Final Fantasy VII was both my first Final Fantasy game and my first RPG, so needless to say it holds a special place in my heart. I recently replayed it for nostalgia’s sake, seeing as how January was the game’s 20th anniversary. Unsurprisingly, I still felt like it held up for the most part. The music is still some of the best in the series, there’s a big open world with plenty to see, the battle system is simple yet complex, and it was fun revisiting my old friends down a long, twisted tale of saving the world from a long haired madman. And yet I started comparing it to the most recent game in the franchise: Final Fantasy XV.
There are a few obvious comparisons one would strike at immediately like the graphics, which I will elaborate more on, but I dug deeper than just cosmetic improvements. Some are obvious and others are just fun to dwell on. Again, Final Fantasy VII will always hold a special place in my heart. In fact, it’s still probably going to be my favorite Final Fantasy even after I drag it through the mud in order to put Final Fantasy XV on a higher pedestal. That said there are things aside from graphics that have been improved in the time between 1997 and 2016. It makes me excited for what Final Fantasy VII’s Remake could be based on my feelings toward Final Fantasy XV. Before we begin, let it be known that there may be minor spoilers ahead. Warning aside let’s get to it.
Unlike airships, trains occupy a smaller space in the world of Final Fantasy and yet they remain some of the most memorable sequences in the games they appear in. Final Fantasy VII has multiple moments including the opening scene where Cloud arrives and later on when Cid has to chase down Shinra’s for the Huge Materia. All great scenes, but Final Fantasy XV takes the cake. In Chapter 11, Noctis and his crew are attacked onboard their train by the robotic soldiers of the Empire. You fight both inside, outside, and in the train yard as assault carrier after assault carrier bombards the locomotive with shells and armored goons. The most exhilarating part is fighting atop the train, warping back and forth between locomotive and hovering airships, while you take them down in magnificent explosions. It’s probably the best sequence in the game’s latter third.
The name of Cid was first introduced in Final Fantasy II and has since become a staple in both main and spinoff games. In this vast cast, Cid Highwind from Final Fantasy VII has to be near the top of my personal favorites, but there’s no denying the power of having two Cids in Final Fantasy XV. Cid Sophiar is the more classic personification of Cid. He’s the mechanic and owner of the Hammerhead auto shop. He may look like a grizzled old man, but back in his heyday he ran around protecting Noctis’ father and defended their capital. In the present, he spends his time upgrading Noctis’ gear. His granddaughter, Cindy Aurum, is in charge of keeping Noctis’ ride, the Regalia, up to snuff. Now you may think it’s a stretch to call her a Cid, but her Japanese name is Cidney, which is more of a natural reference. Why they changed it outside of Japan is beyond me because she’s the only female Cid across the board. Her choice in clothing has sparked controversy, but ignoring that, her usefulness with a wrench and spunky attitude more than make her a favorite in my book.
There are sixteen Summons available in Final Fantasy VII and only six in Final Fantasy XV. This is simply a case of quality over quantity. Final Fantasy XV’s are massive Gods in both size and power. That said the requirements for contacting them are harder than just using a magic jewel in Final Fantasy VII. For example, in order to call forth Leviathan, Noctis must be near some source of water and that doesn’t even guarantee an appearance. Yet if Leviathan, or the other five come forth, you know they mean business as their magic devastates the land and you can be sure no enemy will be left standing. These are the best Summons across the entire Final Fantasy universe and no feeling is better.
For those who are unaware, magic is kept within jewels called Materia in Final Fantasy VII. They range from typical RPG spells like fire or ice, to stat altering pieces to increase HP for example. Experimenting around with the right combinations is fun, but like Final Fantasy XV’s Summons, their magic is a lot deadlier. Noctis, because of his royal blood, is the only one that can draw magic from the earth in the form of fire, ice, and lighting. He can mold these elements into grenade like orbs, also infusing them with items if he so chooses, like an antidote to add poison effects to a ball of lightning. Fire actually burns grass and animal fur while ice can freeze enemies to the ground. Plus all magic, if not used safely, can damage your party as well. Truly it’s a destructive force that even you’re not safe from. In can prove to be problematic, but it’s a nice change of pace to show magic in a more punishing fashion.
There’s only once instance of using a camera in Final Fantasy VII and that’s regarding Cloud’s flashback when he was venturing with Sephiroth. I should say when he thinks he was with Sephiroth, but let’s not get into that convoluted mess. Instead, let’s focus on the true star of Final Fantasy XV: Prompto’s camera. It may seem like a silly mechanic at first, but when you complete the game and get to see a gallery of all your saved photographs over the entire journey, well, it means something. It’s like a personal stamp proclaiming this version to be your own. It also distinguishes Prompto as someone other than an annoying sidekick. His use with a lens is unparalleled and can make for some truly memorable moments, both cool and dumb.
This one was hard for me to consider. The soundtrack to Final Fantasy VII is one of my all time favorites in the franchise, let alone RPGs. Yet as good as these songs are, it’s hard to deny the fact that Final Fantasy XV’s composer Yoko Shimomura’s score is notably better on a technical level thanks to her live orchestra. Every cutscene and every battle feels more engaging with her music sweeping in, whisking me away to lands far, far away from here. There have been albums since collecting various songs from Final Fantasy VII and reimagining them with a live orchestra and they sound ten times better, which proves my point. A live orchestra is always better to make your RPG more epic and immersive to the player.
