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Game Info:

Final Fantasy VII 
Developed by: Square
Published by: Square
Release Date: January 31, 1997
Available on: PS1, PSN, Windows (reviewed)
Genre: RPG
Number of Players: Single-Player
ESRB Rating: Teen for fantasy violence, suggestive themes and mild language
MSRP: $22.50 on LeapTrade

Final Fantasy VII is Square-Enix’s bestselling video game with over ten million copies sold.   It debuted on the PlayStation and has been re-released on the PC twice. This review is based on the 2012 release that offers achievements, character booster (I never used it), and cloud saves.  If the cloud saves are a feature you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed and I’ll discuss its short comings later in the review.    The story and game play are still memorable and I can see why many gamers consider this one of the best Final Fantasy games ever made.

Cloud Strife is the main character who turned Mercenary after working for the Shinra Company.  Shinra makes their money by extracting the planet’s energy (MAKO) that’s used for weapons and Materia (grants it’s wearer magical powers).  While this sounds harmless, the opposite is true; their refining is making the planet unstable and could destroy it if nothing is done.  Cloud's first job as a Mercenary is blowing up one of Shinra's MAKO reactors for an eco-terrorist group called Avalanche.   Their goal is to put an end to Shinra and save the planet.

At first Cloud is not very sociable and is only in it for the money.  His childhood friend, Tifa, is also in Avalanche and softens him up a bit. There are nine playable characters in this game but only three can be in a party at any given time.  Two of the characters are miss-able so reading a guide or a FAQ is highly recommended.  While every character can use Materia, each one has a unique weapon type and limit move.  A limit is a powerful attack that is earned by taking damage over time.  Like many RPG’s there are various stats like hit points, magic points, luck, strength and dexterity.  These adjust by leveling up and changing the armor or Materia they have equipped.   I like how the inactive members still gain experience and level up, though not as much as they would if they were in your current party.  The character limits also gain levels but you have to use the limits in order to unlock the next set.   If you want a powerful character, you have to grind, plain and simple.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Engrossing story and excellent character development; nice magic system where each character can learn every spell.  
Weak Points: Some of the graphics didn't age well, broken cloud save system.
Moral Warnings: Like many RPGs there’s violence and magic; with the language and blasphemy I won’t let my kids play this one for a while.

Enemy battles for the most part are random, except for a few bosses that are shown beforehand. Generally speaking, if you have a save point and a means to replenish your health and magic points, there’s a boss waiting for you around the corner.  You can save anytime in the overworld but once you’re inside a place, you’re limited to save points.  

The cloud save system in the PC version is unreliable to say the least.  If you launch the game with an active Internet connection you’re at the mercy of their server to allow you to save and load your progress.  There have been many times where I have played and had to leave but couldn’t save my progress.  Sometimes it’s available again within a few minutes but oftentimes it’s longer.  The only way to save every time is to launch the game without an Internet connection.  That way it will use the save files on your computer and synchronize them the next time it’s launched with an Internet connection.

Even with the broken cloud saves the PC version is still worth getting for the audio tweaking and improved graphics.  The antialiasing and improved character models look much better than the original PlayStation models.  There’s a wide variety of enemies and unique bosses.  The Materia summons and powers are fun to watch, though some of the animations take quite a while to complete and you cannot skip past them.    There are many mini-games including the ability to race chocobos, snowboard, fight in the battle arena and to defend the condor’s egg at Fort Condor.  The Fort Condor mini-game graphics are pretty crude and it’s hard to distinguish the units from each other. 

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 64%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 1.5/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

The characters have a lot of personality and their movements and animations compliment them nicely.  At the end of a fight, Tifa will stick out her (well endowed) chest with a stance that says “See! I did that.”   Cloud does a nice sword twirl at the end of every battle while Cid casually takes a puff from his cigarette.  Cid’s character is funny but his language is very coarse and says every word but the F-bomb.  Barret also has a short temper and a potty mouth.  It's also worth mentioning that the Lord's name is taken in vain here.  While I appreciate eco-friendliness this game, it does give the planet feelings and a consciousness.   

Fortunately the language is not heard in the cut scenes which are nicely rendered and aged pretty well.  The music in the movies, towns, caves and battles is simply breathtaking.  Each character has their own theme song that suits their personality nicely.  Nobuo Uematsu has composed another masterpiece here.  I used a program called Anxious Heart that allowed me to swap out the PC music for the better quality PlayStation music.  To add icing on the cake, I was able to change out some of the songs (Those Who Fight Further, JENOVA) to the Black Mages version.  This mod is of questionable legality since it's downloading music from the Internet, but we do own The Black Mages CDs and the PlayStation version of Final Fantasy VII.

The Battle music and songs like One Wing Angel sets Final Fantasy VII apart from the rest, not to mention the funny characters, awkward situations and humorous encounters.  I still recommend playing the previous Final Fantasy games but I can understand why Final Fantasy VII sold so well and still has quite the following.  I recommend picking it up if you haven’t played it yet.  Just keep in mind that it definitely earns its Teen rating.

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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