lauantai 16. lokakuuta 2010

REVIEW - Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Genre(s): RPG
Released: 1997
Available on: PC, PS1
Developer(s): Square
Publisher(s): Square, Sony Computer Entertainment, Eidos Interactive
Players: 1

The success of Final Fantasy VI quickly paved the way for the development of another installment in the Final Fantasy series for the SNES. Hironobu Sakaguchi was as pleased with Final Fantasy VI's more futuristic take on the series as the fans were, and wanted to expand it as far as writing a detective story set in New York City in 1999. However, this early draft of Final Fantasy VII was soon scrapped, due to director Yoshinori Kitase's involvement with Square's new pet project, the time travelling epic Chrono Trigger. All that was already written for Final Fantasy VII ended up in Chrono Trigger, and a few Square titles released at a later date. In late 1995, after the release of Chrono Trigger, the creation of Final Fantasy VII was rebooted, this time with the purpose of being released exclusively on Nintendo's new Nintendo 64 platform. However, under Kitase's direct influence, the game was set to implement full 3D graphics not capable of running on cartridge-based capacity. 1996, the third year of development, began with what some consider to be the biggest shock in the franchise's history; Square severed ties with Nintendo after ten years of more than fruitful co-operation, and announced they would be developing Final Fantasy VII exclusively for the Sony PlayStation. Released on January 31st, 1997 in Japan, this epic RPG released on three discs was, from all standpoints, the most beautiful gaming experience anyone had ever seen, another huge turning point and new standard in the history of the franchise, enhanced further by a totally original dystopian storyline influenced by, but differing from all the previous Final Fantasy stories by a great deal. The game was the first Final Fantasy game to be released in Europe. It's the only Final Fantasy game thus far to have spawned its very own compilation of sequels, prequels and movies instead of just one fill-the-gaps sequel. Oh, yeah; did I mention it's still one of the most popular games in the world and one that fans have been screaming for a remake of for the last ten years, and my favourite video game on the planet? Well, if I didn't, I'll be sure to correct these mistakes in the longest review I've ever written.

A little less boring lesson in life's philosophy

Tifa is one of the most attractive virtual women
ever created, even as the bunch of rough
polygons she was at this point.
The mega-corporation Shinra, Inc., based in the city of Midgar, is a monopoly in the world's energy supply and hi-tech machinery. They also have some of the world's most talented combatants on their payroll, of which the best make it into Shinra's elite force, dubbed SOLDIER. The company's methods to their success are merciless towards the whole planet. The planet's natural Mako energy is the sole key to Shinra's prominence; because of their nuclear reactors sucking the planet dry of this energy, and pollution caused by their constant, needless urban development, Shinra is responsible for many natural disasters taking place around the world. A group of ecoterrorists calling themselves AVALANCHE prepares to take down the sinister Shinra Inc. piece by piece, with the help of a former SOLDIER, now a soft-spoken mercenary named Cloud Strife. His knowledge of the company and remarkable combat skills will surely help the terrorists, but what if the company isn't nearly the most destructive force threatening the future of the planet?

Every other gaming critic I know exclamates how Final Fantasy VII is so far from any previous Final Fantasy game in storyline - when it actually isn't, think about it. Just compare it to Final Fantasy VI. Evil Empire, Shinra Inc.. The Returners, AVALANCHE. The exact same things, only the setting's totally different. In many ways, Final Fantasy VII is like a 3D version of the previous game, but on the other hand, Final Fantasy VII is a completely original game filled with subliminal messaging. A thing I perceive to be a reason for the game's constant attraction, is that its themes never get old in today's society and political climate. In storyline the game's like an offensive statement against capitalism and consumers depending excessively on produced energy and technology. Back in 1997, global warming was not exactly the issue it is now, but it's still a very central, subliminal theme in this game, it's like some sort of a bad omen of how the world was to change because of people's uninterest in nature's well-being in contrast to their own. Personally, I'm very tired of all the images of the end of the world going on nowadays, it's like spreading panic is some sort of a fad, taken financial advantage of by film makers, musicians and just about everyone else more or less famous... Final Fantasy VII warned consumers of a crappy future in a time in which this sort of anti-hype held some credibility. Like in most Final Fantasy games, the specifics of the story change a lot during the lengthy game, but from the beginning to the end, the player aims to save the planet's energy supply. As always, up until this very game, some of these specifics I mentioned are lost in remarkably bad translation.

