I know what you are thinking. How many reviews of Final Fantasy 7 can there be before its too much. Well the answer is there can’t be enough because it is one of the best games of all time. Final Fantasy 7 was the first RPG I ever played. True, I was late to RPGS, since I didn’t start till I was 14. However, once I played FF7, I was hooked to the genre ( even though that asshole Matt Kolp ruined the surprise about Aeris for me). I bought many more RPGs after that, including all the Final Fantasies, up to 12, minus 11. I get urges every year to replay all the Playstation Final Fantasies. They aren’t just nostalgic games. The stories are complicated, the adventures are long. Each time I play, I discover a small bit of the story that I didn’t understand from play-throughs prior. Some may say that some final fantasies (particularly 7) have overly convoluted stories, and to those people I say, “Have you ever witnessed any type of story telling from Japan? This game is a literary masterpiece by comparison.” As I played through this game, I realized just how incredible it is and just how terrible Final Fantasy has gotten. So join me on a journey as I go through several points that make me love ff7, while bitching and complaining about how terrible more modern Final Fantasies have become!
Ok so the story of FF7 at its core is pretty much the same as all the others. A guy is just doing his thing when all hell breaks loose and now he has to save the world. Personally, I think that this story idea can never be done enough. I am always entertained by this idea because it makes the protagonist so easy to relate to. He is just some regular guy, just trying to get by when he gets in a little too deep. I will spare you the ins and outs of the story since you probably all know it. What still impresses me to this day though, is the characters and the way they develop. Each character, even the ones that you don’t necessarily have to acquire, have deep back stories. You really end up caring about all of them (except Cat Sith) because of this. It isn’t just that though. The characters grow. They aren’t one dimensional. They all have their own obstacles that they have to confront, and ultimately overcome. Yuffie needs to save her town and win the respect of her father, Red XIII must confront his family troubles, Cloud is a train wreck of a character, etc. It took me several play-throughs to totally understand Clouds character and the mystery behind him. What really impresses me is that, I actually care to know as much as I can about his character. His character isn’t just confusing for the sake of being confusing. If I wanted to, I could list all the characters (except for Cat Sith) because they all have something interesting to add to the story.
Now lets compare these great characters to the not so great characters of recent Final Fantasies. I will compare it to FF12 since that was the last one I played. The characters in
FF12 are HORRID. I honestly cannot remember one of their names even though I spent over 40 hours playing the game. The main characters were easily the most boring characters in the game. They had no love interest (not that that is entirely needed but it helps). They also had almost no background story. If they did, I most certainly don’t remember it. The best characters in the story were the pirates. They should have been the main characters. In fact, I have no idea why they weren’t seeing as they had the best character design. One of them actually was the son of Cid, who is always a great staple of Final Fantasies. These two characters were easily the best of the entire game, but there was no side stories to develop them more. They had relationship potential, but it didn’t go anywhere. Those characters gave me story arch blue balls.
Speaking of characters and their relationships, FF7 has the best love triangle of any video game I have ever played. You feel torn yourself while playing this game (although I now always go for Tifa). I enjoy how depending on what you do in the first disc will affect who you ultimately go on a date with later in the game. In the end though, Cloud ends up with the best person for him. It was the secondary relationships that really made you feel for all the characters. Yuffie had her dad, Barret had Marlene and Dyne, not to mention the Avalanche crew. Red XII had his grandfather and family, and Vincent had Lucrecia. Each side story was well written and strong. You wanted to find out more about each character and you were happy as their story progressed.
As for main enemies, it doesn’t get much better than Sephiroth (minus maybe Kefka from ff6 which I never played and I feel ashamed to admit). Sephiroth’s story is well executed. You know his origins and what he wants. He and the main character have a direct history with one another. Not only that, but the other bad guys in the story are fighting against him also. The other lesser enemies of the game are not without their charms as well. The turks have great dialogue and you actually enjoy your encounters with them.
Now let’s look at FF12’s villains. Does anyone remember the name of FF12’s main villain? I sure don’t (In fact, all the names in FF12 sucked). He was barely in the story from what I remember. I remember the battle with Cid had a little heart, just because he was one of the pirate’s father. What I DO remember about this guy though is, I fought him, he died, and the game was over. I had absolutely no idea that it was the end of the game. There was no epic build up. In FF7, you knew once you went for Sephiroth, there was no turning back. When you fight the last boss in FF12 it is mostly a surprise. I felt no pride or joy after defeating him, or the game for that matter. I feel like this downfall of awesome final bosses started at FF9 (although it was still entertaining to battle him). FF10 almost had an interesting final boss, except the rest of the story/ main characters sucked so bad that I didn’t give a shit about the game by the end. Who cares if Tidus was a dream and he will disappear if he kills the last boss? He sucked all sorts of ass anyways. FF10 was just an excuse to have something to segue into FFX-2: Cosplay Heaven.
