Here we go. We’ve reached the Top 3. The three best video games that have ever been made. The absolute cream of the crop. The best of the best. And without any further ado, allow me to reveal that the third greatest video game of all time is Final Fantasy VII.
I know that for many, putting Final Fantasy VII ahead of Final Fantasy VI is akin to blasphemy, but there is no doubt in my mind that Final Fantasy VII is the superior game. Final Fantasy VI is clearly fantastic, but every time I’ve ever played it, I tend to get bogged down in the second half of the game. I just find it to be kind of boring. As for VII, it is the only FF that I have mastered, not once, but twice. (By mastered, I mean that I leveled up all of my characters to level 99, got all of the ultimate weapons, all of the ultimate Limit Breaks, two of every Master materia, and I beat the Emerald Weapons and the Ruby Weapon. You know, in case you’re a nerd and you’re wondering about that sort of thing.) This game just never gets boring, and it never gets old.
The funny thing about my love for this game is that I never wanted to play it. When I was a kid, I was a hardcore Nintendo fanboy. I was also a hardcore Square fanboy. Up until about 1996, these two things went hand-in-hand. For the first ten years or so of its history, Square developed games exclusively for Nintendo’s systems. As a kid, I wholeheartedly believed that these two companies were in love with each other. To my naive kid brain, there was no reason why Square would ever develop a game for any system other than Nintendo’s. So when I came across an issue of GamePro magazine that had a preview of Final Fantasy VII for the SONY Playstation, my mind was blown.
At this point, I was super jazzed for the Nintendo 64. One of the things that made me super jazzed for the Nintendo 64 was the prospect of a next-generation Final Fantasy game running on this thing. Square had already shown off a tech demo featuring characters from Final Fantasy VI that they had built using the same Silicon Graphics workstations that the Nintendo 64 was based on, and it looked AMAZING. So I was incredibly stoked about the prospect about Final Fantasy on the Nintendo 64. And then came that fateful issue of GamePro.
When I first laid eyes on Final Fantasy VII for the Playstation, I was simultaneously excited and mortified. Excited because it looked even more amazing than the N64 demo, but mortified because it wasn’t for the Nintendo 64. I felt like I had been stabbed in the back. Square had BETRAYED Nintendo and all of Nintendo’s fans! I decided right then and there that there was no way I was ever going to play this blasphemous game, no matter how incredible it was.
Of course, I did end up playing Final Fantasy VII. Part of the reason was that the more I learned about the game, the more awesome it seemed, and the more irresistible it was. The other part of the reason was that I bought a Nintendo 64 soon after it came out, and it turned out to be a rather disappointing console. I quickly realized that I wasn’t so much a Nintendo fanboy as I was a Square fanboy. So I broke down and bought a Playstation, and of course the first game I got was Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII deviates from the typical fantasy setting that had characterized most previous Final Fantasies. It instead takes place in a rather modern/futuristic world with cars and cell phones and so forth. The game starts off with a rebel group known as AVALANCHE planting a bomb in a Mako reactor owned by the Shinra Corporation. Shinra is a massive organization that has somehow managed to take over the whole world, and they use their reactors to drain Mako energy from the planet and turn it into electricity. Unfortunately, this Mako energy is the lifeblood of the planet, and if Shinra continues to drain it all, the planet will eventually die. AVALANCHE has dedicated itself to keeping that from happening.
I don’t want to get too much into the story though. Instead, I want to give a small example of the game’s scale. The game starts off in the city of Midgar, which is Shinra’s base of operations. It stays there for several hours of gameplay time, and for a while, you actually get the impression that the entire game will take place in Midgar. So when you finally do end up leaving Midgar, and you realize that Midgar is just one of many locations on a huge world map, it’s a bit of a shock, and rather exciting as well.
Final Fantasy VII is the best-selling Final Fantasy to this day, and its popularity is attested to by the large number of spin-offs and sequels that it has spawned. The best of these is probably Advent Children. Advent Children is a movie that takes place a couple of years after the events of Final Fantasy VII. It’s basically a 90 minute long action scene from the Matrix on steroids. Which is awesome if you like that sort of thing. Unfortunately the plot doesn’t really make any sense, and it doesn’t really add anything to the original game. There is also Crisis Core, which is a PSP game that takes place before Final Fantasy VII. Unlike Advent Children, this game has a pretty decent plot, but the gameplay is stunningly boring, so I haven’t actually finished it. There’s a couple of other games that are part of what’s known as the “Compliation of Final Fantasy VII”, but I’ve never really had any interest in playing any of them.
But the relatively poor quality of these spin-offs might simply be due to the fantastic quality of the original that they must be compared with. Final Fantasy VII is an amazing game, and easily the best Final Fantasy game ever made. But it is not the best JRPG ever made. If you want to know what is, you’ll have to come back next week!