In the garden of pre-render, baby.
First, Ted Woolsey was hired to translate Final Fantasy VI so Square would never be accused of such abomination as Final Fantasy IV's North American localization again. Then, another Japanese team of translators was hired to work on Final Fantasy VII, so the original storyline would remain intact; which should've been an easy job, because Sony didn't share Nintendo's policies - they didn't even have censorship to worry about. The player may visit a brothel, there are many other more or less obvious sexual references, both hetero- and homosexual, and the characters of Barret and Cid swear - a lot. The most explicit words are replaced with something along the lines of ""#%&$!!!", but "shit", "hell" and "damn" are essential parts of their vocabulary in all their glory, kind of like to emphasize why Square's daring move from Nintendo to Sony was a good thing. Questionable violence, murder and some fashion of satanism are also brought to light. Most of the time it looks like Final Fantasy VII was translated by two wholly different teams - the same goes for the graphics, I'll return to this subject in a bit. Some of it's really complex English which fits perfectly in a game that is built on technological, genetical and philosophical themes, while some of it's generic, inconsistent, grammatically inefficient mumbojumbo which includes several strings of simple and usually irrelevant screams like "OH!" obviously translated by those who have worked on Japanese anime, filled with exclamation marks and an excessive amount of "...". The plot of the game becomes very twisted about 20 hours into it, and out of either incompetence or just simple carelessness, the translators can't keep up with it; the players will definitely need some external help to understand the later threads of the storyline. This is perhaps the most important reason why Final Fantasy VII would need a remake.

The graphics of the game are also a very important issue when it comes to the possibility of a remake. As far as gameplay graphics are concerned, I have nothing to exactly complain about and when the game came out, you didn't even notice any errors - it was all so damn huge and beautiful. The cutscenes still look great in their own way, and there's over 40 minutes of the most beautifully directed and animated full motion video you had ever seen back in that time. The problem with the cutscenes is that like the translation of the game, they seem like they were done by two different groups of people in two different periods of time. About half of the cutscenes portray the characters as the blocky, quirky, tiny characters they are, while half of them introduce full-blooded humanoid versions of the cast. The environments, however, are sized the same in both types of cutscenes. What bothers me even more is the relationship between the translation and the visuals. There are some scenes beyond the player's control that feature the characters doing... well, something, and you never quite know what's happening. Other characters potentially present just say "What are you doing?" or "Stop it!", or again, just "Oh...! Ah...! Eh...!", while you're trying to deduce what is the meaning of all those rough polygons swinging and flashing back and forth on the screen. This also has an effect on throwing the player off the scent of the plot.

G-Bike is one of the best minigames included
in Final Fantasy VII. The screenshot's from
the "storyline version".
For now, I'll go on with what I'll be doing for the most part of this review, and that is praising Final Fantasy VII to seventh heaven. Since I've always maintained some sort of an order to these reviews, I'll start with the soundtrack. I've said it before: I don't have a favourite Final Fantasy soundtrack. However, if the soundtrack of this particular game included just a few more different tunes, I would have to say it would be my favourite original video game soundtrack of all time; in addition, it's the only one I listen to outside the confines of a game. Nobuo Uematsu's epic score is a multi-layered, multi-influenced soundtrack spanning from rock to jazz, to dark ambience. The combat themes could be perceived as influenced by a testosterone-ridden Deep Purple, and the world map themes, regardless whether you're walking around the world or soaring through the skies, sound like taking a trip on the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Uematsu's musical efforts produce a punch straight in your face every time a new song hits, but like I said, at a quite early point they begin recycling the stuff, while up until that point almost every location, scene and special sequence in the game has had its own theme. Also, if I really have to criticize something concrete, I'll go into the very final boss theme, and say "One-Winged Angel" is no epic, progressive masterpiece like the previous game's "Dancing Mad". It's one of those overrated Final Fantasy themes in my humble opinion - definitely not bad, but overrated.

