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Subject: "If this is all a dream, don't wake me up." rss

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Derek Green
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Perhaps no RPG has spawned a more devoted following than Final Fantasy VII. For gamers who came of age in the 90's, FFVII was an important generational experience. Shifting and optimizing your materia, chocobo breeding, and watching the feature-length destruction of a galaxy a few times in a single battle are all unforgettable experiences. Even gamers who played the game back in 1997 and haven't touched it since have not forgotten the basic plot and some of the story revelations. Even now, fan boys dream of Tifa's bosom and gamer girls swoon for Vincent Valentine. (The latter phenomenon I find hard to comprehend) For many reasons, not of all of which I can possibly cover in this review, people love Final Fantasy VII.



I was frozen in time, but I feel as if my time is just beginning...

Despite the renown of this game, I still feel that is incumbent upon me to explain the game's premise and basic mechanics, just in case there are a handful of uninitiated gamers out there who need to be convinced that this game is worth their time. I will try to refrain from ruining any plot points, although at this point I don't know if a game this well-known can truly be spoiled.

Our adventure begins in a world where an exploitative corporation, Shinra Inc., is harnessing Mako energy and doing severe damage to the planet. Cloud Strife, a mercenary who was once a member of Shinra's elite SOLDIER squad, has joined up with the terrorist group AVALANCHE, which wants to put the hurt on Shinra and save the planet. Cloud and his friends slowly but surely come to the realization that the true struggle for the fate of the planet is much bigger and that Cloud's past involvement with the legendary Sephiroth five years before holds the key. As Cloud wanders around, he meets other young adventurers who have their own personal reasons for wanting to hunt down Sephiroth, stop Shinra, and save the planet.



During the course of your journey, you will constantly acquire new weapons, materia, armor, and accessories. Materia are basically stones made of Mako energy which allow you to cast certain types of spells, summon creatures, or have certain special skills. Some spells like Fire and Cure can be combined with All materia to affect multiple persons or targets if the two materia are placed in linked slots. Different arms and armor contain different arrangements for your materia. Materia will level up with you as you gain experience and become more potent. Each weapon and armor type has a progression value, so you sometimes equip weak stuff if it gives you triple growth, at least if you like to grind it out a little. Many kinds of materia, such as the 2X Cut and the fabled Knights of the Round can only be acquired with extraordinary effort. Some materia, like the Alexander summon, can only be found in one area which you have to get the first time through; not every area can be revisited.

Every character has a specific weapon type. For Barrett, who is missing an arm, he has arm attachments which usually take the form of guns. Aeris/Aerith uses a bow staff, Tifa is a martial artist who uses variations on brass knuckles, Red XIII (Nanaki) attaches weapons to his claws since he is a wolf-like creature, Cid the pilot uses a spear (not sure why), Yuffie throws boomerangs, Cait Sith uses megaphones, Vincent Valentine uses guns, and Cloud uses a huge double-edged sword. Each character has an ultimate weapon that can only be acquired either by a side quest or by making sure to do things at the right time. Ultimate limit breaks are even more difficult to acquire. As for your other limit breaks up to level 3, you will gain new limit breaks as you acquire kills in general and kills using limit breaks.

When you gain a certain amount of battle experience, you level up and gain in health points, magic points, strength, agility (the ability to dodge), and magic potency. You also gain in Luck and Spirit, but I honestly don't know what difference either of those things actually makes. You can also add to character stats by acquiring drink items which add a point to a statistical category. Since Cloud is in your party for about 99% of the game, there is no reason to ever give one of those items to anyone else.



What I have shown you is reality. What you remember, that is the illusion.

The mechanics of Final Fantasy VII work just fine. The Materia system is not quite as intricate as the job system in Final Fantasy V and doesn't approach the levels of convolution achieved by Final Fantasy VIII, but that is part of its charm. You can pick it up and figure it out. There are advantages to knowing it well, but even a first-timer can figure out rational arrangements. These things really help move the game along and are part of what makes the game a masterpiece but there is something else which really brings the experience home.

Everything in the game ties together. In many great RPGs, including the venerable Final Fantasy IV, side quests are so secondary to the main plot that they might as well be demos for other games. Here, every side quest either contains useful items or ties things together by adding some little tidbit to the story of one of the characters or the world as a whole. Up until the point when you embark on the final battle, there are things left to be learned about all of your characters except for Cid, who is simply less interesting than the rest.

While not all of the dialogue is great, it is all very lively and there are few games which come anywhere near to being as quotable. Barrett, who is basically Mr. T with worse grammar, rarely says anything insightful, but always says it with brio and provides some comedic relief. Tifa and Aeris are somewhat stereotypical female video game characters in that they are beautiful, sweet, and supportive, but they are also strong and provide actual wisdom. Vincent Valentine is melodramatic, but poetic. Red XIII combines the wisdom of the ages with childish naivety. Cloud's lines are a bit all over the place, from the sarcastic to the depressed to the enlightening, but that is in keeping with his character and with his role as the guy you are supposed to identify with.



The game touches on a lot of themes, contains mini-games, and has a little something for everyone. It is mostly a fantasy game, but it has a sci-fi feel and deals with modern issues, such as environmentalism and corporations exercising political power. The social structure that we see in Midgar highlights issues of class in an unmistakable fashion. There is nothing pornographic, but there are lots of scenes with sexual overtones. There is a real-time strategy mini-game with surprising depth and chocobo racing which is better than some fully developed racing games. You can practice timing your shots on a basketball machine in an arcade. This game follows a group of flawed characters as they try to do the impossible. Along the way, you will experience a host of emotions with Cloud and company. At heart though, this game asks us to consider what love and friendship really are and what reality really is. Do our memories have to be strictly true to define us? These are the kinds of questions that the game poses and it does so in a way which is accessible.

