Is Final Fantasy VII Really The Best JRPG Ever?

Final Fantasy VII

I hear this often: Final Fantasy VII is the greatest RPG of all time. Perhaps taking off the rose-coloured glasses would help put things in perspective (scary, I know…)

[UPDATE SEPT 7,  2015]: As we all know by now, we’re actually getting a remake of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 4. I added the Final Fantasy VII Remake video to the Should it Get a Remake? section near the end of the article. Pretty sweet we’re getting a remake after all these years!

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Japanese RPGs were such a niche back in the day (well, technically they still are, but they were even more so back then). If you said that you played, say, Secret of Mana or Earthbound, you’d probably get a quizzical look from your buddy. It just wasn’t cool or popular to be into JRPGs at the time.

Then on September 3, 1997, this one lil’ game came along in North America and changed things around for everyone:

Final Fantasy VII.

This game mesmerized folks with its graphics, music, story, spikey-haired characters and CGI. Every second commercial that aired on TV was Final Fantasy VII. People saw the cut scenes in the commercials and thought they kicked ass. Suddenly, it was popular to like JRPGs… as long as you liked Final Fantasy VII.

I remember a few weeks after FFVII was released, a bunch of my buddies and I thought it would be cool if we could rent it and try it out. But none of us had a PlayStation at the time. So one friend (or rather, his folks) went to the rental store and rented both a PlayStation and a copy of the hard-to-get Final Fantasy VII. There was a problem: we didn’t have a memory card to save the game. We got as far as we could until it got late and had to leave, but we were allowed to come back the next day. When we all went back, our buddy had already played through the beginning of the game up ‘til the part we left off and left the console on until the rest of us got there to play. It was one of the more memorable weekends we had.

For Christmas that year, my mom gave me a PlayStation and a memory card, and my dad (who was workin’ overseas) sent a copy of Final Fantasy VII. So the rest of Christmas vacation was set for me.

Final Fantasy VII - Death of Aeris

I was traumatized by this. No joke.

I stayed up all night playing it. And the next day. And I cried my eyes out when Aeris died, only to stop when I lost Cloud. And stayed up more. And cussed at the TV when I accidentally bumped into Emerald Weapon underwater and got my ass handed to me.

After all that agony and being hocked up on adrenaline, I finished FFVII December 31st at noon. And I played it over and over again for months until I got my hands on more games.

Apologises for the rant, but I wanted to give you guys a bit of background on my relationship with the game and recognise that I’m not coming into this with a heaping load of hatred in my heart. I do like this game. I thought it was okay. But many folks out there go on and on about how Final Fantasy VII is the end-all, be-all of RPGs; the best Final Fantasy game in the series. And I humbly disagree. It’s not that the game’s terrible by any means, it’s just that it’s not as good as everyone makes it out to be.

Needs More Wrinkle Cream and Concealer

Final Fantasy VII - Blocks and Hooves

All I see are cow hooves and bobble heads. YIKES!

Taking a look at the game now… it hasn’t really aged well, has it? I know that they were trying to do the traditional FF-style of having characters on the overworld scenes look cutesy/chibi and have them look more detailed during battle sequences, but it just work so well. Everything is so… blocky. A friend of mine referred to characters’ hands as “cow hooves”… and they kinda do look like hooves, don’t they?

One argument I read often is that this game has the best graphics ever or the best graphics for its time. But there were other 3D games that came out around the same time or slightly before FFVII that to this day look better. Take NiGHTS: Into Dreams for the Sega Saturn, for example. Wow. Now the visuals in that game are mind-blowing! And that was released in 1996.

Another example is Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. That came out in August 1997 and it, too, holds up very well. Heck, even Donkey Kong Country for the SNES (yes, I’m going there) holds up better visually than FFVII. Okay, so DCK wasn’t fully 3D, but… I mean… look at it!

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country wasn’t full 3D, but it still looks great to this day.

The one thing I can give the game credit for visually is the cut scenes, and I think that that’s what did it for most people. They look great… but again, NiGHTS and Abe’s Oddysee had cut scenes that look fantastic, too.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee had terrific-looking cutscenes for its time.

These are just a few examples of games that managed to withstand the test of time and still look great today. Final Fantasy VII, on the other hand, forgot to put on some sunscreen before it spent time under the blazing sunlight of attention, since it’s totally baked and full of wrinkles. Eee….

NiGHTS

NiGHTS still looks good… and is bobble head-free.


Characters Need More Filling

Of course, pretty eye-candy do not a good game make (contrary to what everyone else would say). You have to have memorable characters, too. And… well… there aren’t that many I actually care about.