Going into gameplay, I need something: the manual of the game. Why? During the course of 13 years, there's not one game I've played for more hours than Final Fantasy VII. I know everything there is to this game; I know all the tricks and self-buffing methods, the way to conquer 100% of the game... hell, I almost even remember the dialogue, word by word. I'm like a walking, unofficial strategy guide of the game - I actually memorized the official one back in the day. It's a good thing that I know the game, I can easily consider myself the right person to write a review of it, but the thing that makes me whip out the manual to aid me in the job is that I can't possibly say everything I want to say about the game without some sort of "memo pad" here beside me. I wouldn't even know where to begin. If you want an extremely short version of the review, here it is: take Final Fantasy VI, correct some issues, put it in 3D and introduce a couple of new, awesome one-off systems of character development, and you've pretty much created another Final Fantasy VII. If you want a more specific review, and the actual reasons why the game is the greatest role-playing experience ever created, even with all its flaws, read on... but this will take you a while.

Sephiroth in one of the most memorable stills
of the game.
First and foremost, the game comes on three CD's. That should tell a story of the game's size and length; Final Fantasy VII was, at the time, the longest game measured in hours. Finishing the whole game, leaving no stone unturned, takes about 60 to 70 hours. During those tens of hours you will be devoured and consumed by a very confusing story - which isn't actually that confusing once you hear a properly translated version of it somewhere else entirely - told according to the experience of nine playable characters, of which two are completely optional for you to welcome into your party. The story of the game reverts to the character-driven style of Final Fantasy IV. Like Cecil, Cloud is the strict main character of the story, around whom everything revolves. There's some dispute about that, as some consider Aerith - localized Aeris this one time - or the main villain Sephiroth the true main character(s) of the game, but to me, it's always been Cloud. His character's importance and his connections to all the different evils of the game don't take anything away from the other characters, though. Each one of them has a backstory, some have even a whole sidequest of their own, just like in the previous game. The playable cast of the game is loveable, extremely so... with two exceptions. Barret Wallace, Tifa Lockheart, Aerith Gainsborough, Red XIII, and especially the duo of Vincent Valentine, a dark mysterious gunman, and CID (!!!) Highwind, a foul-mouthed, chain smoking, embittered engineer and pilot, are (some of) my favourite characters in the whole Final Fantasy universe. Of course we've got to have some "Edwards" or "Relms" in return, so we get the eccentric fortune teller Cait Sith - previously known as the Esper Stray in Final Fantasy VI - and the bratty materia hunter Yuffie Kisaragi, two characters that defined 3D nuisance in the franchise and got followed by a host of equally annoying characters in each game. It actually seems like Square is pushing the envelope with each game, intentionally creating single characters they know to have the potential to piss 90% of players off. Extremely annoying NPC's turn up like a whole horde during the course of the game, but in turn, we get legendary, fabled characters such as Sephiroth, a true classic who surpasses even Kefka Palazzo on the list of my favourite Final Fantasy villains of all time, the Turks, Rufus, the unique executives of Shinra Inc., and of course, Bugenhagen, who I used to perceive as being one of the most annoying characters ever to be squeezed into a video game, but once you get past his constant "Ho Ho Hooo" laugh, he's quite a wise old man. Kind of like Yoda. He used to annoy the hell out of me, too. The possibilities of 3D bring forth a whole new level of drama into the storytelling, and this game provides at the very least one of the most well known (yet non-spoiled), shocking and from my experience, even tear inducing scenes in the history of video gaming. That should give you an idea of how much the story will hold meaning to the interested player, even with all these translatory problems.

Shiva sharing some cold, cold lovin'.
Next up, we have the very basics on both fieldwork and combat. You start your journey making your way through the industrial areas and slums of the huge metropolis known as Midgar. Finally, you have no choice but to escape the city altogether, in other words it takes you about 10 hours just to reach the world map in this game. A friend of mine once said that the game doesn't even begin before that moment, and that's one of the reasons he claimed - in reality he didn't have a good reason - to prefer Final Fantasy VIII, which gives you near-instant access to the world map. Were it an excuse or not, it's true, to some extent, however the long beginning of the game is very enjoyable and a very essential part of the game. It's just the wanted freedom and different possibilities that rear right after you make it to the world map - it enhances the game even further from the great experience it already was for the first few hours. The world map, as well as the field, have undergone some obvious changes in graphical display. The world map is fully three-dimensional, with the possibility to control the camera angle just as you wish. The transparent minimap can now be enlarged to full screen, and it clearly shows each major location, as well as your walking direction when you use a certain camera angle. In the field, the fixed camera angle changes within every part of town, room and hallway. To ease up your perception, by pressing Select you can see each door/exit and otherwise hard to see passages - such as vines or ladders - marked by arrows. Very handy, especially in huge towns with a million buildings to enter and explore.

