GameSpite Journal 11: Final Fantasy VII

A bunch of years ago (seriously, like 50 billion in dog years or something) I wrote a piece on what Final Fantasy VII is a dumb game for stupidheads right before E3. This year, right before E3, I am publishing a piece on why it’s maybe not so bad after all, even if it’s not exactly perfect. So there we go.

Who wants waffles?

15 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 11: Final Fantasy VII

  1. I happen to like the weird, varied world FFVII presents. It’s totally incoherent, but I guess for me that’s just part of the charm… like walking from Midgar to a Chocobo farm, from Junon to a beach resort town. At the very least, every place was memorable.

    That’s thanks in part to the pre-rendered backgrounds, which I also happen to think have aged well. Maybe not well, exactly, but relatively much better than fully polygonal PS1 games in 1997.

    FFVI was my first FF game, but I still just can’t bring myself to hate FFVII, and it’s difficult to even recognize its flaws. My biggest complaint is the laughable difficulty, but this is something that has plagued FF since VI (at least) all the way through X (at least).

    When you get down to it, though, the game is basically the same as VI – a confused protagonist with funky hair and some mystical connection to the world’s mystical energy force; a band of rebels fighting an evil empire that is eventually replaced by an evil maniac seeking to harness said mystical power; someone on the side of the empire changing sides to the heroes; a steampunk/scifi world. Sure, lots of JRPGs have the same basic story, but the similarities here are particularly striking. I will always view both games with permanent rose-colored glasses.

    Great article by the way.

    • In agreeing with turkish, I have always maintained that FFVII’s wild inconsistency is part of its charm, and that seems to be something its rabid fanbase (myself included) tend to overlook. I sort of fantasize that the development crew said “Wow!! CG!! Polygons!! Prerenders!! We can do it all at once!! Don’t worry, we’ll mash it all together later!!” and just charged forward quixotically. And given Square Enix’s latter-day penchant for making everything look like a glossy fashion magazine, why a remake would never be nearly as charming.

  2. Final Fantasy 7 was a landmark to a lot of people in Europe and Australia mainly because it was the first Final Fantasy game we had seen. Unless you were into importing for many of us PAL gamers it was that first bite of the cherry. In retrospect it’s a mess. It was way too big with way too many teams. You can see it even in the artwork with the characters represented in three different styles in the game (the somewhat cute field characters vs the better defined versions in the fighting sections vs the cgi stuff.) But they was some edgy stuff. I can’t think of any game aside from Io’s Freedom Fighters that would dare cast the heros as terrorists. Look at Cid. He’s an alcoholic and wife beater. How many games show a man giving in to his own disappointment and loss and taking it out on the people who love them? And while everyone goes on about ‘that scene’ I think it’s more shocking when you see Cloud so broken that he’s infirm.

    And then there’s my favourite character. Barrett. To most he’s an embarresment. He’s the token black man with a gun for an arm that talks like Mr T. Poor translation probably cursed him with having his stroyline ignored. He is one of the most noble characters in the game. He’s a single father. He carries a heavy weight of past mistakes on his shoulders. He fights to create a better would but later on examines his actions questioning whether or not he is making things better or worse. Over the years this character has stuck with me for some reason.

    Anyway in summing up for me FF7 was a beautiful glorious mess that was blessed with being in the right place at the right time. For better or worse it led me to chasing the dragon looking for other role playing games to match it. I’m playing Crisis Core at the moment on the PSP and while technically it looks loads better than FF& it feels…..empty.

    • Well said tssk, it’s only in the last few years, with retrospective articles written primarily by American gamers, that I became aware that there are JRPG fans out there who DON’T consider FFVII to be a masterpiece of the genre. It was my and most European’s first foray into console RPGs, and has always placed in the top 10 of Top 100 lists in the UK gaming press.

