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.