Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII Cover
Platforms PlayStation, Windows
Genre Mako-eyed RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 3
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 5
Fun Factor: 8
Gfx/Sound: 7
Story: 9
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Final Fantasy VII is the fanboy's dream come true. Not only is it the best-selling Final Fantasy game (at 9.5 million copies sold), it has one of the longest Wikipedia entries known to man (at 92 kilobytes and over 7,000 words). This is the result of the rabid fanboyism behind the 10 year old game that Square-Enix has only realized recently that it can milk to death with anime, spinoffs, and pretending there is no remake in the works. I'm personally not a huge fan of the game, I'm more of a fan of the even numbered entries in the series, but I've played through it at least twice and have traveled through the very fun opening Midgar hours many, many times.

Final Fantasy VII celebrated its 10 year anniversary in the U.S. on September 7th, so it seems like an appropriate time to review its first hour. I have fond memories of a very enjoyable first hour, so let's hope that it lives up to my memories. Here's to another 2,500 words!

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - A sea of stars rotates in our view, after a few moments a woman's face materializes. She's got huge green eyes and huge brown bangs. She's staring right into me!

01 - The camera pulls back as the music begins. The woman is holding a few flowers and walking in a grimy alleyway. The camera continues pulling back further and further and we get eventually get a view of the entire city of Midgar. Steaming reactors line the metropolis while spotlights search. The music reaches its peak and Final Fantasy VII splashes across the screen.

Final Fantasy 7 Midgar Logo

02 - We begin seeing flashes of a train powering by, it docks at a station and the cutscene makes a near seamless transition to the game's real time game engine. The music increases in tempo and a group of people jump off the train and take out the guards just standing there. Spiky hair blonde guy hops off and I gain control.

03 - My first battle, and the action begins! Spiky is known as EX-SOLDIER (their caps, not mine). The characters look a lot different in battle compared to when I was walking around. Spiky is taller and skinnier, though he's still wearing that ugly purple jumpsuit. Battle system uses the active battle gauges like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. After the first, easy battle I level up, though all the post battle information is presented on its own screen (a good idea).

04 - I meet up with a large black man with literal guns for arms. Scary! They're all members of AVALANCHE (...), apparently a mercenary group. I name spiky Cloud, as in cumulus.

05 - We're heading for the north Mako reactor, I name the large man Barretheading to north mako reactor, name big black guy Barret, as in the bastardized pronunciation of the soft round cap.

06 - The environments here are large and the camera angles are wide. This is very different than nearly all previous Squaresoft RPGs which usually featured a direct top-down view or slightly isometric. Even though the backgrounds transition when entering a battle (not to mention the character models), they still match the environments we just left. I kill a parrot.

07 - Barret joins my party and we learn a little about Cloud's past when he was in SOLDIER (hence the EX-SOLDIER).

08 - We head down an elevator and the characters chat. This would be the moment where Square's RPG's main characters become whiny and emo (though not necessarily totally unlikable).

Final Fantasy 7 Cloud Barret Elevator

12 - I reach my first save point and save the game. My next battle is a back attack, where my characters were surprised in battle and the bad guys get the first hits.

14 - I reach the reactor core or something and Cloud has a freak out moment. The first of many. I am totally surprised when a boss jumps out at me. It's a giant metallic scorpion. Not sure how it maneuvers down here as there are many tight walkways.

15 - Cloud gets his limit break, basically a special move that is activated by getting whacked enough in battle. It does massive damage! This is the first Final Fantasy game featuring limit breaks, a tradition that has continued on through Final Fantasy XII. Though technically Final Fantasy VI had something sort of like limits, but your characters had to be so incredibly weakened and you had to be really lucky... so I don't count that.

Final Fantasy 7 Cloud Barret Scorpion Limit Break

16 - The scorpion puts his tail up and Barret warns me not to attack him while he's like this. Well, too late as I've already queued up an attack for Cloud. I get nailed with a tail laser.

17 - Barret gets his limit break: Big Shot. I start casting Bolt magic with Cloud and we defeat the guard. Barret gets a new gun arm!

