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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 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
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
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!
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.
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 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!