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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Final Thoughts on Final Fantasy VII














Last night I finished playing Final Fantasy VII, so I can now confirm my prejudice that FF7 is overrated. The game itself is decent, but it didn't impress me nearly as much as some other RPGs of that era. Chrono Trigger (released a couple of years prior) and Fallout (released later that year), are both better games in my opinion, and many people believe Final Fantasy VI to be superior to VII. It seems to me like FF7's success is primarily a result of the times, of being perhaps the first major RPG on the PlayStation and, for many young gamers, their first RPG.

After numerous failed attempts at playing this game, I mentioned in my first impressions article that, after finally finishing the first disc, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was enjoying FF7. Unfortunately, as the game progressed, I started to grow weary of it, and the game stopped impressing me. There was still a ton of stuff left to do in the game (defeating the various Weapons, collecting final limit breakers and ultimate weapons, etc), but I was ready to be done with it and just pressed to the end. So here are my thoughts on the second half of Final Fantasy VII.

The main complaint I had with disc one was that so much of the plot amounted to just following Sephiroth's trail to stop him from reaching the promised land and doing .... something .... for some reason. It wasn't really clear until you meet him later and he actually explains his plan, so up until that point I was just pushing forward on the presumption that Seth (as I like to call him) is the bad guy and that whatever he's planning to do with the promised land (whatever that may be) would be bad for the planet, and that it's my civic duty as the protagonist to do whatever is necessary to advance the plot so I can get to the end of the game.


Needless to say, that's not a very compelling motivation, and I found it kind of difficult to care about saving the planet from some kind of theoretical threat. Well I found it even harder to care in disc two when the party's motivations clashed with my own. So Seth has summoned Meteor and now basically everyone's gonna die, unless Meteor is stopped. Shinra's plan is to collect Huge Materia and send it up on a rocket to destroy the meteor, and for some reason the party is quick to blurt out "We can't let Shinra get their hands on the Huge Materia," and then they spend the next ten or so hours of the game rushing to beat Shinra to the Huge Materia.

But it didn't seem to me like Cloud and company had a better plan for dealing with Meteor (or any plan at all). From what I can recall, all they knew was that Aeris planned to use White Materia to counter the Black Materia, but as far as the party knew, that plan failed when she died, and they had no idea where to find the White Materia or if they could even use it in the way she was intending (her being an Ancient and what not). So it seems to me like the party is against Shinra just because they're "the bad guys," even though they share the same goal of stopping Meteor. I feel like the story would've been much more interesting if they decided to work together at that point, or at the very least if they gave the party clearer reasons for opposing Shinra.

Meanwhile, I lost interest with Sephiroth as a villain. He was kind of interesting in the first half of the game as you learned his backstory, but then in the second half (when he actually becomes the villain) he basically goes off screen and does nothing the whole time. I don't really understand why he's so popular. Killing Aeris and messing with Cloud's mind are both pretty badass, but his angst over Jenova often made him sound like a whiny bitch who otherwise exhibits generic super-strength. I get the feeling most Sephiroth fanboys just have a man crush on how he looks, coupled with the fact that he's the villain from their most nostalgic RPG. I didn't feel it, I was just kind of underwhelmed by Sephiroth towards the end.


Another reason I grew kind of bored with the game throughout the second half was the relative lack of new environments. Part of the fun in games like these is discovering new places and talking to new people, but after the Mideel sequence where Cloud and Tifa fall into the lifestream, there really aren't any new places to visit. It's nice that the game has you return to familiar environments, because that emphasizes their permanence in the world (it's not like you're just sequentially going from town to town and each town becomes obsolete afterwards), but a few more new environments would've helped spice things up a bit.

