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LONG BLOG

I played the original Final Fantasy 7 for the first time and it wasn't all that

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Final Fantasy 7 (FFVII) - Mini-Games List – SAMURAI GAMERS

It was pretty good, though

Christmas 2021: I'd recently quit my job and was feeling a little sorry for myself, and while I could have jumped back on the job-horse, I resolved to pursue the noble lifestyle of the NEET for December. A problem though, said lifestyle consisted mainly of sitting in my flat trying to come up with ideas of killing time and then resigning in front of the TV.

Then Chris of Oneyplays fame started streaming Final Fantasy VII and, though I tried it before and wasn't into it, between his commentary and his familiarity with the game, I was having a blast! His streams were painfully short, which left me a lot of time to wonder where the game would go next, story-wise - I mean sure, I know the broad strokes of what happens, FFVII is super-famous after all, but people don't pick up a new book, read the blurb, set it down forever, then say 'man that was such a good book I loved it'.

I tried to play the game myself loads of times and just couldn't get into it; the controls, the tropy-anime characters, the JRPG combat, the random encounters - there wasn't a lot for me here so I just gave up, though I was a little disappointed every time I did because I knew how impactful it was for a lot of people. This time however, I played vicariously through Chris' streams, as he doesn't mind all that shit. Plus he had a way of making the game's systems make sense for people not in the know (me). Suddenly all that materia BS didn't seem so intimidating. Chris made an effort to read aloud every text bubble which, if you're familiar with the guy, is hard to take seriously - in no way is that a bad thing though, it was making the story more fun and the characters sound a bit more real.

Tragedy struck: Chris stopped streaming so he could visit his family for Christmas, but he said he'd pick it up again when he was back. Well... I could go home and spend some time with my family too, I guess. Weeks passed and I was still without the Oneyplays streams. Even worse, I hadn't had anything to play in all that time. I was desperate, so I installed FFVII again and this time... I finished it! And my verdict? It's alright.

The Memory Card .62: Leaving Midgar | Memory cards, Final fantasy vii, Game  art

You Midgar to be kidding me

No wonder Remake was based entirely in Midgar: The whole city looks bomb with it's industrial visual style draped in nighttime, and the areas beneath the plates are chock full of vibrant landmarks that exploring this world is a reward in itself. There's a lot to love about this setting and I wish we could have spent more time in it. I realise a lot of Remake's complaints stem from the game's padding, but my fondest memories of the original game were in Midgar. If only there was some kind of happy medium. I'm by no means a game designer, but I might have tried to offer more meaningful reasons for the player to remain in Midgar for a little longer, or maybe introduce more areas in the rest of the world that instill the same amount of wonder as Midgar did.

The story injects us into the action from the get-go, meaning we don't have to fuck around with a dry opening that fails to snag. Start a new game, jump off a train, cut through loads of baddies then blow up a damned corpo reactor, sick. The pace is pretty consistent in the Midgar section, not letting the player get bogged down in side-faff. After some down time after the explosive intro, we're moving on to another mission, followed by some down time, and then a mission, and it kind of continues like that. 

During those quiet moments we get to know our party, especially Cloud, a little better. You've got some classic anime-isms in the characters and the 'dialogue'. I usually have a low tolerance for that sort of thing, like characters saying stuff like 'could they be talking about... that?' or 'so that's how it is...' or just *guh*, but I could chalk it up to FFVII just being a bit panto. This game is goofy af man, I loved that one moment we can talk about saving the planet then in the next moment Cloud resigns to the fact that he now needs to crossdress to seduce a campy crime boss. Here and there are some enticing hints of the larger story at play but the immediate objective always chases you out the door.

Then the real shit happens: Sephiroth comes in an throws Shinra all out of whack, spurring Team Cloud to chase him across the world.

More like Fun Fantasy VII

Everything about the game that turned me off before clicked this time - character order, materia, growth, slow combat, suddenly I liked it, especially the materia shuffling: I would happily spend maybe ten minutes removing everyone's materia, rearranging it, then making sure everyone got the most effective set up. It was so satisfying to see my experimenting pay off in battle when those loadouts turned out to be good brainthinks by me. Materia changes the game so much that getting something new got me excited to see how it fared in battle. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw what the Knights of the Round did.

Before I struggled to understand that every character can use materia, and even though some characters are better spellcasters than others, it's better they have something rather than nothing. And party members don't have to be pidgeon-holed into certain roles, like healers or offensive mages. That's all DnD shit - this is Final Fantasy, I gotta play by the rules.

In fact, it wasn't until Aeris left the party at the Temple of Ancients when I realised that Cloud is a fantastic healer in his own right, and seeing as he'd be in the party no matter what, I equipped all the strongest healing materia on him. He's also the strongest hitter... and the best spellcaster... He kind of outpaces the rest of the crew very quickly, and by the end of the game I found I resented my party members for not lifting what Cloud can carry on his little finger. The fact there are penalties for XP gain at all is messed up and smells of grinding and man, power to you if you enjoy the grind in games, but the idea of doing the same thing over and over again in a game is not appealing to me.

Speaking of doing things over and over again, one of my biggest complaints is how cheap this game can be. FFVII has a penchant for introducing enemies that can neutralise entire parties: It's hard to forgive the game's difficulty when, despite your best efforts to play the game by it's own rules, some enemies can throw out an attack, indistinguishable from any of their others, that just fucks everything up. Fuck the Ghost Ship in Battle Square; every time that bastard yeeted me and my full health bar away before I could land a single hit. If it feels like it, FFVII can make you run laps before you can progress.

