Before I begin, let me say this: Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack is in my opinion, not better than Final Fantasy VI Original Soundtrack. However, I believe it is a strong number two in the Final Fantasy music series. Not only are the themes extremely well developed and enjoyably enthralling, but the music fits the game like a glove. This review's length may be a bit long, but I feel so enthusiastic about this score that I have to pour out my thoughts.
First, let me address the issue of how this soundtrack compares to the others in the series. As stated previously, FFVI's is unquestionably one of, if not the, greatest soundtracks ever composed - so FFVII would have to be practically perfect in order to surpass it. However, it's better overall than FFVIII's score, which I found to be pretty much boring (just like the horrible game). The sound quality of Final Fantasy VII's is obviously not that great, especially on some songs, but the composition of the music is so wonderful on Uematsu's part that it completely overshadows that. So basically, if the sound quality itself were equal to that of later Final Fantasy scores, this soundtrack would completely blow them out of the water.
Now, about the music itself. Four discs means a lot of music - all the music from the game in fact - and it turns out that most of it is great. While FFVI had a much darker tone than its predecessors, FFVII's music is even darker, which fits into the nature of the game. The evil "Shinra Company" theme conveys the sense of arrogance, grandness, and oppression so well; you can't help but imagine a sprawling corporate empire set admidst the backdrop of global conquest. Other Shina-related themes include the "Makou Reactor" segment, which not only gets the feel of being inside a reactor right, but also gives you a sense of mechanical coldness that will chill the air around your speakers. The "Turk's Theme" sounds like an a cappella percussion-oriented jazz that is just undeniably cool. And who could fail to mention "Still More Fighting", a clever combination of orchestra and hard electronic rock sounds that qualifies as an excellent boss battle theme. Most of Disc One is filled with Shinra and Midgar themes, which are all featured in the Midgar portion (beginning part) of the game.
Disc Two features a grab-bag of musical style selections that are hit-and-miss. For example, the "FFVII Main Theme" is amazingly majestic, and is a true orchestral movement that would sound great performed by a live symphony. The synth version however suffices graciously. "Electric de Chocobo" is an excellent version of the Chocobo theme... quite possibly the most up-beat and fun, especially if you're a fan of electronic rock. "Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony" is good, although the sound quality should have been improved on this ceremonial march. "J-E-N-O-V-A" is a sci-fi boss battle theme, and most fans of the series' music consider it one of the best. Lastly, "Cait Sith's Theme" is worth mentioning for its jazzy, snappy beat that best conveys the cool gambling fortune-telling cat.
Disc Three also features a variety of themes and music styles - from the tribal, earthly beats of "Cosmo Canyon" and the calming, but heart-breaking cues of "Lifestream" and "Great Warrior" to the hellishly dark "Those Chosen By The Planet", which basically serves as Sephiroth's theme. "Cid's Theme" is outstandingly uplifting, and I personally use it to lift myself up out of a depressive mood. Elemental, New Age, and sci-fi styles abound in "Forested Temple", "You Can Hear The Cry Of The Planet", and "Reunion". Of course, one of the single most important and well-composed songs on the disc (and in Uematsu's career for that matter) is "Aerith's Theme", a touching piano, strings, and brass movement that reminds you of someone you love.
Disc Four is the dark disc. With a powerful militaristic march "Shinra Army Wages A Full-Scale Attack" (which is surprisingly better than any of FFVI's military-oriented themes), and the heart-racing attack track of "Weapon Raid", the disc is generally action themes and dark Sephiroth numbers. The Highwind and Submarine themes are passable and enjoyable, and the Makou Cannon-firing bombastic segment is an effective way to end the Shinra-based themes. "Judgement Day" is a good final dungeon theme that is surprisingly full of hope. The next three tracks are the final boss battle themes, succeeding one right after the other. "Jenova Absolute" is in my opinion better than the first Jenova theme, and "Birth of a God" is a crazed, jumbled-together theme that gives you a slight idea of the state of Sephiroth's mind at the end of the game. However, it's only in the last three tracks that the music really starts cooking. "One Winged Angel" is the greatest final boss theme ever created, and even features a Latin chorus and a true gothic style to it! "World Crisis" and "Staff Roll" are great ending pieces, with (seriously) awe-inspiring reprisals of numerous themes throughout the game; the concluding atmosphere surrounding these two tracks makes you wish the soundtrack wouldn't end. Overall, this is a fantastically great music score that may be hindered by less than great sound quality, but if you miss out on this one, you're really depriving yourself of a fantastic musical experience.