Chocobos have a lot of uses in Final Fantasy VII regarding racing and acquiring various special items through breeding. However, as cute as they are in their bright polygonal forms, they look way better in Final Fantasy XV to the point of almost being real. After you acquire the ability to summon them, it’s hard not to take them everywhere in the countryside. Even though it might be faster to go by car, I couldn’t part with my feathery friend. Plus you can customize their colors to your liking, they level up thus increasing their speed and abilities, and they can even be called forth in battle. They’re not just tools in Final Fantasy XV, they’re your friends and nothing says that more than seeing them curled up beside your party around a camp fire. What could be more adorable than that?
Dungeons are a staple in RPGs, but there weren’t many traditional ones in Final Fantasy VII. There were a lot of locations your party hiked through including mountains, deserts, plains, and more, but there are few I would label as dungeons. Final Fantasy XV, on the other hand, brought these mystical places back in full force. Monsters in the universe of Final Fantasy XV are stronger in the dark making cavern deathtraps for any foolhardy traveler. Thankfully Noctis and his friends are armed to the teeth, but there’s still a sense of foreboding around every corner. Dungeons range from naturally wondrous caverns to the lost ruins of civilization. It recaptured the joy of dungeons along with throwing a little bit of the Tomb Raider sprit in for good measure.
Now this comparison is very slight, but no truer than any of the other junctions we’ve come to at this point. In Final Fantasy VII you can save on the World Map or at dedicated Save Points, which is the standard for most RPGs both new and old, East and West. However, Final Fantasy XV lets you save almost anywhere and anytime barring a few exceptions. You can’t save in the middle of battle or in the midst of a dungeon. That said checkpoints with auto-saves will kick in during your journey through a dungeon, so if you die at a boss, you don’t have to redo the entire thing. That aside, being able to save in every other instance is a blessing in the life of a modern adult. You never know what life may throw at you and being stuck in the middle of nowhere without a save point near can be frustrating, but not with Final Fantasy XV.
If there’s one thing I hate when going back to old RPGs, it’s the random encounters. It’s not so much that you get attacked without notice, it’s that some of the rates are higher. Fighting then walking two steps to get attacked again is exhausting. Thankfully Final Fantasy VII isn’t that bad with that, but you get my point. Being able to avoid monsters not by running away while in combat, but actually out in the world is invigorating. To think you escaped death by being stealthy is a quick little rush. The one downside to this is not being able to grind back and forth, encountering monster after monster incase you wanted to level up fast. Still, there are better ways to do that in Final Fantasy XV then to run in place like a crazed fool.
Final Fantasy XV has the greatest roster of monsters hands down. Their designs reflect that of classic Final Fantasy creatures while introducing a more ferocious, real style about them. Plus there are very few monsters that are pallet swaps of one another. In order to save space, a lot of games simply tweak stats and color monsters differently in order to make them seem new. Making an enemy soldier red instead of blue for example in Final Fantasy VII. I could chalk that up to laziness, but again, with hardware limitations, I understand. And as I mentioned with dungeons, each encounter with a pack of monsters could prove fatal making battles more invigorating. Plus the inclusion of monster hunting quests really pumps up the blood.
Except for a couple exceptions, *cough* Cait Sith *cough*, I love everyone in Final Fantasy VII’s main party, but it lacks camaraderie. There are rare instances where everyone gathers and discusses with one another. Most of the story instead is told through the eyes of Cloud and two other party members at a time. In order to get everyone’s stance on the matter, you have to replay that sequence with different combinations. This is another case where less means more when it comes to Noctis and his three friends. You get to hear everyone’s opinions at all times without the need to replay instances to get the full range of emotions. It’s easier to flesh out four characters rather than nine simply put and, with that said, it makes the player more in tune because of it.
Turn based combat is a thinking man’s game and, in turn, I know it moves slower than an action title. However, I didn’t release how sluggish everything moves technically in Final Fantasy VII until I replayed it. The simplest command of using a spell or attacking an enemy with your weapon is phenomenally slow compared to what I remember. No wonder my playtime’s ranged in the realm of eighty hours. It’s obvious to then state that, as an action RPG, Final Fantasy XV is faster, but it’s more than that. Enemies attack without remorse, magic is deadly and flashy, the environments are varied and all this combines to make every encounter memorable, pumping up my blood in epic proportions. I still love turn based RPGs, but more on handhelds nowadays when I can take my time while multitasking with something else. I now prefer action RPGs on consoles, which is another reason why I’m excited to see the remake of Final Fantasy VII switching things up to mirror Final Fantasy XV.
Cloud’s Buster Sword is one of the most iconic weapons in video games right alongside Mario’s Fire Flower or Mega Man’s Buster Gun. Not only in size, but also in sentimental value as it was a dying gift from Zack, the man who gave his life for Cloud’s. Every reference I’ve made thus far has been in favor of less being more, but in the case of Noctis’ arsenal, quantity overrules quality. His main sword has an engine that actually revs up when you attack, plus on your quest, you gain the ability to summon the weapons of past kings including swords, spears, glaives, and axes just to name a few. Phasing weapons in and out of battle on the fly makes the action combat even more phenomenal. Cloud had a similar swapping ability in the film, Advent Children, so one could imagine the designers behind Final Fantasy XV being inspired by this. Still, Final Fantasy XV was the first to actually implement it in a game.
It’s obvious to bring this one up, but as the title suggests, duh. Final Fantasy VII was mind blowing at the time. To come from flat pixels of the 16-Bit degeneration to fully 3D models with pre-rendered backgrounds and CG cutscenes was mesmerizing. However we’ve come a long way in terms of technology and to call Final Fantasy VII dated would be an understatement. Not everything looks terrible though, but compared to Final Fantasy XV, ha, no contest. I would be interested in DLC that makes Noctis and his pals look like ugly polygons inspired by Final Fantasy VII Popeye arms and all. That sounds like my kind of mayhem. Be that as it may, Final Fantasy XV is gorgeous just the way it is.