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Number of Perfection: ReExamination of Final Fantasy VII


Here we go folks. This game came in at number one for Top Five Games Overdue for a Remake. It was the second best-selling game on the Playstation One behind Gran Turismo. And it’s in the title, so this isn’t a surprise. Today’s ReExamination is on one of the best games ever made: Square’s Final Fantasy VII.

The History of Greatness

Cloud Shinra

Cloud vs Shinra: one of the lesser conflicts, if you can believe it

Let’s start at the beginning. 1997 was the year. Japan was enthusiastically playing through the game and the US was confused; it was the first non-Nintendo Final Fantasy game and there seemed to be some missing entries in the series. The explanations are simple in hindsight. Sony’s two-year-old console allowed Square to give players a true next-generation experience, and the US only got two more FF games after the first one, Final Fantasy IV (II in the States) and Final Fantasy VI (III in America). Later in ’97, September to be precise, we got the game and stopped caring about the small details. Final Fantasy VII begins with an FMV cutscene, a first for the series, and remarkably well done. You take control of Cloud Strife, a mercenary employed by AVALANCHE, an organization trying to save the world. This is just a starting point for the epic story, lasting three disks and thrilling you the entire way.

Sights and Sounds

Cloud Forest

Yep, that’s an actual screenshot…

One of the first major issues to discuss with any ReExamination is the graphics. Revolutionary for the time, but like eight-track, wired phones and Mariah Carey, the more time passes, the more obsolete they become. Final Fantasy’s cutscenes still look good a decade and a half later, but the rest of the game suffers for the jagged anime style of the time. But we all know graphics aren’t the most important thing.

The sound is still unforgettable. Though every song is in MIDI, you won’t give a damn. Uematsu Nobuo is the John Williams of video gaming, and no Final Fantasy game has ever surpassed this. From the sorrowful, yet hopeful Aeris’ Theme (that’s how it’s spelled in the game, that’s what we’re going with), to the power and urgency of the One-Winged Angel to the grandeur and grace of the Main Theme, you will not find a moment where the music does not perfectly match the moment or characters they compliment.

Story of the Century

Sephiroth Story

Sure it seems funny. It’s because you haven’t played the game yet…

Character design is another high point in the game. The villain Sephiroth with his massive Masamune blade is one of the most iconic, even today. Each character is built upon throughout the game, even the optional Vincent and Yuffie, and unlike Mariah Carey, they don’t disappoint you when they take screen time.

Story is the fundamental basis for RPGs, and for FFVII fans, it is what draws players back for another playthrough. No area seems like padding, even the optional ones. Each adds to the detail and world-spanning danger of the quest. The mini games are part of the story, not a time sink like later installments. This story is a journey that will leave you talking about it long after the sixty or so hours it takes to complete.

Chocobos, Cactuars and Tonberries… Oh My!

Battle

All it wants for Christmas is you… on a plate

Gameplay is a point of contention. It features traditional the turn-based, Active Time Battles the series is best known for. For most, this is just a different system of play but with the cross-genre RPG offerings of today it seems a little uninspired for the newer generations. But Mariah… I mean, new players tend to be spoiled by the innovations of newer talents and need to remember their roots are full of quality that seems to be forgotten to flashiness. The Materia system of equipping abilities to items and watching them grow with you still remains my favorite FF system for its simplicity and variety of choice.

Unfortunately, like most RPGs of the time, replay value is a tough thing to calculate. Once you have played through the story, it holds no more surprises, no alternate routes to take, and maybe a secret or two you missed along the way. Though this is true, like all games of such length, after some time has passed you feel a need to go back and relive those experiences again. As with any story, knowing how things turn out adds a little more to lines that turn out to be foreshadowing.

ReExamination Rundown

Sephiroth Flames

The iconic villain in the iconic scene

Concept: Reinvent the RPG (again) and succeed so completely that even the developer can’t surpass it.

Story: An epic that takes you around the world and makes every location important.

Gameplay: Traditional RPG controls are perfect, but may not be comfortable for modern RPG players.

Graphics: A mess of anime-style characters and decent prerendered backgrounds. Has not aged well.

