After including Final Fantasy VII on our recent list of the best steampunk games, and with the upcoming release of the remake in March 2020, we thought now would be a good time to revisit this classic.
Is it still as good as it was? Still playable in 2019? Read on for our Final Fantasy VII review.
What is Final Fantasy VII?
Final Fantasy VII is a role-playing game released in 1997 and is the seventh instalment of the popular Final Fantasy
series. The game is available for multiple platforms and can even be enjoyed on iOS and Android mobile devices. Final Fantasy VII is the first game in the series to use 3D graphics and full motion video.
The game takes place in an explorable world simply referred to as the “Planet” in in-game dialogues. Life on the Planet is powered by Lifestream, a spiritual energy force that is called Mako in its processed form.
In typical megacorporation fashion, the largest company in the world (Shinra Electric Power Company) are draining Lifestream at unsustainable rates for their own gain, creating elite SOLDIER’s by augmenting humans with Mako. Shinra, who are headquartered in the steampunk-inspired city of Midgar, are destroying the Planet with their actions, and it is up to eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE to stop them.
Final Fantasy VII received widespread critical acclaim upon its release and received several ‘game of the year’ awards. Such is its popularity, the game is receiving a revamp in the format of a multiple release PlayStation 4 series, with the first instalment scheduled for March 2020.
Final Fantasy VII – The Story
The game follows the story of Cloud Strife, a member of the AVALANCHE eco-terrorist organization who are on a mission to stop Shinra from destroying the world. During a failed attack on a Shinra Mako reactor in Midgar, Cloud is separated from his two fellow Avalanche members – Barret and Tifa.
Cloud meets Aerith whilst in the city slums and promises to protect her from Shinra. A rescue attempt leads to Cloud, Aerith, Barret and Tifa escaping Midgar and on a journey to pursue Sephiroth (the game’s main antagonist) across the Planet.
From here on, the story of Final Fantasy VII becomes complex and engaging in equal parts and, without wanting to ruin the story for newcomers, I think this is something that just has to be experienced.
The plot of Final Fantasy VII takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and explores some adult themes. Series creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, was dealing with the recent death of his mother during the creation of Final Fantasy VII, and the game became his main outlet for expressing his grief. This led to the game incorporating themes from a mix of different cultural beliefs (notably Kabbalah). The darkness in some of the characters really shines through as a result of this, the Nibelheim Incident springs to mind as a good example of this.
Final Fantasy VII – Gameplay
The gameplay in Final Fantasy VII is similar to that of its predecessors in the series, with a world map, field, and battle screen locations. The exception in this game is the inclusion of 3D spaces being used to represent each aspect of the game. This lends itself well to the field mode, which allows players to navigate and explore areas of significance that are highlighted on the map.
The battle screen activates at random intervals throughout the exploration, and at specific story points in the game. Final Fantasy VII utilises an Active Time Battle (ATB) system in which players and enemies exchange attacks until the other is defeated. Defeating enemies leads to experience points which, in turn, level up the character and various other traits along with it
The gameplay in Final Fantasy VII holds on to the very essence of what makes the Final Fantasy games so enjoyable and addictive, and the seventh instalment of the game seems to perfectly navigate the dynamic of grinding up through levels and reaping the rewards of powerful upgrades.
The storyline in Final Fantasy VII is great, but what makes it so great are the characters. The time spent building the backstory of the playable characters in the game pays off and creates a level of empathy and engagement rarely achieved in video games. Barret and Tifa both go through notable transitions throughout the game, but the game’s protagonist, Cloud, is easily the most intriguing character. It is hard not to grow attached.
A lot of people may disagree with this, but when this game was released in 1997, the graphics and visuals were simply breath-taking, and I remember being in awe at some of the imaginative landscapes to behold. This is, however, not an aspect of gameplay that holds up well in present day, and perhaps nostalgia slightly influences my (and many others’) rose-tinted analysis of the game.
- Mini games
The idea behind the mini games in Final Fantasy VII is great, and many of the side tasks could have been fun had the controls been more responsive and less clunky. Yet, it is evident that less time was given to creating the mini games than the main story game (rightly so!), and this shows when playing them.
- Save points
Not like modern games, Final Fantasy VII doesn’t offer the ability to save the game at any point. More of a gripe than a criticism, and all older console RPG games can relate. Yet, it can get a little tiring when you have to replay long scenes to get back to a point in the game where you faltered.
Games Like Final Fantasy VII
Without naming the obvious other games in the series, there are plenty of other games like Final Fantasy VII to try. Here are a few:
- Disgaea 5
- Kingdom of Hearts III
- Persona 5
- Dragon Quest XI
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