Embark on a journey to the unforgettable world of Final Fantasy VII, a timeless classic that has left an indelible mark on the realm of role-playing games. In this review, I will delve deep into the heart of this iconic title, exploring its battle system, storytelling prowess, music, art, characters, and much more. Join me as we traverse the vast landscapes of Gaia, confront Sephiroth's enigmatic presence, and bask in the glory of Nobuo Uematsu's unforgettable musical compositions. Whether you're a devoted fan or a newcomer to the world of Final Fantasy, this review promises to uncover the essence of what makes this game a beloved legend in the RPG genre. So, grab your Buster Sword and prepare to dive into the complex, thrilling, and occasionally polarizing world of Final Fantasy VII in today's RPG Ranked article... a Final Fantasy VII Review: Most people's favorite, but definitely not mine.
Battle System - 9
This is not quite my favorite battle system in the series, but it comes close! I love the battle graphics in this game, and the fantastic music and visuals make everything about these battles feel more epic and grand than almost any other battles I've ever played in my gaming career. The gunshots, the battle animations, the Limit Breaks, the grandeur of every fight, the Shield gauges... everything. This battle system never gets old. Ever. Very few games can grip me with random encounters this well! While I will admit that this is just another Final Fantasy ATB system, it is the pinnacle of what the ATB system can be. It is so phenomenally presented... while I don't adore this game nearly as much as other people do, I can agree that it has some of the most engaging RPG combat I've ever played. And all that wasn't mentioning anything about the Materia system, one of the most outstanding customization systems ever to grace an RPG. In summary, this battle system is perfect but isn't as fun or innovative as other RPG battle systems (like Grandia II or Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door).
Story - 8
Two hot takes right out of the gate: 1) this plot is a little overstuffed without enough breathing room to take the time to take it all in, and 2) Sephiroth is a mediocre villain. First of all, the story is occasionally incredibly convoluted and confusing for people unfamiliar with the lore. While much of this can be chalked up to the questionable translation, there are times when a little too much is happening without enough explanation for first-time players. The game has an expansive and intricate world, but it doesn't do a great job of immersing the player in the world's lore. On top of this, certain plot twists are a little rushed and forced, and the dialogue and writing are incredibly clunky due to localization issues. On top of this, I had a hard time liking Sephiroth as a villain outside of his phenomenal design. Maybe it was the extreme hype giving me much too high of expectations, but I thought he was rather mediocre, especially compared to Final Fantasy VI's Kefka, Final Fantasy VIII's Edea, and, dare I say, Emperor Mateus and Ardyn from Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy XV, respectively. While I will be hunted down with torches and pitchforks and end up dead on the side of the road for saying this, I'm just being honest here. While he is enigmatic, he is almost enigmatic to a fault, being more of a looming threat than an actually developed character. While some may like this prospect, it wasn't for me, and I didn't feel like Sephiroth was an actual threat for most of the game. I'd instead have focused more on taking down the Shinra Corporation because I thought they were awesome, but let's be honest, that would not work in this game's plot. But hey, a man can dream. But I digress. Sephiroth lacks depth, and his motivations are very one-note and unintriguing. I never felt compelled to take him down, nor did I feel like he was summoning a Meteor to kill the world. Enough ranting; let's get into the positives of this remarkable story.
Final Fantasy VII is considered one of the best RPGs of all time for a reason, and its story is a significant contributing factor to that fact. It is compelling and emotionally resonant. It has an intricate world with a diverse cast of characters, each with unique backgrounds and motivations. The central plot revolves around Cloud's involvement with the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE as they oppose the corrupt Shina Electric Power Company. The story takes players on a journey filled with unexpected twists, betrayals, and revelations, keeping them engaged and invested in the character's fates. Some complex themes are here, such as environmentalism, identity, and the consequences of unchecked ambition. This game shows the results of actions and the impact of industrialization on the planet. It delves into the psychological struggles of its characters. As much as Sephiroth is not that great, and this story becomes needlessly confusing at times, there are so many highlights here that I wish I could justify giving it a higher score. But I cannot; for that, this category scores an 8.
Music - 10
It's my third favorite soundtrack in the series behind Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy III; I adore this soundtrack so much! From Rufus's Welcoming Ceremony, a cheerful and lively that captures the essence of the bustling coastal city with its jaunty rhythm to the Gold Saucer theme, a playful and lively theme that uses its bouncy rhythm to convey the unique and extravagant amusement park theme; from the Jenova theme, that perfectly captures the sense of foreboding and dread of battle through its unsettling and dissonant melody, to the battle theme, one of the best battle themes ever written for any RPG; from Cosmo Canyon, a heartfelt and contemplative piece of music that reflects the tranquil and spiritual nature of the area, to the Main Theme, a sweeping orchestral theme that captures the grandeur and epic scope of a game's narrative; from Tifa's Theme, a mellow and beautiful tune that conveys a sense of warmth, nostalgia and melancholy, to Aeris's Theme, a very iconic theme that captures a haunting essence of purity, beauty, grace, and delicacy; from One-Winged Angel, a grandiose final battle theme that has transcended even the RPG genre into the mainstream, to Cid's Theme, perhaps my favorite song in the series that is spirited, energetic, and quite literally one of the most epic songs ever composed. Overall, this game's music is phenomenal and perfect, and it deserves a score of 10 out of 10.
