Throwback 20: Final Fantasy VII

During the whole timeline for the existence of this universe, there will eventually come a time when the amount of articles on Final Fantasy VII will outnumber the amount of copies it has sold. I envision this to cause a singularity with such immense power that it causes the Earth spiritual energy to punch an asteroid in the face.

I think the spoiler warning for a twenty year old game should come before I discuss plot details, right?  

I’d always been a fan of storytelling in video games. My childhood and early teens were surrounded by games like the Sierra and Lucasarts point-and-click adventure games. Games that used their storytelling mechanics to propel the player through a narrative with a major focus on character and set pieces that you couldn’t really emulate in platformers or action games. But they weren’t spiralling epics of fantasy and world building that I was developing a love of. This was the point I was beginning to write down a load of story ideas for the novels that I still “will write one day”. Adventure games had a good story – but nothing felt complex.

Then one day in 1998 I played a little of Final Fantasy VII and fell in love with it. I asked for it during that Christmas and thus entered a new world that would change how I would view stories in video games.

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably played FFVII. Everyone knows the story by now: cold hearted mercenary Cloud Strife is hired by a group of freedom fighters to blow up a power plant that’s draining the life from the planet and ends up embroiled in his own past and the possible extinction of all life on the planet. Throw in the odd powerful corporation, some ancient mechanical beings hell bent on killing everyone and a homicidal clone of a former super soldier then you’ve got one of the most complex and involving stories committed to CD-ROM. Yes, it does involve the planet punching a space rock.

It’s not the first RPG to have an enormous involving story – there are other games in the Final Fantasy series with long spiralling stories, too. But with VII, it meant there was a sudden boom in the Western world for turn based Role Playing Games. Everyone had now heard of Final Fantasy. Cloud and the supporting cast became mascots for Sony.

The supporting cast are full of larger than life characters with their own histories and backstories. From the loud and brash Barrett, the meek yet pivotal Aeris, the gruff but well-meaning pilot Cid whose only goal in life is to go to space – there’s something for everyone. The game also includes that gaming generation’s most defining villain in Sephiroth. A soldier who discovers he was the product of a series of experiments with a two thousand year old alien entity; he goes mad and ends up on a crusade that involves torturing Cloud and bringing forth said meteor from earlier in this piece.

Revisiting the game a couple of years ago – criticisms that I used to throw towards the later games now feel like they were ironing out flaws that exist in VII’s story. Great as the in-depth side-plots that go in-depth into character’s backstories are, they really do slow the plot down for the first third of the game. The stories also may end up being a little too complex for its own good. That’s not to say the following games are a little less in-depth, it’s just utterly knew when to dispense information.

The follow up, Final Fantasy VIII, had more extra information that the player could optionally read through whilst it felt that VII forced more exposition on the player during its cutscenes. At the time it was great to see the world building – but as an adult with less time it gets grating to go through the dull stuff for the memorable aspects.

Additionally, the game’s graphics have dated in some parts. The character models are incredibly blocky and inconsistent when you compare later instalments. Seems harsh to comment on those nowadays – but back in the late nineties this was cutting edge. This was a whole new world for you to discover. This game was huge and it’s size and scope was immense; and it’s debatable that games have rarely managed to feel as big as Final Fantasy VII ever did.

Some people will not be happy if the up and coming remake isn’t a high resolution scene-by-scene recreation, but what it seem story be is a game more focused on action. It’s telling a familiar story in a new way hopefully contain less of the unnecessary story elements that slowed down the pacing. At the time of writing, there’s not been much revealed about the remake except video and screenshots that suggest it’s using the same engine that ran Final Fantasy XV. I quite liked FFXV, and the opportunity to revisit characters and locations in glorious HD is tantalising.

But the original game shouldn’t be written off. There’s reasons that it’s a classic. The story, the characters, the (far too in-depth to really go into) gameplay mechanics that allow to you customise your characters, the music, the memorable moments, that moment at the end of the first disc and the jaw dropping plot twists. I can still remember when I first learnt the truth of some of the ongoing questions in the game – and to me that makes a game memorable. It stuck with me and still does.

Plus it made me get Final Fantasy VIII, my favourite game in the series – but we won’t get into that now…

Are you a fan of Final Fantasy VII? Let us know!

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