Often you’ll come across people who will tell you something like, “You can’t be a fan of (insert media) unless you’ve seen/read (insert media).” For example, one might say you can’t call yourself a movie watcher if you’ve never seen the original Star Wars trilogy or Lord of the Rings. Bringing this into the video game realm, one might say that you can’t call yourself a gamer unless you’ve played certain games. Super Mario Brothers, Pokemon, Zelda Ocarina of Time, and I guess Call of Duty if we’re going by modern standards. (We can of course ignore that part.) However, one such game that should be required playing for all people calling themselves gamers is the legendary Final Fantasy VII. FF 7 is arguably the most popular and well known of the great RPG series. (It’s the only one to get a movie sequel.) It came out 16 years ago (!) on the first Playstation. By now I doubt anyone has a PS1, so you’re able to download it on the PSN, Xbox Live, and Steam. FF VII is many things. Great, epic, incredibly frustrating, and shows how much of an art a video game can be.
Final Fantasy is known for its deep stories with complex characters. VII is no exception. Despite technically not having much of the cutscenes we’ve come to expect from modern entries, the story is told amazingly through narration boxes and the occasional high-def (well as high def as the PS1 can muster) cutscene. We’re introduced to Cloud Strife, a member of the ‘terrorist’ organization AVALANCHE and their mission to take down the company known as Shinra. AVALANCHE is composed of Cloud, Tifa, Barret, and a few others. First, if you’re like me and playing this for the first time, you’re going to laugh at how crude the polygons look when starting that very first level. Soon you get used it and almost never notice how old the graphics look, the story is that good. What I like about how the game progresses in the beginning is that it throws you straight into the action and explains who the characters are as the story progresses as opposed to a drawn out intro explaining who everyone is.
At its absolute core, the story is about saving the planet. Of course, in traditional Final Fantasy fare, there’s plenty of deeper meaning behind almost everything. Even if you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, the one thing almost all gamers know is that the story of VII revolves around Cloud and Sephiroth. Sephiroth surprisingly takes a while to appear. When he does, the plot changes drastically. Sephiroth easily earns the title of one of the best video game antagonists. His withdrawal from being somewhat good to pure evil is greatly done. While he is the antagonist, on the other side there’s Shinra. First it was ruled by President Shinra, but he was killed by Sephiroth and replaced by his son, Rufus. Rufus was a pretty solid character with pretty good writing as opposed to the generic older leader. His subordinates offer some comedic moments, such as the Turks whom try to be characters we’re supposed to like but end up being more annoying than likable.
Cloud is the protagonist, and easily proves to be one of the most compelling of video game characters. There’s some really interesting plot twists about the guy, and one can’t help but like his quiet but tough personality. Tifa, Barret, Red XIII, Cait Smith, and Cid are the other characters primarily established. As the game progresses, each of them get significant development. Tifa is subtly Cloud’s love interest, Barret is basically Mr. T, Cait…I’ll get to him and Cid in a second. First, there’s another character that’s arguably just as important as Cloud and Sephiroth, Aeris. We first run into her where she appears to be a sweet flower girl, but later learn she’s an ‘ancient.’ Sephiroth eventually destroys her, prompting Cloud to have even more of a personal vendetta. (It’s subtle, but there is a love triangle between Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris early on until she died.)
Cait Smith has a very unexpected plot twist, being a spy for Shinra. This throws the player into a loop, having never suspected a thing was true. (I was personally disappointed since I had thought he would be leaving my team…which meant I wouldn’t be able to use his powerful dice attack!) But, ultimately he appears to regret his decision and redeems himself. Red XIII proves to be one of the most compelling characters, being basically a wolf that was experimented on by the evil Hojo. As outlined in the final level, each character has a personal reason for saving the world. Tifa wants to help Cloud no matter what, Barret has a daughter, and Cid…well Cid is the only character that took forever to actually make a difference in the story. By the end however, every major character makes an impact.
The gameplay is heavily turn-based in style. This is no new thing to the veteran gamer whom has played Pokemon before. Arguably this is more strategy based since there are quite a few factors in deciding which attack to use. Should I use a normal attack? Magic? A summon? Do I need to heal a party member? There are countless ways a battle can go, but it’ll always be futile if you don’t level up. This is the most annoying part of the game. (Or fun, if you’re into that sort of thing.) Unless you do all the sidequests and get all the powerful summons, you’ll be spending some time leveling up. It’s pretty time-consuming on an already 40 hour game. After you beat it, you’ll want to say goodbye to Final Fantasy for a long time.
The soundtrack is very strong. From the simple but effective Mako Reactor theme to the epic One Winged Angel, the music is one of the game’s strongest points. Everything comes full circle with the final battle against Sephiroth. It is by far one of the greatest and most challenging final bosses you’ll come across. How many villains can summon a Supernova where it destroys all of the plants on screen? The cutscene might be overly long after he does it a third time, but still it’s truly a sight to behold, even with last-gen graphics. The final cutscene is a nice way to end the game, though of course after beating Sephiroth you’ll feel rewarded enough.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest RPGS, no, one of the greatest games ever made. The story will suck you into that world where you’ll actually feel for the characters. The villain, Sephiroth, is impossible to not like. You will face great hardships throughout, where you’ll be tempted to give up. And that’s part of the challange, part of what makes FF VII required playing. To be able to endure and conquer these very hard bosses require true skill. A remake has always been rumored, but unlikely, so go download it on the PSN, Xbox Live, or Steam. (Don’t be scared away by the polygons, you’ll get used to them fast.)
Daniel has been a gamer for a long time. His favorite series is Super Mario and you can follow him on Twitter: @Destroyer_199