Honest Review: Final Fantasy VII


Ah, Final Fantasy VII...the so-called "best RPG ever" that both Final Fantasy VI and IX, as well as Earthbound, Xenogears, Mother 3, Xenoblade, Fallout 3, Skyrim, Warcraft/Starcraft, Paper Mario, Horizon Zero Dawn, Vagrant Story, Oblivion, Bioshock, Modern Pokémon, Chrono Cross, Bowser's Inside Story, Wild Arms, LISA, OFF and Undertale (and as much as I hate to say it, Chrono Trigger) were altogether WAY better overall games than, just to name a few examples...oh, and also the Zelda and Metroid franchises as well, assuming that you count THOSE games as RPGs.

So, of course, the question is...does this game truly stand the test of time when measured against everything else that the RPG genre has had to offer since (and in Earthbound's and Chrono Trigger's cases at the very least, actually BEFORE) its release? Well, haha, NO, but at least you have an unwaveringly positive outlook on these types of things, I suppose. Anyway, sigh...here we go again...

STORY: The storyline of this game is obviously WAY too long for me to even be able to fit into this review, so here's a brief summary of the parts of the plot that actually DO somewhat make sense.

Cloud Strife is a young, blue-eyed and blond-haired teenage swordsman who was raised in your average boringly peaceful rural village but then later decided to join the local Imperial Stormtrooper army (under his absurdly long-haired evil counterpart Sephiroth's influence, of course) and ended up having to move to the disgustingly industrialized and corporate polluted wasteland of a city known as Midgar, where the leaders of said army's home company Shinra are busy mining the energy of the planet Earth(?) itself from deep within its crust...which, of course, is something that Cloud needs to stop.

Over the course of an irritatingly long series of charades that has little to no actual relevance to the game's overarching plot in the long run, Cloud first meets up with Barret (initially a downright offensive caricature of what the Japanese seem to have thought that African Americans were like at the time of the game's release, but later develops into a FAR more multi-layered and interesting character over time...just trust me on this one), an extremely big and scary black dude who is very obviously modeled after Mister T, literally pounds his chest like a gorilla on a regular basis, is responsible for much of the swearing present in the game, has a literally anger-powered gatling gun prosthetically grafted onto one of his arms as a replacement for the corresponding hand, grew up in an even worse and quite literally shadier version of the Detroit slums, and is the leader of a terrorist gang that wants to strike back against Shinra by bombing all of the foundations of Midgar's top plate (yeah, this city has a REALLY weird layout to say the least), causing pieces of said plate to fall down onto innocent civilians down below and crush them alive. One of our self-proclaimed HEROES, people.

Next, we have Aerith (the Princess Tomboy) and Tifa (the Badass Tomboy), who are both pretty good in their own ways but overall weak compared to some of the later party-member options, who both have your typical sickeningly sweet and cliched backstories about how they miss all of the time that they used to be able to spend with you.

Anyway, once you've finally resolved all of Midgar's problems (for the most part, at least) and taken off into the overworld in Cloud's new, shiny, totally-not-stolen motorcycle, the overall flimsiness of FFVII's plot REALLY starts to show through.

Basically, Shinra is Captain Planet's worst enemy; Sephiroth is basically just an evil version of Cloud; Aerith constantly whines about how she wishes that things were the way they used to be...sorry, but I'm not going to bother with the actual full-length plot. It's just WAY too long and compilcated and doesn't have NEARLY enough aspects that actually make sense (also, it's a spoiler, LOL).

From there, the story basically just goes on an extremely, exhaustingly long tangent about Cloud's former relationship with Sephiroth and how him and Shinra are basically competing with each other to see which one of them can take over and effectively destroy the entire world first (Sephiroth by slamming a giant meteor into it, Shinra by literally POLLUTING it to death).

And of course, as many of you hopefully know by now, Sephiroth is also a huge mama's boy as well...but don't even get me started on the Jenova plot thread, as it's honestly one of the only actually interesting parts of this entire game besides the aforementioned Barret (and Cid, the game's also-extremely foul-mouthed and badarse resident hillbilly rocket scientist), and much like how shockingly huge the mad Nazi scientist Hojo's villain role ends up being in the game, I'd rather not spoil it.

Overall, it's a good storyline at its core, but is just largely over-complicated and nonsensical (and, unlike Xenogears, without even having intellectually sophisticated writing to make up for it).

GRAPHICS: UGGGH...seriously, for all of you people that try to defend this game's graphics by saying that they were "AMAZING for their time", I really hate to burst your bubble, guys, but this game, for the most part, looked ugly as sin even for its time. Yes, I'll admit, the character models, environmental backdrops and ESPECIALLY summoning cutscenes displayed during combat ARE actually pretty incredible for the time, but literally EVERYTHING else about this game just looks like complete crud.

In one of my previous lists, titled "Top 10 Horribly Dated Things About Classic Video Games", I distinctly remember that one of the top entries was something like "navigating deformed cardboard sculptures of LEGO people across pre-rendered Renaissance paintings of the areas", and yeah, that's pretty much EXACTLY what exploring this game's areas feels like.

