Final Fantasy VII's Legacy Assured
You know, we like to reminisce with everyone else, and I'm always a fan of examining the finer points of the classics. This is why I read IGN Retro's "Is Final Fantasy VII Overrated?" article with much interest. They raise many good points, and I don't really have any inclination to address each point specifically. Besides, I agree with a lot of it. However, in asking whether or not a classic is "overrated," I think we need to step back and look at the bigger picture.
First of all, let's all remember that FFVII is going to be 12 years old this year, and gaming has come a long way since then. Obviously, the graphics and technicals on the whole have become far more advanced, we have this thing called "voice acting" now, and yes, the combat and overall gameplay has taken huge strides in the past decade. Therefore, I think we can only view FFVII in two ways when asking the "overrated" question: we can either do what we all did twelve years ago and simply compare it to all available competing titles at the time, or we can analyze how it has withstood the test of time. The latter is more difficult, simply because everyone may view the situation from a number of different angles. But as I'm writing this damn thing, this is my point of view.
Any entertainment product's legacy must rely on the position that product holds as time goes on. In other words, the consumer must remember the product and place it in high esteem; it must act as a measuring stick and a plateau for all future comparisons. As far as I can tell, this is exactly what has happened with FFVII. Sure, we can attribute a lot of that rosy nostalgia to those who first leaped into the series on the PlayStation and really weren't familiar with other RPGs. And as many will say, "oh, if you think FFVII is the greatest RPG ever made, it's probably the first RPG you ever played." Yeah, well, it most certainly wasn't the first one I played, and I still consider it to be the best RPG ever. At the same time, I have to freely admit that games then and games now are extraordinarily different; it's almost impossible to make accurate comparisons. So I often have to stop and ask myself: "is it really that good, or does all this nostalgia cloud the issue?"
Well, I'm sure it does cloud the issue somewhat. But I can also gauge the overall feeling towards FFVII. It's one of the most respected and beloved titles in history, and I refuse to believe that a game can reach such a lofty peak in our minds only because we all remember it with a particular fondness. Look, I'm sure there are holes in the plot. I know you didn't have a lot of freedom. I know the adventure didn't appeal to absolutely everyone. But here's something else I know-
I know the battle system is a whole lot more complex than most have assumed in the past. Just because it's turn-based doesn't mean it's slow and easy to understand; the Materia system alone offered countless combinations, and having played most every RPG of the time, I can tell you that such a system was quite advanced and even unique. Furthermore, I've actually heard such ignorance from people who say all the characters were the "same," just because you could equip everyone with any piece of Materia. In truth, each character had a base set of statistics that dictated their inherent strengths and weaknesses, which added another dimension to the combat strategy. I also know that the storyline pacing remains excellent (still the best I've seen in RPGs), and Squaresoft managed to provide us with a memorable cast of characters. And when I say "memorable," I mean that almost every last member of the cast is worth remembering in their own way. How many RPGs have been made that boast this same unbelievable trait?
I could go on and on. But the point is this- how the general gaming public perceives a classic is how it will be judged in the years to come, and FFVII remains near the top of the list. Also, it's there for a damn good reason, so we may not need to dissect the game as IGN has done. It's fun and everything, and definitely worth a read if you're a hardcore fan, but in the end, the bigger picture is the bottom line. Take an overview, people. Combine what you see with your own memories. Based on your findings, would you consider FFVII to be overrated?
3/4/2009 Ben Dutka