Also there are tons of easily-missed opportunities. Luckily this only happened once to me, when I could see the chest that contained Barrett's ultimate weapon, but no matter what fences and paths I'd rub my face into, I just couldn't get to it. And then I'd unwittingly walked too far ahead to go back for it so fuck me, I guess. This is more indicative of the game's design philosophy, that encourages curious players to explore and experiment, showing that following the critical path too rigidly can put you at a disadvantage. However it sometimes crosses the line and straight up punishes you for not doing enough.

Like with Barrett's weapon, I could see where it was, I tried to get to it, then moved on, thinking the path to it is a little further along. Nope, I cross a bridge that collapses forever and now I can't get back up. I love that Squeenix wanted players to explore the game for themselves but I think it was a little misguided. Again, there's a happy medium here, letting players explore areas they have already visited or just letting them buy or acquire items they may have missed.

Friends do things together, la la la la

Like I mentioned before, a lot of my favourite moments in FFVII came from the Midgar section, where we had some tight character-driven plots. We're talking about Tifa, Barrett, Cloud, and Aeris, who in my mind are the main characters. Even outside of Midgar they get a lot of look-ins. Cloud and the girls especially shine here as their stories quickly intertwine and grow, even outside of the love triangle going on. I loved that you could tell Tifa cared deeply about Cloud but, for reasons we find out later, walks on eggshells around him. Aeris quickly endears herself to the team, being a constant ray of sunshine and going out of her way to keep up everyone's spirits.

I can go on, but what I'm getting at is that after Midgar, the story shifts to Cloud's desire to hunt down Sephiroth to 'settle the score'. "Where's Sephiroth? Did Sephiroth do this? What is Sephiroth planning?" questions like that dominate the story. I'm fine with this plot because the threat Sephiroth represents is often tangible, but unfortunately it pushes character-driven plots to the side, with each character getting an occaisional and brief story segment that is never explored again. Red XIII has a nice detour in Cosmo Canyon, but after that hour-long segment we're back to chasing Sephiroth and he fades back into the background.

I will always appreciate non-linear stories but I think Aeris' departure and sacrifice comes way too early for me to care. We hadn't really had a chance to get to know her since Midgar which, by that part of the game, had been a long time ago and now, suddenly, she is super into finding the Forgotten City by herself, so she's fucks off forever. When she died I was disappointed - obviously her death is meant to be meaningful and sad but I just felt let down, to be honest. There was so much potential for her character to be explored, which would have given her death even more impact.

Characters I hate: everyone I acquired after Midgar. They arrive too late, don't gel well with the original crew, and some of them straight up piss me off. Yuffie, what a bitch, the second we get to Wutai she robs you blind and doesn't offer an explanation. And when she rejoins the team, she's constantly threatening to try that shit again. She's just kinda randem, I guess. Vincent, boring. Cid, he's OK I guess, but I don't get whats in joining Cloud for him. And Cait Sith? Bastard.

You had me at Holy

Anyways, ramping up to the climax: Cloud and Tifa shoulder a lot of the story now, and I love how their relationship develops and changes Cloud for the better. Before he was a smarmy anti-hero, but after opening up he gets a little spring in his step, no longer afraid to be himself, the best version of himself. That moment where he helps Yuffie overcome her motion sickness, totes adorbs. And even though Tifa's personal journey is just there to serve Cloud's, the least Squeenix could do was let her try to express her deep-seated feelings for Cloud and to have them reciprocated. It was very sweet OK?

Finally finally, we fight Sephiroth, who by this point is a total weenie because, with even a minimal amount of grinding, I'm outlevelling him by miles. Well, Cloud is anyway: I just brought Barrett and Tifa along because I love them. When I was treated with a really long cutscene of Cloud being sucked off into a void with Sephiroth for a final showdown, I was fucking creasing when Cloud just immediately Omnislashes him. The buildup was so long and moody for it to just end like that.

I think I would have preferred it if they fought more equally, seeing as Sephiroth's other forms were weak-ass as well: It would have been nice to see how far Cloud has come, from being unable to scratch the greatest warrior in the world to fighting on his level. That says a lot more than Cloud being 'more of a man than Sephiroth' or whatever, because now I just think he's even more of a freakish mutant SOLDIER than Sephiroth, but I'm splitting hairs here.

And for the ending? It's fine. Would have been nice to see how our actions affected the world with a little epilogue or a tour of planet after it was saved but meh, I don't really care enough - again, so much of the story was focused on Cloud and Sephiroth that it didn't really matter what happens after the fight. I would have at least liked to have seen what Cloud does in an epilogue. Ah well!

So yeah, forgive the clickbait. Every game has its shortcomings and this is an old one, but I enjoyed it for what it is: An in-depth ARPG with a camp story. Guess I'll try Crisis Core next!

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About Fuddymus Primeone of us since 5:36 AM on 04.10.2017

Hey Destructoid fam, long time reader here. I figured whilst I have them, I might as well start putting my thoughts to blog-paper here. Don't worry, I don't imagine /all/ my posts will be so epically long.

As for me, I'm a freelance writer and media person. And by that I mean I like my games and movies.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshua-wallis/

https://twitter.com/Fuddymus