Saturday Gaming Retrospective – Final Fantasy VII


Final Fantasy VII
– PSone

By

Louis Bedigian


Another look at
the world’s most beloved and best-selling RPG

It
was the RPG that changed everything. The game that made American and European
players take a second look at a genre that was once thought to be exclusive to
the tastes of Japanese gamers.

Final
Fantasy VII was not only the biggest RPG ever made — and not just the first RPG
to break the technological barrier and show what could be done with 3D hardware
– it was also the first RPG to grab the average player and make him realize that
these pixelated characters can be more than just a bunch of on-screen avatars.
They, more than we ever knew, could be likable, highly cherished characters that
we would never forget.
 


When
simplicity is better


What were its
Cultural Impacts and/or Importance?


Final Fantasy VII was an epic, heart-wrenching masterpiece. Combining the
original tale of evil, corporate dominance and the struggle for survival with an
impeccable, import-worthy score and a remarkable battle system whose power and
origins were rooted in the story, Final Fantasy VII turned everyday gamers into
role-playing fanatics. For the more than 10 million players who took a chance on
a franchise that was largely ignored by outsiders (those who didn’t play RPGs
regularly up until this point), this game proved to be a journey unlike any
other.


Now that more than 12 years have passed, and now that more than 100,000 fans
have shelled out another $10 to purchase the PSP/PS3 version via PSN, a couple
questions must be answered.

Saturday Gaming Retrospective


What Areas of
Gaming did it Advance?


The pre-rendered backgrounds and high-end CG video sequences helped push the
boundaries of video-game storytelling while creating a catalyst that Square and
Sony (Square developed it before the merger with Enix; Sony acted as the
American publisher) could use to attract those who were leery of playing through
a 40-hour turn-based adventure. Final Fantasy VII set the new standard for what
RPGs should look and sound like for the next four years – a standard that did
not change until Final Fantasy X arrived at the tail end of 2001.


Since that time, almost every RPG released has switched over to real-time
backgrounds and (when possible) real-time movie sequences. But that’s only
because the current game consoles allow developers to do what they wanted to do
all along: create the most breathtaking worlds, produce the most beautiful
characters, and design the most spectacular battles possible. Final Fantasy VII
wasn’t designed to defy those dreams – it used pre-rendered elements to
brilliantly circumvent the limitations of the existing technology. At the same
time, it inspired developers to get to the point where they are today.

Saturday Gaming Retrospective


Does it Stand the
Test of Time?


Without a doubt, the story, music, characters and gameplay of Final Fantasy VII
stand the test of time. To this day, I am amazed at the depth of the characters,
the intricacies of Shinra, the complexities of Sephiroth and Hojo, and the
powerful emotion that exists within the main cast.


It didn’t take long for the dialogue to age; while some of it is very good,
there are plenty of moments that, in the event of a remake, could use a serious
touch-up. But it’s not how the characters speak (sometimes with very poor
English) that counted with gamers, in 1997 or in 2010; what mattered most was
what
the characters were saying, and how those words impacted their lives.
This wasn’t a happy, mega-joyous story with a perfectly positive outcome. Final
Fantasy VII’s story was dark, deep, and filled with characters who were truly
miserable. It was through that misery – and all triumphs the player goes through
with them – that made us connect so deeply with this polygonal cast.


When it finally ended, when the journey came to a close, most of us were as
amazed as we were devastated. Games like this don’t come along every day, or
even every decade. I’ll never forget my first time beating it, particularly
because I had to play through it twice to see it end. Foolishly, I thought it’d
be safe using just one save file. Consequently, I cornered myself into the final
level with characters that were too weak to survive.


After dying numerous times, I made up my mind: I would start from the beginning
and play through it as quickly as possible, all the while creating a party of
six characters who were unstoppable.

Saturday Gaming Retrospective


A Blessing in
Disguise


In a way, my mistake was a blessing; when a great TV series is coming to a
close, I like to re-watch all the episodes before the finale airs. That’s kind
of what happened here – it was a second chance to experience the game, almost
fresh again, before seeing how it all turned out.


The fact that I still remember not only the game but my experiences with it is a
testament to the RPG Square created. In playing through it again on PSP, I have
started to think about the playing through other Final Fantasy games again –
something I hadn’t thought about in years. But that’s only because Final Fantasy
VII does what any great novel, movie or TV series has done: it makes you want
more.