18 - A 10 minute timer appears and starts counting down! Oh no. I do not think I will make it.

Final Fantasy 7 Cloud Escape Timer Ladder

20 - Jessie gets his foot stuck while chilling on a grate. I save his life and then he jumps over me. Jerk.

21 - I get in the elevator to go up, I guess Jessie couldn't wait the whole three seconds for us.

22 - I accidentally go back down...

23 - And back up again! I make it out of the complex with plenty of time to spare, and then it blows spectacularly! We get a cool aerial shot of the city with the reactor going up in flames.

Final Fantasy 7 Reactor Explosion Midgar

24 - We blow our way onto a burning street and decide to rendevous at Sector 8 train station. That means nothing to me. Anyways, I'm back on my own.

25 - The flower girl from the opening cutscene approaches me and wants me to buy a flower. Okay, like a portion of the city just blew up and sh'es still carrying her flowers. Well, I hit on her a bit and buy a flower, it was cheap.

26 - Shinra soldiers approach me and tell me to stop or they'll kill me. I decide to fight as I have a big sword and well, guns don't do any real damage in RPGs. Cloud gets his limit break again and I have to waste it on a wussy little soldier.

27 - The soldiers keep surrounding me and I keep on fighting!

29 - With no where else to turn, Cloud hops onto a moving train. This is a pretty sweet scene but honestly Cloud looks like total crap compared to the backgrounds. Giant polygons!

Final Fantasy 7 Cloud Train Jump Fmv

30 - Cloud randomly lands on the correct train and surprises everyone inside by jumping through the open door. Barret starts swearing and getting all fake upset and stuff. We move to the next train as a group.

31 - I'm thinking that maybe Jessie is a girl? She wants to clean my face, and she has a spiky chest (similar to Cloud's rear end). We head into the next compartment and Barret's presence causes the riders to scatter.

33 - Jessie invites me to look at her Midgar... I mean a map of Midgar. She explains the security checks and how we're using fake IDs. This will no doubt come into play.

Final Fantasy 7 Cloud Jessie Midgar

35 - We get a nice sweeping shot of Midgar and the giant plate that everyone in the slums lives under. Everyone gets off the last train and Cloud follows. Cloud sure likes to take big jumps everywhere.

37 - Barret is planning another attack, but then he runs into a bar and starts firing his arm gun, scaring everyone again.

Final Fantasy 7 Outer Heaven Bar

38 - I talk to a woman and she tells me that lots of innocents died in the explosion. Dang... when do I get paid again? I direct Cloud into the bar and a girl yells "Papa!" at me.

39 - A woman in a white t-shirt approaches me, I name her Tifa, as in... well, I don't know. Just don't Google Image Search her. Sickos. Tifa knows me from my childhood and I give her the flower (instead of to the little girl). Seems like Cloud is starting his harem.

40 - I have a drink. Is it really not juice? Impressive. Turns out that the girl's dad is actually Barret, not me. Thank God. Nearly everyone heads downstairs on their pinball elevator.

41 - I sit with Tifa first at the bar, she offers me a hard drink, I accept. This ain't no Harvest Moon grape juice.

42 - I head downstairs. Jessie is watching the explosion on TV. Turns out she made the bomb from instructions on her computer! Dang terrorists and their ability to use the internet. The fat guy tells me that we're hitting Sector 5's reactor tomorrow. Why are you telling this guy anything? He's totally going to be the guy to spill the beans.

44 - Barret and Cloud argue for a bit and Cloud heads upstairs. Tifa asks me to join AVALANCHE for good, we'll see.

45 - Tifa and Cloud share a flashback, geez the characters are really ugly looking! Someone should have told Square not to put their giant polygons right in the front of the screen. Mini Cloud and Tifa are sitting on a well and talking about their futures. Cloud says he wants to join SOLDIER, just like Sephiroth. Cloud makes a promise to be Tifa's hero whenever she's in trouble. A shooting star seals the promise.

Final Fantasy 7 Young Cloud Tifa Sephiroth

48 - Back in real time, Cloud says he can't keep the promise. Barret pays me 1500 gil for the mission and Cloud says he'll do the next one too, but for more pay.