Art & Graphics - 9
I won't pretend for two seconds that the graphics in Final Fantasy VII are objectively good. There's a reason this polygon art style is not a mainstay in graphics to this day. However, there's a certain charm to this absurd graphical style with weird polygons and PNG backgrounds. It's literally so charming, no matter how strange it looks. Also, as I said earlier, the graphics look phenomenal in battle and have this sort of epicness, so that was great. I wouldn't even be opposed to having more modern RPGs take inspiration from this quirky look because, quite frankly, it is more timeless than, say, the graphics in the original versions of Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy X, or Final Fantasy XI. I'm not defending these graphics or saying they are objectively impressive, but they have a vibe akin to Paper Mario 64... there's much better these days. However, there's still nothing that can replace these traditional graphics.
Characters - 8
Okay, I'll get it out of the way: Yuffie and Cait Sith annoy me, and Sephiroth is mediocre, and that's why this category only scores an 8. However, I still like these three characters, so I mean, I'm not complaining that much. I digress. Let's talk about the good. There's Cloud, the ever-iconic JRPG protagonist who is complex, courageous, and loyal. There's Barret, the swearing son of a gun who is also an amazing dad with a great moral compass. There's Tifa, Cloud's bestie that is resilient through basically everything. There's Aeris, the flower girl, who's kind, enigmatic, and spiritual. There's Cait Sith, a zany (albeit annoying) comic relief character that actually has a surprising amount of late-game plot depth. There's Yuffie, a beloved ninja who is playful, energetic, and by the words of Don Corneo, saucy. Personally, I don't care for her, but hey, that's a me problem. There's Red XIII, a wise, contemplative, and scarred experiment-gone-wrong that really encapsulates the corporate totalitarianism of the Shina Company. And of course, Cid, the crochety old man who wants to build a freaking rocketship. Love this guy. Overall, the main character cast in this game is just so good, but as aforementioned, I wasn't loving Sephiroth as a villain and, quite frankly, Yuffie and Cait Sith don't really do it for me. I would also talk about the Shinra Company here, but they are more of an entity and less of characters, so, yeah. While this isn't my favorite Final Fantasy cast by any means, it is definitely one of the best.
Sidquests - 8
There are some sick sidequests in this game. I'm knocking off two points for how much I hate all the Chocobo garbage in this game (I get the love, but Final Fantasy IX did this so much better). I also don't love the Wutai sidequests, but that is solely my problem, so I didn't knock any points off for that, don't you worry. But I digress. From getting all the awesome multiple weapons to two bonus playable characters to getting the Limit Breaks to the battle arena to the Gold Saucer, mastering the Materia and tracking down the Kalm Traveler, to killing the 3 WEAPON superbosses? There are just so many fun and meaningful sidequests here. I can't say these are perfect because, quite frankly, locking the best Materia in the game behind an awful Chocobo sidequest is not for me. Hey, at least it isn't as bad as Final Fantasy X, I'll say that.
Dungeons - 5
I know this will be controversial, but outside of Midgar, I found most locations in this game dull or even outright bad. I'll go from best to worst here to prove my biased point. Great Glacier? One of the worst Final Fantasy dungeons of all time, and quite frankly, one of the worst RPG dungeons of all time... a dungeon that slows the middle portion of Final Fantasy VII to a dreadful halt... a halt even worse than the middle section of Final Fantasy II. Mythril Mine and Corel Valley Cave? Absolutely forgettable; I forgot these two locations even existed. The Ancient Forest? It's an entirely mediocre dungeon that gets you no more than a couple of treasure chests. The Underwater Reactor? It's an excellent concept that looks nice, but nothing stands out here in the end. Gaea's Cliff? Eh. It exists. Train Graveyard? It's an excellent concept but does everything worse than Final Fantasy V's Ship Graveyard. Sunken Gelnika? A submarine dungeon is relatively cool, but this could have been more utilized in the grand scheme. Corel Prison? It's like Zelda's Lost Woods, but even more drab and dull. Whirlwind Maze? All I remember about this place is you get a Summon Materia. Nothing else stood out except for the exciting aesthetic. Cave of the Gi? The dungeon is good at the end because the story is excellent, but this is just another boring Final Fantasy VII cave. Northern Cave? Of all the Final Fantasy games I've played, this is the worst final dungeon in the series. Another generic Final Fantasy VII cave being the final dungeon? That isn't very pleasant.
