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Retro Review: Final Fantasy VII



I still don’t know how his scrawny arms swing that sword.

This review is months in the making. My friend/co-blogger Sara and I get together about once a week for mommy time and kid play dates. Once upon a time, I discovered she’d never played Final Fantasy VII. As you can imagine, I was shocked and appalled, and told her she had no choice but to play it through with me. Even if it would take months.

And it did.

But it was so worth it.

As most of you probably know, FFVII is almost 20 years old. And boy, does it show. Playing this game again as a jaded adult makes its production flaws and outdated graphics/music even more obvious. The weird, blocky polygons just seem so awkward compared to FFVIII, Chrono Cross, or any other RPG from the Playstation era. FFVII does have some of the most iconic boss battle music EVER (I had to crank it for “One Winged Angel” even though Sephy didn’t survive long enough to blow the universe up on us). But for every catchy song that stands the test of time, there’s another little ditty that makes you feel like your ears are bleeding.

When I say “production flaws,” I guess what I really mean is “terrible translation flaws.” Please speak up in the comments if you disagree, but I find the dialogue really hard to follow and make sense of half the time. This typically results in me scratching my  head and wondering how the characters drew the completely illogical conclusions that they did throughout the course of the game. My friend Sara is the kind of person who asks WAY too many questions. Oftentimes, my only response to her inquiries about what what going on or how things were happening was, “Because reasons. Now shut up and play.” It doesn’t help that some majorly important background information is completely optional and easy to miss (like Vincent’s connection to Sephiroth or Cloud and Zack’s plight.)

Then there’s the multitude of typos and grammar issues. I’m a reader (and like to think I’m a writer) so they’re really distracting to people like me. Nothing is more annoying and mood-breaking than reading a typo during a scene that’s supposed to be pulling at my heartstrings. When Aeris dies, Sephiroth hints at Cloud’s true identity, then the screen goes black and he says, “Becauase, Cloud, you are a puppet.” I think that’s the exact typo, but I could be wrong. Anyway, when there’s no music and literally nothing else to look at besides that one sentence, it glares at me like a deer in the headlights. Especially because it makes me chuckle at the misspelling when I’m supposed to be either sad that Aeris got shanked (Yeah right, more like ecstatic she won’t be wedging herself between Cloud and Tifa anymore) or contemplative Sephiroth’s words and what the hell Aeris thought she was accomplishing.

My other favorite typo is the prompt screen during the Battle Arena. When the player is asked if they want to continue to the next round, they have to select “Off course!” instead of “Of course!” I’m still trying to figure out what that means. Off course? As in off-road monster truck driving or something?

Another ongoing laughter-inducer is the really, really bad translated-from Japanese-to-English ebonics. They take multiple (and mostly unsuccessful) jabs at utilizing slang, but Barrett’s dialogue is absolutely hilarious. Couple that with the blatantly obvious stereotypes and you’ve got comedic gold; if you’ve got the same depraved sense of humor my friends and I have, anyway. I don’t know if Japanese culture has many of the same stereotypes against black people as American culture does, but seeing as how they really laid on thick the absentee father/short tempered/completely clueless shticks, I don’t see how it could possibly be a mere coincidence.

Speaking of depraved humor, did I mention we opted out of utilizing the characters’ given names for less… conventional names? Some of them are too dirty to mention, but I strongly suggest playing through the game with Aeris’ name changed to “Some Slut.” Trust me, you won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll probably be taking screenshots of all the great quotes.

While Final Fantasy VII does have a great story (when you can make sense of it) and memorable characters (and by “characters” I mean Sephiroth and stereotypes), the area in which it truly stands the test of time is the battle system. As much as I love Final Fantasy VIII, for example, you’ll never hear me say, “Gee, I loved spending 10 minutes drawing 100 magic spells from enemies whenever I was in a new zone. Drawing magic spells during a super important boss fight totally didn’t detract from the urgency or mood. They should bring that back!” But the materia system is something I bemoan current games for not emulating. The materia and equipment set-ups in this game seem limitless. It encourages the player to experiment and constantly swap materia around. You never know what uber-powerful combinations you’ll find.

You’ll need the materia combos that make you feel invincible if you plan on taking on the Weapons. I can’t say Sara and I participated this time around, but FFVII really takes the cake when it comes to having multiple, challenging boss battles. I took on Ultima Weapon, despite how stupidly annoying chasing it around the world map was. It seriously would fly around aimlessly for over five minutes at a time. I kept purposely bumping into it on the Highwind, hoping the impact would jar it into doing something. Seriously, what a stupid time sink. It’s almost as much of a stupid time sink as reloading the game over and over when your Chocobos don’t make the right Gold Chocobo breeding fodder. There is absolutely no way anyone figured out how to breed a Gold Chocobo on their own unless they had  a whole lot of time on their hands and dumb luck.

As an aside, the Knights of the Round materia made me very grateful Final Fantasy X incorporated the option of turning off summon animations. Holy crap.

I’m going to admit that I’m a bit of a poser. While I’ve played through FFVII 6 or 7 times by now, I haven’t ever killed Ruby Weapon. It’s on my to-do list, really. But with how long it took Sara and I to plow through the plot on a “Three hours a week if we’re lucky” schedule, and sacrificing Dragon Age II time with Steve to do some optional grinding, I figured it wasn’t happening this playthrough either. I’m keeping this save file on my PS3 so Steve and I can kill Emerald and Ruby later when we’re between games, but for now they can continue aimlessly wandering the planet.

What do you guys think? Does FFVII stand the test of time? As someone who has quite a bit of nostalgia attached to it, I’d say so. And the factors that don’t stand the test of time stand in as comic relief even though they weren’t originally intended to be. I posed the same question to Sara, who was experiencing this ground-breaking RPG for the first time, and her response was something like, “Well, it brings a whole new meaning to the ‘length versus girth’ debate.”

Yes, I’m paraphrasing.


6 thoughts on “Retro Review: Final Fantasy VII

  1. Many of the grammar problems you mentioned have been fixed with the PC version. The game is still poorly translated, though. It would cost too much to fix that!

    I do think FF7 holds up today. The story is interesting when it is coherent, the graphics are stylized enough that they don’t look completely terrible, and the music is really good. The materia system is a little janky, but it ensures you can play through the entire game with your favorite characters.


  2. I admit I came to this page with the bias that this was going to be another slobbering love fest for Final Fantasy VII; but I was wrong and your review, I think, is bang on. It’s a great game when you properly frame it in its time. Otherwise, it’s terrible for the reasons you mention as well as the glitches (like the W-Item glitch).

    The story doesn’t make much sense, really; it’s basically full of maguffins. But by the time the story doesn’t make sense, you’re in a bit of a groove, so it’s easy to miss. I also love the materia system (the Enemy Skill materia beats the pants of having a dedicated blue mage like Quina).

    I only recently beat it for the first time myself, though I’ve started it a few times. I like the game, but there are definitely better ones.

    Liked by 1 person

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