It’s finally happened. Today, after so many years of waiting, it’s come out. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is here, at long last! And it only took, what, six years of waiting? Or was it seven? I lost track after three.
To celebrate, and to build my own excitement, I went back and played through the original game. On the original PS1, no less (I’m a hipster, I know). Today, I’m going to review one of the most important games in video game history. Today, I’m reviewing Final Fantasy 7.
Buckle the fuck up. Because this is going to be a long one.
Story: Eco Activists VS Oil Company VS Wannabe God
*Deep Breath* Ooooookay. Let’s do this.
Final Fantasy 7 is a game with many stories within itself. Each character has their own stories with their own arcs, all of which come together into the larger story. As such, there is a lot to unpack here. But it also comes with one big problem: the story can be really confusing!
Luckily, I’m an obsessive nerd who’s had years to study. So I’ve got a pretty strong grasp of what’s going on.
You play as Cloud (or whatever you want to call him), a former member of SOLDIER turned mercenary. As a favor to your old friend Tifa (or whatever you want to call her), you temporarily join up with AVALANCHE, a group of freedom fighters hell-bent on destroying the Shinra Corporation. During one mission, Cloud meets Aerith (not Aeris, you sick fucks), a mysterious young lady that he quickly forms a strong bond with. When Cloud’s old hero, Sephiroth, makes himself known, Cloud and friends must travel across the world, defeat him, and save the planet!
It goes without saying that I left out a lot in that summary. But if I went into more detail, we’d be here forever. So, for the general plot, let’s leave it at that. I don’t want it to go on as long as the Persona 5 review did.
The general story of this game is pretty good. The pacing is rock solid, flowing at a steady pace without requiring the player to stop and grind every ten minutes (although that is an option if you want an easier experience). Unfortunately, it can be a little difficult to follow sometimes. The game will introduce new settings, important items, and backstory so often that it can be headache-inducing! So much so that even the characters will voice how confused they are!
Speaking of which, I love all the characters in this game! All of them have memorable designs, distinct personalities, and interesting stories that play into the larger plot super well! From your party members to the Turks to Sephiroth himself, every character in this game is amazing! They have some of the most compelling stories in any video game I’ve ever played!
Except for you, Yuffie. All except for you.
The impressive thing about the story isn’t the plot itself. Rather, it’s how the story is communicated largely through gameplay! Yes, there is a ton of dialogue! But the dialogue is never the only thing telling the tale!
Take, for example, Aerith. Without ever straight up saying it, we see that Aerith is a critically important member of the party. Her stats lend themselves the best towards healing magic, making her the easy pick for support in battle. On the party select screen, Aerith is smack dab in the middle, representing that she is the heart of the group. Combine that with all the scenes she shares with Cloud, all the scenes where she breaks through his facade and sees him for who he really is, and you get a character that’s super easy to get attached to! Through both gameplay and dialogue, we learn what kind of person Aerith is.
Which makes it all the more painful when she’s gone. And it’s not a hole that ever gets filled; no party member ever comes along to replace Aerith. That slot in the middle of the party select screen forever remains empty. No other character can use support magic half as well as Aerith could. She’s gone and there is no way to get her back.
All of that. Not through dialogue. But through gameplay. Y’know. Like a video game should do!
Presentation: Them Sweet PS1 Blocky Models
Yeah, so… this game has definitely shown its age. Personally, I think it’s aged in a charming way; sort of like that one grandpa that won’t stop bragging about his youth. Sure, he’s old and he’s living in the past. But he’s still your grandpa! Plus, he still knows how to carry a tune!
Graphically speaking, this game is definitely a product of its time. The character models, while still distinct and effective at conveying that character’s appearance, are still blocky and low on detail. The prerendered backgrounds are still pretty nice, although they are a bit low-poly and can make it a tad difficult to know where you need to go at times. Framerate wise, it’s no surprise that this game isn’t breaching a constant 60.
Again, this is all on the PS1. Early PS1, I might add. Sure, it doesn’t compare to games like Final Fantasy 8 or 9. Or even games like Crash, Spyro, and Resident Evil! But it’s look is both charming and iconic. It’s a look that, even with the HD Remake now in our hands, we’ll never forget!
