Final Fantasy VII
Alright, so I haven't played any old games in a while, but I was reminded that I wanted to write a series on old games the minute I started playing a Final Fantasy app on my smartphone. So yes. Here we go!
Final Fantasy VII is arguably the best game in the Final Fantasy series. For me, at least, though judging by how often the characters are cosplayed and written about and fangirled over, I'm probably not the only one who thinks this is so. The game at its peak practically broke many sales records at the time of its release, with constant positive ratings across the gaming review boards. In fact, by the time FFVII reached publication in North America, the game was sold hand-in-hand with the Playstation, a successful marketing move by leaps and bounds.
FFVII, like many of its predecessors, is set up as a "save-the-world" type of role-playing game, where the heroes must overcome evil in order to keep the planet from getting destroyed. Similar to Final Fantasy VI, the world is a mixture of magic and technology, a post-industrial world where magic is harnessed through the use of Mako reactors. Of course, the word "reactor" kind of gives bad connotations as far as technology is involved; I mean, come on, "Mako reactors" kind of sounds just as bad as "nuclear" reactors if you're going about using it as your main source of energy, right?
In any case, there are clearly unhappy eco-friendly folks out there on The Planet, and to send a message to the Establishment (a.k.a. the Shinra Corporation), said eco-friendly folks moonlight as terrorists, damaging Mako reactors in the surrounding Shinra-occupied Midgar City. At least, that's where the story starts.
Enter Cloud Strife, protagonist spiky-haired extraordinaire, ex-SOLDIER with a hazy past and a penchant for slicing things with his ginormous sword (and that is not a euphemism). As a hired muscle for the terrorist group AVALANCHE, Cloud finds himself helping the terrorists break into Mako reactors in order to wreak havoc upon the city's energy-run sectors. Through a series of events, however, Cloud must escape the city, and with a group of like-minded individuals (where "like-minded" means "gotta get out of Shinra-occupied cities or die in the process"), embarks on a mission to find the truth about himself and to save The Planet from the mysterious and psychopathic Sephiroth.
FFVII hit a lot of things out of the ballpark, and gameplay was certainly one of these hits. At the time of its release, the Playstation was certainly the go-to console for many starting gamers hoping to find better graphics experience in gameplay. Suffice to say that while FFVII pales in comparison now to, say, Final Fantasy XIII, it still far surpasses FFXIII in that it gave players more in-game choices than its successors. I mean, seriously, how often could you say that to an RPG pre-dating the advent of Bioware's Mass Effect and Dragon Age or TellTale Games' The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us?
On top of that, there was the various side quests and mini-games that littered the game, so much so that you could play through FFVII once and still not get everything in one go. In fact, some of the side quests are so unbelievably difficult that it takes so much time and energy just to level-grind to an appropriate level (which is probably a tedious thing to do, especially if you've played this game several times like I have). Heck, there's even a place on the world map--Chocobo Saucer--that deals STRICTLY on mini-games. You know, in case you wanted a break from the stress of saving the world.
Cloud alone was a pretty fantastic protagonist. Often riddled with mysteries of his past, he sets out to figure out why the mention of Sephiroth sets his whole body on edge, and while saving the world is not really on his priority list, he'll do it anyway and look cool doing so. Why? To impress a girl. Not that he knows this, but deep down inside, we all know he's trying to impress a girl. Or girls. 'Cause there are two girls involved. Love triangle time!
Enter Tifa and Aerith (Aeris in the American version). Both women were quite literally the most badass females in the RPG world during the late '90s (and quite possibly the early 2000s). While complete opposites of each other--Tifa is a martial arts expert with almost supernatural power and flexibility while Aerith is a gentle flower girl with abominably high affinity for magic--they hold strengths that render them valuable members of Cloud's party. Often I found myself taking both as part of my A Team (up until Aerith leaves the group in a more…erm…permanent fashion). I could probably go on about these two, but this section is talking about characters in general, so I'll move on.
What I'm really trying to drive in is that the characters in FFVII are certainly memorable, if not entertaining and amazing. Barrett's foul mouth is matched epically by the machine gun ingrained in his amputated hand. Cid's genius brought about the creation of the Highwind--a flying airship of AWESOMENESS. Red XIII is "the last of his kind," and a shame at that, considering he's an intelligent quadrupedal creature of the furry variety. The "optional characters" shouldn't be missed, either: Vincent is a powerhouse immortal man with shapeshifting powers, and ninja-Yuffie has this obsession with Materia that tends to border on kleptomania (oh wait, she does steal your Materia). Each of Cloud's team members brings with him/her a unique perspective and a unique ability. Heck, even I play Caith Sith from time to time, if only to see him fail to get anything done on the battlefield.
I know I'm probably missing many more aspects that make Final Fantasy VII amazing and memorable, but if I keep going, I'm never going to stop, so I'll just leave you all with the best bits! And now I want to play this game again. Maybe once I go on vacation...