Review: Final Fantasy VII

About this Game

Final Fantasy VII

Publisher

Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer

Square Enix

Release Date

January 31, 1997

Console

PlayStation 4

Time to Plat

~30h

Platinum Difficulty

Easy

Online Trophies?

No

Difficulty Trophies?

No

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Because one Final Fantasy VII Platinum wasn’t enough.

As you may know, I recently platted the incredible Final Fantasy VII Remake (which covers just a mere 4-5 hours of this original within it’s 35-hour epic story) and I had an insatiable thirst for more!

Which is what led me to pick up the original 1997 classic to play on my PS4. about 25 hours of nostalgic but awkward gameplay later, here I am with another FFVII platinum and an uneasy sort of happiness about it. Allow me to elaborate…

Final Fantasy VII (1997) Review

Unfamiliar familiarity.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. As much as it hurts our fragile self-perception, Final Fantasy VII is a real old game now. We’re three whole gaming generations into the future, on the exciting cusp of a fourth and though it may feel like yesterday that we sat dangerously close to our CRT TVs following Cloud’s every move with anticipation… It’s been twenty three years!

Okay, fine, I’ll level with you. I never had those experiences. I was three years old when Final Fantasy VII came out and it wasn’t until I was 11 that I finally got the chance to experience it. While I do remember playing it for hours and hours until I’d completed every last optional task I could find on internet forums… Playing it again has made me realise that I barely remember any of my original playthrough. 

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Oh, and I obviously remember this scene very well too!

I remember the Temple of the Ancients (obviously, who doesn’t) but aside from that and a particular pipe-climbing part of the Midgar section, I just remember being proud of my Golden Chocobo and the incredibly powerful “Knights of the Round” Materia it helped me acquire – which must have been one of the very last things I did. 

I found this very shocking at first but after a short while I found myself grateful that my pitiful excuse for a memory had failed me once again. This meant that I was able to experience the majority of FFVII as though it was once again new to me, and that’s a gift you can’t really buy.

A very ‘Classic’ experience.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room… How it looks. As we’ve established, Final Fantasy VII is a very old game, and they were trying to really push the envelope when it came to graphics. Up until then, Final Fantasy games had been purely sprite-based (pixel-art) and Square Enix had proved that they were some of the best when it came to those kinds of graphics. 

Despite this, they opted for noisy pre-rendered backgrounds with poor lighting and a lack of contrast. Over the top of these trudged blocky and untextured 3D models intended to represent the game’s characters and NPCs who, by the use of invisible walls and barriers, had the illusion of being part of this world.

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Quite obviously 2.5D thee days, isn’t it?

Now, it’s worth noting that the main reason I say these – quite possibly difficult-to-hear – things about the game, is that I was playing and viewing the game on a 4K Ultra HD QLED TV from 2018. A game which was made for fuzzy 480p square-resolution CRT TVs from the mid-to-late 90 and, trust me, this game would have most certainly looked much better on such a TV.

There’s no need for vibrancy and contrast when the TV isn’t capable of either. There’s no harm in compressing backgrounds halfway to helheim because you’d never get to see them in rich detail anyway. Tiny character models don’t need texture and detail when the TV would hardly pick it up. You get the point.

Still, having seen what the technology of the time was capable of, and how it was ultimately not a timeless approach to a timeless classic of a game, I have to wonder why Square Enix had not just stuck with what they were good at. I’m sure Final Fantasy VII would have made for a much more visually timeless game had it been created using pixelated sprite graphics, but it is what it is.

There are actually 4 levels of detail in the game;

  • The overworld which is completely 3D.
  • The main gameplay when within one of the overworld’s many locations, which is 2.5D as described previously.
  • The combat, which is fully 3D and uses decent-looking 3D models of all enemies and characters.
  • The Cutscenes which are pre-rendered using higher quality models and graphics but are more heavily compressed than the rest of the game.
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The cutscenes are very cool for their time but… Doesn’t look great on modern screens, does it?

The music is, as everyone by now must know, incredible. Even now, despite their compressed and bass-less midi instruments, the music blares out as proudly and effectively as it ever did. One of my favourite soundtracks is that of Cosmo Canyon.

I did notice that the Choral sections in Sephiroth’s theme were some of the least compressed audio samples in the whole game, though. Pair that with the ending cutscene and you’re left to wonder if those two things alone took up 50% of the game’s original third CD and single-handedly resulted in the compression of so many other aspects of the game.