      I suspect that whatever Final Fantasy you may have played first, is often your favorite. You mention in closing that FFVII sent you on a journey to find a similar adventure, over the past 10 years I’ve felt the very same… so far nothing has ever come close. That being said, if you haven’t played it, I recommend Xenogears, it’s as close as I’ve ever come and like FFVII, it’s an incredibly enjoyable mess.

      • The first Final Fantasy I played was the original, but I can’t say I’m super keen on it. But yeah, point taken.

      • Good point. FF8 was my first, and I tend to like it a lot more than most people do (although it’s only my 4th favorite in the series).

  3. A fine re-examination, and a fair one, I think! It’s worth noting, as far as the poor choices on where to focus story exposition, that not only as you say is Cloud’s true past likely to be overlooked by people who don’t think to go back to Shin-Ra Mansion, the actual cinema of him and Zack/Zax escaping Shin-Ra’s clutches was added for the American release. The original features only the obscure clues on the notes on the bookshelf—they tell essentially the same story as the added cinema, but referring to subjects A and B and thus requiring people to figure out that Cloud is the one whose consciousness is fading fast, not Zax.

  4. I guess the ubiquity of the game pretty much means that there’s always someone writing a retrospective about it at any given moment.

    To wit, I wrote one last year, in three parts: — looks at various mods for the PC version of the game. — explains why slapping “realistic” body models all over the game would be a terrible idea (a beat you’ve hit before) — This one generally starts from the same premise as your piece here; I take a look back at the thing and its strengths and weaknesses, hopefully free of my nineties enthusiasm and my aughts cynicism.

    I hadn’t thought of Midgar as hub and first act as best, but that’s an excellent point — and indeed the first thing I thought of when I read your comments to that effect was Crisis Core. Crisis Core really impressed the hell out of me, and I may have to add a Part Four just to delve into that. It seemed a lot less self-important than FF7 proper, and while its plot is just as silly and over-the-top, the game treats it as largely disposable. And the various locations across the world are literally just disconnected areas accessed from the hub of Midgar.

  5. i actually think the materia system in ffvii is a fantastic system but absolutely not used to its potential. there’s too many characters that are effectively interchangeable because of the materia, none of the battles really require any experimentation with materia, there’s a lot of artificial limitation on the materia in a weak attempt to balance the game. plus you’ve got the summoning and limit break systems on top of the materia system and you really don’t have much of a game left.

    if they could have refined it with a tight 3/4 person cast, challenging battles that relied on creative materia configuration, and effectively let you be as creative with the materia as you wanted you’d have a great system. unfortunately, square/square enix rarely to never allows these ideas to be fully developed.

  6. VII is incredible. I think it’s fantastic how the scope is so epic, yet they still had those little quirky scenes and side quests that are missing from every modern RPG.

    We’ll never get another RPG like this. And say what you will about the writing, but the characters and environments are just cool.

  7. “The final battle breaks the party into teams, and its sequential progression offers up a tantalizing glimpse of the truth behind Sephiroth’s actions across the adventure: At the peak of his power, he appears to be little more than Jenova’s puppet. Compilation retcons notwithstanding, minor details like this demonstrate the craft and thought invested into FFVII’s best moments.”

    It’s not a retcon to say Sephiroth is in charge: it’s explained in the Northern Crater that his will is responsible for the movement of Jenova and the manipulation of his “clones.” Jenova was literally his puppet—a shambling mouthpiece—not the other way around.

  8. Definitely agreed on the story– incomprehensible mess, more so than any other FF game (with the possible exception of FFT). The story was translated so badly, many people I’ve talked to, to this day, STILL don’t know that Sephiroth was controlling Jenova, rather than the other way around. (I had to read the Ultimania guide to really understand that one.) Cloud has one throwaway line about it at the Northern Crater where he mentions something about “in reality, we haven’t been chasing Sephiroth this entire time”, but that’s about it.

    Disagreed on the music, though– I think it’s exceptional throughout. Maybe this isn’t the popular opinion, but I’d rather listen to songs from FF7, like “Judgment Day” or “You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet” over most anything from FF6.

    One Winged Angel is pretty awful, though.

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