Alright, so here is one place where FF7 kind of doesn’t hold up. I mean, I personally enjoy the gameplay, but it is fairly basic and almost requires no strategy. Back in the day, I freaking loved searching for materia. I still do, but I don’t think this would go over so well with today’s short attention spanned youth. I still think there is a place for turn based RPGs, but FF7’s version of it is just too dated. For instance, one thing that FF10 had over FF7 was you could change out your weapons mid-battle. I really enjoyed this feature in FF10 and I really missed it in FF7. Another thing that really bugged me was that you can’t skip the summon’s videos. So I just didn’t use them at all, minus when I fought Ruby and Emerald weapon. I remember when this game came out, I shit myself every time I watched one of these summon’s cgis. I think that’s why they didn’t put in an option to skip them because back then, everyone loved watching them. Not so much anymore.
One thing though, that FF7 has over modern day FFs is A FREAKING WORLD MAP THAT YOU CAN EXPLORE FREELY. My god, did I hate it when they got rid of that in FF10. I loved being able to walk around the map and find random new islands or small hidden caves. That was so great. Now you got lame things like coordinates and what not. It just isn’t as fun. You don’t feel like you can go anywhere whenever you want. FF13 suffered the most from this “guide-wire” gameplay. Go here, ok kill this guy, ok go here. AAANNND repeat. FF7 was not like that. You could go anywhere, do sidequests, then continue the main story. The sidequests were fun to do. I actually wanted to do all of them. They didn’t feel like a chore (minus the gold chocobo quest). This is really lacking in the new Final Fantasies.
FF7 has not aged well. Especially if you are playing on a big, high definition TV. FF7’s graphics are… quaint. I actually like them. I think they have a gritty style to them. However, I think that leads more into my next point
The game art in FF7 is top notch. The settings and character designs have great detail. That goes especially for the backgrounds. I really enjoy just walking through the towns and looking at the grime. There is tons of great little details all over the place, like the graffiti in the slums for example. Each area of FF7 has a unique style to it though and that’s what makes it great. Each place stands alone and is way different from another place. It really does feel like you are traveling around a virtual world. New Final
Fantasies are just way too clean for me. They look crisp, have bright colors and all that, but WHERE’S THE HEART? They have none. It doesn’t end there though. New Final Fantasy characters look like JPOP drop-outs. There really isn’t anything unique about any of them. You could take characters from one game, and put them in another. They are almost entirely interchangeable. I will give you this, Cloud does look like the beginning of the end when it comes to the introduction of JPOP style characters, but he was the first of his kind and he isn’t overly effeminate. I don’t recall any characters looking like him prior to FF7. FF7’s characters may not be as iconic as Mario or Link, but anyone who plays games can recognize them by sight alone. They had a style of their own. Sure they were kinda cartoony looking, but it does not matter.
I think music is one place where Final Fantasy has never wavered. They always have top notch music. FF7 though, still has some of the most memorable music of all time. I do not know a single person that didn’t crap their pants when they heard Sephiroth’s music at the end of the game. It was great. If they ever remake this game, I really hope that they use a full orchestra, and redo all the midi music. FF7 really made its midi sounds go a long way, but it would be perfect with an orchestral redo.
Final Fantasy 7’s graphically, may not have withstood the test of time, however the heart and soul of the game overcomes all of that. FF7 has the following that it does because of its epic story telling, its great characters and its overall fun gameplay. Many times when something is such a trailblazer, it feel dated when it is revisited because everything tends to copy off of it. FF7 somehow stays fresh though. I have a great time seeing the story pan out every time I play it. I have invested hundreds of hours of my life playing this game through multiple times. Sure its sad, but I probably would have just wasted my time some other way anyways. Final Fantasy 7 does not lose to more modern and flashy RPGs, because today’s RPGs have forgotten what RPGs are supposed to be all about, and that is story, character development and exploration.
After watching a game like FF13, it is clear that they have missed this point. No one wants to play RPGs that play out like action games (action RPGs are different). If I wanted to play an action game, I’d play Uncharted. It has faster action for one, its much less of a time investment, and the story is quick and really fun. FF13 , and for that matter, all modern FFs miss the mark here. If you are going to make an action RPG, you had better make the story quick, along with the gameplay. If you are going to make a true RPG, you had better give the story crazy depth and make the game way more strategic. The new FFs cannot decide what they want to be. This leads to them being crappy. I think Square Enix KNOWS that they are going to sell a butt-ton of games whether they are good or not. They know bs magazines like Famitasu are going to give it a perfect rating. So, they just don’t try and it’s sad.
What can be done? I think Final Fantasy really needs to look at itself and decide what it wants to be. Does it want to be an action RPG? If that’s the case, then I really think they need to start looking at games like Uncharted. Uncharted doesn’t have very many paths to take and feels linear, but man is it one hell of a fun ride. Now, if they want to make true RPGs, they are going to have to look back at their past, look at what worked and what didn’t, and use those points as a framework for their next game. As I have said, RPGs are epic quests, with deep story and very VERY developed characters. They aren’t games that you just sit down for a weekend and beat. Some people dedicate weeks to them, so the weeks of playing must be fun, BUT, it must also have a great pay off. Turn based RPGs shouldn’t be tossed to the side but they should be revamped and modernized for today’s gamers. I felt like FF10 was going this route but then square enix lost their way. Lets face it, the last few Final Fantasies have been like the prequels to Star Wars. Really flashy, clean soulless let downs.