BADGP Reviews a Classic: Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft, Sony)
Retroactive “Classic”: A Reflective Head in the Clouds
May 16, 2013
I have recently felt the urge to complete gaming’s “classics,” or at least those games considered by the collective gaming unconscious as so. Final Fantasy VII seemed like a logical starting point. To avoid this transforming into a rant on how “If we want video games to be taken seriously, then we must take them seriously ourselves!” this sub-classification of review will examine those games considered to be “the very best” and put them under the microscope to see how well they have handled the many years since their initial impact on the industry and the medium. Of course, this will probably work best if the reviewer has no previous experience with the title in question. Further discussing what defines a “classic” would be the innovative impact on the gaming landscape mostly, but what characterizes a game as a “classic” is largely going to be personal and subjective.
I kind of always assumed Square Enix did not want put out a remake of Final Fantasy VII due to it not being as good as people remember it. Having now completed it for the first time 16 years after its initial release, I am mixed on this original assumption. Square has likely not remade the game due to it requiring a complete graphical overall. Pre-rendered graphics are no longer fashionable in the 2013, though I am sure there is a market for that kind of thing. Many consider Final Fantasy VII to be the best entry in the Final Fantasy series, and I have been informed on numerous occasions that FFVII best game ever made or the individual’s favorite of all time. But how has this 1997 early Playstation JRPG traversed its years of video game acclaim?
What Has Aged Well?
-Cutting the Scene-
I must say that I was quite impressed by the cut-scenes, but I probably would not recognize a Square game without them. In addition to the good-looking scenes, there is some great creative camerawork to be found in Final Fantasy VII.
The music was a little hit and miss for me, but mostly “hit.” I have noted in the importance of the main battle theme in a JRPG in some of my previous musings on Ni No Kuni and Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga, and Final Fantasy VII’s main battle theme is excellent. Games that require this kind of time commitment must have a great main battle theme. The victory music might have been my favorite track in the game; there were countless moments where I would leave it running to get an extended taste of its melodic goodness. The alternate boss battle themes were top-notch as well.
Aeris and the connection the game creates to her character to the player is impressive. I already knew of her fate beforehand, but I was still impacted by her immediate departure. The date in the Golden Saucer near to her exit from the game was sweet, but I knew what was coming and it made it sad and revealed the artistry of the writers and their strong development of her character. That being said, I preferred Tifa during my time in the game world who is another wonderfully realized character.
Final Fantasy VII has a snowboarding section. Though my time in the snow covered mountains present in the game were my worst several hours of my experience with Final Fantasy VII, it was encouraging to see such effort put into not making the player do the same activities and fetch quests over and over again. There are also some cool battle scenarios and always ample motivation for the player to continue Cloud’s journey.
I was not sure where the place “the difficulty” of Final Fantasy VII in relation to how the game has aged. I decided that the ease and accessibility of the game is probably an enormous reason the game was so successful and regarded now as a “classic.” Upon further reflection on the game, Final Fantasy VII might be the easiest JRPG I have ever completed. I only retried on one boss twice and never had any more troubles or roadblocks. Then I had to ask myself if the Pokemon games are easier than Final Fantasy VII. Pokemon games are JRPGs at their core, if they care to admit it or not. I cannot decide which is “easier,” but then which is more complex? Final Fantasy VII’s materia system is fairly complex, but other than that there is no controlled upgrading of characters other than switching out stronger weapons and armor. Pokemon has it elemental tree of weaknesses and resistances, which is combined with managing move sets and developing a balanced party of six with almost no direction. I suppose I would recommend Pokemon to someone new to JRPGs over FFVII but its close.
What Has Not Stood the Test of Time?
We all knew that the PS/N64 era was not going to age well in regard to graphics. The polygons are hideous, but of course, that is something easily overcome by many. The way a game looks is traditionally not as important as how it plays. The pre-rendered backgrounds, at times, provided a steep challenge in traversal. Navigating a 3D character on a 2D background was confusing in a near Escherian way. I would be looking upon the backgrounds with the wrong perspective and would not know which way Cloud needed to move in order to advance. This problem is expounded upon by it being a Final Fantasy and therefore has random battles. One can imagine the frustration caused by not being able perceive the background to then be interrupted by another annoying random battle.
Despite the excellent characterization of Aeris, the writing in the game is largely terrible and juvenile. This is especially evident in the characterization of Barret that borders on the line of being racist. His lines did not offend me, but I could not help rolling my eyes at most of his dialogue. The best example of poor writing or maybe poor storytelling (likely a combination of both) I came across was an instance where there was a young girl who was abducted by a water monster and upon defeating it she was breathing as if she drowned. The party beckons Cloud’s action to save the girl through CPR before she dies and he hesitates because she is girl. *Crash* Illusion broken. Any sense of immersion or tension in the situation was immediately lost. Cloud is about to let a young girl die because he is shy/scared of girls. Wow. His age is probably between 14 and 17, and he will not administer CPR. I was upset and disappointed with the game. Poor writing was likely more accepted in 1997, but by today’s standards Final Fantasy VII’s writing is awful. The game is also incredibly long-winded at times.
The player is given little in terms of understanding the world Cloud and company inhibit outside of the evil workings of Shinra Corp. and some magic and lifeforce stuff surrounding the planet. I would have never expected to run into something that looks like this:
This was likely more forgivable back in 1997, but here in 2013, these character designs are ridiculous, and there is no justification given for such monstrosities.
The impact importance of Final Fantasy VII hit me when I realized that this game is to most people who played it in its heyday as to what Super Mario 64 is to me. Super Mario 64 is my second favorite game of all time, and first seeing it in its three dimensional glory is the most memorable and possibly most defining moment of my gaming history. If Final Fantasy VII occupies that same hallowed space for some people, I can relate and completely understand. There are certain aspects of Final Fantasy VII have not aged well, but all in all, the experience exceeded my expectations.
Final Fantasy VII is indeed worthy of “Classic” status.