Alright. Those were all the locations I genuinely did not like. Yes, I wasn't even at the mediocre ones yet. Shoot me dead and throw my body in a river, but this is my opinion. Don't worry; I'm not going to hypnotize you and convince you that Final Fantasy VII isn't a perfect masterpiece of a game. But I digress. Both Mako Reactors were awesome dungeons, sporting a fantastic sense of fun and scope that started the game with an incredible bang. The Temple of the Ancients has unique puzzles, bosses, and insane story beats! Shinra Mansion has insane cutscenes with Sephiroth, a boss, and a secret character. Mount Nibel is a location with basically all the best story cutscenes of the entire game packed into it... and it is a superb location in and of itself. And, of course, the Shinra Headquarters is my favorite dungeon in the Final Fantasy series, with so many bosses, floors, and intense moments. Honestly, if Final Fantasy VII stayed as suave as it was during the Midgar portions of this game, I assure you that it would be my favorite game in the series! And that's why I am so excited to play Remake (yes, I'm waiting for all three parts to binge them all at once and have the best life ever). I love a few locations in this game but hate the rest. I'd give this a 4 because it is so split for me, but I'm giving it a 5 because Shinra Headquarters is just that good.
Quality of Life - 5
I'm sorry to say it, but the quality of life in this game is pretty horrible. I'll start with the small and get to the big. Firstly, seeing the path in a town or dungeon can be challenging with how the backgrounds are rendered. While this is not an issue for returning players, new players may have difficulty navigating dungeons, which is incredibly frustrating. Secondly is the horrendous descriptions of items and such. While most Final Fantasy games give discrete information about their items, Final Fantasy VII is very vague due to its translation. While this adds charm to the game, it is pretty awful. Speaking of its translation, that's one of this game's most significant issues. While every other Final Fantasy game has excellent translations (even if they only came through remasters or advanced ports), this game never has a well-translated version. This makes for some really bizarre dialogue, which is fun but frustrating. There are also a few things that could be improved here. For example, the Magic Defense stat doesn't work. The Save Crystal glitch can ruin a player's save. Darkness doesn't even work against enemies because they don't actually "physically attack." You can miss important Materia like Ultima without much of a heads-up. And worst of all, due to an iconic plot twist, one of your playable characters leaves the party, which can be a big issue for anyone who had spent all the time leveling her up. This game also hard-locked my brother out of continuing the game because Cait Sith just disappeared during the Gold Saucer portion of the game. He pulled up ten walkthroughs, following them beat-for-beat, but Cait Sith was just gone. The game had a completely unavoidable game-breaking glitch. While that doesn't happen to many, literally stopping a player from playing the game is absolutely horrible. Overall, this game is horribly broken in many ways, and giving it a 5.5 is generous at best. As much as this is a lovely game, it is not a well-polished game.
Customization System - 10
Materia is hands down one of the best things to grace gaming, even if I'm not a huge Final Fantasy VII fan. This system is incredible! You can make many fun and diverse combinations here with Magic, Summon, Command, Support, and Independent Materia. Want to use Counterattack, Magic Counter, Counter, and Cover? You can easily get hit by an enemy and then combo Deathblow, Knights of the Round, and a physical attack. All in one round! Want to never die? Use Final Attack and Phoenix and/or Full-Life. I assure you, you'll be invincible. Want to kill every enemy in one hit? Use Added Effect and a Destruct Materia. Want to dish out absurd amounts of magic damage with your best spell? Duplicate that Materia through mastery and connect them to MP Turbo and Quadra Magic, respectively. Want to use Cover, Long Range, Counterattack, HP Plus, and multiple Added Effect Materia for each element? You can be an insanely overpowered tank. Overall, the possibilities are pretty endless, and if a modern game were to use a similar system (maybe even with three or four linked together?)? That'd be insane and quite easily could be the best RPG customization system of all time, especially since this is already one of the best.
Fun Factor: 8
Overall Score: 80%
Letter Score: A
In conclusion, Final Fantasy VII is a game that elicits both admiration and frustration, offering a mix of remarkable strengths and noticeable flaws. It remains a classic RPG that has left an indelible mark on gaming. Its flaws are evident, but its strengths, from the epic battles to the unforgettable music, continue to make it a cherished and iconic title in the genre. Whether you're a die-hard fan or a newcomer to the world of Final Fantasy, this game is an essential part of the RPG pantheon, deserving of its place in gaming history. However, as much as it is an essential RPG experience, it isn't my favorite game in the series, and it didn't resonate with me nearly as much as it did for so many others. I love what it does and wish I could love it as much as everyone else. Nonetheless, that is not the case, and I have a hard time viewing it as the best RPG of all time, like so many others.
Interested in Final Fantasy VII or its various sequels, prequels, remakes, and whatever the heck else there is these days? Check out some of the links below to get those games and support our site! There's a whole lot of them, but they are all worth a playthrough!
Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
Final Fantasy VII (PS1, renewed)
Final Fantasy VII (Switch)
Final Fantasy VII (Remake)
Final Fantasy VII (Remake Integrade)
Final Fantasy VII (Rebirth)
Final Fantasy VII (Rebirth Deluxe)
Final Fantasy VII (Crisis Core)
Final Fantasy VII (Crisis Core Reunion)
Final Fantasy VII (Dirge of Cerberus)
Primary Version: Final Fantasy VII (PS1)