Final Fantasy VII
Ahh, yes, the big kahuna! Final Fantasy VII, developed by Squaresoft at the time, was released in 1997 for the Sony PlayStation and when it did, the game gained immediate popularity around the world and revolutionized the Japanese RPG genre with its engaging story, cinematic visuals, and one famous scene that touched the hearts of many people, but I can’t just spoil it for you (though I’m pretty sure the whole world knows by now). I had never experienced so many emotions in a game until this game came along. Just ask anyone who has played it. They’ll give you the same exact reaction.
Final Fantasy VII tells the story of Cloud Strife, a Shinra grunt and a very confused person who thinks he’s someone else, who joins a rebel organization called Avalanche through Tifa, a childhood friend, along with Barret, the cyborg Mr. T of the series. The mega corporation Shinra is trying to drain the life force of the planet, so Avalanche is on a mission to stop their evil plans and escape the “&^#$# ‘pizza’” they’re living under as Barret would say. This life force of the planet is known as Mako in its energy form. From this opening story, the game progresses into a larger conflict that threatens the planet itself. This leads to the main antagonist of the story, Sephiroth, who wishes to take control of the planet as his vessel and sail it in the cosmos.
Final Fantasy VII featured some mind-blowing graphics at the time. This is especially the case with the pre-rendered backgrounds they introduced for the first time. From the opening of FF VII, you are treated to one of the many FMV/CG’s in the game. Square really excels in this area with its great art direction and cinematography. I especially loved the subtle way the FMV was built into real time scenes, an element that was never seen before. And the characters themselves look great too and are easily recognizable even though they look like Lego toys. While they aren’t as detailed as the games after it, they still have a certain charm to them. Seeing a realistic version of Cloud wearing a dress would just be awkward anyways.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the best JRPG’s available for the PlayStation. This is the kind of quality gaming that’s been absent from Square games of recent times and I miss those days. I am always hopeful that they will look back and see what worked instead of coming up with over-used ideas like time traveling and monster collecting. In the meantime, you can buy and play this classic on the PlayStation Network for $10 and there’s also a re-release of the PC version for $12.
Pros: Character development, story, gameplay, fun mini-games like snowboarding, a very memorable soundtrack composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu, nice world map and explorable towns where you can actually go inside shops (why are these disappearing from games nowadays!?). Towns being too hard to render is no excuse Square. If it’s simply too much, I think evolving the camera style that was in FFX would be a smart idea, because you’d reduce the amount of 3D models you’d have to make and to me, having something more stylish than an over-the-shoulder perspective seems more fitting for the elegant nature of RPG’s.
Cons: None. It’s pretty close to being perfect, except, maybe the amount of random encounters could be toned down a notch.
VGM: “A Secret Sleeping in the Deep Sea”