Game Review: Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII (1997)
Final Fantasy VIIIn Final Fantasy VII you`ll explore a beautiful fantasy world that is slowly succumbing to the iron-fist rule of the ruthless Shinra, Inc conglomerate. Operating from Midgar, the neon-drenched city built on a giant elevated plate to separate it from the poverty-stricken slums, the evil corporation uses giant Mako Reactors to gain power by draining the life force from the land, thus giving it a stranglehold over the planet`s natural resources. A number of rebel groups form to destroy this sinister force, the most powerful of which is a group of experienced fighters known as Avalanche. Each member of the team shares a common bond in that they have all been personally affected by Shinra`s misdeeds and seek vengeance to reclaim their dignity. Their newest member is Cloud Strife, a former Shinra soldier who could be the key to victory for the rebels. So begins a grand adventure that will change the world forever. The first Final Fantasy title for PSone is an unmitigated classic, a truly epic title that spans three CDs of finely crafted storytelling and deep RPG action. With a huge world to explore, hundreds of characters to interact with and a myriad of sub-games and side quests, Final Fantasy VII will tax your mind, your reflexes and even your heart. It`s a truly unforgettable experience.

Review: Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)

It was 1998 during college that I first discovered the Final Fantasy series. Glancing through Playstation Power Magazine’s monthly forum devoted to Final Fantasy VII, I became intrigued by this RPG legend rated 97% and considered a milestone in gaming. Its worldwide influence cannot be conveyed in words but for me, personally, Final Fantasy VII was a major inspiration, especially in directing me towards Norse mythology with its use of the god, Odin, and by 1999 it had made its biggest impact for I had taken the first step into the world of writing fantasy fiction.

The story begins in Midgard, a futuristic city run by the Shinra Corporation whose chief crime is the use of eight reactors that suck Mako energy out of the earth to fuel advancing technology but draining the life force of the world. A mercenary group, Avalanche, opens Final Fantasy VII by destroying Mako Reactor No.1 in their quest for world preservation. Amongst their numbers is a new recruit, Cloud Strife, formerly a member of SOLDIER, Shinra’s force of elite warriors.  The exploits of Avalanche in Midgard form only the basis of the story which quickly takes Cloud and his companions outside the city in pursuit of the elusive Sephiroth, another former member of SOLDIER and renowned as the greatest warrior Shinra has ever produced. Cloud and Avalanche’s fight against Shinra soon develops into an epic struggle to stop Sephiroth bringing calamity onto the world.

The first in the series to embrace 3D, Final Fantasy VII remains a visual dream. The cut scenes are still delightful perhaps none more beautiful than the shocking twist in the story that ends the first disc and whose imagery is etched into one’s memory by music heavily pronounced in its poignancy. The characters have an anime look about them with large striking eyes managing to capture a myriad of emotions. The backgrounds, rich in detail and easy to navigate, contain some memorable settings including Cosmo Canyon, Wutai and City of the Ancients. Some of the locations leave an imprint in your mind long after you have finished playing. Cloud’s hometown of Nibelheim, sleepy and seemingly insignificant, is the setting for a pivotal moment in his past, one that haunts Cloud throughout the game and remains with you long after the surprising revelations towards the end of the game.

Final Fantasy follows the usual RPG formula with a party of characters you can pick and choose from, equipping each with different weapons and armour, and levelling up via those random battles that are either a blessing or a curse dependent on your mood. Each weapon or piece of armour contains slots which are filled with materia, crystallised forms of Mako energy, that allow your characters to use and learn spells. Modifying your selection of materia and allocating them to the limited number of slots you contain is the key to success in Final Fantasy VII. For instance, two slots in a piece of armour may be connected allowing you to combine the strengths of two pieces of materia. In this example the best combination would be materia such as Ice or Restore in one slot and All in the other which would allow you to cast that particular spell on all enemies or characters rather than one at a time. There is a plethora of materia in Final Fantasy VII divided into five groups – red is summon materia concerning powerful gods, purple is independent materia that enhances a character’s status such as increasing HP, blue is support materia which is placed in linked slots to enhance other materia (as with the example above), yellow is command materia that gives you more battle options rather than just attack, and finally green is magic materia which covers elemental, curative and defensive spells. Prioritising your party’s needs is essential as there are never enough slots to accommodate all your materia.

Revisiting Final Fantasy VII thirteen years after its original release there was little in the way of flaws. The advances in gaming consoles today boasting increasingly stunning graphics can make elements of Final Fantasy VII show its age a little but this is quickly compensated by the immersive experience this title offers. Aside from the main story there are some welcome distractions most notably the crazy world of the Gold Saucer offering everything from a firework illuminated gondola ride to the competitive world of chocobo racing. The various towns, villages and cultures couldn’t be any more different but the whole package works brilliantly. Beneath these fantastical elements Final Fantasy VII addresses not only ecological concerns with Shinra’s draining of the world’s mako, but the oppression of minorities such as the coal miners in Coral, all too reminiscent for me of struggling UK miners in the 1980s.

The biggest selling title in the series, Final Fantasy VII has clearly been difficult for Square Enix to put down. Dirge of Cerberus on PS2 and Crisis Core on PSP are notable spin-off games while the feature length film, Advent Children, takes place two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII and is a remarkable achievement that should have had more recognition.

Final Fantasy VII has deservedly written its place into gaming history. Of all the titles in the series this one probably resonates with more fans than any other. Cloud is one of the series highpoints, a complicated and flawed hero, while Sephiroth is easily the best villain ever to grace the Final Fantasy world. This should be one of the ten RPGS that all future incarnations in this genre measure themselves against. Narrowly surpassed by the eighth and tenth instalments, Final Fantasy VII still makes up the holy trinity of games in Square Enix’s brilliant series. Need I say more?

Verdict 5/5

(Game source: reviewer’s own copy)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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  1. Final Fantasy VII (1997) is really amazing game I ever heard. After watching the trailer of this game I truly amazed and excited to play the great one. Hope you published released news soon. Thanks girlfriend!! :)

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