Final Fantasy. Just saying the name of the game can bring people back to their childhoods. Not for me, however. I somehow missed out on that train when it was sitting in Nostalgia Station. Maybe I was too busy playing Tony Hawk to notice any other game but I didn’t play any of the Final Fantasy games growing up. There was one that I played on a PS1 demo disc where I fought a giant mechanical spider. Honestly, I’m not even sure if it was Final Fantasy.
But enough about my shitty memory. Rikki and I took two perspectives on this game, with me having no experience with it and playing it through with him, who played it a ton as a kid. I will be speaking on some of the things that I liked and disliked about it without the filter of nostalgia while he will be looking more as a retrospective on it from someone seeing the game again. I played through the game on the PS4, so I was able to use the X3 mechanic to make the game go by way faster. Let’s have a look at the journey of Grundle and his friends.
NOTE: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW SO DO NOT READ IF YOU CARE ABOUT SPOILERS
Steve’s Perspective: How I learned to stop worrying and love the battle system.
One of the main things that you want in any video game is for the player to feel like they always have the opportunity to win. You never want your player to feel helpless and not in control of their own fate. Final Fantasy’s battle system does a very good job with the feel and the reaction of the battle system. I never felt like there was a battle that I couldn’t overcome, either by overpowering it or outsmarting it. One of the earlier fights in the game requires you to do something I wouldn’t have thought of in a game: attack your own teammate. But it didn’t feel cheap nor did it feel like I couldn’t have figured it out. Sure, It wiped my team out one time but I was back into the fight more prepared very quickly. That is what you want from your game, the ability to believe that you can overcome anything the game throws at you.
The battle system just did so many things right. You feel like a complete badass while you are casting huge firestorms at enemies, having your Materia pairing up just right for a great payoff in the battles, or pulling victory from the jaws of defeat with a well timed item. It all just meshes together and has you feel good while you play it. You feel like you are right there, battling monsters alongside Grundle.
The thing that I liked the most was that the game didn’t need to have a grinding aspect that you see so often in gaming. Sure, I did grind out of habit and out of convenience, but there wasn’t really any part of the game where I felt as though I was just clearing through it willy-nilly. The levels that you naturally get from playing through the game and finding random battles seemed to scale very well with where you were in the story.
Let me be more specific on this. I absolutely loved the main story characters, whom I would consider Grundle (Cloud), Charles (Tifa) and Frong (Barrett). I absolutely couldn’t care less for the other characters in the story. Even NotEdward (Vincent) who absolutely carried me through some parts of the game. I get that these other characters were completely optional to get, but I would’ve liked to see a little bit more character development towards them and maybe something in relation to the main story of the game.
While I did do most of the optional areas to get more of the backstory for these minor characters, it felt weak and almost shoehorned into the game. It honestly made me say “What, that’s all I get?” a few times. I wanted to learn more about the woman we see in NotEdward’s past. I wanted to learn more about the Asian-esque village and culture that Strwbry (Yuffie) lived and grew up in. Either more of that or more explanation of that would be great. And I can’t put a whole lot of negativity into that because of the limits of the hardware but it might be something to look for in the Remake.
I am now going to spend a paragraph talking about how much I disliked the character of Softass (Cid). He spends most of the game either berating and demeaning his wife (girlfriend? Not really sure), talks so much shit on Grundle and the rest of the people who took him in, and puts allows someone to put fucking LARD in their tea in his OWN HOME.
There’s a lot of negativity in this positive post about the characters, you might be thinking. Well take that thinking back about a step and listen for once. For all the bad character development that I noticed in the minor characters, the story and development of the major characters is so well done and fleshed out. The history between Grundle and Charles can carry some of the annoyances seen with Strwbry. The story of Frong leaving the village and even having to kill someone that he shared a history with can carry the fact that Cait Sith is still around and useless. Every negative has a positive that increases the power and emotion of the story you are playing through.
There were points of this game that were very well written and made you genuinely feel for the characters on screen. I felt it when Cloud was trying to piece together the parts of his shattered mind with Tifa. The fact that Tifa would do anything to bring back her childhood friend Cloud was truly tragic when it felt so hopeless. When you learn more about Aeris’s backstory and how she was the last of an Ancient (hyuck hyuck) race of people and when she gives everything to protect her friends from evil, you feel it.
Even the main villain of the story, Sephiroth, has a tragic backstory where he was created from another being in a lab to be an ultimate life form. Many of the things in the plot had very relatable themes. Loss, Friendship, Love, Abandonment, Helplessness. I honestly was pleasantly surprised that a game that was made for children would have such in depth and adult themes to it. Kids are more likely to face their problems if they see people going through the same thing as them, even if it is a character in a video game.