Sound: If the soundtrack doesn’t raise some sort of emotion in you, check yourself for a pulse.

Fun Factor: Every accomplishment feels earned, but action seekers should look elsewhere.

Replay: Can be a single playthrough game, but the enjoyment will probably make you go back to relive it.

Moment of Truth

Meteor

Meteor can end planets. Holy can save them. Which will win?

I will make this simple. There are three things you should take from this ReExamination if you have never played it before, and three things fans should already know.

One, stay away from Mariah Carey. This statement is self explanitory.

Two, there is a reason this game needs to be remade. Even if all they did was upgrade the graphics, this game would improve the one thing that keeps it from being almost perfect today. And of course for those who have heard orchestral arrangements for the music, you know how much of a difference that would make for newcomers.

And Three, Final Fantasy VII deserves every bit of credit when fans call it one of the best video games ever made.

Final Fantasy VII was Rated T for Teen in 1997 for Comic Mischief, Mild Animated Violence and Mild Language.

Have a favorite Final Fantasy other than VII? (Not everyone has played it, after all). Make your case in the comment section below!

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About RedGuinness

Andrew Shortall (RedGuinness) is the Writer, Editor, Administrator and founder of Stay-At-Home Gaming. He also suffers from sleepless nights, summer new release withdrawals and trying to behave himself in front of his new nephew.

3 comments on “Number of Perfection: ReExamination of Final Fantasy VII

  1. Sonny
    February 7, 2013

    I think it’s interesting how people skirt the issue of graphics quality when talking about Final Fantasy VII.

    You said, “Revolutionary for the time, but like eight-track, wired phones and Mariah Carey, the more time passes, the more obsolete they become.”

    You’re right, technology advances and becomes obsolete. But aren’t we using technology that is even older than Mariah Carey’s 90’s trite-pop and shitty 80’s eight-tracks?

    Vinyl records are selling more now than they have in the past 20 years, Instragram became popular because it highlights the interesting textures and colors of 70’s photography standards, and people are still listening to Black Sabbath, Elvis, and Duke Ellington.

    You know what they’re not using though? Laserdiscs. They’re not listening to disco.

    Here’s my point:

    Some things can’t be excused with a simple “Well technology progresses, it was good for it’s time”, because so many things that WERE good for the time are still LOVED and used every day without having to excuse their limitations. Why? Because they’re some of the best products of their time, they were simple, and they were designed/created by artists/engineers who knew their limitations and what they could get away with. They are timeless.

    Well in this situation we need a gaming example: I don’t know anybody who loves the graphic of Final Fantasy VII other than the cutscenes, and even that’s hard to justify. I don’t know anybody who would want to make an entire game out of that style. If that person does exists then let me know, so I know to never play your video games. Whereas; we see games based off of 8-bit and 16-bit sidescroller and RPG overworld graphics all the time. It’s because those were simple and the artists and modelers KNEW THEIR LIMITATIONS.

    Look at Final Fantasy VI and it’s graphics. I’d never say those were ugly. Simple? Sure. Nothing wrong with that. That game did not try to get away with having 3D polygon based graphics. They probably could have done something like that if they really tried, but they knew it would look awful.

    Now look at Final Fantasy VIII and it’s graphics (excusing cutscenes) and look at how much better the graphics were. It’s still not there, but the designers finally got rid of the limitations and had the power to make something that didn’t look shitty.

    The graphics in Final Fantasy VII are awful, but they didn’t have to be. The designers and artists could have used graphics incrementally better than VI instead of ignoring the limitations of what they’d be able to render with any modicum of quality. The game would have still sold fine had they not tried to do too much with too little. I would pick both FFVI and FFVIII as better looking games than VII. That means A LOT.

    This design oversight is HUGE, and I think most arguers for Final Fantasy VII are scared to approach this because it automatically is a huge hit on it’s ability to be one of the “best games of all time”. You know what, you have to weight in on EVERY facet of a game for that kind of title, INCLUDING the graphics. And Final Fantasy VII just doesn’t cut it.

