Why Final Fantasy VII Is Not Overrated
Major FFVII Spoilers Follow (But come on, it’s been 15 years)
First of all, I have to say that I absolutely hate the word “overrated”. It is becoming a trend that I’m seeing this word used more and more on message boards, whether it be talking about video games, movies, or some other form of entertainment. It is just an easy way for some anonymous internet poster to show that they are different and opinionated by saying they don’t like something that is clearly beloved by the vast majority. It is not the word itself so much that bothers me, but it is the fact that most of the time there is no explanation as to why they don’t like something and their argument almost always resorts to the classic call out of “fanboyism”. Unfortunately, one of the games that is most often brought up in the “overrated” argument is Final Fantasy VII.
The Game that Sold The PlayStation
Dubbed as “The Game That Sold The PlayStation”, Final Fantasy VII was universally praised by both critics and gamers alike, winning numerous game of the year awards and other accolades that it rightfully deserved when it was released in 1997. Of course, no matter how great a game is, it will always have its detractors; but it seems to me that, for some reason, only very recently has the hate towards this game increased exponentially. Unfortunately, I was only 4 years old at the time of Final Fantasy VII’s release, but I was lucky enough to have two older brothers; one 9 years older and one 4 years older, who were both into video games. So, unlike most kids my age, I got to grow up with an NES, an SNES, and a Genesis and was exposed to all the classics that those consoles had to offer. We also, of course, had a PlayStation. One day, my oldest brother saw a commercial for a game called Final Fantasy VII and he decided that he wanted it (I don’t remember if he got it right away or got it for Christmas; I mean come on I was only 4). I do, however, remember him firing the game up, and I knew immediately that I was watching something special.
I was little, so of course I liked the pretty visuals of the opening cinematic as the camera pans out to reveal Midgar and then zooms back in to show the train arriving with Cloud and the other members of Avalanche preparing for their mission to destroy the Mako Reactor. But it wasn’t until quite a few years later when I was actually old enough to play the game for myself and appreciate just how important this game was.
It was Important to the RPG Genre
Final Fantasy VII is without a doubt the most important RPG ever; it was revolutionary. FFVII showed that a JRPG could appeal to more Western audiences and that they didn’t have to be cartoony. They could be dark, and they could deal with and explore serious themes such as death and rebirth and things of this nature.
The gameplay was also fantastic, sporting an evolution of the Active Time Battle that first appeared in FFIV as well as the materia system, which gave you complete freedom to customize your characters how you wanted. It allowed you to attach whatever magic or summon to whichever character you wanted; no character had a predetermined role. On top of all of that, FFVII had nothing short of a flawless story. Cloud is by far my favorite video game character of all time, and it was actually painful to watch his tragic descent into madness as he begins to not believe his own memories and starts to question his very own humanity.
And nothing even needs to be said about Sephiroth, who is possibly the most iconic video game villain of all time.
Final Fantasy VII is also full of legendary moments, but none more than the death of one of the central characters, Aeris Gainsborough. Aeris’s (or Aerith’s) death is and will forever be the greatest moment to ever happen in a video game. It set a benchmark for the emotion that a video game could evoke that no other game has ever reached and I doubt one ever will. It was an absolutely shocking moment in every sense of the word. You can’t just kill off a character that I spent the past 25 hours of gameplay leveling up; it was like the best slap in the face possible. I have to admit that the FMV sequences look dated (what do you expect the game is 15 years old), but they still look pretty good and I think that the dated look only adds to the awe and mystery of that legendary moment.
The image of Cloud wading in the water next to Aeris’s lifeless body will always be the first thing that comes to mind whenever Final Fantasy VII comes up.
A Commercial Success
Final Fantasy VII was a tremendous commercial success for Square (now Square Enix), but it also presented a problem for them. Every subsequent Final Fantasy release has been compared to FFVII and none have been able to deliver the same phenomenon that VII did. Don’t get me wrong, I think VIII, IX and XII are fantastic games. To tell you the truth, there isn’t a Final Fantasy that I don’t like, but these games just fail to compare to the masterpiece that Final Fantasy VII was.
Still Fun Today
People say that nostalgia can really distort your memory of something and often you remember something being much better than it actually was. This is not the case with Final Fantasy VII, as I just replayed it last year and it was just as amazing as ever. You obviously can’t compare a PlayStation game to the AAA titles of today’s generation such as Uncharted or Halo, but even compared to these games (even though they’re all very different games)
Final Fantasy VII holds up very well and that is just a testament to how it was regarded as being head and shoulders above the rest in its own time. Final Fantasy VII is perfection. It has a cast full of memorable characters and an unforgettable storyline. No game I have played since then has even come close to changing my mind and I don’t think I want one to.