There were so many positives with this game that it really overshadowed some of the things I didn’t like about the game. I can see why people really love this game and are so excited to have the remake come out here soon. Hopefully, it will keep more in line with a traditional battle system instead of the action style of the modern FF games. But that’s just my opinion on the matter. Anyway, not every game is perfect and there were some dings for this game in my eyes.
The Not So Good:
I never thought that I would be faced with a mini game that forced you to snowboard down a mountain while collecting balloons to advance the plot in a game like this.
I get that a game can’t just be non-stop battling and heavy plots, yet I don’t think the way to combat that is to add in random and jarring sections. In my eyes, it doesn’t really add anything to the story or the characters and it honestly took me out of it while I was playing through. It was also pretty bizarre to play through such extreme departures to what we have been playing so far. You are looking at a map in the snowy village then out of nowhere you are snowboarding down the mountain. You are traveling through a slummy town, then you are doing squats to win a wig. Yeah, it’s as weird as it sounds.
That being said, these mini games were pretty fun as I was playing them. It was nice to have a little refreshing moment where you don’t have to worry about the inevitable doom of the planet or whether your friends are all dead. You just snowboard down a hill real quick and grab some balloons.
The plot of this game is so god damn confusing. Even with having Rikki there to explain everything that was going on, I didn’t get a lot of it. He directed me to certain areas that unlocked more plot and backstory, yet I still didn’t get some things. Maybe I’m dumb or maybe the story isn’t meant to be understood fully the first time around but I have a feeling that many people missed out on a lot of stuff in this game.
Another thing in relation is that I never really had any direction on what to do next. Sure, there were moments where a character said, “Hey lets go check out this city again.” but I didn’t know where that was. The lack of any hand holding throughout the game was a nice change of pace from where most modern games. I’ve noticed that some games now are glorified hallways.
As much as I don’t really like waypoints or the GPS system that appears in modern games many times, SOME kind of direction and indication of where to go would have been nice. This literally could’ve been fixed with city names on the map. Even just little indicators. The only places I could really remember the locations of were Cosmo Canyon and Rocket Town.
Like I said earlier, I was fairly overleveled when I played through this game because I spent a fair amount of time grinding. So I honestly found Sephiroth fairly easy when I actually got to him. I get that it was my fault that the final boss was underwhelming.
When you get to near the end of the game, there are several huge monsters that appear for you to fight. These are the Weapons. Now you would figure that these guys would be easier than the final boss of the game simply because they aren’t the final boss. Well you would be right and wrong. Emerald Weapon is ridiculously difficult and could one shot my guys at level 70+. That’s difficulty. I feel that if I were to put in the time to level up more then I could at least compete with it. But then there is another two monsters, Ultima Weapon and Diamond Weapon, that are complete pushovers. Seriously, I thought that something was wrong the way they went down so quick.
Then there’s Ruby Weapon. He uses a move called Whirlsand to just remove one of your dudes from the match. And you can’t get them back. They’re gone from the fight. When I asked Rikki about this, he essentially said that I need to get another couple of Materias to win. I cannot win without these additional Materia. That is not difficulty. That is bullshit. When the game has knowledge that you cannot win without and you have no means to get that knowledge, you take away the power from the player. That’s not fun. I’m not having fun anymore. The name of the game is Blackjack and Final Fantasy is the House.
“But Steve!” I hear you say “Those bosses are just optional! You don’t have to fight them if you don’t want to.” Yes, these bosses are completely optional. Yes. I don’t have to fight them if I don’t want to. YET, in order to feel as though I completely beat the game, I need to beat those bosses. So let’s say that I level up a ton to fight Ruby or Emerald. I still get stomped because I don’t have the Materia to fight underwater or I don’t have the Knights of the Round summon.
Yeah I know I bitched about the things I didn’t like about this game, but don’t let that take away from how much I truly enjoyed playing through FFVII. There are so many things that go right by it that the entire journey goes by like a breeze. You enjoy all of the things that go right with this game and are willing to overlook all the things that don’t. I can totally see the reasons why people were so excited about the remake of this game, and I will definitely be looking forward to adding the FFVII remake onto my list of games that I need to play.
I can’t more highly recommend picking this game up for the PS4, since you can use the X3 and the grind mode. Take the dive into the original game before checking out the remake.