Well, that's colouring it up, a little bit. This isn't Final Fantasy VI. The capacity of a compact disc doesn't allow huge 3D towns with a million buildings leaning against each other, and a million NPC's to converse with. The towns might seem big due to the much larger graphical proportions, but there aren't that many buildings, or many NPC's at that. On the other hand, this strip-down decreases the amount of totally irrelevant conversations, as well as buildings just filling up empty spaces. From a gamer's point of view, this loss ultimately turns out a victory in the field. Some are most definitely disappointed that this 3D environment also affects the elements that have been there from the very beginning, all the way from the humble beginnings of role-playing: namely D&D. Well, there are definitely dragons, even if most of the game takes place in purely futuristic, urban settings, or the countryside. Dungeons, on the other hand, are given the axe. Just think about huge, diverse dungeons from all the previous games such as the Mirage Tower, Interdimensional Rift, Phoenix Cave, or Kefka's Tower, translated into 3D. Heck, one of those would probably take up the capacity of three discs in itself. There are only two locations I would classify as true, traditional dungeons - the Temple of the Ancients, and even further, the arena of the final battle, which actually does take up most of the final disc's ROM capacity. Dungeons are pretty much replaced with modern buildings and later, puzzle-ridden catacombs and mountainside strolls that are relatively short in length, but full of random encounters and treasures which will most definitely prompt you to go out of your way and seek passages to them, adding extra tens of minutes, if not some hours, to the length of these quests. Yes, the dungeons may be gone as we knew them, but the payback's more than sufficient.

Gold Saucer, where minigames go when they
I said quests, but even moreso, the game is based on what I'd more comfortably refer to as "episodes". This is because the guys know their final destination as soon as they leave Midgar, and they're struggling to get there all the time, by any means necessary. They just keep running into trouble and different "speed bumps" along the way. The "quest" part doesn't really show before the second disc, when the party somewhat loses its track and the possibility to do most sidequests in the game kicks in. Oh, there are sidequests, all right. Lots of 'em, and different varieties of them. And a lot of different devices for transportation to seek them out with. See the rest for yourself. We still have one very basic element to cover, and that's ATB.

First of all, the HUD/battle menu has changed - it is totally committed to your party. Enemies' information, including their names and extra info viewable by using Sense (previously Scan), are seen by pressing the Select button while targeting them or by keeping an eye on the upper edge of the screen. This brings in more space and eases up the management of your party and their commands. Your menu comprises of your characters' names, the remaining time of their assigned Barrier/Magic Barrier, HP/MP, Limit bar and time bar. Unlike in previous games in which your active party comprised of four or five people (or things), in Final Fantasy VII you are able to use only three characters at a time. It's a fully technical issue, and in my opinion, it's perfectly alright, actually better and easier to manage than more characters in my personal experience. The characters can also be equipped with one weapon, one piece of armour and one accessory, each. No Genji Gloves and Offerings from Final Fantasy VI to make your life extremely easy this time around, but again, probably because of a purely technical issue I can easily cope with. Besides, a Double Cut materia shows up in a late part of the game, substituting for Genji Glove, and upon leveling up, it's basically the same buff as an Offering. Huh... "materia"? Read on...

The wall boss from Final Fantasy IV returns,
as Demon Gate.
The Limit bar is for Limit Breaks, which replace the bit too rare and random Desperation Attacks of Final Fantasy VI. Each character has a set of seven different Limit Breaks, except for Vincent, who has four, and Cait Sith, who has only two of them. You start at Level 1 and continue making your way to the end of Level 3, and a Level 4 Limit Break - known as an Extreme Limit - has to be learned by finding and reading a well-hidden instruction manual. Although Vincent and Cait Sith's different criteria make a one-way explanation of the Limit Break system kind of vague, it still works on most. Let's take Cloud for an example, since he's the most known character. Cloud starts from Level 1, with Braver as his only Limit Break. He has to use Braver for a set number of times to gain the second Limit Break of Level 2, Cross-Slash. However, to gain the first Limit Break of Level 2, Blade Beam, he has to kill a set number of enemies using any method. And so it goes. The Limit bar in ATB adds up all the damage the character has taken and keeps filling up until the character is K.O.'ed. If the meter fills up, the character is able to execute the assigned Limit Break, or keep holding on to the full meter to some other battle. The only problem is that you can't execute a normal physical attack using that character as long as you have access to a Limit Break. Also, returning to the Cloud example, if he happens to learn Blade Beam before learning Cross-Slash, you shouldn't change the Limit level before he's learned Cross-Slash, because an Extreme Limit can only be taught to the character if (s)he has learned ALL of the other Limit Breaks first.

