Genre: Role-Playing Game
Original Release: January 31, 1997
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
Played On: Windows
With the first episode of the Final Fantasy VII Remake being approximately ten days from its launch at the time of writing, I figured that now would be as good a time as any to dive into the original and really think over what I like and dislike about it so that I can appreciate the changes made for the modern version.
I remember my brother coming home one day with Final Fantasy VII in hand, and popping it into my PlayStation. Everything looked so good for the time. At least the cutscenes did. As you can see in the above picture, the field models were more than a little blocky. But you know something? Looking at it today, that just adds charm and I can appreciate it a little more now that I understand more about memory limitations of the time.
Anyway, a lot of people around my age have fond memories of Final Fantasy VII, and why wouldn’t they? We basically grew up with it. The materia system, the limit breaks, chocobo racing and breeding, there are so many fond memories and there was a fair amount of variety for a PSX game from 1997.
I don’t want to dive too far into the story because I know there are some people out there who haven’t played the original and the remake is going to be their first real exposure, but let me paint a picture of the opening:
Midgar, a city that feeds on the planet’s lifeforce known in-universe as Mako energy. You and a ragtag band of eco-terrorists known as AVALANCHE board a train bound for the upper tiers of Midgar to bomb Mako Reactor #1. At the start, it’s just you in control of Cloud, a mercenary and ex-member of the Shinra Electric Power Company’s elite troops known as SOLDIER, as you fight your way through the security between you and your target. Before long, you’re joined by Barret, a bear of a man with a gun grafted to his right arm in place of where his hand should be. Together, you and the rest of AVALANCHE make your way inside the #1 reactor and ultimately destroy it, but not without being accosted by security mechs.
It’s a fantastic start to a fantastic game. Newcomers may be turned off by the Active Time Battle (ATB) system and (primarily) random encounter style of combat, but those of us who grew up with them will feel right at home. Either opinion is completely valid, really. One of my sisters isn’t a fan of the ATB/random encounter system and prefers more real-time combat and enemies on the screen right away or in set locations a la Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy XV, and that’s totally alright! I like both, and each has their own benefits and drawbacks, but I digress.
Final Fantasy VII was good when it came out in 1997, and it still is. It’s a little dated, but that’s not a bad thing. Nothing is going to age perfectly, but the core experience is timeless. It’s definitely not perfect though. In fact, a lot of the game feels a bit like a grind.
Let’s take a moment and talk about the limit break system. During combat, you build up a limit meter by taking damage. I don’t know the exact ratio, but what level of limit skill you’re using definitely factors into it, among other things. There are a grand total of seven limit skills per character (with two exceptions), split into four levels. Each character starts with one limit skill, and unlocking the next just requires using that skill a number of times. To unlock the first limit skill of the next level, each character needs to deal the killing blow to a set number of enemies. The final limit skill for each character (with the exception of one character) is taught through an item you can find somewhere in the world. Some are dropped by bosses. Others are given by NPCs after certain criteria are met. But there’s one limit skill in particular that I want to talk about: Omnislash.
Cloud’s final limit break is probably the hardest to obtain of any of them. You need to buy it from the battle square in the Gold Saucer for a grand total of 51,200 BP (reduced to 32,000 later), which can only be earned by fighting and winning in the battle square’s arena. Any losses in the arena will net you zero BP for that run, and each run costs 10 GP, which can only be earned by playing games or betting on chocobo races. No matter what you do, it’s going to take time. And leaving the battle square to go elsewhere resets your stored BP to zero.
Despite all of this, with the right preparation it is entirely possible and fairly easy to get Omnislash before you hit a lot of the major story beats on the first disc of three. In fact, despite the higher cost, it’s probably a better idea to get Omnislash as soon as you can. The cost may be reduced later, but there’s an added risk that works against the player, and its name is Ghost Ship. The Ghost Ship has an ability called Goannai that immediately ejects a random character from battle. And in one-on-one situations that’s an automatic loss. On top of that, its AI is coded in such a way that it’s entirely possible to end up being ejected on its first turn through no fault of your own, resulting in a wasted run.
Despite all of this, should you still get Omnislash? Yes. It looks cool, it does a lot of damage, and it’s just so very fitting. But again, I would personally recommend getting it sooner rather than later.
I wish I could say more about the story of the game, I really do. But once again I want people to be able to experience it as fresh as possible in a week’s time. And unfortunately, much like Persona 5, Final Fantasy VII doesn’t exactly lend itself to discussing the story without spoiling things. You’ll feel things, you’ll be a little confused (due partly to the original localization, though that was fixed a little with the PC port), and you may or may not spend a lot of time grinding. It’s not absolutely necessary to do so, but if you want to essentially break the game, you’re going to be at it for a while.
I’m honestly going to recommend Final Fantasy VII to anyone who’s curious. I have fun going back to it every couple of years, and it still holds up really well, despite the technical limitations of the PSX. You have your pick of systems now that it’s available on so many platforms, so if you can find it for a good price, give it a try! Though I will say that I ran into a few audio issues with the PC port. A lot of them were resolved by switching from speakers to headphones, but there were times that I didn’t hear things that I should have, even with headphones on. If that’s not a concern for you, then by all means go for the PC port. It’s definitely cheaper than a physical copy these days.
For real though, I understand why so many people love Final Fantasy VII as much as they do. It’s not my absolute favorite in the series (that would probably be VI, followed closely by IX), but it holds a very special place in my heart as the first Final Fantasy game I ever beat. The characters feel like family to me, maybe more than any of the others.