Archive for June 3, 2010

My Top JRPGs ~ #4 ~ Final Fantasy VII

Yes, you’re probably sick and tired of seeing Final Fantasy VII on lists of great RPGs. There are a plethora of reasons why this game consistently winds up with such high praise, but my reason for putting it on this list is a very personal one.

I was in my young teens when I wound up with a bunch of cash given to me by various family members for my birthday. My best friend at the time gave me a suggestion as to what to do with it, and I took her advice. I got my mom to take me to the local Toys ‘R Us and I walked out with a brand-new PlayStation, a huge memory card, and Final Fantasy VII. From that day on, my life as a gamer was forever changed.

You see, Final Fantasy VII was the first RPG I ever played. It introduced me to the genre, and it wasn’t until I branched out into other titles that I realized how this game changed everything. Yes, as much as some people may loathe to admit it, no matter how much you love or hate this game, it changed things in the JRPG world forever while still keeping many of the things that make the Final Fantasy series so great.

It introduced us to a truly grand storyline, focusing around an ex-soldier named Cloud and his adventures with a group called AVALANCHE who are trying to save the planet by stopping the evil Shinra company from harvesting mako, a mysterious substance that is the lifeblood of the planet. The deeper he delves into Shinra’s dealings, the more he starts to experience strange spells of dizziness and voices in his head, and he begins to find out truths behind his past and the most secret inner-workings of Shinra that will result in a battle to save the world.

The characters are memorable and each had a deep story that made you feel truly attached to them. The story started off slow at first, but as things progressed and pasts were revealed, it became an incredible weaving of storylines that sticks with those who experienced it to this very day. The story is so powerful that it has spawned several spin-off games and even a wildly popular movie that continued these tales.

There is one bone I have to pick with the story however, and it lies in the localization. When Final Fantasy VII was brought over to America and was being localized, the Squaresoft team ran out of time and left a few events unfinished (I would go into greater detail, but to do so would give some huge spoilers!). Also, there are a few problems with the dialogue translations, such as Aeris happening upon an ill man and commenting that “this guy are sick”. There are very few of these hiccups in the translation, but you would think that they would have paid closer attention to such things when dealing with such a highly anticipated game.

Just looking at this scene brings back so many memories that are dear to me!

The graphics were a foray into 3D polygonal technology, and while it was awe-inspiring at the time, it did not age well. However, it only serves to give a feeling of nostalgia. The character designs were also a big departure from anything we had seen from RPGs before, save for a few titles that had an anime style to them such as Chrono Trigger.

Of course, the gameplay was also revolutionary. You could buy weapons, armor, and accessories, but the big draw was materia, spheres of energy that you could equip to your battle gear that not only gave you special abilities, but altered your stats as well. Even the materia had levels, and leveling them up would give you new abilities until the materia’s level was maxed out, at which point it spawned a new copy of itself. You could level up the new one and sell the mastered materia for major cash, or just hang on to your powerful spells for the long haul.

Also, each weapon and piece of armor had different configurations of materia slots, and planning both your gear layout and your set of abilities together was vital. The big issue with this however is that the game gives you the ability to transfer one character’s set of materia to another. You can easily fall prey to the desire to skip the tedium of re-equipping materia each time you switch characters in and out of your party, but copy-pasting your materia layout quickly results in the characters becoming battle-clones of each other, giving very little diversity to the characters when in a fight, save for their special attacks, called Limit Breaks.

There were also hidden characters and a slew of side-quests to explore, the most memorable of which was the glorious conglomerate of mini-games and gambling known as the Gold Saucer. Not only could you relax and play the games found in the Gold Saucer, but you could enter the battle arena to level up and earn special items and weapons. If you captured some chocobos during your travels, you could race them here to strengthen them up so they were prime for breeding, all in the name of acquiring the gold chocobo, which would allow you access to some special places that you couldn’t get to anywhere else.

All of the amazing points of this game, however, are pushed aside when you discuss the music. Nobuo Uematsu is known for his incredible music, and he certainly does not falter with Final Fantasy VII. The soundtrack spans several discs and is filled with fun and quirky songs, powerful and energetic riffs, and sad and emotional pieces. Listening to these songs even long after you have played the game serves to bring back memories that will make you want to pick up your PlayStation controller all over again.

Yes, Final Fantasy VII is overrated. Despite how much I clearly love this game, there is no doubting that the game is over-hyped, and many people who have yet to play it and pick it up will probably tend to be disappointed when they compare the reality to what they’ve heard. However, it’s important to remember that overrated does not always equal bad. Although it may not live up to much of the hype, Final Fantasy VII is still an incredible game and an absolute gem of the JRPG genre. It is a title that no RPG fan should miss, and one that still stands the test of time as one of the most memorable titles to ever come out of the genre.

You can play Final Fantasy VII by tracking down a copy for the PlayStation or by downloading it onto your Playstation 3 or Playstation Portable!


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