The design of the menus and the shops are finally honed to perfection. Comparisons between two similar weapons are now easier to make than ever, and each item's purpose or effect is clearly explained. GP is now officially known as gil - since Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy game I ever played, I've always called it gil, I'm sorry if I went and offended someone by calling the currency gil in the earlier reviews. For me, GP has always stood for the currency used at the Gold Saucer, which brings us to the minigames. Gold Saucer is a place you enter a couple of times during the storyline, and after that, you will be able to return whenever you wish... which is a lot of times, if you like minigames. The 3D environment of Final Fantasy VII enables the inclusion of tens of different minigames. Some of them you only "play" once during the storyline, some of them end up as arcade games at the Gold Saucer's Wonder Square, while some are actually exclusive to the Gold Saucer. Since none of the previous Final Fantasy games included any minigames, this can be seen as one HUGE overhaul. You can place bets in Chocobo races or race yourself, duke it out with monsters at a battle arena, ride a rollercoaster of death, or try your luck at motorcycle combat, candid snowboarding, fighting simulator or a basketball game, among others, at the Wonder Square.

Just look at the size of those... muscles.
The Final Fantasy series developed to this point as follows. Final Fantasy had four characters, with classes you assigned to them before the start of the game. Final Fantasy II had four characters (most of the time) who could use any skills and gained perks based on their activities in combat. Final Fantasy III introduced a generic version of the Job system. Final Fantasy IV once again strictly classified the characters, but kept the party in good balance all the time through the storyline, with combinations of characters fit to take care of the different situations. Final Fantasy V resurrected the Job system gloriously. Final Fantasy VI kept the classifications, but altered them some, and removed all restrictions that had plagued some classes by allowing each character to learn any spell perfectly, and equip several types of weapons. So, where does Final Fantasy VII stand? First of all, there are no official classes, even though every character has a specific set of weapons this time around. Even the manual lists the characters' occupations instead of their classes. However, old Final Fantasy geeks can classify most of the characters by themselves, judging by their look, combat style and the abilities they bring into the fray; that would make Cloud a Warrior, Aerith a White Mage, Tifa a Monk, Yuffie a Thief/Ninja, Cid a Dragoon - even his last name pays homage to Kain in Final Fantasy IV - and so on. However, each character can learn any ability or spell in the game. Introducing: the materia system.

Materia is a very important storyline thread from a certain point onwards - it's the planet's natural energy in crystallized form. Yep, had to come up with a substitute for the good ol' crystals as well! Materia represents the power of nature; it is not only used to enable the characters to use magic spells, or substitutes for them, but enhance their natural capabilities. In other words, to the player, materia is something you need to learn to use and never leave home without. Materia is sold in shops, and a lot of it is found on the field just like any equipment. To use materia, you need to attach it to your equipment. As long as a piece is equipped, it grows via AP, until it hits Master level and spawns a new low-level piece. How many different pieces of materia you can attach to your weapons and armor, or how fast they grow, depends on your current equipment. There are five different types of materia available.

Green materia represents all regular magic - white, black and all the rest, so it is the most usual and important materia found. Higher AP levels give you access to stronger spells. For example, Restore materia develops as follows: Cure -> Cure 2 -> Regen -> Cure 3, and then takes one more AP farming round for a Master level. Red materia is usually well hidden, and for a good reason, since it's used to summon our old friends to aid us in battle, as well as a host of new ones. Summoning in this game is more crucial than ever, and the more red materia levels up, the more times you can use a single piece in a single battle. Yellow materia equals to command materia; by equipping these, the characters gain access to special, previously character- or class-specific commands and skills such as Steal, Mime, Enemy Skill (Lore) and Manipulate. Blue materia equals to support materia; these pieces can be linked to green, and in some cases, to red materia, for several methods of enhancement. For example, All - the most common blue materia - enables you to target each enemy with a single spell as many times as its AP level allows, and Elemental can be used to infuse an element to either your weapon and armor, for example enforce your sword with a bolt of lightning, or make you resistant to fire. Finally, we have purple materia, which I personally refer to as "filler materia", but it's officially referred to as independent materia. These grant their bearer some miscellaneous perks or traits, such as the ability to counterattack, or a bonus to maximum HP.

