Great Games, Terrible Legacy - Final Fantasy VII
Tom Mc Shea takes a look at how the legacy of Final Fantasy VII has shaped the blockbuster video game experience.
by Gamespot Staff on
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I for one feel that the failure of FF XIII was the fact that it felt like they tried to replicate western games to apeal more worldwide then to stick to the types of games the previous one's had been. The leveling system felt like they were trying to mimic it from FFX but the linear style of it felt restricted in my eye's compared to FFX yes you could only go in a straight line in FFX aswell but you could choice different routes or you could jump around it. Somehow I also disliked the fact that certain characters could only use certain skills restricting which characters you could choose from when in that game everyone could be every class. The game felt fast paced with the real time fighting and I liked the system over all but it somehow felt restricted aswell. Everything about this game felt restricted and as mentioned it felt more focused on cinemas then the actual game.
I think it's bad form to criticize Final Fantasy VII. Yes, it started what would later become an unwelcome trend in gaming, but FF7 itself was a balanced and complete experience. It evolved the art of gaming in a way few other titles have. Would the gaming world be a better place if FF7 never came out? I doubt the gaming world as we know it would exist at all. Video games would probably be considered merely a nostalgic pastime instead of the mainstream experience they have become.
You cannot be afraid to succeed out of fear of what will happen when everyone else tries to imitate what you have done and saturate the market with lower-quality goods. History is replete with examples of industries that had to evolve in order to survive. Gaming is no different. Atari didn't evolve, so Nintendo moved in to take their place at the top of the heap. Then it was Nintendo who didn't evolve, and they were surpassed by Sony. If Square/Enix cannot replicate the ground-breaking experience that Final Fantasy VII was, then someone else will. And the industry will be better for it.
I rather enjoyed the cutscenes since they brought a cinematic life to the blocky characters you had been playing. The age of cinematics is a good one, I think, but just like the CG virus and blockbuster films, cinematics can be used well and poorly. Metal Gear Solid IV had fantastic in-game visuals and even better cinematics because they brought the gameplay to life in a relevant way. FFXIII's cutscenes, in my opinion, were amazing but did not add much to the events at hand. They did not bring the characters to life, or what life they had to begin with. MGSIV is proof, methinks, that next generation cutscenes can be awesome if the scripting and animation and directing are top-notch AND the sequence brings the game to life, which is how it has always been. FFVII did that, Xenogears did that, FFVIII did that, FFX and FFXII did that, but FFXIII did not. I would say that the legacy of FFVII is cinematics that brought the game to life.
I have to disagree with pretty much every single thing Tom said. There were significantly better RPGs in America before and after FF7 and the ones before it are obviously not a product of FF7. The gameplay was not different enough from the first 6 FFs, from Chrono Trigger, or SM RPG, or Legend.Secret of Mana, to make it that amazing. FF7 is a good game, no argument, but the only reason it gets so much undeserved love is because an entire generation of American gamers, my generation, acted when it came out as if they had never seen or played an RPG before.
He does make a good point I do agree with - If it is responsible for anything, FF7 is the CoD of RPGs. Companies including Square ENIX, not Square (please don't use the terms interchangeably, Square disappeared soon after FFX) - are trying to make the best RPG ever to compete with a 20 year old memory that real gamers don't care about anymore, and they utterly fail the genre into oblivion.
Sorry.. but FF7 was the most complete game. Everyone is gonna have their opinions on it.. but if you poll all the gamers in the world.. FF7 would undoubtedly be Top 5.
I have to agree and disagree here Tom. FFVII was a fantastic game that had some cut scenes in it but the VAST majority of the game was actual gameplay. The story was not the strongest but I thought it had some of the most memorable characters of all time.
I agree that from that point on it does seem like developers are putting a lot of focus on cut scenes but I wouldnt blame FFVII for that. Blame developers for taking it too far. Metal Gear Solid 4 was the best example of how not to make a game with a crap ton of cut scenes. It's still a good game but though. I also have to agree with Tom that FFXIII is by far the worst game in the series and definitely focused entirely on graphics. Characters and story were boring, battle system was broken even if it had some good ideas (switching roles in the middle of battle). Game over as a result of your main character dying? Completely stupid.
