Final Fantasy 7 is one of the most revered and beloved of role playing games to have ever been made. Regarded as a genre-defining work I’ve seen it regularly quoted as the game that brought real emotion into the medium. It's also a game I've never played.
Of course, thanks to the internet I already know the major factor that brought the game it famous reputation. The death of Aeris at the time must have been such a seismic event in the videogame space for it to still be talked about and discussed today.
Despite the knowledge of this major plot spoiler I've always wanted to play through the game and see how moving or affecting that moment is. Games have come a long way since it was released back on the original Playstation - at least in terms of visuals. Whether or not its impact over time has lessened or the story has been surpassed by more modern efforts remains for me to see. I really hope the plot and characters still resonate in 2009 as they did in 1997.
As expected the graphics are very dated and it’s hard to imagine this game being the revolutionary step forward it actually was. It was the first 3D game of the Final Fantasy series and playing it on a HD television did a great job of showing all its flaws off in gory detail. But I’ve had more joy with the PSP version despite the awkward controls.
The smaller screen sharpens everything up and it’s amazing what a little time can do to the mind with these older games. After a few hours I soon started to forget about the visuals completely and began to get wrapped up in the world and its characters. Instead of relying on the screen to convey high definition images my imagination took over. Thanks to this I ended up having the experience of the game inside my head rather than it being fed through my critical eyes.
I don't usually enjoy the over-Americanised localisation that most JRPG's go through. There's something fundamentally wrong in my mind about having a load of street lingo sprinkled into a fantasy setting. However, where a lot of similar games would've been switched off by now, the industrialised setting and ghetto backdrop seem to suit this style of narrative really well.
What's struck me, even at this early stage, is how well-written the characters are. There are distinctive qualities to each of them and although they sometimes fall into RPG and ethic stereotypes, I can't help but be curious about their histories and motivations. The early part of the story is encouraging too – playing what is essentially a terrorist and planting bombs gives it a darker edge. But seeing an entire section of the slums crushed just to eliminate the AVALANCHE group Cloud is working actually made me consider Barrett’s motivations.
But I really wanted to focus on Aerith. With so much of the buzz about this game being centred on her and her death it was a strange feeling interacting with her. From the very moment Cloud meets her she's a likeable and strong character. She has her own mind and senses of humour that makes me wonder why female characters haven’t progressed past this point. Whether its sentimentality clouding my view or not, she seems one of the most believable and interesting female characters I've seen in a game.
Of course, knowing what happens to her gives every line of dialogue and every scene a certain sombreness and I'm left wondering how different the game would feel if I had played it originally. That’s something I’ll never get to experience but I’m playing in a state of trepidation as to how she eventually meets her end. It will sound incredible soppy but I’m cherishing every interaction and moment with her.