My first Final Fantasy was Final Fantasy 9 and though I knew about 7 I did not know at the time was that it was a lot of people’s favorite Final Fantasy. My friends would play it for hours and while observing I saw and felt the energy of what made it so interesting and I began to see why it was so popular. It was not until high school that I played a PC port of the game by Eidos. Though not having nostalgia for the original as many people do from the early days of its release, this year I decided to finally play Final Fantasy 7 after all the hubbub of the remake for PS4. I expected to be blown away, after all Cloud Strife is in Smash Brothers, and Final Fantasy 7 is being remade from the ground up. The game must be good by the character’s popularity and all the attention this game has received even today, I thought.
Looking at the game today players might laugh at the polygons that make up the various characters. What I see is a truly great blockbuster game from the 1990s. The game starts with an engaging heist mission with no two areas looking the same. Say what you want about the character models but the backgrounds, yes the pre-rendered backgrounds, are wonderful even today. The pre-rendered nature of them all may seem less than desirable by today’s standards, but thinking about how they still look interesting and well made makes me appreciate them. Adding to that, every location is mostly memorable and the music links these locations into your thoughts. The different locations makes the game oddly unforgettable, along with the silliness.
Video games in the early days of 3D gaming were expected to be rough around the edges. Developers had not completely figured out how to translate their previous sixteen or twenty four bit gameplay to the 3D realm. Fighting, exploring, and finding items for the player to use all had to be rethought. As Square’s first 3D Final Fantasy, it is apparent that they were doing their best to take the top down feel a little more at an angle to showcase more of what 3D gaming could do. Unfortunately, playing the game at certain parts it is noticeable that there were some horrible decisions that have not endured the test of time. One, is the mini-games that have not aged well. Whenever they are encountered within the main game the fun factor goes way down. Thank goodness these are mostly optional. Thank goodness the remake is fixing the translation issues as well as the initial game’s translation needed an update badly. Some sentences are just confusing and as the game progresses into more abstract concepts and places, I found myself not following exactly what was happening.
One feature that has been a life-saver in the most recent releases on steam, iOS, android, and consoles is the ability to toggle the speed. I don’t know how I would have fared if that option was not available, when turning the game to normal speed walking to and from certain places takes longer then it should, an example being the infamous bridge to one of the reactors, you know which one that is if you have ever played the game. I understand the need to make the game lengthier by putting areas that take a long time to get across, making you fight wave after wave of random battles, but if I didn’t have this fast forward feature I might of already given up on the game itself. Harsh I know, but that is honestly how I feel. Though having vehicles in the later game makes up for this quite nicely.
I was not one of those kids in 1997 that woke up on Christmas morning to see my very own copy of Final Fantasy VII arranged carefully underneath the tree, but having known about it for so long and just now seriously playing it I understand why its such an important and beloved game even today. A lot is outdated sure, but the story, characters, locations, and music make this retro game a classic for all time. If the player is used to more modern RPGs I think they should still complete this one. Just remember to be patient and imagine being back in 1997 when analog sticks were not really a thing and video games were just entering 3D. I hope they come to appreciate it as much as I have. (Kurt Jensen, Gaming Staff Writer)