I'm sure it was just something that needed to be done in order to conserve the game's data space (oh sure, even though the game had literally THREE DISCS worth of said space), but if THIS, overall, was really considered AMAZING-looking for the time, then the people that claimed it as such have obviously never REALLY seen the likes of Ocarina Of Time and Majora's Mask, or Chrono Trigger and Cross, or Final Fantasy VI and Xenogears, or Metal Gear Solid, or the WipEout trilogy, or Crash Bandicoots 2 and 3, or Super Castlevania IV and Symphony Of The Night, or Mega Man X, or Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Street Fighter II, or Final Fantasy VIII and IX, or Super Metroid and Link To The Past, or Banjo-Kazooie, or the Classic Sonic series, or Secret Of Mana and Evermore, or Gunstar Heroes, or Super Aleste/R-Type and Phalanx, or the SNES/Genesis Donkey Kong Country and Earthworm Jim games, or hell, even Um Jammer Lammy (sorry to talk about it so much, but seriously, even THAT was honestly an overall WAY better AND better-looking game than this).

SOUND: Now THIS is definitely the one thing that I can't deny is absolutely BREATHTAKING about this game...well, in terms of the musical composition, at least. While FFVII has, without even a SHADOW of a doubt, one of THE greatest video game soundtracks of all time, the sound effects are horrendously dated, and the music itself is downright PAINFULLY obviously constructed together using MIDI sound files. In short, great music but really irritating soundfont.

That being said, just take a second to actually listen to the main theme ALONE (along with Birth of a God, One Winged Angel, Oppressed People, the standard battle/boss themes, the Jenova themes, Barret's theme, Aerith's theme, Hurry Faster, The Shinra Corporation, Highwind Takes To The Skies, Who Am I, Underneath The Rotting Pizza, Cosmo Canyon, Anxious Heart, etc) and you will IMMEDIATELY be 100% sold on this game's soundtrack. (Yes, HTO2012, that includes you...)

GAMEPLAY: Is easily some of the absolute worst out of literally all of the non-NES role-playing games that I've played so far. Earthbound had wonderfully trippy battle backgrounds and music (and lack of random battles); Chrono Trigger had teamwork attacks (and lack of random battles); Mother 3 had the rhythmic attacking system (and trippy backgrounds, and LORB); Xenoblade Chronicles had its astonishingly unique "single-player MMO" combat style (ALORB); Mario & Luigi and Undertale had manual attack dodging (along with the brilliant Fight/Spare system in UT's case, ALORB in M&L's case); Secret Of Mana and Zelda had fully real-time combat (ALORB); Fallout had the ingenious VATS system (ALORB); Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario had attack blocking (ALORB; are you starting to notice a pattern here or is it just me); Xenogears had giant realistically fuel-powered mechs; South Park: The Stick Of Truth, for what it's worth, also has a lot of really cleverly integrated timing prompts going for it (ALORB); and hell, even Final Fantasy VI had all of those gimmicky Street Fighter button inputs that you could perform with Sabin...

But THIS game? Apart from its admittedly rather unique Materia perk-building system, there is literally not even a SINGLE thing special about this game's combat (well, besides the fact that it does the old "turn-based real-time combat" schtick, which had already been done AT LEAST four times before by Final Fantasy IV-VI and Chrono Trigger (the latter two of which were also MUCH better games overall than this one, might I add).

Just like in Chrono Trigger and (to a lesser extent) Final Fantasy VI before it, actual strategy being required in the combat is practically a non-existence in this game; as long as you've got your characters set up (and ground up) well enough, you can basically just plow right through everything in the entire game with just your standard attacks (and later on, area-of-effect spells) ALONE.

(cough, maybe they could have spent more time fleshing out the actual central gameplay mechanics if they hadn't crammed in so many of those stupid barely-functional minigames, cough)

Oh, and speaking of having your characters set up properly, the whole "permanently missable items and occurrences that are EXTREMELY important in making sure that you actually manage to beat the ridiculously long game" issue from FFVI amazingly STILL hasn't been fixed here.

(Seriously, if you just so happened to miss even ONE of the literally only TWO status-ailment-nullifying Ribbon equipment items that the game provides to you through its main storyline, more specifically the Ancient Pyramid and Ice Mountain segments, with the one in the former one of those two locations being UNGODLY easy to miss, by the way, then God help you against Sephiroth's angel form...yeah, you'd damned BETTER consult walkthroughs.)

OVERALL: While Final Fantasy VII does, in MANY ways, represent basically everything wrong with RPGs, particularly JRPGs (overly long, grindy, frustrating and tedious gameplay that literally the only way to win is to mindlessly brute-force and cheese your way through it, irritatingly pretentious and condescending plot with quite possibly more holes in it than the world's biggest slice of SWISS cheese, annoying and shallow characters that the game SEVERELY overestimates the actual depth of, agonizingly long and unskippable cutscenes, comically overblown focus on visual spectacle as opposed to actual gameplay, more anime tropes than most actual animes themselves, generic recolored enemies everywhere, length-padding and filler out the wazoo, mind-numbing over-usage of leitmotif, etc), I'll admit that it was a good game for its time...just DEFINITELY not by ANY means an Ocarina Of Time (or a Chrono Trigger, or a Final Fantasy VI, or a Xenogears Disc 1), let's just leave it at that.

In conclusion, 7/10


I've actually never played FFVII (at least in it's entirety), so I don't have my full opinion on it. It seems like one of those games that are more of it's time. As a fan of RPGs I guess I should eventually try it out myself. Solid review, otherwise. Perhaps a bit more overly critical than I expected, but like I said, I never really played it to know for sure. - cjWriter1997