Thursday, October 19, 2000

Final Fantasy VII | 10

I'm old enough to remember when RPGs weren't called RPGs. In those days the essence of the game was to move the players about a game board, fighting battles, collecting treasure, and finding clues. Origin's Ultima series was the grandparent of these games - immensely entertaining, but essentially two-dimensional. Among its heirs were the first games in the Final Fantasy line.

This was also a time when computer capabilities and capacity seemed to double every few months. Final Fantasy VII is the result of an inevitable synergy between technology and imagination. Players found themselves in a three-dimensional world where they could wander at will. They were playing with characters that were not only more animated and lifelike, but also had something that resembled personalities. In a very real sense, FFVII changed the gaming landscape, and RPGs reached a new level of credibility.

What is inside is the story of Cloud Strife; an ex-soldier turned mercenary who is drawn into the struggle between Avalanche, a revolutionary group, and Shinra, a rapacious company that is rapidly draining the resources of the planet. Starting out in the city Midgar the battle moves back and forth across the planet, as Cloud gathers team members, accessories and power. Everyone has a history, often mysterious, and an important role to play.

Eventually it becomes clear that the real enemy is a laboratory experiment gone horribly wrong. Shinra's effort to produce supermen has created Sephiroth, who has become one of the legendary villains of the gaming world. Physically beautiful, his mind has been ruined by his knowledge of what he is, and his goal has become the destruction of the world.

The plot is remarkably rich. Within the main story arc are many smaller stories that build the players understanding of the nature of each of the characters. There seem to be an unending number of weapons, powers, and monsters. More than enough material for many replays. The graphics are a bit primitive for our time, but were startling when this game first came out. As your imagination adapts to the imagery, the game becomes truly engaging on many levels. Final Fantasy VII is still one of the best of its genre, Whether you are a student of gaming or an aficionado, it belongs on your shelf.

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