Besides that, I felt like the whole game was way too easy. Except for the very beginning, I never felt challenged, and I never went out of my way grinding to high levels or anything. It seemed that by being thorough in my exploration I naturally became over-leveled and nothing posed much of a threat. Near the end, there was still plenty of end-game content to go after, in terms of unlocking each character's final weapon and final limit breaker, but I didn't feel like any of that was necessary to beat the game. It felt like going after that stuff would've just been a waste of time, and indeed, I made it through the third disc without any problems as I was.

Advent Children kind of sucked, too.

Then you've got all the typos. My god the typos. This might be the worst translation I've ever seen in a major game before, second only to Pathologic. "Do you want to keep going? Off course!" "Beacause you are a puppet!" It seemed like every fifth line of dialogue I was spotting a spelling error or some other kind of typographical error. Then you've got the plot twists that serve no purpose besides to convolute the plot while adding nothing to it. I mean, does it really matter that Hojo is Sephiroth's father? Everyone reacts in shock and surprise, but I was like "whatever." That one in particular feels like it was forced in at the last second just for the sake of drama.

In the grand scheme of things, Final Fantasy VII is a very important game. I think it deserves the legacy it's left behind, because it was a pretty good game for its time and certainly had a major impact on the PlayStation. But compared to other RPGs of the time, I find it kind of boring and underwhelming. Final Fantasy VII is definitely overrated, but that's not inherently a bad thing. If nothing else, I now feel compelled to play FFVI to see how it compares to VII.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent review, sums up most of the problems with Final Fantasy VII. The one problem that I feel you should have touched on is the extremely inane combat - you can win the game just by mashing the circle button. There's a lot of depth there, but never a reason to use any of it. This, more than anything, makes Final Fantasy VII (and 99.99% of JRPGs) a chore to play - the combat is utterly braindead and snore-inducing.
    You don't need to check out Final Fantasy VI - same affair, just in 2D. It's a little better, but still not very good due to its JRPG trappings. If you want to play a JRPG and actually enjoy it, play Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne instead - it's the one JRPG that I can actually call great due to masterful atmosphere, an actual emphasis on making the turn-based battles as memorable as possible, and an actual challenge. It avoids most of the stupid things about the genre, making it the one JRPG that I can recommend without a word of warning.

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  2. That's a very good point about the combat. I got through the entire game by basically spamming physical attacks (with occasional heals between fights, and occasional buffs like haste or wall against bosses). I didn't find much use for the magic system at all, and stuck almost entirely to independent stat-boosting materia.

    I had a roommate a few years ago who was real big into JRPGs, and Nocturne was one of the games he strongly recommended, along with Shadow Hearts and Persona 3. I own all three and intend to play them someday, but who knows when that will be.

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    1. The thing that makes Final Fantasy VII's combat so awful is, hilariously enough, Materia. Without Materia, all the characters play in virtually the same way. They have similar stat growths and all the limit breaks are just different variations upon the same gimmick. The only character that's remotely different from the others is Aeris, and we all know how that ended up. The sad thing, then, is that the developers obviously underestimated Materia and overestimated magic. Almost every stat-based Materia is broken in one way or another, and almost every magic-based Materia is useless unless it has extra perks. Basically, you just end up mashing Circle and waiting for a limit break. Utterly inexcusable from a team that supposedly mastered the production of this type of game.

      The other big problem was the active-time battle system. It worked in Chrono Trigger, and Chrono Trigger only. Japanese RPGs at large, especially the Final Fantasy series, are abstract games. What you see and do is just a summarization of the actual events of the story. Final Fantasy VII is especially abstract in many aspects, and putting in active-time battles just breaks it from a philosophical standpoint.

      I would only recommend Persona 3 if you're THAT interested in how this genre can pull itself out of the mud. It points to a clear direction out, but unfortunately, it's also riddled with problems, mainly that the first and last ten hours are incredible and the sixty-some hours in between feel like inane filler more than anything else. I barely remember Shadow Hearts at all, and that isn't a good sign. Nocturne, as I said before, is the only JRPG I can honestly recommend, as it's the only one hasn't become unplayable to me since I became disillusioned with the genre a few years ago.

