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Final Fantasy VII
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Back when I first reviewed Final Fantasy VII, which wasn't all too long ago, I was relying mostly on my memory and the game's status as an important part of videogame history.  Well my memory must've been fuzzy, and status doesn't mean a thing to me anymore.  After playing the original Grandia and finding an utterly absorbing game, I decided to pop in Final Fantasy VII.  The result was like finishing off a steak only to have somebody give you a quarter pounder from a fast food restaurant.  I seriously don't remember Final Fantasy VII being this terrible.  It was probably already that terrible to begin with and I just forgot, or, more than likely, it has aged rather badly and most of the other games continue to be classics.  I'm beginning to wonder whether hardcore old school purists were right in decrying the trend Final Fantasy VII took when it first came out.

Playing the first few scenes of this game was really a test of will.  The opening of any RPG often sets the tone and pace of the game to follow.  It's often the opening that determines whether a player is hooked or shuts it off right then and there.  Final Fantasy VII has some of the clunkiest, most incoherent opening scenes I've ever seen.  Some of the dialogue is so poorly written that I had to blink twice and look again to make sure that I read what I thought I had just read.  Everybody knows about the "attack when its tail is up" snafu, but that's just the tip of the iceburg.  To get an example of just how bad it gets, one early scene has Cloud meeting the important character Aeris, who wants Cloud to be her bodyguard.  When one of the guys who want to kidnap Aeris shows up, you're actually able to walk over to the bad guy, who instead of giving you trash talk, says "Don't worry about me."  Then the main event starts and you get the lines "I don't know who you are but. . .""You don't know who I am?""Yeah I know who you are."  All which seem to come from Cloud like he was talking to himself.  With no clear distinction as to who's talking and with which words, and with grammatically incorrect sentences to boot, dialogue, and thus trying to keep track of the story, is a seriously muddled mess.

It only gets worse from there.  Final Fantasy VII is nothing but a string of watching big-headed, terribly designed characters running around, annoying flashbacks, and Cloud suffering from voices in his head for no apparent reason.  In my first review of this game, I called the cast of characters "weak sauce".  That judgement still stands.  I never cried for Aeris, but Cloud is the worst of the bunch.  I understand that he's supposed to be the stereotypical "edgy hero", but honestly, not even the most depressed hero acts like him.  Who in heck seriously says he doesn't care about the planet?  News flash, wiseass.  If the planet blows up, you're dead.

That combat that I said was action packed and cinematic?  I have never been so bored pressing one button and assigning every character to attack the same enemy in my life.  And it turns out that the swooping camera only gets in the way of the flow of battle and slows things down, not mention making it likely to accidently attack one of your allies.  The controls outside the battle are just as dodgy as ever.  Too much clutter in the scenes, and the digital controls with "odd" analog camera angles, supposedly to make the scene look "cool", don't combine well at all.

The soundtrack is okay, but the sound quality feels terribly suppressed.  After witnessing how well the music sets up the mood of the scenes in Grandia, Final Fantasy VII was a disappointment, especially during the battles, which possessed midi-like tracks that repeated over and over.

Okay.  Hold up.  So far all I've done is trash talk this once great masterpiece.  Isn't there anything good about this game?  What about the story?  Final Fantasy VII is notorious for having a terrible plot, but I must give it credit for trying something different.  Take a look at all the cliches being overused in most RPGs.  Somebody's village is always being destroyed.  Somebody's kingdom is always being overtaken.  Somebody's race always hates another's race.  Somebody is always revealed to be somebody else's father.  Tales of Symphonia comes to mind as to what may happen when cliches are made to be too obvious.  Final Fantasy VII, on the other hand, tries to be complex, if a little incoherent, and tries to inject a terrifying vision of industrial steampunk elements into its atmosphere.  And it almost pulls it off.

The background graphics and the movies are also worth noting.  While the character graphics are ugly as sin, the backgrounds are like gorgeous paintings and are made of stable, solid polygons.  And the movies really help set the stage of later events.  And another plus in the game's favor.  The battles are made at least somewhat bearable when the characters are using the awe-inspiring summon magics or using the special attack "limit breaks".  These somewhat help to break up the monotony of battle.

However the good points don't stop this game from being the muddled mess that it is.  The characters aren't convincing.  The music feels weak.  The battles are boring.  The graphics are ugly.  And the story and dialogue are poorly written.  It amazes me that many people pick this as one of the best games ever while the vastly superior Panzer Dragoon Saga, which came out months later and gave players not only quality voice acting but a superior script, gets largely ignored.  The opening scenes were clunky and hard to stomach while many other classic games didn't age at all and still retained their luster.  But there will always be droves of fans of this game still keeping it in its place in videogame history.  So what does my opinion matter?  Hopefully there's an equal amount of players like me who find it to be the inconsistent junk that it is.

Grade: Flawed

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