Have You Played… Final Fantasy VII?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Naturally, I’m one of those awful snooty elitists about it these days. Doesn’t mean I didn’t play it. Doesn’t mean I didn’t obsess about it at the time.

I played it on PlayStation initially, for what it’s worth. I did try the PC version later, but insane controls held me back. I played it during my second year of university, and it is not an exaggeration to say that Final Fantasy VII cost me a First degree. I played it constantly for a fortnight, in a tiny boxroom where we kept the PlayStation and a small second-hand television, my housemates seething that they could not access Tekken 3 and Premiership Manager while I lost myself to the adventures of Cloud, Tifa, Barret et al. It really did feel like an adventure, not a chain of challenges – this grand odyssey in a place of wonders and horrors.

I look at it now – screenshots or videos, let alone try to play it – and it’s hard to understand why it cast such a spell on me. The character designs that launched a thousand stereotypes, the plain, simplistic, trope-heavy dialogue, the many endless cutscenes – the Final Fantasiness of it. I suppose that, had it been a one off, it would still shine brightly in my memory, but its legacy defined games, gaming and gamers in a way that has not been universally positive. At the time, FFVII felt like a signpost to a bright new, more expansive future for big budget games, but if anything it seemed to cause a narrowing, particularly in the JRPG space.

Most of all though, I don’t understand why I or anyone else would want to play it, remade or no. Its magic, back in the tail end of the 20th century, was to transport the player to what felt like a whole new world, with a sweeping scale and an increasingly apocalyptic tone. To walk through that world again would only show up more of its limitations, of which there are a great many. Let it lie.

43 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I never have, but I was probably put off by a friend who had the ridiculous notion that it was better than any other RPG out there simply because the damage numbers were bigger.
    He also wouldn’t play Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time because they were “Kid’s games”.

    • swaan says:

      Your friend was right – it had the best damage numbers of its time!

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        MajorLag says:

        I remember the first time my friend and I got hit by Sephiroth’s Supernova attack, and when the damage numbers came up the camera was positioned just right, so all the numbers lined up and appeared as one giant number somewhere north of 500 billion.

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    subdog says:

    A couple years ago I tried it on the iPad, thinking it would be a nice nostalgic time waster on the couch. Unfortunately, instead of doing a proper port of the UI for touch controls, they just superimposed a controller on the touchscreen. This made all of the ten thousand minigames, many of which relied on precise timing, an unplayable nightmare.

    It was the definition of a half-assed cash-in port.

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    Ben King says:

    I watched my GF play through a lot of this a few years ago and really loved the soundtrack (I still whistle the Golden Saucer theme from time to time while out walking dogs) I couldn’t really enjoy it much myself although it had it’s moments. My first JRPG was FF8 which like 7 had it’s good moments, but a lot more awkward ones. Roaming that chunky world map was a delight though, random encounters and all.

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    phuzz says:

    I did play it, probably several years after it came out, and it sucked me in for weeks.
    Along with Half-Life, it was one of the first games I remember that had a an actual plot, one that progressed, and upped the stakes, rather than the usual “shoot the bad mens” (which is still the standard videogame plot).

    I never did finish it though, after making it all the way up to the last battle without too much trouble, I was suddenly faced with a fight against an enemy I could barely hit, but that could one shot my entire party. Thanks difficulty spike!

    • Vulpis says:

      Huh…I had the opposite situation, after playing 99+ hours (and dealing with the optional Weapon bosses) on the original PS1 version…I sneeze, and Sephie goes down. I sat there and let him do his Supernova (brain swiss-cheesing here..that *is* the one where for some reason he blasts through all the planets in Earth’s solar system?) and it did..pretty meager damage.

  5. ludde says:

    Exactly. As much as I adored FF7 at the time and have intense nostalgia for it, going through it again wouldn’t bring back the experience I once had.

    Also, it’s bloody long.

    • MisterFurious says:

      I replayed it after seeing “Advent Children” (which is a piece of shit) and, to my surprise, it held up pretty well. I still enjoyed it. It is really long, though.

  6. Laurentius says:

    I have. Played it when it first came out on PC, loved it. It was also first jRPG that I’ve ever played. It’s wonderful game, I replay it every couple of years and magic is still there for me. Music is just phenomenal. If it is not my favourite game of all time it is certainly in my TOP5. FFVII fo’eva!