49 - I wake up in the basement, I guess the mission is today!

50 - Barret asks for a magic tutorial, magic in this game is called materia. Materia is like round orbs that you stick in your weapons and armor. Just try to imagine that in real life.

Final Fantasy 7 Menu Screen Cloud Barret Tifa

53 - I enter a tough looking shop area and above that is Beginner's Hall. A guy offers me a ton of knowledge on the gameplay system, but there's no time for boring stuff like that.

54 - A little kid uses a limit break on another kid! Hahaha! I finally get to save again and get an All Materia from a dude.

57 - We head out of town and back to the train station.

58 - On the train now, I learn we can't use our fakes anymore for some unexplained reason, so we're going to have to jump off the train before the security checkpoint.

59 - Tifa and me get in close, hopefully my purple jumpsuit can protect me from Tifa's spikes. Unsurprisingly, the security alarm goes off, ruining the moment. We gotta run now!

60 - We run from car to car past a bunch of scared passengers. I only have limited time to get from one car to another. There's also like two naked men sitting on one car, but I won't get into that today. Barret, Tifa, and Cloud all jump out of the fast moving train, and that's the end of the first hour of Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy 7 Tifa Train Disguise Alert

Now for some ratings out of 10.

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 3

Gameplay: 5
Console RPGs have both evolved quite a bit since Final Fantasy VII, and at the same time, have barely changed at all, at least from Square. The battle system is basically Final Fantasy VI minus a character plus limit breaks, and there's really not enough time to mess around with the new materia system. The 3D environments can also make walking around and exploring difficult if not obnoxious at times, especially since this was before the analog stick was available to developers. The gameplay is just average, neither bad nor good in the first hour.

Fun Factor: 8
I really appreciate being thrown into an exciting story right away, and Final Fantasy VII pulls this off with flying colors. Not often is your first activity in a game blowing up a large reactor and then hitting the bar. The battles are okay, but they could be more exciting. The playable characters have so much HP (~300) and get his for so little (~10) that it's almost impossible to die. I know that this game is like My First RPG for a lot of people so maybe making it overly difficult wouldn't have been the best idea. The game's pace also slows down a lot after the initial sequence but it's story time so it's necessary.

Graphics and Sound: 7
The game's brutally ugly polygonal characters have not aged well. Though the backgrounds are generally pretty beautiful, this just creates a bigger contrast between pre-rendered backgrounds and six polygon character models. The music is classic Final Fantasy so it's pretty good. Nothing incredibly memorable early on though. The sound effects are standard RPG affair, not too much advance in this area.

Story: 9
Final Fantasy VII presents us with some compelling plot elements pretty early on. We've got AVALANCHE, SOLDIER, and Shinra, a smattering of semi-interesting characters, and a great opening sequence that actually seems to concern the overall plot. The main character Cloud is a little angsty, but I suppose that leaves plenty of room for development. Barret is a big, scary, swearing man; and Tifa is your childhood friend you've probably wanted to sleep with for years but never got up the courage to get out of the friend zone. The setting is a smog-filled city in an eternal night, and Cloud and his fellow mercenaries (terrorists?) want to help out and get paid. It's typical dystopian but it's done interestingly enough that it's still fresh. And of course blowing up things is always fun.

Overall: 9
Hard to give Final Fantasy VII's first hour even an above average score when it does everything I ask for: an explosive opening, interesting setting and characters, and involvement in a decent plot early on. Squaresoft succeeded on all accounts and gave the gaming world an RPG unlike any other at the time. I suppose that's why there are so many fanboys (not to mention the dreaminess of Cloud and Sephiroth). The character models look like crap these days but back in 1997 I suppose they were gorgeous, but I don't really remember as I was playing the equally polygonal Star Fox 64 at the time. Either way, Final Fantasy VII's first hour is very solid and very fun, I can't quite say that the rest of the game lives up to the beginning, but that's for someone else to decide. The first hour at least, is good.

Final Fantasy 7 Yoshitaka Amano Cloud Art