Something needs to be addressed right off the Buster Sword here: This is not one of those lists that seeks to "prove" that Final Fantasy VII is overrated or doesn't hold up or was never that great to begin with.
It doesn't have to be all or nothing with things like this. Revered games can be criticized without being completely torn apart. We can be open to exploring the faults of a game we love without it taking away from our fondness for it and without it meaning that we're suggesting the game doesn't deserve its acclaim. Classic, beloved games don't have to be perfect—and in fact, they rarely are. Well, except for Tetris; that's a kind of perfect video game, honestly.
When Final Fantasy VII hit the PlayStation in 1997, it was a landmark release for a variety of reasons. It marked the first time a core installment in the franchise debuted on a non-Nintendo platform, it was the first time the series flirted with 3D graphics and full-motion cutscenes, and it marked Tetsuya Nomura's debut as main character designer. And it was millions of gamers' introduction to the franchise and to RPGs in general, bringing a formerly fairly niche genre into the mainstream.
While widely acclaimed at the time for all but a certain subset of jaded pre-existing FF diehards, FFVII has since become a frequent target of bloggers and YouTubers looking to take lauded games down a peg and show how wrong everyone is for loving them. Well, we think we can deconstruct and discuss FFVII's faults while still maintaining that it deserves its place in the video game pantheon.
25 Even The Plot Holes Have Plot Holes
For most of your first playthrough of FFVII, you really only have a vague idea of the overall plot, with most of it being an incomprehensible mess. And it only becomes more muddled as the game goes on, culminating with an ending that basically explains none of it.
What's worse are the dozens of tangents that spin off into their own little random story threads that add nothing to the main plot and only serve to distract us from trying to actually figure out what in Jenova's name is going on. Fortunately, good stories aren't required to enjoy video games.
24 Can We Just Pick A Look, Please?
Final Fantasy VII went through a long development process that stretched all the way back into the SNES days, with the team initially not really being 100% sure what platform the game was going to end up on.
Once the PS1 was decided on, too much work had already been done on certain aspects of the game to change them.
The result are in-world characters that resembled how 3D models looked on the SNES, which jarringly transition into better-looking versions of those same characters for battles and half the cutscenes. It's like switching between their child and adult versions.
23 Summoning A Nap
The first time you performed a new summon, you watched it with mouth agape, certain that you would never get tired of it. The 100th time you watched it, you wished it was the future and you could check Facebook on your phone while the summon played out.
In Square's defense, skipping cutscenes wasn't really a thing back then. And they clearly put a lot of work into them and wanted you to appreciate that. But as the summon animations stretched beyond the one-minute mark, it just got to be too much to watch them again and again and again.
22 Forgetting To Avoid Cliche
The ironic thing about using amnesia as a plot device is how writers seem to forget that it's one of the most overused cliches in all of fiction.
How do we have the main protagonist discover things about his past over the course of the game so that players can discover those things too? Amnesia, of course!
Even in 1997, amnesia was already overdone in video games. It's just a lazy way to make a character a blank slate and be able to surprise him with basic information during a story.
21 FFVII: An M. Night Shyamalan Game
The other thing that an amnesiac main character allows is being blindsided by major twists about himself. One of FFVII's biggest twists—other than the passing of a certain main character—is that what Cloud thinks are his memories are actually the memories of someone named Zack, who was Cloud's friend.
Or something like that. The whole Cloud/Zack thing seems mind-blowing when it happens, but unsurprisingly it all very quickly falls apart from a logic standpoint when you apply even the tiniest bit of scrutiny to it. Like time travel stories, it's best not to think about it too much.
20 Hindsight Is 20/20
Losing Aeris was a gut punch for a lot of FFVII players, many calling it the first time a game made them cry.
All emotional nonsense aside, Aeris' early departure presents some complications for completionists.
Almost everyone lost Aeris the first time through without maxing her out and getting all her stuff. And those that tried to do it on their next playthrough found that the game doesn't really make things that much easier to do that for her, forcing 100% seekers to bring all other forward progress to a screeching halt as they grind Aeris for hours and hours.
19 The Sounds Of Nostalgia
"One-Winged Angel" is one of the most iconic pieces of music in Final Fantasy history. That, along with other standout tracks like "Jenova" and the main/overworld theme, make FFVII's soundtrack very popular.
