Ooookay, here we go.
This was a fine game. Solid battle system, good soundtrack, memorable villain, all the things you want in an RPG. But Jesus Crackers people, let it go. It's not as good as you remember, and it never was as perfect as fanboys have let it become over the years. It's reached this untouchable, unassailable point where you're not even allowed to dislike it, let alone berate it. Well, we are. Right now.
The characters are poorly realized. Compare them to FFVI or even FFIV on the SNES and they're rote, uninteresting stereotypes that pale next to the likes of Cecil, Terra or Rydia. And Aerith, well, she's been immortalized as the biggest shock in all of RPG history somehow, even though most of the people we know barely batted an eye when she bit the dust. Our PC editor even offered this bit of constructive criticism sure to enrage the legions that had never played an RPG prior to FFVII:
"She seems passive, but she’s really passive aggressive and manipulative about her feelings for Cloud. She’s confused and doesn’t know what she wants, which is fine. But she’s too weak to do anything but smile stoically and take a beating like all perfectly tragic princesses should.
"Her death was not an example of how games can invoke a strong emotional response from the player. It’s an example of how a cutscene can trigger an emotional response, and that’s been happening since the introduction of dem dar movin’ pictures. She doesn’t deserve a literal beating. She deserves a symbolic burning in protest of what she stands for, the one dimensional Barbie Doll smiling face that will forever go on feigning optimism and happiness in the name of femininity."
The main thing to take away is that FFVII was the first RPG millions of people played, so it unfairly becomes the standard by which all others should be judged, even though it's impossible for another, better game to actually surpass it. It was a pretty good game with amazing, ahead-of-its-time presentation, enough to shroud the comparatively lame characters and style-over-substance gameplay that would define the franchise for years to come. And for all the dust it kicked up, FFVIII, released just two years later, looked phenomenally better, so even VII's unprecedented delivery was outdated in a matter of months. And if you want to talk strict gameplay, Materia is a poor man's Esper.
We like it fine, but it's nowhere near as good as people make it out to be and doesn't deserve the crushing amount of misty-eyed nostalgia it forcibly extracts - and that's as true today as it was in 1997.
Wanna get worked up over an entirely different list of videogames you love/hate? Check out our Top 7 Compendium for more of the good stuff.
May 12, 2008