  7. UnholySmoke says:

    Got our first family PC. Had a Cyrix 133+ processor that inexplicably ran at 166MHz. All my console mates had gone on for years about this wonderful, amazing game. It dropped for PC, I saved up to buy it on release day, and…it wouldn’t run, saying my processor wasn’t fast enough. I cried my teenage eyes out. A patch came out many moons later, and I lost weeks and weeks and weeks to it. It’s true: if you weren’t there at the time, there is absolutely no way to appreciate what it was like at the time. The way to remember it is that _in spite_ of all those limitations (dialogue, translation, graphics, pacing, grinding, clunky story) it changed everyone who played it. I mean, I must have been four years late, and it still blew my mind. Advent Children was a crappy cash-in and I’m anticipating the same for the remake. Who cares, it lives in the memory. Cosmo Canyon, Nibelheim Mansion, Juno.

    • Tomo says:

      “Cosmo Canyon, Nibelheim Mansion, Juno”

      Cor, doing a Google image search of those places has brought the memories flooding back. An incredible game.

      The world in FFVII is unmatched I think. A perfect blend of anime, sci-fi and industrialism. I remember arriving at every little town – I couldn’t wait to explore them. And the characters were even quite likeable. Plus, it’s a pretty dark game.

      FFVIII wasn’t far off. FFX had a different, slightly kinder feel to it. And after that it went steadily downhill for me. Now they are a mess of cliches and terrible scripting.

    • Great Cthulhu says:

      I think you probably had a 166+ that ran at 133 Mhz. I had the same one. The reasoning was that while it ran at 133 Mhz, it was a bit faster than a Pentium at 166 Mhz. Well, according to Cyrix at least… It was rubbish at floating point math, which made it suck at running 3D games.

      Anyhow. As for FFVII not wanting to run on the Cyrix: I think the game probably only checked if you had a Pentium chip, not how fast your system actually was. There were a few games that did that. I think Sonic R was another one.

  8. Xantonze says:

    Played the japanese version on PS1 in real time (1997 if I remember). I was 17 and paid about 100 euros for it… My japanese level was pretty low and I did’nt understand half of it, but it was still a wonderful ride (and perhaps it was better not to understand everything, leaving the plot to my imagination, as it’s quite the clusterfuck…)

    Wouldn’t replay it either. JRPG fatigue has set in, can’t stand the tropes, the voices, the turn-based combat anymore. Good times though! ^^

  9. Kaeoschassis says:

    I was at least a few years late to the party, and loved it. I replay it (as with several other FFs, actually) every few years, and still love it. For me it’s still magic. I think one thing you definitely nailed is that despite all the moaning that gets directed at it these days, the biggest flaw of FFVII is simply that 90% of the games it inspired had no idea what actually made it good.

    I also greatly enjoyed Crisis Core on the psp, for what it’s worth, if only because it’s the only thing SINCE FFVII that remembers Cloud was once a goofy, clumsy dork who didn’t fit in, as opposed to the bland, mopey thing everyone seems convinced FFVII portrayed him as. He was a dweeb, people, that’s what made him such a surprisingly likeable protagonist.

  10. draglikepull says:

    Final Fantasy 7 is the game about global warming that 2017 needs.

  11. Colthor says:

    My friends raved about it on PS1, so I borrowed the PC version when one of them got that too. This was very shortly after playing System Shock 2, which was 16 hours of brilliance from start to end.

    After sixteen hours of FFVII I gave up – around the point you have to grind chocobos, IIRC – wondering why the hell anyone liked this tedious treadmill of uninteractive nonsense.

    “Ah, you didn’t get to the good bit then”, said my friends.
    No, no I didn’t.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Well, you got farther than I did. I got to some screen with a bunch of flowers and a girl gave me a flower or something. I probably chose an incorrect dialog option, but it didn’t matter because I had apparently not gotten to the good part, either. I did see the good part a few years prior to that, though: you fight some floating dude, and you call upon a bunch of other dudes who stab him for about 7 minutes, and he calls meteors down on you for about 7 minutes. Back and forth like that for a bit. It’s all terribly epic, and I was honestly pretty impressed at the time. I’d probably still get a kick out of it in some vicarious nostalgia sort of way. Oh, and some green tentacles came out of the ground after the battle was over, I think. That was another good bit!