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There are some very cool stills used, too.

Despite being a modern port, the game suffers many issues. Often the music would cut out entirely and I even had the game crash on me twice, causing me to lose a considerable amount of progress leading me to habitually save out of paranoia. Aside from technical issues, there are a lot of things when it comes to controlling the game which I wish had been done better or at least improved with the port. 

Item management is an utter mess, gaps in your inventory from items being used or removed will stay there until you manually re-sort your inventory. Similarly to this, certain menu items, such as summons, have their own positions in a list which never change. 

So, say you want to use one of the last Summons in the game like the aforementioned “Knights of the Round”, you need to scroll past an empty entry for every other summon in the game before you can use it. Which, in the heat of battle, can be a bit frustrating to say the least.

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Just look at this. What can I walk on? What can’t I walk on? It’s a mess!

Navigating the game is a difficulty too, as you’re essentially just trying to figure out which parts of a PNG image you can access and which you can’t. The illusion of depth is not there at all and there are multiple areas in the game which are just such a mess it’s practically impossible to tell what you should be doing or where you should be going.

Combine that with the fact that interactable objects are near impossible to interact with and you have a lot of fiddling to contend with. I noticed that quite often I was unable to interact with an object when I was facing it, I instead had to turn at a 90-degree angle from the object and then Cloud would gladly interact with it side-on. 

In combat, you use a pointer to select which enemy or team-mate you’d like your attack or ability to affect, but as the camera often changes perspective and there’s no fixed grid for this kind of input, it’s stupidly difficult to target your mark. 

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I accidentally healed enemies a few times, thanks to this fiddly pointer.

A Timeless Tale

The story in Final Fantasy VII is impressively well fleshed-out, and despite not having the level of love and detail that you can find in it’s remake due to the limitations of printing to a CD, the character development is done surprisingly well and you find yourself becoming attached to the colourful cast in no time.

I recall my favourite character being Cid from my original childhood playthrough, and while I still found myself drawn to using him the most again this time, I was surprised to find how much he’s written as a dick. He’s pretty cruel to those around him when you first meet him and it takes some time to actually find him likable. So maybe it was simply nostalgia which drove me to have him in my party this time around.

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Cid, I love ya, but you got no chill.

I remember also liking Yuffie quite a lot, too, finding her to be a very lovable character. This is a complete fallacy of my imagination, as she is in-fact a petulant child and not at all as likable as I had fooled myself into believing she was. 

As a fighter she is pretty useless and the whole Wutai section of the game based around her backstory is just a frustratingly long hide-and-seek segment which serves only to get in the way of the rest of the story, should you be unfortunate enough to stumble upon the area.

It’s easy to see why the Midgar section of the game was squared off as a separate game for the series of remakes, as it feels quite unlike the rest. As an aside, I found that I was quite impatient when it came to getting through the Midgar section as I had already played through it multiple times recently – albeit a much better version of it – in the Remake.

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Looking back at these screenshots it is striking how different the game felt, back in the Midgar section.

Speaking of impatience, the game is so slow. Sure, modern gaming has spoiled me and I just have a different perspective than I would have as a kid, but my god it’s slow! Attacks take what feels like an eternity to complete, especially limit breaks! Characters walk at a bone-crackingly slow pace and navigating the overworld is like navigating a swimming pool full of tar and honey.

Luckily, the developers saw fit to bless us with a magic 3x speed button as part of a selection of cheats which can be easily turned on and off – without affecting trophies!

When is it Okay to Use Boosts in FFVII?

There are actually three of these cheats. The first is the 3X speed boost which can be activated by pushing in . I used this a lot. Pretty much the whole game. To be honest, once I’d started using it, it was hard to go back to playing at the original speed, the game is just too damn slow, and the developers must have known this when they added the button into the port. Without it I daresay my playthrough could have taken up to 60 hours to complete!

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Sometimes, always having triple-speed on got me in a bit of trouble with tougher enemies…

The second of these boosts is the “Battle Boost” which fans have taken to naming “God Mode”. You can activate this by pressing and it makes you near-invincible. Any damage you take will be immediately recovered, Limit Boosts will charge instantly upon a character’s turn and MP is recovered upon use. You can still be beaten by stronger enemies if they can deplete your entire HP reserve in a single attack, which is a good call on the developers’ part, as players who are tempted by the boost will still be encouraged to level up their team.

