Potential Spoilers: Yeah might seem weird putting this here, but if you haven’t played the game or had it spoiled for you until now you are either young, or not into RPGs at all, which is fine, but just know I warned you about potential spoilers.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve wanted to talk about this game critically with other gamers and have held my tongue because I felt that I had to beat the entire game. Yes, in order for me to have a decent conversation about a game I feel like I have to have beaten that game in order to see the larger picture. Now that I’ve beaten this game I can say with confidence that it is certainly not my favourite, however I can see the nostalgic merit that it receives.Final Fantasy VII was one of the very first games that I recall playing other than Sonic 2 for the Genesis. I remember being stressed about getting out of that Reactor on time before it blew up in my face (10 minutes, good god that’s it?!). Now, replaying the game, I can get out of the Reactor with 5 minutes to spare if the monsters give me a break. So yes, there is a definite nostalgia factor for me with this game, but not to the extent that it has effected other people. I do not love this game to the ends of the earth or to the extent that I would call it ‘Best Final Fantasy Game’, but I understand that there are people out there that think this and indeed, we are all entitled to our opinions. However, I want to look at this game as if it were any other game, and I shall try my best to now compare it to other Final Fantasy games, because that is where evidently most of the ‘Best FF game’ conflict stems from.
The cast of characters in Final Fantasy VII is unique, ranging from unusual animals to ninjas to a guy with a gun for an arm. There is definitely some originality that can be seen here in Tetsuya Nomura’s work. Overall, the characters are very supportive of each other with everything that happens in the game concerning both large plot points and small. Even though I didn’t experience all of them, Final Fantasy VII’s characters each have their own back stories that deepen your relationship with them and to help you understand their motivation for essentially saving the world. These small and often hidden side stories also often lead to the ultimate weapons or final limit breaks for that character. Getting the entire story about every character is enough incentive when you consider how many characters there are, but it is a nice little bonus when you can get rare items out of it. Even with the main story centring around Cloud, Sephiroth, Aerith, and Tifa each character gets their time in the spotlight and it rarely feels that the story is exclusively Cloud’s.
The combat, visual and audio aspects of the game are obviously aged, but gives the game a certain kind of charm. Being the first Final Fantasy game to have 3D models in battle and the over-world map, the game has a nostalgia to it. The FMVs (full movie videos) have aged quite well and I was pleasantly surprised by their quality throughout my play-through. Though some of them were quite long and must have taken up a lot of the game’s memory, they were defiantly worth it in making the game even bigger than most instalments before it. This fact alone already sets Final Fantasy VII apart from its predecessors but is also a part of its longevity in the gaming world.
Besides the graphical nostalgia surrounding the feel of the game, there is the music of the game. The music in Final Fantasy VII is perhaps the most recognizable thing from the game other than Cloud and Sephiroth who have become Final Fantasy and RPG legends in themselves. Nobuo Uematsu’s music is top-notch and is rivaled by few in the realm of music in RPGs and JRPGs as far as I’m concerned (Shouji Meguro [Persona 4] and Masashi Hamauzu [FF13] to name a few of my favourites). His catchy, serious and touching songs are wonderful to listen to even out of context. The music, graphics and game mechanics of Final Fantasy VII might be out-dated, but the nostalgia factor is what keeps people coming back to say that it is ‘the best FF game’, which is only really an opinion in the first place. However, I think that behind these factors the actual story and game-play should be what is on the table when deciding how high up on the scale of quality Final Fantasy VII sits.
Besides all the side quests that I missed because I felt like I didn’t need them (Knights of the Round, and Chocobo breeding mainly) there were some side quests that were worth my time to see. Wutai was fun to watch, and getting to see Lucrecia (Sephiroth’s mother and part of Vincent’s back-story) in this game was something that I didn’t even know was possible. I’m sure if I really dedicated myself to this game I would be able to kill all the Weapons, get all the summons and see everything there was to see but I’m not as attached to this game as some people are.
I recognize it as a good game, however in my eyes it’s not the best RPG ever as some die-hard fans would have me believe. Yes, it did a lot for the genre in ways of graphics, music, characters, and story-telling. However, it’s because of this game that the games that were made after it became superior in the ways of story-telling (looking at you FF IX). I also gauged my enjoyment of this game through it’s ability to draw me in a keep me there. I had one session where I spent most, if not all, of one day getting through Disc 2 and well into Disc 3. It was a nice 6-8 hour session where at the end of it I hit a wall where I was required to go get some items that would make my life easier in the game. Of course I didn’t have to do them, and I didn’t do them all, but I got through a fair amount of story and side-quests in that one day.
Overall, I’m glad I got to play through and beat one of the most influential JRPGs of the PS1 era. Although I wouldn’t play it over again to get more story or complete everything in the game, the main story was done well with great supporting roles taken mostly by Tifa and Aerith throughout. Not my favourite Final Fantasy game, but its not something you should look over if you have the time.