Golden Shiny Wire of Hope

Another post, this time about a classic game, oh my! I recently picked up Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation Network, having never played the game before and having never had any real desire to when looking at the exorbitant cost of a complete copy (let alone a black label complete copy). With that out of the way, I downloaded the game and played through it, and thus, here’s the review!

I will definitely say that Final Fantasy VII shows its age in this direct port to PSN: if you play on the PS3, everything is severely blocky and looks pretty terrible (compared with a previous PS1 game I played off disc, Parasite Eve, FFVII looks like absolute crap, actually. This can be chalked up to the fact that FFVII was released prior to PE, but still). On PSP, the experience is on the whole a lot better, and the graphics appear smoother and more streamlined due to the far lower resolution of the PSP’s screen. Disc changing is made a lot less annoying since you can just hit the PS button and bring up a disc switch submenu when prompted, making life easier.

Now for the meat of the review. Final Fantasy VII was first released in 1997 and is currently the best selling edition of the Final Fantasy franchise, which in turn is one of the highest grossing video game franchises on the planet. As in previous editions of the series, the Active Time Battle system is present, allowing the player to experience real time combat that is still turn-based (which sounds silly when you write it out, but it is rather fun). There were some random oddities with this system in some boss battles, where a boss would use multiple moves in a row, even at the start of a battle, and there would be no way to defend at all. The crane boss and the final boss did this in particular, the final less so. The materia system helps flesh out character customization beyond the basic leveling, enabling virtually every character to become whatever the player wants (although some are clearly suited for certain roles, such as Aeris being a white mage-style healer and Cloud being a soldier-style attacker).

Gameplay is smooth and excellent in battle; outside of battle, not so much. Part of the problem is that the prerendered backgrounds aren’t as detailed as one might like and as a result it sometimes can be difficult to see what you’re supposed to be doing (literally). The title of this post comes from one of those moments, where Cloud is required to jump onto a moving wire, but the prompt for doing so is confusing. The game is also riddled with tiny wannabe sidequest minigames, which I felt were a bit annoying when they kept being used again and again (the most egregious offender was probably the snowboarding one, which, while cool, made no sense to me). Perhaps not surprisingly, some of these minigames are actually harder than the game itself; I found it difficult to steer straight on the snowboard, but crushed any boss with relative ease.

Speaking of ease, Final Fantasy games are generally story-driven, and as such the difficulty is not prohibitive like some other games can be. That said, I was shocked by how utterly cake the game was. I ignored several very good powerups/items until the very end, such as Ribbons (which I never acquired) and the Big Guard enemy skill (which I used only on the final boss to prevent cheapshot kills, since without it the boss could KO any of my party in one hit were it directly targeted). Had I gotten so much as Big Guard, I would have breezed through the game even faster than I already did, which would be in my opinion ridiculous. I don’t mind when games are easy, but it’s a little shocking when you find that a single skill can literally make the difference between a good level of challenge and no challenge at all.

As for the plot of Final Fantasy VII, which is lauded by everyone I know, I have to say I wasn’t that impressed. It was enjoyable, yes, and it was certainly compelling enough to find out more about the game (and a certain death got to me more than I thought it would, considering it’s the worst kept spoiler in all of gaming history). The amount of language and blood in the game surprised me a good bit, and I half wondered sometimes if the game had needed to censor itself less to appeal to a wider audience than to earn a lower age rating on the case. The character development was rather nice, although it was pretty clear some characters were developed much less than they probably should have been (Tifa, Yuffie, perhaps Cid. Mind you, I didn’t do any sidequests, and I believe there’s one in Wutai, so perhaps not Yuffie). The melding of technological and mystical was nice, although I could have done without some of the heavier handed exposition essentially claiming Shinra was killing the planet by harvesting materia…which the party also conveniently uses.

Overall, the game was excellent, but quite dated, as previous generation games tend to be more than a decade later. It was very much worth playing and the price of entry was extremely low, so I have no real complaints. I would recommend the PSN version to anyone who doesn’t own the original game, especially if said person prefers black label releases (PSN games are always the black label release; in the case of FFVII, this is easily determined because there is no analog stick support, merely directional pad support).

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~ by Vaikyuko on September 8, 2009.

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