I limited my use of this boost to times when the game crashed and I had a lot of ground to make up, and quickly in moments of mindless panic when I realised I might die and hadn’t saved for well over an hour. What can I say? Modern gaming has definitely spoiled me.

The third of these boosts, activated by pressing + , will stop random encounters from occurring. The only times I used this were in moments of great frustration when I’d spent over 5 minutes trying to navigate a particularly confusing 2D image with exceptionally poor hitboxes and I just wanted a moment to breathe and assess the situation.

When it comes to your playthroughs, though, I say it’s all fair game to be honest. As long as you find you’re limiting usage enough that you can still enjoy the game’s story and it’s particular challenges then the developers added these options for a reason and it’s up to you whether to use them. The only things at risk are your pride and your enjoyment of the game but as long as you’re content with your experience then don’t listen to angry naysayers on the internet.

My Final Fantasy VII (1997) Trophy Experience

The Story

I had very little difficulty getting through the main bulk of the game; its story, and main quests.

It was fairly stressful, however, as there were a whole lot of missable side-quests and conversation options to look out for in order to ensure I picked up any trophy which I might otherwise need to have a second playthrough for. I found myself getting lost more than I expected too, which was annoying as I would often have no idea which way I could go without getting locked off from other side-quests.

The worst of these was the “Best Bromance” trophy. I really wish it wasn’t in the game. The idea is to get Barret to invite you out on a date by picking certain dialogue options throughout the game, but this more often than not simply meant “Be mean to everyone else”. Which I wasn’t happy with at all. Essentially I was forced to play the game a certain way, and miss out on dialogue and character development I might have otherwise liked to pursue.

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Not much of a date… Marlene is like 5 years old Barret, I’d be extremely shocked if you would be okay with that.

I really thought I wouldn’t pull it off and I would have missed some esoteric dialogue option somewhere but when Barret turned up at the hotel door I let out a sigh of relief that I could begin playing the game the way I wanted to from that point onwards, albeit, still being careful not to miss anything.

There’s a large portion of the game which involves quests for “Huge Materia”, and one of the trophies requires you to get all of these and therefore make no mistakes. This idea puts pressure on you but in actuality, these quests are quite difficult to fail.

Along the way, I was stopping at regular intervals to fight enemies during random encounters in the overworld. Stopping to farm EXP and earn new limit breaks was perhaps the most nostalgic part of the whole experience. Nostalgic not just for JRPGs in general, but what fuzzy recollections my brain still held for FFVII often involved level-grinding.

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There are some very strange enemies. I can’t help but wonder how they’re going to recreate enemies like this in future Remake instalments.

As everyone knows, it is good strategy in Final Fantasy games to over-level yourself ahead of any new challenge – wherever this is possible.

I earned the last few Limit breaks during the final moments of the game but after finishing it I was quite irritated to find there was no continue option, and the last hour or so I’d spent fighting tough enemies in the game’s final areas had been for nothing as I was taken back to my last save, before the finale. 

This wasn’t a huge set-back but just meant more work toward the last few trophies I needed.

XP, AP and Gil Farming

I spent all morning doing this. 

There are trophies for reaching level 99 and earning 99,999,999 Gil. When I set out to do this, I saw my measly 700,000 Gil and, assuming I actually needed 999,999 Gil, I was happy to see I was close!

Obviously, anybody with a better brain than a two-year-old can see the mistake I somehow made there and once I realised how far I still had to go I was astounded. Luckily, there are plenty of farming guides and the best one I found involved the last area in the game.

Within the Northern crater, there’s a very weird hairy swamp which is probably what the insides of my bath’s drain looks like…

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Pretty gross, right?

In here, you can find an enemy called a “Magic Pot”. No, not that kind of pot. A clay bot, with a purple goblin of some sort inside it…

These magic pots cannot be killed unless given the “Elixir” item they keep asking for. Once you give them it, they can be killed quite easily and a single Magic Pot will give you 8,000 XP and 1,000 AP. This is the highest amount of XP you can consistently get from a single farm-able enemy in the game and the additional AP means that your Materia will level up quickly too.

This is very important because a maxed-out (or rather “Mastered”) All Materia will sell for 1,400,000. This is the most money you can get for a single sale of a farm-able item in the game. Every time you max one out, you’ll get another one which is un-levelled. So, while farming XP to reach level 99, you also level up all of these “All” materia so that you can sell them later for a fortune. 

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Do as he says, and you won’t regret it.