The thing is, though, there really isn't much else beyond that. When you sit down and actually listen to FFVII's soundtrack, the majority of the tracks are actually fairly generic, droning background tracks that barely classify as songs. In addition, while we tend to associate the soundtrack with the orchestral arrangements we've heard since, the music in the original game was entirely electronic and has aged pretty poorly.
18 Sephiroth Is A Teddy Bear
Through most of our playthrough of FFVII, the game goes through great lengths to inform us how evil and scary Sephiroth is. From offing one of the main characters to that famous scene where he is literally standing in flames, we're made to think Sephiroth is one bad dude.
In actuality, Sephiroth is kind of tame as far as Final Fantasy villains go.
Especially following FFVI's Kefka, who was completely deranged and literally destroyed the world basically just to do it, Sephiroth just doesn't feel as menacing as he's made out to be.
17 Which Way Do I Go!?
Discussions about how well they have or haven't aged aside, pre-rendered backgrounds were necessary in the 90s as a way to have gorgeous "3D" environments before technology allowed actual polygons to look that good.
Few developers knew how to better-utilized pre-rendered backgrounds during the PS1 era than Square did, and even as early as FFVII they were beautiful and packed with detail. The problem is that actually interacting with them could be a pain, between not knowing what is or isn't a navigable platform and getting in just the right spot to open a door or jump onto a ladder.
16 Imagine That... Another Battle
Ah, the dreaded random battle, scourge of RPGs since they beginning of (their) time. It might not be fair to take FFVII to task for something that many, many RPGs are guilty of—especially JRPGs—but when it was released it seemed as though some of its peers were beginning to step away from random battles or at least toned them down.
The random battles in FFVII just happen way too often, and are especially annoying because the game has so many interesting locations that you really want to explore every nook and cranny of.
15 This Translation Are Sick
Sigh. This one is tough to defend. The only justification for the obscene amount of typos and grammatical errors in FFVII is the fairly quick turnaround time between the Japanese and English versions, which were only released eight months apart.
Beginning with the mistranslation of Aeris' name as "Aerith," there are a LOT of mistakes in this game.
There are awkward sentences ("This guy are sick"), copious misuses of apostrophes, and flat-out spelling errors, and you never have to play for more than a half hour or so without seeing another. It all feels like a first draft.
14 You Can't Spell "Tifa" Without T and A
FFVII's cast is mostly memorable save for a few that will be addressed farther down the list. But if forced to pick FFVII's best character, it's easy to make the case that Tifa gets the crown.
Unfortunately, Tifa is a fan favorite character for all the wrong reasons.
While she is one of the most complex and least one-note characters in the game, Tifa was also given an enormous chest, super long legs, and a teeny little skirt, undermining her character depth and making her seem like just another video game pin-up girl to ogle rather than respect.
13 Never Trust A Cat
While the "fantasy" remained in full effect in FFVII, the game still felt a bit more grounded in reality than its predecessors, especially in terms of the characters.
But then, in the middle of this cast of mostly believable-looking characters (plus Red XIII), there is Cait Sith—a talking cat sitting atop some kind of giant stuffed animal. He sticks out like a sore thumb to players, but not nearly as much as he should to the characters in the game—the fact that they all instantly trust him and never suspect his inevitable double-cross is really tough to believe.
12 Cheating Is Required
Anyone who claims to have accomplished a 100% playthrough of Final Fantasy VII without looking up a single thing is a liar—or the luckiest person who ever lived.
There is just so much in the game that requires absolute blind luck and total coincidence for players to even stumble upon it.
Again, so much obtuseness felt like a relic of a bygone era and should've been left in the early-90s. By 1997, most gamers were a little older and didn't have 500 hours to devote to games to scour every inch of them hoping to arbitrarily find things.
11 Tick Tock Goes The ATB Clock
It sounds like something that would make combat more exciting: Active Time Battle. After all, the word "active" is right there in its name! That said, the ATB actually ended up having the complete opposite effect.
Having to wait for meter to fill before you could make your next move had the side effect of significantly slowing battles down, especially easier battles that would've otherwise been over in 15 seconds. And coupled with the frequency of the random battles, this really hurt the game's pacing a lot of the time, especially when you just wanted to explore.
10 A Triangle With No Point
While the main storyline/conflict in FFVII is Sephiroth trying to destroy the world (or something like that), much of the game is built around the love triangle between Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris.
Love triangles can make for compelling stories...when they're done properly.
FFVII's love triangle just doesn't really makes much sense and never pays off. It's hard to believe that Cloud could've fallen that hard for Aeris that quickly so as to completely brush aside Tifa, and even continue to do so after Aeris is gone—especially since Tifa is so cool and interesting and Aeris is kind of boring.
