Press Clippings | Official Australian PSX Review of FFVII
By Adrian Bertram
Since the appearance of the first Japanese demos, Final Fantasy VII has been one of the most anticipated video games in recent history. Although this sort of attention is not unusual in the video game world, FFVII stands out from other excessively hyped games by thoroughly deserving all the praise which has been heaped on it. Already the largest selling PlayStation game in Japan, FFVII is now set to storm our shores and convert the populace into dysfunctional obsessives concerned only with progressing through this monolith of a game.
The biggest strength of FFVII, and the reason you'll be playing this game into the wee hours, is its stunningly intricate plot. While many past RPGs offered little more than your merry group of adventurers romping through the countryside, smiting the odd band of marauding pixies while in search of the key to the next dungeon or whatever, FFVII gives you the real sense of living in its world. There's so much going on around you, relevant or not, that you almost feel overwhelmed by the immense scale of it all. It's not until you've been playing for a few days, when the main plot starts to emerge, that you start to appreciate the enormous depth and compass of the game. In this respect, Final Fantasy VII is more like reading a good book than playing a game.
FFVII is not just concerned with endless progression through the labyrinthine plot. To prevent stagnation, Square has included a number of sub games at various points. These include bike racing Road Rash-style, snowboarding and even a real-time strategy game! Quite frankly, many of them are worth playing on their own merits, and many are defiantly worth revisiting at the Golden Saucer.
It should come as no surprise however, that these additional games play so nicely, as the whole of FFVII runs more slickly than a polar bear at an oil spill. Whether you're wandering, watching or walloping (the three main activities in FFVII) everything is handled with the minimum of fuss. Even the fighting, which in other games can often be very tedious, is well done and departs from the traditional turn based system, incorporating what Square calls an 'active battle system'. This allows the combat function on a more active level and gives a better impression of melee combat than the usual rigid turn-based systems. All characters can use magic simply by acquiring materia, which then develops experience and increases in power automatically. Much easier than having to deal with tiresome spell books and the like.
FFVII has enough fine material to make for a great game, and once you add the spectacular production values to the equation you can begin to see why it has achieved instant classic status. With many RPGs and similar games, fine game mechanics are often let down by dodgy sprite based graphics which are commonly used due to constriction of memory space. But here, the use of three discs has provided enough space for a veritable orgy of polygons. Even the lowest level of graphics (the outdoor exploration scenes) are nicely done with a variety of camera angles. But every now and then, at major points in the game, you are rewarded with various rendered sequences, which are some of the best computer rendered artwork you'll ever see in a game.
Another good point about the graphics is how seamlessly the interactive and non-interactive segments are joined. It's not just the traditional "watch good graphics, play crap graphics." A high standard is maintained throughout the game. A fine example of this is the brain melting intro which transfers straight into the game without the slightest pause or drop in quality. If the graphics department at Square aren't already worn out from patting themselves on the back, they should do it some more!
The sound on FFVII is probably the weak link in the package, but it's still pretty damn good. Listening to any music for the sort of length of time that this game requires is going to become painful at some point or other, but in FFVII this incidence is much lower than normal. Some people may complain that with CD-technology the characters should speak rather than communicate through text windows, but with no voices provided you have more freedom to attach character to the people you meet. At least by avoiding speech, we in the English speaking world don't have to deal with bad voice acting from the Americans.
If you've never liked RPGs or adventure games, then you may not take too well to FFVII as it still has a lot of traditional RPG style action. If, on the other hand, you are more open minded, sit back and prepare for the cinematic odyssey of a lifetime. Take my case: Ten days after I was given the game I had completed the first disc, but things had happened. I lost all interest in household cleanliness, personal nutrition and pressing work commitments. I simply surrendered my life to the game, and my existence will have no other meaning until it's finished!
Overall: "An instant classic, Final Fantasy VII will change your perception of what video games are all about."
Overall score of 10 / 10