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  3. I think the success of Final Fantasy 7 was ultimately a baleful influence on the RPG genre. The game itself, while still an RPG, eschews many common features to RPGs, such as character customisation. In many ways, it's more like an adventure game than an RPG (an RPG-lite, if you will)

    As a result, a whole generation of gamers grew up thinking that *this* was representative what an RPG was. They had no experience with true RPGs of the time, like Baldur's Gate, Fallout, Icewind Dale, or Planescape: Torment, because those titles were released only on the PC. If they ever played any of those titles, they'd likely dislike them strongly, declaring them to be "Outdated! Archaic! Stupid old crap!" So essentially, you've got an entire breed of gamers that wants the badge of "RPG gamer" because they liked FF7, but actually hate the gameplay of the most prominent examples of the genre. They think that a story that dialogue and a story takes longer than the back of the box to tell makes something an RPG.

    Naturally, several companies jumped on this bandwagon, notably BioWare and Bethesda. Thanks to the success of games like FF7, they've realised that slapping the label "RPG" on a game can get a lot more sales. So now we have games like Oblivion and Mass Effect 2, which are really just an adventure game and a shooter respectively, being branded as RPGs, when they lacked nearly all the necessary features of the genre. And once again, you've got scores of people who think that these are what RPGs are, and that anything else is just "stupid old crap." What they really want is a shooter or action/adventure game with more narrative interaction than "A space marine is you! Kill everything that isn't you!", not an RPG.

    Bethesda is the worst offender in this regard. I suspect Bethesda actually hates RPGs, as evidenced by their continued removal of anything that resembles an RPG mechanic, along with the inclusion of an NPC (M'aiq the Liar) who serves no purpose but to insult players who complain about it.

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    1. You know what is a JRPG, kiddo? Sense like you just know about WRPGs. Let me explain. In JRPG, there's no such thing as character customization and dialogue trees. Your character is predefined. There is exceptions(job systems, like FF III and V) but that's the rule.

      Now, seriously...HELL, WHERE YOU HAVE BE THE LAST 27 YEARS? By the love of Vivi Orunitia, YOU KNOW DRAGON QUEST MOTHERFUCKER? AND FINAL FANTASY VII IS A TRUE RPG, YOU MISERABLE SON OF A BITCH!

      PS: Sorry, if I offended you, but PLEASE, stop using "true RPG". You sound so immature and arrogant. Your asshole.

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    2. The meaning of "RPG" is "role-playing game." It is defined by your ability to play the role you want to. In the majority of JRPGs, you have few to no choices, and fewer still which matter at all, thus negating any possibility of actual role-playing. The reason? In the late 70's and early 80's, developers couldn't exactly make rich, open role-playing experiences on computers, so instead they mimicked the combat systems and dungeons of Dungeons & Dragons and games like that. These just happened to reach Japan before D&D and other tabletop RPGs. Thus, while Westerners based their concept of role-playing video games on truly open and free tabletop RPGs, the Japanese based their concept of role-playing video games on Akalabeth, Ultima and Wizardry, early and crude attempts to replicate the combat of D&D rather than the true essence, which is to be able to play the character you want to. "JRPG" is not an acronym, it's a meaningless jumble of letters that defines barely interactive pieces of crap that are sold as games, where all you do is watch horrible cutscenes and direct boring battles. Games that fall under the "JRPG" category have nothing to do with role-playing, and Dr. Atomic's point, though based on a lack of understanding of JRPGs, is still entirely valid. As a game, Final Fantasy VII is shit. As a role-playing game, it's unforgivable.

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    3. I see....Someone here is a purist. Well, obviously can't be such thing as peace between us so, fuck you and goodbye.
      "FF VII is shit"...Boy, this days I hear every bullshit that nobody can believe.

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  4. Funny. Final Fantasy VI is still more BROKEN and easy.

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