You look like a bear wearing a marshmallow.

While the graphics are no longer impressive and are arguably less refined than some of the great 16-bit titles like Phantasy Star IV and Final Fantasy VI, the game has a distinctive artistic style which forms part of the experience. The characters are rendered in polygon blocks, which are somewhere between a cartoon style and the kind of emo look that conquered the Castlevania franchise after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The entire PlayStation era was a period of technological innovation, when designers really struggled to utilize 3D graphics in a way which wasn't excessively clunky and which didn't create visual confusion.

Like many titles of the time, including Resident Evil, the limitations of 3D rendering meant that hybrid techniques had to be used. A blocky polygon Cloud walks and runs around in backgrounds that are pre-rendered. On the one hand, this means that the Mako Reactors, the Temple of the Ancients, and Cosmo Canyon are visually striking environments. However, this limits camera angles severely and creates a lot of massively zoomed out scenes that are hard to navigate. Fortunately, you have the option of turning on arrows which will show all of the entrances and exits on the map. In most scenes, it is unnecessary to utilize this feature, but it is necessary sometimes.



For some story sequences, when text boxes and polygonal characters are not enough, we get cut scenes. These cut scenes were the most gorgeous of their day and while they are not as technically masterful as what came later, they are well-done and help move the narrative forward. The combination of these two formats creates a compelling way to tell the story which is effective and engrossing.

On the world map, you have something approaching true 3D; the mountains loom above you as you wander across the countryside or pass just under you as you fly overhead. The battle graphics are a direct development of the battle scenes from the SNES Final Fantasy titles. Your three fighters line up facing a monster or monsters and a background which corresponds with the place where you are journeying. The animations for magic attacks, limit breaks and summons are obviously not high-tech by today's standards, but they are still unique and interesting. If you want to see something awesome, summon Bahamut-ZERO or have Cloud unleash his Omnislash.

I been here since the beginnin', an' I still don't know what the hell's goin' on.

Final Fantasy VII's visuals were brilliant at the time and still striking in its own fashion today, but one aspect which has held up without qualification is the music. While the sound effects are quite good, it is the music which really stills the show. Each of the major area sounds is striking and memorable. Perhaps no song is more catchy or memorable than the boss song, which you'll hear a bunch of times in the course of three discs. The song perfectly conveys the frantic pace of battle and the stakes, as well as the need to make appropriate decisions to dodge death. The song "Underneath the Rotting Pizza" which is employed for the Sector 5 slums and at various other times in the game, is one of the catchiest video game tunes of all time and perfectly matches any number of environments in Final Fantasy VII. While there are a lot of games with killer soundtracks, Final Fantasy VII's tracks are among the best of all time.



Before concluding, I must register a couple of minor complaints about the game. In the North American release, Emerald and Ruby Weapon were added. These two bosses are gratuitously difficult and you have to have an absolute and total mastery of the materia system to stand a snowball's chance in hell at victory. The chocobo breeding and racing ordeal that you have to go through to get a gold chocobo takes too long and is too subject to luck, not to mention so expensive that it necessitates several hours of grinding to raise the necessary funds. However, since these aspects of the game are optional and were tacked on for the North American market, I'm not going to judge this too harshly.

I wasn't pursuing Sephiroth; I was being summoned by him.

The original Final Fantasy was supposed to be Hironobu Sakaguchi's last hurrah in gaming. Fortunately, the game was a smash hit and launched a franchise. Though adding numbers to the words "Final Fantasy" creates titles which do not necessarily make sense, the games themselves have always been good. In the case of Final Fantasy VII, it is truly great. The game provides variety, has no major flaws, and makes you think and feel in ways that video games almost never do. Even after 17 years, this game is as good as it was when it was first released in 1997. Most 60 hour RPGs are impossible to justify as games to replay, but in the case of Final Fantasy VII, once a few years have passed, one would have to have a considerable backlog of new games to play to justify NOT running through this one at least once, twice, or even thrice more. To play Final Fantasy VII is to be human.

Graphics Rating- 14/15
Sound and Music Rating- 15/15
Immersion and Extras Rating- 15/15
Controls Rating- 24/25
Game Play Rating- 30/30


Overall Rating- 98/100

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Simon Woodward
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Re: "If this is all a dream don't wake me up."
Maybe you could make the pictures bigger?
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Derek Green
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Re: "If this is all a dream don't wake me up."
Quote:
Maybe you could make the pictures bigger?


I'm not sure how to adjust the size of images.
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☆ ✧ ☆ ✧ ☆
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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Re: "If this is all a dream don't wake me up."
When you open an image you will typically see several options for how it will be displayed.

In the case of the Aeris image you have: square, small, medium and original.

If you write the size you prefer after the image ID number when adding a geek image, the geek image will appear that size in the text (or have a magnifying glass symbol that the reader can easily use to adjust to that size).

So for this image for example



if you want it in the largest size available you would insert "original" after the image ID number like this.



And it will look like this.

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Derek Green
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Thanks, frumpish! I think that it looks better with larger images.
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Ian Kelly
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thucydides2004 wrote:
Cid the pilot uses a spear (not sure why)


Can't have a Final Fantasy game without a dragoon in it somewhere, is why.
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Chris
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Or a Cid, or an airship, for that matter.
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Seth Brown
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ColdFrog wrote:
Or a Cid, or an airship, for that matter.


And Chocobos! And I think FFVII was the most Chocoboful of them all, with the racing and breeding.

Anyway, fantastic review.
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Железный комиссар
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Minor edit:

The two optional super-bosses are Emerald Weapon and Ruby Weapon.

Diamond Weapon is part of the plot.
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