Plus, the music is still unironically amazing! This game has some of the best tracks in the history of video games! From the iconic Final Fantasy ‘Prelude’ to the gently intense rhythm of ‘Cosmo Canyon’ to the dramatic final boss track ‘One-Winged Angel’, every piece of music in this game is just as iconic as the rest! They’re all amazing!
Yes, I do listen to it at work, don’t you judge me!
Gameplay: What better way to follow the death of a loved one than with some snowboarding?!
Seriously, who thought that was a good idea? It wasn’t even good snowboarding! Fucking California Games 2 had better snowboarding than this!
On the surface, Final Fantasy 7 seems like your typical turn-based RPG. You run around, mash your way through dialogue scenes, equip your characters with progressively more powerful equipment, and fight tons of enemies that spawn out of nowhere. Each character has a gauge that, once full, will allow them to make one move. They can attack, cast a spell, defend themselves, or just flat out retreat. Simple, right?
Well, there are two little mechanics that spice things up a bit: Limit Breaks and Materia.
Limit Breaks are character-specific abilities. Once they take enough damage, they’ll be able to unleash these ultra-powerful attacks/support spells. Each character gets different Limit Breaks, and you’ll unlock more as you progress. These are all visually striking, at least for an early PS1 game, and can quickly turn the tide of battle in your favor.
The second, and far more game-breaking, is the Materia system. Materia isn’t tied only to spell casting. Some Materia let you summon god-like creatures for long but powerful attacks. Some give you extra abilities in combat, such as sensing your opponent’s abilities/stats or stealing something. Others bolster the power of other Materia or your basic attacks so on and so forth.
This system doesn’t just implore creativity on the part of the player. If you put certain combinations together, you could completely destroy the balance of the game! Some of these combos are absolutely insane! Go ahead and experiment with as many combinations as you can! You’ll find an absurd amount of depth if you look hard enough!
Now, you won’t be fighting enemies over and over again for up to forty hours. There are various minigames to give the game extra variety. You can raise Chocobos and participate in races, with the aim of creating the perfect Golden Chocobo! If you hate yourself, you can go snowboarding! Or maybe you want to listen to the Gold Saucer theme for eternity and play some other minigames I never bothered to play! Wanna press buttons to squat? How about giving a small child CPR? All of these minigames are real and you can, and probably will play through them all!
Especially that arena minigame. You want Omnislash early, right?
There’s also a huge variety of enemies in this game, which can force you to use more creative tactics to survive. This is especially true of the boss fights; these guys are tough as nails, especially the late-game optional ones, and they’ll force you to use every ability at your disposal. Get your thinking cap on, because these guys won’t just roll over when you hit level ninety-nine.
This game is my golden standard for JRPs! Character customization? Tons of it! Variety? You got it! A cast of characters with unique abilities that warrant a space in the party (unless you’re Yuffie or Caid Sith)? Hell yeah, give me those characters! This is what an RPG looks like!
Now, it still has the classic RPG flaws. Getting to max level is a huge pain in the ass, constantly being interrupted by random encounters is aggravating as hell, and not all of the minigames are especially fun. Traversal can be a bit tricky at times, as the prerendered backgrounds don’t always make it clear where you can and can’t walk or where you’re supposed to go. Certain boss fights are tedious and annoying, relying on cheap tactics and mechanics that force you to either use weaker characters or just sit around and wait.
It’s not a perfect game. It’s not even a perfect RPG. But it’s still a lot of fun to play, especially in the late-game! It’s not perfect, yes. But it’s still one of the best RPGs of all time!
And I’d still argue that it’s the best Final Fantasy game. Come at me, bitches!
Final Fantasy 7 is a special game for a lot of people. It’s one of the most important video games of all time, whether you like it or not. Even with the Remake finally taking the stage, this game is still a fun classic. For all we know, the Remake will completely blow the original game out of the water! But it can never replace the original. Nothing can replace the original.
If you still haven’t played FF7, for any reason, you need to fix that! It’s one of the most important games in the history of video games! Yes, it’s aged. Yes, it’s not perfect! But it is an integral piece of gaming history that deserves the love and respect that it gets. It’s a phenomenal game worth experiencing at least once.
Unless you don’t like RPGs. In which case, what are you doing here?
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to go hear Persona 5 Royal’s argument over why I should be playing it over Remake. I’ll see you in about three months.