Final Fantasy Retrospective: Final Fantasy VII

April 3, 2020

With the COVID-19 outbreak keeping me home, and with the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake releasing in April, I thought it would be a good time to do something I’ve always wanted to do: give a bit of a retrospective on each game. That may sound like a daunting task considering there are over 20 games within the series. However, to make things easier, I am going to start with the 3D games, which is where Final Fantasy really took off as a series with the original Final Fantasy VII. It will go from VII-XV, including the sequels in the numbered titles, and Final Fantasy Tactics will appear at the end. Not to say that I don’t like the older games (Final Fantasy VI is amazing), but this way I can make things a bit smoother and easier. So without further delay, let’s begin with the first game of this very long series I’m doing: Final Fantasy VII.

The “Buster Sword” itself is very important to the story and Cloud as a whole.

The story is about Cloud Strife, a mercenary who was a former 1st Class SOLDIER  (yes, named SOLDIER in all capitals), a part of the Shinra Corporation, an electric company that slowly grew into having control over multiple forms of government and owned a military segment. The setting is Midgar, a post-industrial wasteland that is ravaged by pollution, poverty, and overall bad people. Cloud is working with AVALANCHE (yes, also in all capitals), an eco-terrorist group that destroys Shinra’s Mako Reactors, machines that literally suck energy from the planet for human profit, and is slowly killing the planet by doing so. AVALANCHE is led by its leader Barret Wallace, a tough, no-time-for-questions man with a machine gun grafted onto his right arm. Cloud is accompanying the group as a for-hire, being recommended to help by Tifa, a sleeper member of AVALANCHE who uses her bar as a base of operations and Cloud’s childhood friend. 

I had a bit of fun with the names.

Being useful for his knowledge of Shinra and its inner workings, Cloud helps immensely with the destruction of the reactor and later returns to the base of operations to go in for another reactor, this time with Tifa tagging along. This cultivates into finding Sephiroth, a dangerous regret of Shinra’s human experimentation, and ultimately leads into saving the planet as a whole.

While the looks of the original game have not held up well, its story and pacing are still top-notch. The combat, while being very initially slow, later on grows to be tons of fun and creative due to the Materia system. The party makeup is pretty balanced as well, with two optional characters being obtainable during the story, and every main party member having a dedicated role. The Materia system allows things to be switched up, or completely broken if some combos of Materia are put together. They can be obtained from various activities in Final Fantasy VII, and have vastly different effects. Every character has access to an Attack, Magic, Item, Materia, or Summon. Mixing and matching each character’s strengths and weaknesses is key to victory, which can admittedly be said about every RPG but still should be said here. 

The models can look very rough at times. Luckily, the background art is spectacular.

The game itself isn’t too hard, but there is a very high spike in level around the end of the game. The encounter rate when exploring in the open world is somewhat tedious, but it does help in leveling your characters passively while going from location to location. This exploration can be a bit tricky, however, as the clearest of directions are not exactly given as to where to go. This leads to a lot of aimless wandering, which certainly plagued me throughout my time with the game. However, that is nothing a guide cannot fix, so it’s a minor inconvenience now. Guides in my opinion should only be used if you are truly lost in where to go, as it can ruin the immersion to just jump to the Internet for help.

See what I mean by good art?

The game is easily one of the best games I have played, especially in the JRPG genre. With a story that is not only long, with twists and turns that keep the player hooked, it is plain to see why this game has such a reputation. It still holds up as one of the best stories of JRPG’s, and there is a reason that this genre of game and Final Fantasy in particular is seen as one of the many pillars of the gaming medium. While the Tales Of series is one of my personal favorites, I can not deny how well-made these games are in their own right. However, I will cut this short as I could go on forever about how good these games are and their nuances. There are many more games down the line to look into. Thank you for reading, and see you next time where I talk about my favorite before starting this series, Final Fantasy VIII.

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