  12. DinoSteak says:

    FFVII is still something special all these years later. Is it clunky and dated? Of course. Is the combat really shallow compared to modern RPGs? For the most part, yeah. Will you need to grind every 10 hours? You betcha!

    The world though, the world is fully realized. It feels like an alternate reality sci fi epic. The soundtrack and sound design are crystallized perfection. Everything is done in hyperbole. Everyone and everything is eccentric. The story is ridiculous and convoluted and GOOD, very good. It was also the first videogame to make you care about the characters as they developed. Other RPGs had great characters, but they were still ‘caricatures’ in many ways, only delivering one narrative. Cloud is mysterious, and stays mysterious. Aerith played out like an actual love interest, you really are friends, and then it becomes more, and then she’s gone and you’re screaming “Nooo!” at the T.V. Sephiroth was a true villain, the game runs through paces to show his humanity as well as his madness.

    If you’re an RPG fan and haven’t played FFVII, I wouldn’t recommend anything else first. Many games (like Half Life 2 for me now) are just over the hump in terms of playability in 2017, FFVII is timeless.

  13. JKing says:

    I have played Final Fantasy VII, but unlike a lot of my peers it was not my first Final Fantasy game, and earlier installments were just… better, I found. I feel this is even more true after the passage of time: Final Fantasy VII looks and feels awkward and clunky, but Final Fantasy VI is still as refined now as it was then. Oh, well.

  14. geldonyetich says:

    Yep, played it (first PC release), beat it, scarred for life by a Sephiroth backstab. I didn’t bother unlocking the really good summons because that’s a Hell grind, but Omnislash is all you need.

    Overall, it was a really good mix of gameplay balance, oddball flavor, Final Fantasy magic, and it even threw in a few serviceable mini-games. The plot and characters were quite addictive, too. The cast was more likable for me than possibly any other Final Fantasy, although Final Fantasy XII’s came close.

  15. stuw23 says:

    I played this on PS1 first, when I was 15, so it holds many memories for me. I was brave enough to re-play it a few years ago after impulse-buying it during a Steam sale, despite feeling very weary of JRPGs, and… surprisingly, it still held up. Sure, the controls for the PC port were silly, and I don’t blame anyone put off by them, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable, to the extent that I ended up 100%ing all achievements. I also felt that, being older and (hopefully) more mature, the characters and plot hit a bit harder than it did originally, especially *that* scene.

    By contrast, I’ve gone back to other games that captivated me as a teen, and don’t feel they’ve held up nearly so well. I do think FFVII is over-rated to some extent, especially by a very vocal segment of the Final Fantasy fandom, but it is a classic.

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    Drib says:

    FF7 was in those awkward years of polygons, when everything looked like lazy papercraft.

    Also I only ever played the initial PC port, and it was hot garbage, let me tell you.

    But from what I hear, the game was good in its now-cliché way. I guess like how halflife was innovative at the time, and now seems like it’s the most bog-standard thing possible.

    I wish I could have played FF7 when it was new and interesting.

  17. vorador says:

    I really liked it on launch, but honestly it has aged very badly. It’s been 20 years after all. Plus the pretty bad translation didn’t make it any favours.

    Still a classic jRPG worth trying.

  18. Someoldguy says:

    I loved it at the time and did almost all the optional stuff. I went back again and discovered that I didn’t have the patience for the grind any more, although the core story was still decent. I was pretty sure that would happen because I’ve hardly enjoyed, let alone finished, any JRPGs since FF VIII.

  19. LewdPenguin says:

    I have indeed played it, and although I consider it good it’s not my personal ‘classic’ FF due to the order I played them in.

    Back when they were originally coming out I pretty much ignored 7 and 8 because RPGs in general just weren’t my thing, then I got 9 a while after it came out and as my first experience not only of ‘proper’ RPGs but JRPGs it utterly blew my mind, and was for me I think pretty much the same experience 7 was for most people. A few years after *that* I went back and played 7, then 8, and whilst I found both enjoyable they were already a little dated visually compared to 9 and lacked quite the same impact as being completely new to JRPGs meant 9 had for me.

    Sadly I must say I fall into the group that has no interest in modern FF, 10 I quite enjoyed as a change of style (and spent far too much time playing blitzball) but the series has increasing left me cold the further they go from classic FF. I will however recommend to anyone that wants more classic FF to look into Dragon Quest 8, no idea what any others in that series are like but for me 8 was pretty much a classic style FF but with prettier pretties, and whilst the story certainly fills out plenty of JRPG tropes it at least goes somewhere, and has a couple of scenes akin to *that* scene in FF7 that caused me untold reloads because that just can’t happen, NO.

