For the month of March I have set out to complete some of the games that have been sitting in my backlog for quite some time. I still have a few Sega Genesis games that I’ve owned since childhood that I never finished(Dynamite Headdy, X-Men). To kick off my #MaybeInMarch goal, I recently finished Final Fantasy VII, a game considered by many as a timeless classic and among the greatest of epic RPGs for any console.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the games that have been aging in my backlog of games for 10+ years. I remember being aware of the game before its release in 1997. I was only 11 at the time, but even then I was aware that this next Final Fantasy game had some massive hype around it. I was even given a promotional VHS tape from SquareSoft showcasing FFVII and a few other upcoming games by a neighbor when I was given the option of getting either a Playstation or Nintendo 64 for my birthday(11 year-old me chose Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie over Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy).
I first purchased Final Fantasy VII around 2001 after it had been out for a few years and had been cemented in place as the pinnacle of modern RPGs after much critical and commercial success. I had since attempted to play through it a few different times and never even made it past Midgar. I would usually get stuck somewhere partially due to having a hard time discerning pathways or objects that are able to be interacted with in contrast to the rest of the pre-rendered backgrounds and feeling overwhelmed by what seemed like constant random enemy encounters. Combined with not completely grasping gameplay mechanics like Active Time Battles or Limit meters and the sheer amount of items and equipment to manage(Materia, airships and chocobos too!), FFVII felt a little overwhelming at times. This past December, with renewed determination I set out to finish this game I’d been playing here and there for 20 years. I defeated Sephiroth and finally reached the end of my journey Saturday night. This lined up perfectly for the start of the #MaybeInMarch hashtag so I figured I would share a few thoughts about the game after playing through myself.
The story and characters were by far my favorite part of the game. I had always been aware of how iconic of a character in gaming Cloud is (he got added to Smash Bros. right?), but simply being aware of something and understanding why can be different. There’s something resonant in Cloud’s youthful feelings of wanting to leave his small town to make a name for himself. I found myself when starting out the game viewing Cloud as just another protagonist, which can be found throughout video game history, but you begin to form an attachment as the characters are given time to development over the course of the game. This also goes for the other party members like the badass-with-a-heart Barrett, steadfast girl next door Tifa, or sailor-mouthed pilot Cid. I also enjoyed FFVII’s storyline, which features some not-so-subtle themes of corporatism and environmentalism. It’s impressive how a story revolving around a planet being sapped of its resources and life force by giant corporations with little to no regard to its ramifications and their conflict between a group of eco-terrorists was told during a time when video games were still considered an inferior art form, if considered one at all. The game’s storyline is also interesting in comparison to 2020 where the mere mention of climate change is considered by far too many as “SJW propaganda”.
Having finished Final Fantasy VII, I can greater understand longtime fans fondness and devotion to the game. My biggest issues with FFVII were mostly feelings of “I may enjoy this game as a whole, more than I enjoy playing it”. I have long used games like Goldeneye, Ocarina of Time, and even FFVII as games that deserved every bit of the praise and adoration they receive even from a mere mention of the game, but have at the same time aged relatively poor in areas. For how impressive the pre-rendered backgrounds and FMV cutscenes look, some of the game mechanics and controls feel a bit antiquated and clunky. There were numerous times where navigating through the background areas was made more difficult due to the fixed camera angles, similarly to numerous Capcom games in the late 90’s. The character models have also suffered the effects of time as the jagged polygons that once looked impressive are now almost comical as you gaze upon Cloud’s square hands and bulbous hips and shoulders.
Final Fantasy VII was still an experience in spite of a few wrinkles here and there. I have made no secret in past posts one of my greatest weaknesses is completing games, particularly RPGs which typically demand both time and attention and not just the former. The game was once an intimidating task to play through, but one I’m glad I was able to accomplish. In the same way I finally completed Link’s Awakening this time last year, I was able to finish Final Fantasy VII in preparation for the remake(which looks AMAZING).
What are your some games in your backlog that you’ve set out to complete? What do you think of the upcoming FFVII remake? Let me know in the comments. There’s still a few more in the backlog I’d like to finish for #MaybeInMarch. Thanks for reading!