This was a very interesting video! While it was a little dark in nature and a little bit over-dramatic, it still did bring up a very good point: the fact that you play a game well and are rewarded with a movie. That very idea is what is destroying video games for me. I hear the words, "AAA title," and I just ignore whatever that game may be because it will never be for me. While I did enjoy FFVII, the games on NES and SNES are the ones that stood out to me as the best ones. They left so much up to the imagination...and that's the key. I don't want to be spoon-fed a game through cut-scenes. I enjoy it when developers don't always tell the story to the fullest...it gives the player a moment to interact with the game in a way that is unique: through imagination. For example, while Final Fantasy 6 gave a very substantial story, it also left many things up to the player to wonder that weren't just blatantly stated in the game. Things such as origin stories of certain characters (where the hell did Gogo come from?) to why the hell all the damned monsters are running around in the wilderness. Even the story of the Three Statues all on it's own had an air of mystery to it that made it so much more appealing and satisfying by the time you saw the ending of the game.
My first "AAA title" experience was with Assassin's Creed. Right from the beginning, as soon as the opening, I was immediately let down. "What the hell is all this techno-mumbo-jumbo," I thought? I pushed through the irritating movie cut scenes and finally got to the game. Even during the gameplay, I felt like a spectator rather than a participator. That's the biggest problem with games today. I recently played Strike Suit Zero, and even in that game I felt like a spectator rather than a player. I like games that keep the control in the players hands. I hate auto-aim assistants, tutorials, and lengthy cut-scenes. If I want to watch a movie, I'll put in a darned movie.
The whole reason I enjoy video games so much is because I feel like there is a level of participation in a meaningful way with someone else's creative world. I am interacting with the imagination of another person. That to me, is the coolest thing ever and is golden, and whenever a game takes that away I put the game away and seek other experiences.
FF7 was pretty good, though I didn't enjoy it as much as others, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I played it way past its release. By then it looked horrible, had flimsy controls (I'm reminded of the motorcycle minigame) and the story confused the crap out of me near the end of the game. Cloud is an asshole I can't come to like. The rest are either old-fashioned stereotypes or zany creatures like Red (I did like Red).
Must we bring up FF7 all the fuckin time, though? I get it. You all liked it.
How about one person starts a comment, whenever there's a Square-Enix related topic saying: "Press like if you like FF7", or even simpler: "FF7" . This way, everybody that likes the game can simply press the like button and shut up about it!
The problem when comparing FF7 to MGS4 or Max Payne 3 is that FF7, even if it had its share of movies, also had tens of hours of gameplay between most of them. So yeah, they werent tiring at all.
As someone born in the 70´s and lived long the games evolution I can tell, you get it all wrong Tom McShea. What made Final Fantasy VII such an out of this wolrd games, was not cinematics. Yeah cinemetics where great,but what FFVII had is something that most of the todays´s games don´t and developers seemed to have forgoten and that is AN AMAZING INTRIGING STORY. That´s what made FFVII an adictive games. Once you begined to played where traped in that fantastical and complex storyline that kept you playing to know what happened next and to get the mystery of sephiroth, jenova and cloud revealed. And was it rewarding and satisfying to see all the pieces fit together at the end. And that´s why you played not to see a cinematic. It´s so sad to see today´s games worry about graphics and shooting but don´t have any story to tell and in the end they get repetitive and you get tired of them just after 15 minutes of playing. This is the same reason that made bioshock such an amazing and diferent shooter.
For those born in the 90's FF7 is a Nostalgia - fest. The first time you played a cinematic RPG adventure with colorful and lovable heroes, epic storyline and a very enjoyable ATB combat system cannot be forgotten.
The adventures across 3 discs were long and satisfying one. I was a kid back then and I remember seeing a beloved party member die at the end of disc 1 filled me with mixed emotions of sadness and rage. I didn't resume the adventure from disc 2 for a while after that. It's storytelling and character development was THAT effective for me.
All in all, I still play FF7 on a old Windows 9x PC whenever I want to restore the old nostalgic feeling that I've known to love so much.
Long live FF7 legacy!
