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Final Fantasy VII

Developer: Squaresoft
Publisher: Eidos
Release Date: June 1998
(PC version reviewed)

By Chris Scheina

Guest reviewer Chris Scheina writes about his experiences with Final Fantasy VII.

There is no doubt in my mind that Final Fantasy VII is the greatest game ever created. Squaresoft has once again created a masterpiece that goes beyond video games. To many, it is a work of art. If you play FF7 to the end, you will agree.

FF7 has a very dark and emotional story. I became attached to the characters and began to think of them as real people. There is a mysterious ending, and as I reflected on the final scenes that follow the credits after I won, I was overwhelmed. In the game world, there is the belief that when one dies, his or her life is converted into a powerful spiritual energy that flows through the world. The story begins in Midgar, a densely populated city where a powerful corporation, Shinra Inc., has found a way to harness and collect the spiritual energy, taking it from the planet to power Midgar. A fledgling organization of mercenaries from the slums of Midgar has formed to bring an end to the Shinra ways, believing that the planet will eventually be completely drained of spiritual energy and die. Cloud Strife, a former Shinra soldier, is one of the mercenaries. Cloud has a questionable and foggy past that involves his former friend, Sephiroth. Sephiroth was the greatest soldier the planet had ever seen, and Cloud and he were good friends, but one day Sephiroth lost his mind and disappeared. Five years later, when Cloud is searching for another lost friend inside Shinra's capitol building, Sephiroth suddenly reappears. Sephiroth is not the same as when he was Cloud's friend, however, and he is now on a quest to bring destruction to the world. When his dream comes through, all the spiritual energy will come together from the dead and Sephiroth will be waiting for it. He will become a god. The intensity and complexity of the storyline of Final Fantasy VII is the secret to its greatness. As you have probably guessed, there is no way I am giving this story anything less than an A+. If there were a higher category, believe me, this game would be up there!

The gameplay consists primarily of ingredients found in other RPGs. You lead a party of heroes through the FF7 world as you encounter and defeat enemies. The battle scenes feature real-time action, and the graphics for the different attacks are very well done. I definitely like the terrific backgrounds for the battles. The graphic designers must have really spent a long time on this--there are new ones for every small area you explore (and this is an 80-hour game). There are also many mini-games that your characters participate in. The gameplay gets an A.

Finally, something I can complain about in an otherwise flawless game. Yes, the graphics are not perfect. When you're not fighting a battle or watching a movie clip, the characters have these weird stubby polygons for limbs, their eyes blink but don't move, and they don't have much facial expression at all. The backgrounds for all scenes, whether it be movie, battle, or regular, are great. They are not only well-drawn, but they also set the mood of the situation very well. You can be in the basement of an old, ominous mansion with Sephiroth staring at you from the darkness or find yourself in a crazy amusement park where multi-colored lights shoot out in twenty directions and giant chickens hop around. The game designers also obviously had lots of fun with the spells you cast. As you advance in the game, the graphics of the spells get better and better. The movies are also excellent. This category gets a B. I would have given it a lower grade if it weren't for the movies, the backgrounds, and the spells.

The music of Final Fantasy VII is very good. Every character has his own theme, and almost every room has a different music selection that sets the mood. Sephiroth's theme consists of bells, a chorus of singers, and many other instruments that merge to produce a frighteningly evil sound. Whenever I entered a room and this theme begins to play, a shiver went up my spine and my eyes widened as Sephiroth made his grand entrance. I also found myself snapping to the beat of hundreds of other little tunes. The voice acting is nonexistent. The characters don't even move their mouths (except for movie clips) or produce sound. There is just a message that pops up. I'm not counting too much off for this because FF7 lets you imagine the voices of the characters. Your imagination is so much more powerful than a recording of a voice reading the lines for you. Hand gestures are also generously scattered throughout the conversation, enhancing it. In short, I would much rather create my own different voices for the characters than have the computer come up with some of its own. The sound effects were respectable. They are better than average for this type of game, especially for the battle scenes and the movie clips. I would have liked more of them overall, but it's quality, not quantity, right? I really liked the music and "voice acting," but they could have done better with the sound effects. It's an A- for music, voice acting and sound effects.

Final Fantasy VII is a very inspirational and powerful video game that, if you win, you will never forget. I cannot stress the level of enjoyment FF7 has brought those of us who have beaten it. Even though the average of the category ratings comes to an A-, I am weighting them differently. I also wrote earlier that if there was a higher grade than an A+, it would go to the story. The story and the characters are so unique compared to anything I've seen before. Sephiroth is the greatest villain I've ever seen as well. He is really the perfect evildoer because he exerts evil without even knowing it. Like Darth Vader from Star Wars, Sephiroth knows no good. His strength towers above all else on the planet and so you begin to realize that Sephiroth can kill you whenever he wants. I also believe that the game designers intentionally made it so that Sephiroth hardly ever looks at the "camera." He always looks just to the side of it. When his eyes rarely do flicker over the screen and into your eyes, it is for that one instant that he suddenly reveals an evil smile. As he glances down at you in the game, it really begins to feel like he knows you are there. This game was made to showcase its beautifully conceived story, but more specifically, it was created as a world for Sephiroth's character to inhabit.

Throughout the game, I experienced a wide range of emotions. I felt frightened, I felt tragic loss, and I felt triumphant as I encountered an enchanting tale of life in the world of Final Fantasy. One of the greatest games ever made, Final Fantasy VII can receive no less than an A+ overall. I truly believe it is the greatest game I will ever play.

Overall Grade: A+

PC System Requirements:

166+ MHz Pentium (for non-3D accelerator)
133+ MHz Pentium (for 3D accelerator)
32+ MB of RAM
4X CD-ROM drive
DirectX 5.0 compatible sound and video card (DirectX 5.0 is included)
260 MB minimum of free hard drive space (minimum installation)