Should I Buy? – Final Fantasy VII

I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m reviewing this game because the last few have been about titles nobody seems to care about. So, I’ll review something huge to get some more interest! Thankfully, doing this doesn’t violate my rule of a game being cheap and easy to find. Although you can buy an original PS1 version off of Ebay for a squillion pounds fifty, it’s now available in the PSN Store for a much more reasonable price.

So, the PS1 classic has now been made available for download onto your PS3. And should you buy it? Well it hasn’t gained its reputation for nothing. I imagine over the years you’ll have heard of this as a candidate for ‘Best Game Ever’ or ‘Best RPG Ever’ and while I wouldn’t go that far, it is an excellent game.

You play as Cloud Strife, the moody mercenary who’s just been hired by the eco-terrorist organisation AVALANCHE (all caps necessary) to fight against the evil, world ruling megacorp that is the ShinRa Electrical Power Company. As the game unfolds and you recruit your party you find that each has a past tied to the various ventures of ShinRa, from sabotage to war to questionable medical procedures.

The characters themselves are really quite the site. Yes, the overworld models are awful, but that’s not what I mean. This being the first Final Fantasy that was made in 3D and being long enough to focus much longer plots on each of them. So while the cast of characters is strong and memorable most of the time, there are some real oddballs. My personal favourite is Cid, the gruff yet warm hearted pilot that chainsmokes and swears all the time.

If you’ve ever played a JRPG before, you’ll be familiar with the basic tenets of the battle system. When you enter a battle, the screen goes all swooshy and your party of three are transported to a special screen where you and the enemy stand in lines on the opposite sides of the screen and take turns to choose commands from a menu until the other sides are dead.

In order to gain access to special skills, you have to use one of two methods. Most come from equipping magical orbs known as Materia to the slots in your weapons and armour. The more you have it equipped, the more points it earns. After enough points, it’ll learn more powerful versions of its spells. This ensures that so long as you set yourself up right, you’ll always have spells appropriate to point in the game without overloading you with hundreds of different Materia.

Another point to the Materia system is that magic Materia will increase your magical stats a bit, but decrease you physical ones and vice versa for physical Materia. This means that your natural instinct to load up on all the spells will do you more harm than good and could even cripple your chances. The game never really gets round to explaining this though, as it doesn’t with a few of the game’s foibles that might trip you up.

The other way is each’s characters Limit Breaks, as you take damage in battle the bar fills up and eventually you get to unleash one. Characters earn more of these by participating in battle, which means that you’ll be at a bit of a disadvantage when your favourite’s not allowed on the team. The Limit system still works though, and adds characterful moves to tough battles that can really feel like they’re changing the course of the action.

The character models are terrible outside of FMVs and battle scenes, but the pre-rendered backgrounds can be gorgeous.

They’re  characterful, using a well thought out and implemented aesthetic style that lets the game’s look stay consistent even when it switches from tribal villages to Gothic sci-fi structures to ancient cities and beyond.

It manages to look a lot better than most modern games, despite its much lower graphical capabilities.

I’m also a huge fan of the soundtrack. This is in my opinion veteran Final Fantasy composer’s best work, with him using the limited MIDI format to create plenty of songs that really evoke the atmosphere or emotion of the scene.  Then again if you prefer something more orchestral or modern sounding, you’ll probably disagree with me. But if you like videogame music that sounds like videogame music rather than a film score, I’m sure you’ll groove on it too.

The script has a few translation issues and the story can be confusing at times but it is great. The characters work well, the battles aren’t frequent or repetitive enough to ever become a chore and if you can look past the regular character models the game’s still quite pretty.

Still, those of you who’ve come to this game hearing about how its some unrivalled masterpiece will probably leave somewhat disappointed. Sure, it’s a great game that brought the JRPG genre to the west and exploded Final Fantasy from a pretty much Japanese exclusive series that always lost out in sales to Dragon Quest into a global mega-franchise.

And at the same time it codified the genre for entire continents that had had hardly any exposure to it and delivered story and gameplay depth pretty much unparalleled excpet by Western Computer RPGs of the time.

Final Fantasy VII isn’t just important and well regarded because of just what it is as a game, but also because of the impact it had on gaming culture. It was, pardon the pun, a game changer.

NOTE: The PSN Store site is currently down, so I had to do some scouring to find the prices and they may not be 100% accurate cause I got them from old posts. If anybody knows the current price, feel free to let me know and I’ll edit them in.

Price: $15/£10


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Willow Wood
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:11:29

    I didn’t know you could buy it for cheaps on the PS3! Mind = blown. I always thought I would have to stare longingly at second hand copies that cost – his American keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign. WHAT? – £50 – £90. Wasn’t FF7 the first game to use 3D graphics? Anyway, I have nothing to disagree with here. I would probably add that part of what makes the story gripping is it’s confusion – it forces you to figure out parts of the plot. I loved that challenge when I first found the FF7 series. I was like ‘wtf is going on I love it?’

    Aaaanyway, nothing to edit. C:


  2. jackcalico
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:16:51

    It was the first FF to use them, but not the first-first. Also, FFVIII & FFIX are on there too! Although I have physical copies of VII & IX (H)


  3. Mitch Allan
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:44:32

    Whilst I agree that this is a game that should be bought (especially now it’s affordable on PSN!), I’d say that FFVII was a title that really had to earn my love. Willow might like the confusing story, but I REALLY was lost for a lot of the beginning, and had to stick with it to get to the good stuff.
    So I’d recommend that people keep going with it, even if you’re like me, stuck there wondering ‘wait, who are these guys, and why do I give a toss?’
    Just throwing that one in there =D
    Great review, as always (I love your reviews of obscure titles too!)

    The real question of course is…should I buy Shadow Hearts? (or, are you waiting to complete it first?)


    • jackcalico
      Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:50:20

      Ha! Seeing as that’s the first request I’ve had (well, sorta request) I’ll do the original next. And I just kinda muddled through the first few times and didn’t really understand the story til I replayed it when I was about 14. I first played it when I was like, 10.


  4. Counts
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 15:54:16

    You need to buy ffxi account. I am so excited about it!


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