Few games have impacted my life quite like Final Fantasy VII. While not the very first JRPG I ever played through, it solidified the genre as my favorite. The Summer of 2003 might as well be called The Summer of FFVII as far as I’m concerned. It’s all I did. It took over my life. Everything about it is so ingrained in me. Hearing the first notes of the opening prelude immediately takes me back to being a kid in sixth grade. I could tell you when and where every song on the soundtrack takes place in the game. Every limit break, every side quest, every treasure chest, every secret… They’re second nature at this point. It felt really weird helping walk Steve through at times and being reminded that it’s not like that for everybody. Some people haven’t played it before and don’t know what to do at times, let alone how to breed a Gold Chocobo.
Point being, it played a huge role during a pretty formative time in my life; those shitty years known as puberty. I absorbed every bit of it I could. I played it practically every year from 2003 through 2007. My costume for Halloween in 2003 was Sephiroth (thank God no pictures of that debacle existl). I made my ex-girlfriend play it. The announcement trailer for the remake made me tear up. There’s basically an emotional attachment between me and FFVII. It’s part of who I am.
Until recently, the last time I played it was sometime in high school. A year ago, though, I downloaded the PS4 port so I could finally finish what I started 13 years earlier: defeat Emerald and Ruby Weapon.
Playing through it again so many years later gave me a new perspective of the game. I feel like I appreciate it more now than ever. It wasn’t as confusing as I always thought and I managed to pick up on things I missed in the past. I finally understood what the hell Cloud’s deal was. Sephiroth’s control over Cloud, the reason Sephiroth thought he was an Ancient, what the in God’s name Jenova was, Hojo’s role in the plot… It all made sense to me now. Things aren’t explicitly stated. You’re not spoon-fed every plot point. You have to connect the dots yourself. Maybe part of that is due to a pretty notoriously murky translation, maybe some is intentional. Being older now, I can appreciate the non-direct approach.
I got more from that playthrough than just clarity, though. I realized how great Sephiroth’s build up actually is. First, you just hear about him; a warrior unmatched in skill, but is thought to be dead. He’s almost like a Paul Bunyan type of mythological figure. Then you see the aftermath of his handiwork at Shinra Headquarters. Once out of Midgar, he finally appears during a flashback where he completely loses his god damn mind. While we need a chocobo to cross the marsh and avoid the Midgar Zolom, Sephiroth handles things his way.
Before we even meet him in the present, we know he’s not to be fucked with.
Typically in video games (or any form of media, really), women are treated as vulnerable and in need of saving. I think the little love triangle between Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa clouded the fact for me that that’s not the case in Final Fantasy VII. Aerith, while seemingly weak and in need of protection, leaves the squad behind so she can give her life to help the best way she can. She had no fear and did what she had to. Tifa, meanwhile, plays the role of savior for Cloud; a reversal of what we typically see. She’s the one who helps him dig out of his mental collapse and rediscover who he is. If any character is vulnerable, it’s Cloud. He’s the one with issues. He needs help. He needs saved. It’s easy to miss, what with Tifa’s comically oversized boobz, but the women of Final Fantasy VII aren’t treated as just love interests or in need of a hero. They’re treated as equals.
I’m not saying it’s the most mature game ever made or anything…
But it’s a little more complex than people give it credit for. And those weird, on-the-verge-of-or-actually-being offensive moments are part of what makes the game so endearing after all these years, even if they don’t seem to be in the best of taste two decades later. It’s goofy and doesn’t take itself TOO seriously.
But if anything has aged worse than some of those cringe-worthy, how-did-that-make-the-game lines of dialogue and plot points (looking at you, Don Corneo), it’s the graphics.
By the time I started my journey as Cloud, the PS2 era was in full swing. I remember seeing a commercial for FFX and being totally blown away. It was basically real life! Graphics couldn’t possibly get better! Meanwhile, Finally Fantasy VII’s aged in dog years. They looked abysmal in 2003. For fuck’s sake, they looked bad a year after the damn game was released! That said, as shitty as they are, there wasn’t a single time I played it, as a kid or as an adult, that once the story got rolling, I ever thought “Wow, this game looks terrible.” I didn’t have to try and look past them; it just happened naturally. The positives totally masked the fact that I was playing a game that has no idea how humans look.
With how many people consider it over-rated, I’d make the somewhat insane argument that at this point, Final Fantasy VII may be slightly UNDER-rated. Despite being one of the most beloved video games ever, it’s routinely dismissed by some as a piece of nostalgia, a product of its era that doesn’t quite hold up. The people who wave its flag are fanboys who haven’t experienced other, more substantial games. Maybe I’m blinded by my heart, but if a game could make a 12 year old kid ignore human-block hybrid characters just a few years before the PS3 was released, it must have some pretty damn good stuff going for it. If you haven’t played it in a while, I say dust off your copy (or download the PS4 port) and give it a revisit. You might come away with a new appreciation.