Some people criticize the materia system for ruining the characters' unique personalities in battle. If that would be the case, then where would the previous game stand? At least here everyone carries a different kind of weapon, no exceptions, and I personally think giving the player freedom to customize each character in his/her own way like this is great. You can take the traditional way out if you want; I, for one, usually tend to equip Aerith with materia like Restore, Revive, Heal and Destruct, just because she's basically a White Mage. Or, just create any combination of materia you want, test yourself and the game a little - find your own bad habits.

For the most part of the game, you can decide your party for yourself. The leader and main representative of the party is always beyond your control, but the two other members are of your choice and they all have different vocal reactions in different situations. The party can be changed at any time on the world map via a talkie system dubbed the PHS, or at save points, where you no longer need anything more than a Tent to fully restore all members of the party.

Finally, I'd like to mention a few things that have never bothered me personally a whole lot, but which throw many Final Fantasy critics off. I must admit that I comprehend why many people don't see any replay value in the game; there definitely is replay value, but only to last for maybe one more playthrough for casual gamers who are not that infatuated with Japanese role-playing. I know people that have beaten the game just once, but to 100%, and then just reminisced the game with warmth, but with no desire to play it again. Because of three things, doing everything in this game once and then leaving it be isn't a fully incomprehensible choice. First off, there are a few sequences that can never be done any differently than the last time, and some of them, together, last for hours. There are lengthy flashback sequences such as "Cloud's Past" and "Stream of Consciousness" which don't hold any secrets, and they just comprise of running around and talking to people, you can't actually do anything during these scenes. They're cool on the first playthrough, maybe even on the second since by then you know the whole plot and have a new perspective on things, but on the third time around, all they inflict is boredom of some degree.

The second thing? Chocobos. In the previous games, chocobos were present, especially in Final Fantasy V in which the main character's best friend was a chocobo - but you never actually needed them for anything other than finding secrets or travelling to places out of your reach. Yeah, well, the basic idea's the same here, but it's way more complicated. You can get yourself a chocobo at almost any time, as long as you have a lure materia equipped, and some greens to feed to them to gain their trust. A yellow chocobo runs so fast he can easily avoid enemies, a green chocobo can cross mountains, a blue chocobo can cross rivers, a black chocobo has both of these traits, and a golden chocobo can travel absolutely everywhere, including the open sea. You can only catch yellow chocobos. That's where the horror of chocobo breeding kicks in. If you want to finish the game to 100% and beat the two real superbosses of the game, you need a certain piece of materia, accessible only on the back of a golden chocobo. Getting a golden chocobo is the whole purpose of chocobo breeding. It's a process with many stages that takes hours, and most of those hours are filled with trial and error. You need absolutely specific chocobos to mate and breed, specific "foods of love", and the worst thing is that you need to race your assigned mom and dad (as well as their parents) until they hit a certain rank as steeds, in the very same race, on the very same track at the Gold Saucer, over and over again. Be this game as magnificent as it is, the game features the crappiest and most tedious appearance of the chocobos in the franchise's history. Oh well, luckily it's just a small piece of a brilliant puzzle. And the breeding part's kinda fun on the first time around. The third peeve's the most minor one in my view. Again, to do everything in the game, you absolutely need to level up for hours outside of the storyline and there are only two places in the game practical for EXP/AP farming, filled with annoying enemies that base most of their powers on status effects. You'll very likely find yourself in one of these places spending many valuable hours of your life fighting these boring douche bags.

Fall back. Assholes on the horizon.
Try to understand that the reason I'm being so negative is that everyone expected this to be a pure fanboy rant. I'm simply not that kind of guy. I love this game, and as a whole, it's the most enjoyable gaming experience I've ever personally had. Still, it's faulty - I know. Now more than ever, I see major and minor faults, some of which I haven't even mentioned here. No game is perfect. Not even Final Fantasy VII. But, there aren't games that I know of, that have come closer to perfection than what Final Fantasy VII is at its best.