This method isn’t exactly safe, though, as the area is full of enemies who can 1-hit KO you (or get damn near close) and the Magic Pots don’t show up anywhere near as often as I’d like.

I worked out that I would need about 64 All Materia to get 99,999,999 Gil (I’d already earned 4 million from this farming method alone), but I was wrong. I was rounding up their sale price to 1.5 Million Gil so when I went all the way to Kalm to sell the damn things I was 4 Million Gil short. I tried selling everything I had but it was no use, I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough.

So I decided to take a break, with my (now level 99) team I went to fight the hidden “Emerald Weapon” super-boss and earned the Earth Harp, which I traded in Kalm for a set of Master Materia. Not just for the trophy it would give me, but because it would make the Ruby Weapon Superboss easier too. More on that later.

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Once I eventually made the money I needed. I honestly thought 99,999,999 would be the cap but apparently not!

Once I was content with the progress I’d made I headed back to the Northern Crater to finish off what I started, sold the extra 4 Mastered All Materia I made and then headed off to the Golden Saucer to do something I was holding off on.

Post-Game

While I had already earned everyone else’s Limit Breaks, Cloud’s final limit break still needed earning. This was because you had to earn 32,000 BP in the Battle Arena at the Golden Saucer and I’d be damned if I was going to play that awful G-Bike minigame enough times to earn the GP to allow me to do that many battles.

Now that I had 99 Million Gil, though, I was able to pay a visit to the shady man hiding behind the building near the Save spot outside the entrance where I could buy 100 GP for 10,000 Gil. I did this twice and then headed over to the Battle Arena where I was successful in earning the needed BP and getting Cloud’s final limit break. 

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He shows up quite rarely, but if you have the Lifetime pass from the woman at the door, you can go in and out until he appears.

Next, the Ruby Weapon. This is the hardest boss in the game by a mile and everywhere online I saw people saying “Don’t do this until you have a Golden Chocobo so you can get the Knights of the Round summon, it’s impossible without it”. But the Master Summon Materia I earned from beating the Emerald Weapon meant that I could use the Knights of the Round Summon without having it…

Besides, getting a Gold Chocobo is a very long and not particularly interesting side-quest line within which you need to breed Chocobos for a few hours until you have one. I couldn’t be arsed, to be honest, so I just suited up and headed straight for the Ruby Weapon.

My first reaction was instant and immediate regret, but after looking at a few strategies and picking out one which involved Dazers and having two team members already dead, I managed to defeat Ruby Weapon with surprising ease thanks to the Knights of the Round Summon.

And my reward for beating Ruby Weapon? A Gold Chocobo. See? I’d have been pretty pissed off if I spent hours getting one when I was going to get one for free!

All that was left was to use the Golden Chocobo to actually get the Knights of the Round materia and that Platinum was as good as mine!

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Final Fantasy VII Platinum Trophy

Time Breakdown

Story Playthrough

XP AP and Gil Farming

Miscellaneous Trophies

That concludes my Final Fantasy VII platinum trophy review. If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!

You can follow us on Twitter @GetPlat and Instagram @platget where we’ll be sharing updates, upcoming reviews and general gripes about the games we’re working on so feel free to follow us or use it as another channel for feedback!

You might also like to check out my Platinum Trophy Review for Final Fantasy VII Remake for which I have included a Hard Mode Boss Guide, a Hard Mode Shinra Combat Sim Guide and a Bridal Gowns Guide.

Verdict

Play

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This is a fantastic game through and through, issues and all, so if you’ve never played it then you absolutely should. Platting it, though, is a whole other ball game. There’s such an utterly boring grind right near the end as well as two difficult bosses who’ll have you reaching for the God Mode button that it almost isn’t worth the extra effort. I’ll leave that up to you.

Pros

  • Touching and captivating story
  • Challenging but engaging gameplay
  • Stood the test of time in many ways

Cons

  • Prone to crashing
  • Suffers from a few elements of old game design which are unfair to really criticise it over
  • Navigating certain areas and interacting with objects can prove to be extremely finicky
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Gold Trophy

By 90s game standards, this would easily get a Platinum rating. However, we’ve evolved since then and while it’s still an enjoyable game, let’s just say it’s a good job they are remaking it.

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About the Author

More fond of single-player experiences and story-driven games than anything else, TheDblTap has a keen eye for secrets and collectables, a skill which serves him well as a Trophy Hunter. However, with little patience and poor timing, he can struggle where MrZhangetsu would succeed.

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