Thursday, June 3, 2010

DG Review: Final Fantasy VII

Good day folks! This is the first in a series of reviews called "DG Review", which will be focused mainly around the Final Fantasy series and other Square-Enix titles. Don't be surprised if you see other games reviewed here however! These reviews are mostly opinion and informative, with the intention of keeping the two discernibly separate. So, shall we begin?

Final Fantasy VII

    The first 3D game in the franchise, and first to utilize fully rendered characters with pre-rendered backgrounds, giving the game a much more realistic look and feel than previous games in the series. Although at the time, other games had already utilized 3D graphics to an extent, I'm sure many players who nabbed this beautiful game at it's release back in 1997, quickly realized its fully rendered graphics were the start of something big. This style of delivering animation was what allowed the first Final Fantasy film to be created. The series has always been at the forefront of beautiful computer animation since, and some could say Final Fantasy VII was a big part of this era's advancement in animation techniques. Not only in video games, but movies and even cartoons now too.

     Final Fantasy VII had a unique cast of characters at the time, with some being forced into your party and others being optional to the point that you had to go out of your way to find them. This plethora of characters also gave a nice range of personalities and themes for players to relate to. However, one of the best parts of the character design wasn't really part of the character design at all. The materia orbs you equipped to each character's weapon and armor gave them a set of special spells, abilities, and even summons. All of which could be combined in linked groups to produce additional effects or further enhance their main effects. This gave quite a bit of freedom to the player when designing their team of three party members by giving the option to decide which roles they'd like each member to play. For example; equipping a "Mega-All" materia and a "Blizzard" materia in two linked slots on your equipped weapon would cause Blizzard spells to hit all enemies. Similarly, equipping "Quadra Magic" materia and "Blizzard" materia in two linked slots would occasionally allow Blizzard spell to cast four times in a row when you initiate its cast. This system allowed you to easily combine materia effects to create even greater effects.

     Some of the systems Final Fantasy VII was built on, were actually seen previously in the series. Such as the ATB (Action Time Bar) system originally seen in Final Fantasy IV. This system proved to be quite popular after the seventh game in the series, and has been a reoccurring part of the franchise since. You might even call it a staple of the series.

   The popularity of this game is undeniable, being hailed as 'The Game that Sold the PlayStation." Holding the crown for most copies sold in the entire series, it also opened up the market for console role playing games outside of Japan. Being one of the most popularly video games of all time, it has also been one of the most demanded RPG remakes. However, according to a comment by Yoshinori Kitase in February of 2010, creating a remake of Final Fantasy VII at the same level of graphics as Final Fantasy XIII would take "three or four times as long" as it took to put XIII together, which had apparently taken three and a half years by itself. Now that's a long wait. The graphics would likely need to be upgraded again every time they were close to completion!

   Kitase had also once said that it would take the staff too much time to make the graphics of a game like Final Fantasy VII for PlayStation 3, which is a big part of the reason why Final Fantasy XIII is "more linear" compared to its predecessors. Understandable, given how much XIII looks like pre-rendered footage even when displaying normal gameplay. VII was a massive world, with a lot of different types of landscapes. Rendering them all would be a significant endeavor by itself.

   In closing, this game brought much of our favorite things from the Final Fantasy series into full 3D animation in 1997. The nostalgia of playing it once more is enough to excite any dedicated Final Fantasy fan!
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