I mean if the "movie" doesn't suck then maybe it's worth it. Although I agree with some games, there are other games that tell a great story with great visuals and a giant amount of playing time. Take Dark Souls in to account. Challenging game that had great visuals, but you were playing almost the whole entire time. Games keep getting better and better but I feel that because publishers wanna make more money they shove DLC down our throats on day one which is a real turn off to the players. I can't think of a great game with in the past few months let alone year that didn't shove DLC down my throat on day one, weather it was extra skins for weapons and characters or new maps that you "had" to have. That is the real problem. If they would just focus on giving everything to the gamer for the set price of the outrageous $60 then maybe we wouldn't be having this discussion.
Final Fantasy VII was still ultimately an experience you played. According to the back of the games box it has 120 minutes of cinematic videos. Compare that to the 40-80 hours of content available and it's obviously clear Final Fantasy VII was still a video game with a whole load to offer gamers who want to get immersed in a great universe with great characters, a great story and finely balanced game play.
The fact remains though, while Final Fantasy VII was cinematic it also had a crap ton of content. The cinematic games it inspired have gone beyond the cinematic experience of Final Fantasy VII and put this experience above the most important aspect of all video games - playing them.
Final Fantasy VII was and still is a fantastic game, but I feel Square have damaged the reputation of the name with the rest of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
could not agree more!! FFVII was an amazing game. But companies have misunderstood why exactly this game was so good.
It's sad to remember how awesome Final Fantasy games used to be. For the past 10 years they've just been a steaming pile of failure.
Long live FF7!
there goes those 6.5 minutes.... the writing on this segment was not very good... As to the point of the segment... it seems nostalgia was the prominent inspiration here, rather than a valid point...
FF7 was amazing and after that a lot of games kept me glued to the chair, even if I still think FF7 is unsurpassed yet. The problem, just to put it in a very simple way, is that often, way too often, software houses put the visual outcome as first in the priority list while gamers want something to experience primarly and off course a product that is a pleasure for the eyes. Well FF7 was exactly this kind of product: great storyline, charismatic characters, good interface AND was visually great for that time. I mean, where is innovation today? Where are the new ideas? Gamers start to be tired of having sequels just cause is profitable for software houses. Take Blizzard as an example: Diablo? Great!! Warcraft? Fantastic!! Wow? It was incredible in the beginning and then??? Sequels and expansions just to keep on milking the cow.
In the last couple years I saw very few games that really caught my attention, like Batman, Dark Souls and Catherine; the first is simply a pleasure to play and the other two are innovative even if there´s something missing to let them become milestones.
To make a long story short technology is just a mean, not a goal, I don´t care if I have a CG cutscene that is more real than reality, I want something that will challenge my brain, please my eyes, and gives me emotions (I´m one of those that almost cried when Aeris died) ... FF7 was great because it was totally immersive experience.
Satisfy the gamers and business will take care of itself by itself
So much went right with FF7. The jump from SNES to PSX graphics was amazing. The music, the graphics, the story (albeit somewhat confusing) use of themes and character arcs. The blend of a believable futuristic urban setting, traditional fantasy, Western, and Asian landscapes created a varied land to explore. And of course (spoiler) losing a beloved character. And something perfect for the time it came out. Something not quite ready to be put into words. It just felt right.
Sure the FMV scenes were awesome, but hardly the only thing that carried the game to legend status. So, has square gotten it wrong and just focused on creating a cinematic series as this article suggests? Probably to an extent. But I think there may be some resentment by some devs at Square(enix). When you hear comments about not doing a remake until a new FF game reaches the same height and three incarnations of FF13 suggest to me that egos may be at work, not wanting to continue living under the shadow of 7. Different sensibilities and story telling talents at work. And the further Square moves away from the other aspects that made 7 great, the further they get from capturing lighting in a bottle twice. Personally the series went down hill for me at 8, bumped up a bit at 9 and continued to slide into meh ever sense.
Either way, maybe the legacy of FF7 is really a generation of gamers chasing a digital dragon.