  20. Ktbell says:

    I must have played it on my ps1 in around 1997/1998 when I was about 16 and I spent hundreds of hours on it. Red XIII, Aeris, Vincent, Cat Sith etc – the characters were so interesting. The game really was like nothing else I’d ever played before. The story was nuts, but the peril felt real. And as this was before my family got the internet I had no idea what to expect. Leaving Midgard for the first time and realising there was a whole world to discover outside the city blew my mind. Should have had an inkling though due to it coming on 3 fricking discs! Gather around children while grandma tells you the story of how games used to come on multiple discs… When Aeris died I didn’t see it coming. Major characters dying mid game was a crazy concept to me.

    I played through twice when I got it, the first time I got my arse handed to me right at the end so I restarted and did the crazy grind before being ridiculously overpowered for the final boss battle. Worth it just to see the Knights of the Round summon obliterate everything in its path.

    I couldn’t play it now though, it wouldn’t be the same, plus I know that nostalgia tints my memories of the game. You can never go back to where you came from. I’ve played much better games since then, but FF7 will always have a special place in my heart.

  21. try2bcool69 says:

    I played it long enough on the PS1 to know that the time played counter stopped at 99 hours.

  22. thekelvingreen says:

    I loved it. I had it on the PlayStation and I did my usual ridiculous over-levelling, so that when I got to Sephiroth, he didn’t last long; as I recall, Tifa unleashed her multiple hit wrestling combo and smashed him to bits.

    Even so, I didn’t get around to fighting all the Weapons. I think I got one of them, but the other two — three? — I left alone.

    My original copy is long gone — thanks Dad! — but I found a copy in a charity shop for about £3 a couple of years ago, with a vague idea to play it on my PS3. I’m reluctant to do so because I don’t know if it will live up to my memories.

    The battle music is still ace though.

  23. wisnoskij says:

    There have been better FF systems, and as for story it is just too damn long. It is almost an Elder Scrolls in its level of open world but with a single player campaign that if you somehow managed to stick to strictly (presumably by following a walkthrough) it would still take you 40 hours to beat.

  24. ansionnach says:

    Very disciplined, Alec! Like some others I loved the game for the fantastic newness, story, music and compelling pacing. Find out hard to give it credit now as I’ve played so many JRPGs that were better, earlier like Phantasy Star IV, Chrono Trigger and (later) Skies of Arcadia. In many ways some games like this are stuck in a permanent state of sub-Ultima III rip-off gameplay with tiresomely thin animé plots deliberately written to make you cry. They can have interesting mechanics and battle systems but most of it is unneeded as they’re so easy that you don’t need to develop an understanding of the systems.

    Played the PC version first. I had a Yamaha DB50-XG Wavetable card so the music sounded excellent. It also sounded great on the SoundBlaster Live! With a soundfont I found online. One dramatic tune didn’t have the voiceover bits, but otherwise the music was better than on PlayStation. I found the PC port ran very well, with higher resolution graphics, although the cutscenes and backgrounds were the same low-res ones. Playing it later on PlayStation, I think the PC version was noticeably a lot harder, making it a better version than the common PlayStation one for gameplay, too. What’s good about it now? The music, gameplay and atmosphere. Hate the writing with a passion and prefer more to-the point and less timewasty games like the first two I mentioned at the top since you could get through battles quicker, they move along at a rate of knots and don’t take themselves as seriously.

    • ansionnach says:

      Of the other FF games I played (I – V, VIII and IX), I think III and V are the only ones I consider somewhat worthwhile now. Being able to change the job (class) of all the characters is a nice freedom to have, as is not having a BS story like a lot of the others. IV was by far the worst, with trite storytelling, terrible gameplay and design. The number of bosses that had “surprise-you’re-dead-now!” follow-ons without a warning that you might want to heal was just cruel. I pushed through it eventually by running away from all battles as every boss but the last one could be beaten at a low level with poor equipment or good stuff that you found in the dungeon. I hate Final Fantasy IV but it was oddly satisfying to ignore all of its time-wasting, superfluous elements (most of them?). Playing through it quickly, you don’t waste time on so many of the characters as the game takes a lot of them away from you permanently after about 30 minutes!

