Final Fantasy VII

System: Playstation (Japanese)


Game Type: RPG
A traditional turn-based RPG (don't give me that ATBS bullshit, it's still turn-based) from the series that established the tradition. You walk around, randomly encounter enemies, choose appropriate spells or attacks from a menu, etc. There are also lots of action subgames thrown in like snowboard racing and a Road Rash-like sequence on a motorcycle.

Gameplay: 70/100
To be frank, this is probably the worst Final Fantasy game yet in terms of gameplay, mostly due to poor control. The dungeons and towns are all 2D bitmaps you're supposed to navigate in 3D. Often you can't even see areas you can walk on or climb up, forcing you to "feel the walls" to find a path. The new polygonal battle sequences have wild camera angles, too, making it difficult to highlight the right target with the cursor. There is more emphasis than ever on silly subgames, some of which are fantastic but most of which are just an annoyance to figure out.
That's not to say Square did everything wrong, though. The new Materia system allows for lots of creativity in equipping your characters (you can assign elemental attributes to weapons and armor, make characters counter with a special command of your choice, and more). The zillions of spells and all the special abilities like Control that made FF6/3 so cool are back. It's also quite long, about 60 hours to explore thoroughly.

Graphics: 95/100
Yow! Now this is where Square really came through. The graphic engine isn't that big a breakthrough; only about 20fps. But the detail and quality of animation on the hundreds of polygon skeletons for characters, enemies, and spells is truly amazing. Cast a summon spell when you've got some friends in the room and there won't be one whose jaw doesn't drop. And though the subgames only feature flat-shaded polygons they still look great (think Tobal).

Sound: 80/100
The sound effects are of pretty decent quality, but some are a bit annoying, including a couple used in almost every battle. The tunes don't exactly stick in your head (like some of FF6's did), but the soundtrack once again shows off composer Nobuo Uematsu's creative ability above all else. (The final boss has a full-scale opera score going, complete with chorus.)

Overall: 80/100
I would have liked to give this game a higher rating but FF7's failings in the all-important control department drop its score quite a bit. It nonetheless features enough new strategy to save the playability. The beautiful graphics and music don't hurt, either. And even though I had to rely on translations to understand the story, I feel I can safely say that FF7 has the best-told storyline of any console game, ever. You are strongly encouraged to purchase it when it's released in English (American release date 9/7/97), or even to import it and muddle through the Japanese text (you can use the swap method since each disc boots separately). This game further blurs the lines between video games and art, and will be talked about long after its release.


Copyright © 1997/1998 Jay McGavren. All Rights Reserved.