9 Barret Is... Problematic
Video games have a long history of not really knowing how to respectfully represent black people, but in terms of classic AAA games, Barret might be one of the worst examples of this.
Barret checks every single cliche box: He's loud, he's scary, he has a violent temper, he swears a lot, and he can't go through a single sentence without slang. The game's writers go through painstaking lengths to make sure we know how Barret talks—at one point, he says "Si'down an' shu'up!" Is that supposed to be slang, or did someone sneeze while they were typing that?
8 To Make A Short Story Long...
If you don't have a lot of patience for exposition, you probably shouldn't be playing an RPG to begin with.
At times, classic RPGs feel more like interactive novels, with you spending more time just reading than actually playing.
All this is fine, except for that infamous stretch of FFVII where we learn all about Sephiroth and Jenova and all that. While there are some iconic moments during this part of the game, it is way...too...long. So long, in fact, that the game even gives you the option to save halfway through!
7 And Now For Something Not At All Different
Much was made of the Midgar portion of FFVII, featured heavily in the game's promotion and that iconic—if very misleading—TV commercial. And rightfully so, as it's a very cool and, for its time, unique setting for an RPG.
Square clearly spent a lot of time on building Midgar, knowing it was going to be players' introduction to the game. Unfortunately, it also seems like they kind of used up a lot of their creativity there, as once you leave Midgar, much of the rest of FFVII just retreads familiar JRPG territory in its town and dungeon designs.
6 Living In A Materia World
Every FF game has its own gameplay "hook", and FFVII's is the Materia system, where you collect pieces of magical rocks and then equip them to your weapons and armor.
The main problem with Materia is that it robs all the characters of their individuality and just lets you turn anyone into any type of character (FFV did this much better, giving you that same level of customization while retaining character uniqueness). Beyond that, the Materia system was far too easy to "break" for players who know how to find and exploit the flaws in such gameplay systems.
5 A Real Drag
When it seemed as though Square Enix was finally ready to take a FFVII remake seriously, many fans immediately wondered whether or not Cloud's infamous cross-dressing scene was going to be included.
We all laughed at it at the time, but the whole thing was extremely problematic.
In examining the scene through a more progressive modern lens, it all feels a bit transphobic as it builds one huge joke out of the simple act of a man dressing as a woman. If it returns, it'll definitely have to be handled more delicately than it was.
Ah, Chocobo breeding: You either downright hated it, or you only slightly hated it. It wouldn't have been as big of a deal if you didn't need a Golden Chocobo to access certain portions of the game, making it a necessary evil.
Like various other portions of FFVII, there is simply no way to be successful at breeding Chocobos without a guide.
Unless, of course, you are willing to just spend like 30 dedicated hours on it until you learn it through excruciating trial and error—and even then, much of it is left to random chance.
3 Superfluous Sidekicks
Once FF games started actually developing characters, there was seldom a wasted member of any of the games' casts. Even smaller side characters felt necessary and had a real purpose in the game.
Within FFVII's relatively small collection of playable characters, several feel tacked on.
Yuffie and Vincent, the game's "bonus" characters that you never have to actually obtain, are both pretty easy to skip and it's no big loss. Cait Sith only becomes important to the plot when he double-crosses you, and Red XIII also could've easily been left out entirely without changing the main story much.
2 Golden Slumbers
We all have fond memories of frequently returning to Gold Saucer—FFVII's arcade area—and feeding Mogs, playing basketball, engaging in virtual fighting, and other activities just for the fun of it.
Sure, it was a nice way to break up the inherent monotony of an RPG—but the sad reality is that almost all of the games at Gold Saucer are pretty terrible. Were we so lazy that we'd rather play an awful 2-minute snowboarding minigame within FFVII than switch to a real (and genuinely fun) game like Cool Boarders 2 instead? The answer: Probably.
1 Revisionist History
"The summons! The Active Time Battle system! Letting you customize characters any way you want without being confined by classes! Main characters perishing! Strong females! Psychopathic world-destroying villains! Airships!"
"Final Fantasy VII is so revolutionary!" Well, not quite...
Every single thing listed in that previous paragraph was introduced in a previous FF game—and in some cases, done better. It just wasn't presented with the same level of flash, so 75% of FFVII's audience was only just seeing it all for the first time. FFVII was definitely groundbreaking, just not in as many ways as people think.