confusion, numbness and many many others that either drain your HP, make you spin around and attack allies or make you miss the targets of non-magical attacks. The items in your inventory can be found in chests, in various locations on the map, gained after battles or simply bought from various shops. Each town has its own shop, allowing you to buy weapons and new accessories with more materia slots, and better protection against attacks, or increased stats. While many minigames are optional in FF VII and only award you cash (gil) or items, some must be done in order to progress, like the one involving the dress-up of Cloud like a woman, which was pretty much my reason for questioning his sexual orientation in this article.

This Final Fantasy title is a great experience, in that it never allows you to get bored, presenting you with minigames, just when you thought that you've had too many battles and you should take a break. Picture yourself fighting a ten-foot monster using summons and then riding a cute golden bird in a race, the Chocobo being raised and trained by you. The only thing that will probably bother you, after playing at least 10 hours of FF VII is the constant running around you have to do in order to fulfill all the assigned tasks. Other than that, the game's pure feeling, magic and it features an unique atmosphere that's worth a play, replay and a return to the experience every now and then.

Graphics
Final Fantasy VII is not to be judged by today's standards! Keep in mind that it's a game that was released in 1997 and there are still people playing it on a daily basis, being astonished by its complex characters, huge world and its emotional storyline. The cutscenes are class A, even for today's standards and there's plenty of FMV action to watch, specially if you're playing the PSP version and traveling long distances while doing that. The characters are nothing more than polygons shaped like human beings, but this appearance was a sign of the times, while the battles look decent even if you're a pretentious gamer. The magic casting and summon animations deserve a standing ovation, being extremely varied and featuring vivid colors, lots of character motion and a visible influence on the foes. Add a couple of hotties (Tiffa, Aeries, maybe Yuffie) in the mix and we've got a good-looking visual package, plus an extremely diversified world, that includes deserts, large fields, frozen mountains, underground areas and many other places to explore.

Audio
Nobuo Uematsu has struck gold every time he has composed music for a Final Fantasy game. I'm a FF OST collector, in case you didn't know and the piano works done specially for Final Fantasy VII are my most treasured albums. The game's background music is superb, specially in the emotional moments when a character dies, kisses or simply recalls the past. Even the funny music that starts playing during Chocobo races or during fun events will be remembered as a reason to smile in a corrupt world, draining the planet's Lifestream. The battle music may become annoying, but in the long run you'll get used to it, while the game's main theme is perfect for any cellphone as a ringtone. Couple that with the best Latin-based choir song I've heard, the one from the final boss fight with Sephiroth and you've an artistic product of its own streamed directly to your brain.

Conclusion
When a game gets you excited 10 years after playing it and you still manage to shed a tear when a very important and loved character dies, that means that you found your ideal game. For me Final Fantasy VII is the best game in the world and I'm not only judging it from my point of view. I've done research among RPG fans and there are many Final Fantasy players, Diablo players, Halo 3 players who simply love this title. It's the best RPG ever created, the best game ever created, because it manages to portray human emotions, beautiful characters and a decaying world that's sadly too similar to ours. Simply the best title a team of developers could ever come out with....


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story 10
gameplay 10
concept 10
graphics 10
audio 10
multiplayer 0
final rating 10
Editor's review
excellent
 
NEXT REVIEW: World in Conflict

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