A lot of people seem to be missing the point McShea is trying to make. Its not just about Final Fantasy, and it's not just about hardware capabilities. How much of a game is playing versus watching now compared to older games? How much budget is funneled only into CGI at the cost of other pieces? How much easier are games now that developers need you to make it to the end cut-scene to justify the price to render it? It's not just FF7 versus FF13. It's Doom versus Doom 3 level design. We have less and less IP diversity, and crappier games than even 10 years ago. I think it's a problem that deserves some thought, yes.
come on tom mcshea is acting as if what he is saying is truth, this is all just your opinion, in my opinion 10 is the best, and 13 is also really good, not the beginning of there down fall, they did get alot worse when they merged with enix tho, and started the downfall with 11, but 13 is very good and underrated, first time playing i did not like it, but it grew on me and is now my 3rd fav final fantasy behind 9 in 2nd
IMO FFVII didn't age well. It has one of (if not the most, although it's hard for me to admit since I'm a Chrono-fanboy) the best storylines and charismatic characters, but its gameplay is just so tiring that I've never gotten far into the game. Still, it was a revolution at the time it was released, being an icon of the golden age of electronic RPGs. Square did great at the PS1-era.
CG was the right move at the time, the hardware lacked the power to actually make scenes like that interactive. This has however not been the case the last decade.
Devs should strive to create more interactive gameplay.
I agree that FF13 was the most horrible to date. Combat was almost pointless as well as the world and your journey through it.
FF VI to X are still some of my favourite games.
Dunno why many stop at IX, in my opinion X is at the same level as the others.
FF7 is at the top, but not the only great FF game. Aside from NES and SNES titles, FF9 was also great, the others would just be argued about.
FF10 is a cake walk. FF8 magic system. FF12 combat was a great change, but chalked up more cons.
FF13, the greatest thing about this game was the free world you get to see and explore... once u had like 80% of the game finished. They capped character stats per chapter, but it was a cake walk unless you plowed through the game. Well there is a list of its cons.
They need difficulty settings, and something to insure the use of strategies to be made up by the player to counter and attack/defend(of course players could just look up a walkthrough/faq).
Bah, anyways Square enough trouble then making the games more appealing to the hard core players.
One thing i would really like done is: KEEP ING THE FKING TEENAGERS OUT OF YOUR GAMES, 15 year old's competing with Adults, vets.
Like Vahn from FF12, and then there's FF13's freaking... Hope!, wtf are the kids doing fighting at the level of people like Lightning!.
Next thing we will start seeing is FF's done in High Schools! and main character being chased by dozens of the opposite sex.
I'd like to point out though that Square did also release FF Tactics around the same time as 7. That game largely lacked all the flashy cinematic cut scenes and still kept little chibi-looking sprite characters. IMO, that was the better game. I still love that today and i'm currently wasting hours upon hours on the IOS War of the Lions.
It is what it is though. That was Tactics and 7 was more the "official" sequel with all the marketing attention and thus as a result, received greater consumer attention. Tactics was more like an experimental side project type of thing. I will agree that Square's attempt at recapturing FF7 success is getting quite pathetic. They seriously need to change their way of thinking and invest more in the bold, riskier options that focus more on gameplay mechanics rather than graphics and cut scenes. By that i mean actually put their resources on something new for the major consoles rather than pushing that stuff over to Wii, DS, Vita systems because there is less risk if it fails.
This was pretty awesome. I think all the PS1 Final Fantasy games are half price now on PSN and I've been thinking about getting them, or at least VII.
Am I the only one who has noticed that Yuna from FF X, Garnet from FF IX, and Rinoa from FF VIII look a LOT alike?
So why is Tom putting everything on the shoulders of one game? It's not like FF7 was the first game with CG cutscenes. Is he saying the game just had "too many"? Dude, I don't even like this fucking game, but the first thing that jumps out at me is NOT the "focus on cutscenes" and I'm certainly not buying the impact of this game was so greast that the next 14 years of games are directly descended from it.
This video is so inane and incorrect, Gamespot should seriously take it down.
Although I sorta agree some games take cinematics over the top I dont think you can put the blame squarely on FF7's shoulders. The bigger problem comes down to innovation, game companies just aren't doing any effort to involve the gamer enough anymore theyre just using the same formula over and over.
God, everybody who comments on this website is such a stiff. Tom is making a good point. A lot of developers now focus two much on flashy cinematics to make people want their pretty game and not enough on core gameplay elements. Two many games lack depth these days. And final fantasy VII was where the flashiness all started. Although if it wasn't VII, another game would have done it somewhere else down the road. But great video Tom, keep it up.
