Thursday, 18 June 2009

Final Fantasy 7 - First impressions


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.





  1. I remember when I first saw Final Fantsy 7. I walked into my local game store with my mum to have a quick look around. I saw Final Fantasy 7 and just picked it up to see the back. No particular reason why as I had been picking up a number of games during my walk around.
    As soon as I saw the back I wanted the game. It was of course for that 'anime' feel. I had just recently got into anime when Final Fantasy 7 released and having never really heard much about Final Fantasy before in my young life I thought it was just going to be a fun little adventure title.
    Oh how wrong I was! This was my first 200+ hour game. I think altogether with my saves combined I hit over 400 hours on this baby. While you might not get as obsessed as I did as a child, I really hope you enjoy FF7. It lead onto my obsession with the Final Fantasy series and the RPG genre.
    Such an amazing first glimpse into the jRPG world I had been missing out on for quite a long time :-)

  2. Thanks for the comment Lauren - its always interesting to hear how people got into a landmark title and how it took over their life!
    I must confess that FF7 is the first Final Fantasy game I've played for more than 10 minutes and I've never really got on with them until now. I've heard one criticism of FF7 that it was too easy, too accessible for the FF enthusiast crowd. That seems a strange point to be critical of but I guess its the reason why I'm still playing - that and my burgeoning love affair with Aerith of course.
    400 hours though? That's a scary thought! If I was playing this on my TV your 400 hours would seem impossibly daunting. But thank to the PSP I can see myself pouring as many hours as possible into it whilst I'm on the go. I obsessed over Lost Odyssey for a ton of hours so I've no doubt FF7 will get its claws deep into me :)

  3. I would love to play Final Fantasy 7 for the first time again. I remember watching my older brother complete the game way before me and just falling in love with the story. It was on of them games that I loved to watch as well as play. Im envious of you.