What’s so good about FINAL FANTASY VII?

Why is there still such an AVALANCHE of love for this game 25 years after release? Here are just 5 reasons...
By Duncan Heaney

Did you know: 2022 marks the 25th Anniversary of FINAL FANTASY VII!

It's an impressive milestone for any game and its enduring popularity is testament to the hard work and talent of the team that made it, including its Director Yoshinori Kitase and Character Designer Tetsuya Nomura, who recently had this to say:

It's fair to say that FINAL FANTASY VII is a fan favorite - even now, 25 years after its original release, people continue to play and sing the praises of this particular entry in the series. But if you haven't had the pleasure yet, you may be wondering: why? What makes this game stand out from all the others?

Well, we dug back into our archives and we found this list of 5 reasons it's a must-play RPG that still hits today:

The opening mission is the bomb

The opening of FINAL FANTASY VII is a masterclass in how to start a game. It throws you into the action immediately - from the moment Cloud Strife (or whatever you choose to call him) leaps from that train, you’re in control and learning about both the world and the mechanics of the game.

There’s no long exposition dumps, complex jargon or rambling backstory - in mere minutes you know everything you need to: Cloud’s a mercenary, he’s working for an environmental activism group, and they want to blow up a reactor to stop the energy company ShinRa from draining the planet’s lifeforce. Boom - job done.

It lays rock solid foundations for the epic and complex story to build on. It does the same for gameplay too. Your first battle takes place in seconds, and you’re introduced to the basics of the Active Time Battle system in a gentle, non-threatening encounter.

By the time you’ve finished the bombing mission, you’ll be fully comfortable with fights - and the game can start layering on more complexity through the Materia system. Speaking of which…

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The Materia system has incredible strategic depth

Gaining abilities works in FINAL FANTASY VII is simple - over the course of the adventure you collect materia that contain skills and spells. Insert these orbs into slots in weapons and armor and you’ll be able to use those abilities.

It’s a simple to understand system, but it has extraordinary flexibility. Different gear has a different number of slots. Some slots are linked, so you can set two materia to have a combined effect.

And even though the characters can use any materia, they still have inclinations towards certain skills that you should take into account. Aerith, for example, is clearly geared towards magic and makes for an excellent spellcaster, while Barret is more suited to defensive or physical builds.

Ultimately though it’s entirely up to you who does what. You just have to discover what works for yourself - and when you discover a particularly potent combination, it’s oh so satisfying.

Every party member gets a satisfying arc

Over the course of FINAL FANTASY VII, you’ll amass a fairly sizable party of friends and allies - and every single one of them is a compelling character in their own right.

That said, the game’s not content to let them just exist as they are - every single member of the team gets their own stories that change them and deepen their characters in meaningful ways.

The game is full of unforgettable character moments, like Red XIII’s journey of discovery in Cosmo Canyon, or Cid’s anger and depression over his failed dreams of space flight to name but too. Even the two optional party members - Yuffie and Vincent - have compelling side quests that develop them in fascinating ways.

But it’s not just the heroes that stand out…

The villains are horribly compelling

There’s a saying: you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If that’s true, then Cloud Strife must officially be one of the Best People Ever™.

Because the villains in FINAL FANTASY VII are beyond great. Obviously Sephiroth gets a lot of attention - and rightly so. He’s a tragic figure, a deeply personal threat to the team, and dangerously effective throughout. Plus he has one heck of a sword.

But FINAL FANTASY VII is packed full of other genuinely brilliant antagonists - each one of which could headline as the big bad in any other game. There’s the smug and ruthless President ShinRa, the cruel and ambitious Rufus, and the deeply sinister scientist Hojo to name but a few.

But I have to give a special shout-out to the Turks. Tseng, Reno, Rude and Elena - essentially Shinra’s fixers - pop up to harass the heroes throughout the adventure, and they’re responsible for some of the most memorable moments.

Unlike other bad guys, the Turks aren’t always a direct threat - they typically have their own missions, and are perfectly willing to ignore, or even work with, Cloud’s band if it helps them. In one particularly amusing scene, they even refuse to fight because they’re on holiday. Man, they rock.

The soundtrack is a work of art

All together now… “Estuans Interius, Ira vehemti, Estuans interiu, Ira vehementi… Sephiroth!”

Okay, so maybe One Winged Angel works better as an audio track than it does written down, but it’s an absolutely amazing piece of music - and that’s something you can say about the entirety of Nobuo Uematsu’s FINAL FANTASY VII soundtrack.

It’s an eclectic tracklist that ranges from rockin’ boss themes like Fight On! to dreamlike tunes like Listen to the Cries of the Planet. With so many different styles it could be all over the place, but every single track without exception fits the game and enhances the tone of that particular scene. Uematsu really is a master of his craft, isn’t he?

That’s just a taste of the glory of FINAL FANTASY VII - there are so many more great things to talk about - the powerful side stories, chocobo husbandry, slap fights on top of giant cannons…

…and of course that bit. You know the one.

But ultimately, we should leave it to you to discover for yourselves. It’s available to play on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Windows 10, PlayStation 4 and Steam.

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