      • JKing says:

        I never really got into III very far, but V definitely doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. The gameplay mechanics are very deep for a game of its circumstances, the soundtrack is some of Uematsu’s best, and the story while being admittedly mostly a mass of clichés still manages to be interesting and (crucially) well paced.

        • ansionnach says:

          I think I find that I don’t mind clichéd stories that much if they don’t take themselves too seriously and don’t intrude on the gameplay. While it does have its goofy interludes, I find FFVII is a bit too self-important, and the non-interactive bits where you start thinking about when you’ll get to save so you can get on with your life really do go on too long.

          III on the NES and V on the SNES largely leave you to it (haven’t finished V yet, though) and I like being able to build your team from the classes you want. Not that you don’t have customisation in the other games, but it’s more satisfying when it’s necessary. I found III a decent enough challenge, whereas the likes of IV and (especially the PlayStation) VII were very easy. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of VIII, the level scaling meant that the game remained some level of a challenge to the end.

          I think there are some interesting records for completing various FF games at low levels. I only really tried it in IV since I hated that one so much. Since you need a certain amount of HP to survive one of the final boss attacks, I must have been quite close to the bone finishing it as I had to grind a little to get enough. It’s more efficient to do this in the final area after fleeing every random battle during the game.

  25. Wednesday says:

    I feel this way about Morrowind.

    In its moment it was raw, dark magic. Now it’s a wonky drag.

  26. E_FD says:

    For whatever reason, I’ve found a lot of these early 3D/32-bit games have aged a lot worse for me than games from the previous generation. I didn’t really start getting into console RPGs until the late ’00s, but games like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound held up great and were still a blast, whereas FF7 just felt like a slog, and I gave up on it pretty early on.

  27. Porkolt says:

    I’m one of those people who never got the appeal of FF7. As far as goes for the FF lineup it’s far inferior to several other games in that series. FF6 remains my favorite FF game in terms of plot, characters, world design, basically everything. For FF7’s single character death in Aerith’s rather random murder, FF6 ups the ante with characters attempting suicide, pining over the preserved corpse of a fallen loved one, having their wife and children become victims of genocide, and the main villain attempting to ascend to godhood and destroy the world while actually succeeding.

    In terms of mechanics like mentioned elsewhere here, FF5 does very well with its job system which allows for various strategies. Still, there are so many better JRPGs either way, even from the same developer – but that’s a different discussion.

  28. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    If anyone who never played it would like to get an idea of the experience of FFVII, or if anyone who has played would like to relive it nostalgically, but doesn’t want to deal with the grind, I can recommend this screenshot LP: link to lparchive.org

    Personally, I will always have a special place in my heart for this game because it really was impressive as hell back when I played it. But then again, I’m the kind of guy who is actually nostalgic for untextured polygons, superdeformed models, and pixels the size of my hand.

  29. Pizzzahut says:

    Played about ten hours of it, about a year ago. I don’t get it? Okay, so I’m not a huge RPG fan, but why is this one so special?

    • that_guy_strife says:

      It was a big thing when it came out.

      Still, I replayed the PC version in 06 or 07 (ended up resorting to emulating the original, due to the distributer’s cloud losing saves multiple times and not letting me download the game more than once). It was my only entertainement on a no-internet job site for a month, and worked out pretty well.

      The world is scripted but immense – there’s tons of things to do and find, and they gel with each other very well. Most games nowadays just hide icons and call it a day. Of course, the grinding and troping gets a bit tedious, but still a great adventure.

  30. Ejia says:

    Yes. It’s still the best overall of the PS1 era FF games (although FF8 had superior music). Ah, back when grinding at the Sunken Gelnika was a pleasurable activity…

  31. jayda says:

    It’s still one of my favorite games. But i can’t stand the blocky characters while running around anymore. Luckily there are mods for that.

  32. noodlecake says:

    It’s still fantastic. The combat gets repetitive fast but the score is beautiful, the world is large and varied and oozing character and atmosphere, the materia system is fun. It blew every JRPG ever made up to that point out of the water, with the exception of maybe Chrono Trigger (I think that came out first?).

    Trying to play Final Fantasy 13 after enjoying the psone era games is an exercise in masochism. Running in a straight line for hours and hours while you’re drip fed little bits of narrative, and having to sit through fights that you have little to no control over makes me long for a return to those older FF games.

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