I am simply amazed at how many people hail this game as a "masterpiece", a "genuine work of art", when in reality it's about as shallow as a backwater pond. Why? Allow me to explain.
Final Fantasy games are nothing but interactive movies, and this is why they do so well. What, exactly, makes a movie? Well, a movie needs a plot, a story to move that plot into action, a protagonist, and an antagonist to work against that protagonist. These are the fundamentals of a movie.
But a movie is much more than that. It is character development; it is emotional; it is something that causes a reaction. We must believe in the protagonists, to hope that they succeed and to wish them well on their journey. We must cry if and when they are hurt or killed and jump for joy when they succeed.
Final Fantasy VII does nothing of the sort. Spoilers ahead.
Let's start with Cloud Strife, the main character of FFVII. He's a strange fellow, with pointy anime hair and blocks for a body. In the beginning of the game, he is the tough guy who is in it for the money. But, moving on in the game, we find that he is gentle, caring, and a general good guy. What sparks this change? Absolutely nothing. Cloud has no reason to change, and he switches behavior several times through the game. I understand that he is continually questioning who he is, but that is no reason for him to have schizophrenia.
Tifa. The female member of Avalanche. Who is she? Where is she from? We don't know. We only know that she is paired with Barrett, the big black guy who looks like a gorilla in this game.
Cait Sith, the strange cat riding a mog who is controlled by a Shinra agent somewhere on the planet. It's a terrible attempt at comedy. And when Cait Sith makes his sacrifice, he immediately reappears and says, "Hi, I'm Cait Sith #2!" Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
And so the rest of the characters are formed in this fashion. We know nothing about them, we don't care about them. Moving on.
The Materia system is so stupid that I laugh every time I see it. Granted, it is a little more sane than putting magic crystals in clothing (as in FFIX), but it's entirely stupid. The Summons are not even necessary. I wanted to get Knights of the Round, but I eventually gave up because it was so futile to get a golden chocobo for a summon that I would only be able to use once in battle. The only way to be able to use it more than once is to get into literally hundreds of battles and gain enough Ability Points. Which is quite stupid, considering I would then only be able to use it twice. Wow. Unlike the Guardian Forces in Final Fantasy VIII, these summons do NOTHING for you. They are worthless.
Grammatical errors are extremely common in this game. One summon's name is "Typhoon", but is hilariously spelled "Typoon". When a character stutters, each letter is followed by a comma rather than a dash. It's almost like a kindergartener wrote this script, as it becomes so corny in areas that I felt like crying. But it's anime... what can you expect?
The battle system is not too bad. It would have been much better if the Materia system was totally revamped. The Active Time Battle is brilliant.
Our main antagonist, Sephiroth, is hardly anything worth a fuss over. For most of the game, you will be chasing down this "villain". I found him to be the only likeable character in the game, save for Red XIII. Red, or Nanaki, is the ultimate Final Fantasy character. He is the only thing that kept me playing to the end. His limit breaks are excellent, he is very powerful, and he's just an awesome, sleek cat.
The graphics of this game, even for its time, are poor. These look like Nintendo 64 graphics! I know PlayStation could do better than this! Why are the characters blocks? Why, in certain movie sequences, are the characters smooth blocks and not actual people? I was unimpressed. The only good graphics we ever see of people are during the escape from Midgar, Aeris' death, Weapon's emergence, and the ending sequence. None of these sequences ever have any sound, either. They're just there, and Nobuo Uematsu's music hardly makes them any better.
Probably the only thing even remotely good in this game is Uematsu's music. The battle music is decent, as well as the boss battle music. As in every Final Fantasy games, some of the pieces of music are unbearable. "One Winged Angel" is one of the highlights of this soundtrack, rivaling even that of Final Fantasy VIII's "Liberi Fatali". I was very impressed, and I've often heard that it was the first time vocals had ever been used in a Final Fantasy. Well done, Mr. Uematsu. You and Red were the only things keeping this game going.
All in all, Final Fantasy VII is a disaster. I would recommend it only to hardcore Final Fantasy fans, as I felt it was almost a waste of my time.
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