There’s been a lot of hype about Final Fantasy VII recently, mostly due to the anticipation of the PS4 Remake of the game. To add to the buzz, the original 1997 game has recently been released for smartphone and PS4 download.
I have to confess, I am a cult-follower of Final Fantasy VII since its inception. Back in the early days, I killed an ominous giant snake lurking in the marshes and quickly fell in love with the game. As soon as I was old enough to grasp it properly, I took to the PS1 to conquer this mighty 100-hour long RPG.
For anyone unfamiliar with Final Fantasy VII (FFVII), the game follows the story of Cloud Strife, a mercenary working with the Avalanche group to stop the exploitative and greedy Shinra corporation. Cloud meets various friends and foes along the way, forming relationships and love triangles, and bonds of love and necessity.
As the game progresses the plot thickens, and the group sees themselves confronted by black magic, horrifying beasts, plots for world domination, and battles against the infamous villain Sephiroth. Without giving too much away, this game goes beyond life and death to deliver an unbeatable plot. It is as much a narrative and grand fairy tale as it is an RPG game, with themes that rival Shakespeare!
In terms of the gameplay, FFVII never fails to impress. The battle system is turn-based, which is not to everyone’s taste, but if you like that kind of thing this game pulls it off effortlessly, with plenty of spells and attacks, defensive and support magic and tactical items and equipment to aid the evolution of your characters.
The battling is held together by the ever-progressing story, which is broken up by a non-linear game mechanic which allows you to explore other parts of the map and wander around towns talking to background characters. You can approach the game in any way you want. There is an abundance of mini-games to keep you happy, many of which can be found at the Gold Saucer, a giant casino amusement park where you can play with in-house currency to win back money and items. The trend towards iGaming in video games is becoming ever more apparent, with the likes of Yazuka game series on PS3 featuring a mini betting game and there is evidence of the lines blurring between the two sectors with the “gamification” of entertainment products such as the video poker concept.
Even if experimental is not your thing, FFVII still offers plenty of range for the hardcore gamer. FFVII can be completed comfortably in perhaps 20-40 hours, but if you want to do max out your characters and beat the Ruby and Emerald weapons (arguably the toughest optional bosses in any game, ever!) then you are talking 100-150 hours!
As you might be able to tell, FFVII is one of my favorite games of all time. I just don’t think many games have been made that have quite this level of thought and detail. In its time, FF was visually stunning too, pushing the PS1’s graphics to its absolute limits. Modern gamers will have to look past the now outdated graphics if they want to enjoy this truly beautiful game, and it does still look great on smartphone screens too!
In terms of its social intelligence, I think FFVII does an amazing job. It was developed over in the East, and many of the characters are white, though we do see the appearance of Barrett, a lovable dark-skinned man. I have to say though, he does come across slightly like the token black guy, and has a Mr. T sort of vibe. Other characters include a tough and ready woman, a delicate flower girl who turns out to be a savior, a warrior dog, a lost soul of a vampire, and an aircraft pilot. The women and men in the game are equally strong and formidable. Even more than this, we see that the women and men are equally supportive and essential to each other. Homosexuality is not directly represented in the game, but it is possible to have the main character go on a date with a man.
FFVII tackles issues such as class really well. When the characters are exploring the slums in Midgar, never do we get the feeling that the people living there are being undermined. On the contrary, it becomes obvious that the cause of the town’s bad condition is the big corporations that are exploiting it. We see the game from the perspective of missionaries who are fighting for the people, and we begin to feel compassionate towards those who suffer in the game.
The game also has something of a global feel. The continent contains lots of civilizations that all have a different culture and feeling, and as we play we come to understand the ways of each settlement. None are evil. The evil forces in the game do not come from a certain area, but from certain influences or ‘bad guys’, and deeper than this from human vice itself.
I would urge anyone who has recently heard of Final Fantasy VII to give it a try. Don’t wait for the Remake. Download this epic game on your phone or PS4, and get ready for the ride of your life. If you like 100-hour long RPG games with unforgettable storylines, then this is the game for you!