I mentioned before that I'm like a walking strategy guide to this game, which means the game is not difficult to me, personally. For me, it's just big and lengthy - no experience can cut down the length by a lot. I have finished the game to 100% four times during the last 13 years. I know every tiniest secret these three discs contain. There was a time I didn't, and I'm trying my best to return to that time in my head. No, I still don't think the game is too difficult. Actually, by using some low-down tricks, it's quite easy from the beginning all the way to the end. However, for people who don't share my experience with the game or know these tricks, taking on everyone and everything possible in this game takes time, and balls, and patience... some brains, as well, and in relation to the last one, good organizing skills. So yeah, I guess the game is challenging. Especially the first playthrough will not be a walk in the park - but the game kindly rewards you for your efforts with essential prizes to aid you on your way, and the development of a great story, even if not all of it's able to pass the language barrier.

Apparently my feelings towards the game haven't died. I first played the game in December, 1997, and I'm still feeling some of those cool vibes from my very first time sitting down with it. Final Fantasy VII is one game that I didn't necessarily need to recently play to get this review done, but I just had to find a good excuse to brush the dusts away from its jewel case for the first time in four years. Besides, I wanted to experience the compilation of Final Fantasy VII as much of a whole as I possibly could. Many marvellous games have followed Final Fantasy VII, and while the developers have corrected some of the game's wrongs in the later installments, they have never been able to wholly meet the standards set by this futuristic masterpiece. Some people were absolutely sure I'd give this game a 10. If I had written this review a few years back, I actually might've done that. Now, it just doesn't seem right. Everything in this world leaves something to hope for. Even 9.9 isn't right. I'm giving the game a 9.8, to separate it from all the rest, and to dare game developers to come up with a game that would exceed this coveted rating. I don't believe any game will ever do that. Yet, there's always the slight probability that Square Enix will give in to popular demand and finally remake Final Fantasy VII. It would only make sense, due to the compilation that has emerged and grown during the last decade. We'll see what happens - I'm already reserving the full 10, just in case.

Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 9.8
Playability : 9.8
Challenge : 9.2
Overall : 9.8


BUG REPORT: The Knights of the Round summon animation has a remarkable, continuous audiovisual lag on the PS3, that might end up crashing the game. It happened to me during the very last Sephiroth fight. This was my first time playing the game on a PS3.

GameRankings: 87.00% (PC), 92.10% (PS1)

The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII consists of Final Fantasy VII (1997), a mobile prequel entitled Before Crisis (2004), the animated motion picture Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005), a third-person action game for the PS2, entitled Dirge of Cerberus (2006), and the PSP prequel Crisis Core (2007).

The game has sold over 8.5 million copies, two million of them within three days.

A Final Fantasy VII remake was first rumoured in 2001, to be developed exclusively for the PlayStation 2.

Many names in the game (cities, towns, enemies etc.) are direct references to, or derived from, Egyptian and Norse mythology.

The first Final Fantasy game to explain the origin of monsters.

The popular battle theme of the game is the first Final Fantasy battle theme not to feature the classic bass intro. 

Cid appears as a playable character, named Cid Highwind to establish a connection between him and Dragoon Kain Highwind in Final Fantasy IV. Cid's background, characteristics and general look were influenced by his namesake in Final Fantasy II. Biggs and Wedge appear as members of AVALANCHE. While chocobos are a central element of a specific sidequest, moogles are missing from the game. However, a minigame called Mog House - a simple simulation focused on a family of moogles - can be found in the Gold Saucer.

The story behind the Lifestream was penned by Hironobu Sakaguchi, whose mother died during the development of the game.

Hironobu Sakaguchi's original setting for Final Fantasy VII was used in Parasite Eve. The main villain of the original draft, the dark sorceress Edea, was rewritten as a central character of Final Fantasy VIII.

Namco's fighting game Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring features Cloud, Sephiroth and Tifa as playable characters. The PlayStation version also features Yuffie, Vincent and Zack. Many characters also appear in many installments of Square's family-friendly franchises such as Itadaki Street and the Chocobo series.

Cloud is a hidden character in the cult spin-off Final Fantasy Tactics, released some time after Final Fantasy VII.

Cloud and Sephiroth appear as rivals in both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Cid, Yuffie and Aerith also appear in both Kingdom Hearts games, as members of a resistance group led by Final Fantasy VIII's protagonist Squall Leonhart, "Leon". Tifa joined the cast in Kingdom Hearts II.

Cloud Strife (voiced by Steve Burton) and Sephiroth (voiced by George Newbern) are rivals in Square Enix's all-star anniversary game Dissidia - Final Fantasy, released on the PSP in 2008.

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