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February 06, 2012

I Should Have Finished... Final Fantasy VII

Well, fifteen years and five days have passed, and I finally got around to finishing Final Fantasy VII, the game which more than any other gave prominence to the Japanese-style RPG here in the West. I started it twice in the last fifteen years and never got very far with it, maybe only to the point of meeting Aeris each time. For whatever reason, it just didn't grab me at the time.

I took notes on my playthrough, though not nearly to the exhaustive level of my notes on Crash Bandicoot; there's already plenty of writing out there on this game and I don't think there's much I have to add. There are encounters with various enemies who manipulate the variables that govern combat, assign various buffs and penalties, etc. There's a storyline, saving the world, and there are cutscenes used as rewards for completing specific battles. The only bits that were somewhat unexpected were the action sequences, which I didn't recall, though they have been a feature of some of the other games. The tactical elements outside of battle largely involve determining what abilities to install into your characters; the mechanics of that weren't immediately apparent but gradually occurred to me as the game progressed (though far too late for me to benefit too much from this understanding, which was a little frustrating).

For me, the emotional core of the story isn't actually the much-referred-to death of Aeris (oops, spoilers!) but instead the touching way Tifa kept Cloud together afterwards. She is the keeper of his history.

The end of the game... well, it wasn't my favorite. It was frustrating enough to see short cutscenes every time I summoned Bahamut or what-have-you. But the Supernova video? That's insane... not only is that cutscene set in our solar system, so setting the game on Earth contrary to my expectations. That's fine and dandy, I guess, if weird; but the thing is nearly a minute long. I know that by Final Fantasy IX, they had made those long mid-battle cutscenes less frequent via an option, but it is sorely lacking here and you have to wonder how they justified such large non-interactive elements in the midst of what is the core play.

That said, it was worthwhile playing it through to the end. For my part, the story in FF IX was actually more effective and affecting, but I can see why this would have resonated at the time.

Posted by Brett Douville at February 6, 2012 07:30 AM


Whoa, you didn't finish this either, back in the day?

Posted by: Andrew Kirmse at February 6, 2012 01:39 PM

Nope. I played the PC demo (remember that!) and thought, "Meh, not my thing" after about five minutes. I finally came upon a copy of the PS1 version in the kitchen at LEC like a year or two later, and brought it home and for whatever reason got nowhere with it.

Next up, another gem you particularly loved that I never got close to finishing: Final Fantasy Tactics. I hear it's all about the ... uh, spear people. (Lancers?)

Posted by: Brett Douville at February 6, 2012 02:04 PM

I may be a little late commenting on this, but my favorite thing about the ending was all the way at the end of the credits, the same three notes that play at the very opening play again. Gave me chills...
The nostalgia factor for the game is pretty high for me, but I have to say it's a classic, even if it's not perfect.

Posted by: Jim Lawrence at August 19, 2012 10:39 PM

I've often enjoyed circularity when it appears in game narratives -- particularly that of Prince of Persia, Sands of Time or for that matter, FF9, which might be my favorite Final Fantasy story for that precise reason.

Thanks for dropping by!

Posted by: Brett Douville at August 20, 2012 09:58 AM

I'm trying to think of the circularity you are referring to in FF9, but it's been years since I played through it, and I can't for the life of me place it. Also, I might get yelled at for this, but I really enjoyed how FF12 was different from the others, and how it was focused on preventing a war(instead of destroying the world)...it made it seem much more personal. It also made taking a stand against "fate", or the divine beings commands, so much more interesting.

Posted by: Jim Lawrence at August 25, 2012 08:55 PM

FF9 begins and ends with the annual performance for the royal family of a particular play, which I think had something to do with the first ruler of the country or something. In the end, the princess (now queen, I suppose) is mourning the loss of the main character, but he appears on stage and calls her back to him with a slight modification to the line he said at the very beginning of the game. She runs down the stairs to him in an echo of the chaos of the beginning of the game, but this time with joy to find him still alive. Good stuff.

Posted by: Brett Douville at August 26, 2012 08:06 AM