    Sure the story is great, and the character’s back stories are wonderfully fleshed, but you can’t forget all the other aspects. They weigh in just as heavily.

    • RedGuinness
      February 7, 2013

      That is a hell of a response, and I like it! Let’s jump right in…

      Just because a thing is old does not necessarily mean it is obsolete. Music is a great example of this, as I am a HUGE fan of classical music, and Mariah still has listeners, despite my admittedly negative view of the Pop genre. That said, when friends introduce me to music, they use an iPod or Youtube, never Vinyl records. Ease of use, coupled with portability, may not have killed Vinyl, but it has become a rarity compared to other formats.

      Let’s turn this to gaming. For the sake of this argument, considering the consoles and developers were first released and located in Japan respectively, we will use Japanese release dates. By the time VI was released in April of 1994, the Super Nintendo was a three-year-plus old console, and with Square working on it almost since the beginning (SNES released 11/21/1990, their first title on it, Final Fantasy IV, released 7/19/91 and at least ten games developed until VI). If we compared IV and VI based on graphics alone, IV would be considered a bad game, which I think most Final Fantasy fans would argue against, considering the story quality and groundbreaking Active Time Battle system which was used in most future installments, including VI. VII brought CG cutscenes to gaming and brought non-RPG player into the fold, a hell of an achievement.

      It’s easy to know your limitations when designing game for an older, more limited and explored console, like VI on the SNES, but look at VII in historical context: Square was one of Nintendo’s greatest third party developers since 12/17/87 (Original Final Fantasy). They worked almost exclusively on the Famicom, NES, Game Boy and SNES platforms. With the emerging 3D titles, better systems on the way and not wanted to be left behind, Square decided to go polygon. Nintendo stayed cartridge, and Square switched to Playstation on 1/12/96. This was a new system for Square, and its limits were not known to the developers. And their experience with 3D was limited, to be kind. But when you’re trying to stay current and relevant, to step beyond your comfort zone and do the best you can.

      To respond to your points, no, VI didn’t do 3D graphics, but other games of the genre and console weren’t pushing that issue. With 3D being the new draw in gaming before VII, Square looked at the system and knew it wouldn’t, couldn’t advance the graphics any further and jumped to a more current, capable system. THAT’S why they didn’t do 3D for VI.

      VII came out 1/31/97 and VIII came out 2/11/99, with more than 20 other titles released between the two. It stands to reason that Square would learn better tricks to make 3D work the way they wanted it to, not just the limitations of lack of experience and time/budget. And can you imagine VII was just incrementally better than VI on the Playstation? It wouldn’t be nearly the series it is today if they hadn’t started trying on VII. Can you imagine X being the first 3D game in the series because the designers were afraid of something new?

      You are forgetting your own point: “…but you can’t forget all the other aspects. They weigh in just as heavily.” You write exclusively about the graphics in your response. How about the story? The music? The gameplay? Anything else that has to weigh in on that “Greatest Game of All Time” Trophy? It’s hard to, considering that in each of those fields aside from music, it stands up strongly compared to VI and completely surpasses VIII (seriously, they all had amnesia? And I spent the entire game wishing I was Seifer and not the poor, uninspired cast of cliches I was stuck with. Laguna was pretty interesting, though.)

      Considering your statement “…you have to weight in on EVERY facet of a game for that kind of title, INCLUDING the graphics,” I think we’ve done that. We called them “A mess of anime-style characters and decent prerendered backgrounds.” But we didn’t forget the rest. Look at Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Goldeneye, Starcraft and Half-Life, all released from 1996-1998. NONE of these games is up to par in the graphics category, especially if we go back and see them today. But each and every one, including Final Fantasy VII, are constantly on lists of the best games ever made, due to their groundbreaking innovations, smooth controls, quality level design and expert storytelling. Why should VII be excluded for its graphics when these other games aren’t?

      In closing, graphics matter, and VII did not do them well, but we don’t judge on just that, which is why it is considered one of the best ever made. And why a remake would be awesome.

  2. Pingback: E3 2015 – Final Fantasy VII Remake | Stay-At-Home Gaming

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