My favourite characters are Aeris and Red-XIII, mainly because I’m interested in the story of their respective tribes. Everyone else just doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. Some characters have a bit more screen time than others and get a bit of development time, but they still weren’t as fleshed out as I would’ve like.

Cloud’s the typical hard ass who gets soft by the end of the game. His personality’s so dull that he takes it upon himself to take on the identity of his dead friend to make himself seem more interesting. If that doesn’t send off any red flags about how boring he is, I don’t know what will.

Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth & Jenova

A boy’s best friend is his mother…

Then there’s Sephiroth. He suffers from “Norman Bates Syndrome”; the only thing missing from the equation is having him dress up like a woman. Well, he does have the long, luscious hair thing going and his long coat could be converted into a dress if we add more fabric to the front, so the battle’s half won already. (Note: I still think he’s hot though >.>).

Everyone else fits into their typical moulds, but they don’t go much further than that (some do get a bit of development, but not much): Tifa’s the childhood friend who never noticed you until now; Cid and Barret are the cuss buckets with the heart of gold; Cait Sith is the villain who sees the light. As for Yuffie and Vincent… you don’t need ’em. Despite being touted as part of the cast, you can go through the entire game without getting them in your party (I managed to do that my first few playthroughs). They suffer from Annoying Brat and Mysterious Guy Syndrome, respectively.

People speak fondly about characters from other games because they have substance that draws folks to ’em. Silent Hill 2 have some of the most complex characters I’ve seen in a game. Characters in Final Fantasy VI (III) and the Lunar series are lovable and have enough in them to make you care about them. Final Fantasy VII… well, I don’t really think there’s enough there.

Should it Get a Remake?

[UPDATE SEPT 7,  2015]: Well, as we found out at E3 way back in June, we ARE getting a remake! Fanboys, rejoice!

[ORIGINAL SECTION]:

Square Enix have been in a “Remake Frenzy” as of late, haven’t they? There seems to be a remake/release/re-imagining of one of the Final Fantasy games every couple of years or so. At the Tokyo Game Show last week, they announced that they will release an HD version of Final Fantasy X to celebrate the game’s 10th anniversary.

FFVII fans were probably screaming out, “Where’s the remake for Final Fantasy VII!?” I kinda feel like they missed the boat on that one, unless they’re saving it for the 15th anniversary of the game next year. There were two missed opportunities to have the remake come out. The first would’ve been shortly after the PlayStation 3’s launch.

Do you guys remember the tech demo Square showed at E3 a few years back that demonstrated the capabilities of the PS3’s hardware? They could’ve just expanded that make it the full remake, and release it shortly after PS3 launch day. That would’ve been quite a way to welcome the new console into the world, eh?

 

Or, they could’ve worked away on it quietly without telling anyone they were working on it, and just release it for the game’s 10th anniversary back in 2007. Instead, we got a slew of Final Fantasy VII-related games and media, including that limited edition PSP that came with Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core (which I imported). I feel like to release a remake of the original VII now… it feels like we were already beaten over the head with all things Final Fantasy VII. Some are still holding on to the hope, but I think many others are just… well, tired of seeing FFVII.

So, should it get a remake? If any game could benefit from one, it would be this one. But again, since we’ve been inundated with so many Final Fantasy VII-related media,  I say let another game in the series have the spotlight for awhile, yea?

It’s All About Perspective

I have fond memories of Final Fantasy VII, especially considering it was my very first PlayStation game. But it wasn’t my first RPG. Looking at the game objectively; examining my RPG experiences both before and after Final Fantasy VII, I can say that it just doesn’t stack up there as the “Best of the Best”… at least for me.

I know there will still be people defending the crap out of this game (especially if this was their first RPG), and I respect that. But to sit around and claim that it’s the best RPG that ever existed and that no other RPG will ever come close to its greatness is quite a large claim.

But I guess it is all about perspective, isn’t it? Some people will always look upon it and see it as the Alpha and Omega of JRPGs; others like myself enjoy the game but not to that extent; still others couldn’t care less. I guess we can all agree that Final Fantasy VII has changed the landscape for JRPGs to appeal to a broader audience and introduced many to JRPGs. And that is a good thing, really. But as for Final Fantasy VII being the “One JRPG to Rule Them All”, my rose-coloured glasses came off a really long time ago, and I just don’t feel the game deserves that title.

 

Final Fantasy VII - Aeris

Maybe if the fan boys begged harder, their wish for a remake will come true. [UPDATE 09/07/2015]: And their prayers were answered. Praise be!

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What do you think of Final Fantasy VII? Do you think it’s the best FF game of all time? Why or why not? Should there be a remake? Let me know in the Comments Section!