Tom, I'm sorry games have had to evolve. Unfortunately, the problem with what the've evolved into doesn't have ANYTHING to do with cutscenes. The gameplay that made the old games work isn't complex enough to carry a modern game. There's no reason to not make games in the old style, but that's plain nostalgia. Final Fantasy, like many classic franchises, has to grow up, stop innovating, or basically split their audiences.
Don't be so down on new things, Luddite! I hope the news from ThatGameCompany have shown that big corporations aren't just big evil racketeers, they can also bring games to market consistently. YOUR job should be to provide better commentary on exactly why games are disappointing audiences despite being technical marvels
Squares problem with replicating the success of FFVII doesn't have anything to do with the visuals or how much money they're throwing at the franchise. Post FFX it has everything to do with a complete bastardization of the gameplay that made FF a successful series, convoluted story and plots that don't make any sense, characters that aren't overly relatable and some even down right annoying, and too much concern with mass market appeal.
Bad video presentation aside. Tom is dead on. I haven't felt the same tenacity and ferver from the experience that was FFV since VII. VII was more than just "cut-scenes" integrated with quick timed big-button on the screen mashing on those four discs. Damn i felt proud to beat the Ruby weapon, diamond, and hell even tonberry. But lets face it. alot of kids nowadays dont even know what game tom is even talking about. all they know is the lastest crap square shoves outta their arse. they don't know crap about the series. and why should they after VIII, (8) it all went down hill fast...flaming...with bath-salts...
I'm fine with cutscenes, infact as I get older and have less time to dedicate to games, I mainly play rpg's, where I don't have to learn a combo of moves to button mash too and dedicate myself everyday to the game just to be decent at it. I can play a game, have it more tactical than reflex, and enjoy the characters and story. And you say since 7 square has been downhill is not true. I love 7, but I actually enjoyed 9 and 10 more than 7. 13 and 12 werent bad either, they had a few shortcomings but I still overall were good games. People have just forgotten what truly bad games are. Whats funny, is that FFXIII and DAII get so much hate and get called "the worst game I ever played" is ridiculous. Those are still good games, maybe not as good as a past entry, but still better than most games today. I would say the resident evil games are in more trouble than FF or DA.
In a way I agree. Fixation with past glory is the achilles heel of modern game developing and fan reaction. I have hope it will get better though. It's not as though the mona lisa ruined painting for the rest of history. There just needs to be a new form of creativity. Maybe gaming just needs that transition away from the old to get a reboot. As is, passion seems decidedly low.
the cinematics and gameplay can go together and be great like ff7. its all up to the developers theres no reason u cant have both
i played ff7 right when it came out and never since and i dont remember hardly any cutscenes mostly just the fixed overhead camera when ur navigating thru villages. not saying there where not alot of cutscenes but the gameplay is what i remember
It isn't FFVIIs fault gaming now is more movie then game. It's the people who buy them. Maybe FFVII is the peak, but other FF games have been ok too. Aside from that, play dark souls/demon souls. There are still RPGs out there. Just because most devs choose to market video games that appeal to the masses, that doesn't mean there aren't other actual games to play. There are more new age gamers then there are old school ones and sorry to say, but that's what people want, super awesome graphics and easier modes with less challenge and actual gameplay. I haven't played every ff game, but I've played 7 and 13. And I'd replay 7 again but never 13.
next time try not to write something and read it out loud, you look stiff and you sound stiff like a bad actor in a horrible low budget film trying not to forget his dialogue! and it's not the first time...
The formality of the language here is way overdone. You would think this was a university project.
This just isn't how people talk. Not even Tom.
Tom, this article seemed crass and silly, which is totally unlike you. It was also chock-a-block full of really heavy enunciation as though you were reading poety instead of communicating in the effortless style of Kevin or the guys at Giant Bomb, which is, on the other hand, very like you. Cut that out and let those great ideas flooooow, man.
Anyway, not only were a number of the subsequent Final Fantasies huge blockbusters and critical successes (in fact, virtually every one except for the MMORPGs and spinoffs; XIII stands out in my mind as the one canonical game to do poorly from a critical standpoint), but Square's total unwillingness to stick with the same formula from game to game suggests that your whole thesis is based on an invalid premise.
So you're saying that your problem was with the cutscenes? I don't think cutscenes are inherently bad. My problem is when there are so many of them and they go so long that they make the game drag on unnecessarily, like with Kingdom Hearts 2.