Final Fantasy VII

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delb2k
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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (14.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by delb2k » November 8th, 2018, 11:00 am

My nostalgia for this game is a powerful force, and colours my opinion of this title on just about every level.

This was the first full on JRPG that I played and a title that had been a factor in my PlayStation purchase at the time. It fed into my interest of Japanese culture that had already been sparked through anime and manga with this game feeling like the quintessential japanse expiriance.

I found the whole game incredibly engrossing, a world that pulled me in with characters and settings that made my imagination fill in the gaps that the graphics could not. I enjoyed the turn based combat, figuring how to create a winning strategy and use magic and healing at the right times. I enjoyed the over the top animations of the summons and while I can understand how they could become grating for some it felt all incredibly mystical to me.

Most importantly it was the story that made me become a Final Fantasy addict. I wanted to know everything about this world, this lore, the story of Avalanche and Cloud and how the relationship with Sephiroth became so incredibly entwined with each other. I would spend hours exploring and reading, trying to find all the optional details possile. The reveals completely shocked me, the twists at points made me feel completely betrayed. I felt elation when Cid reached space, joy when Cloud and Tifa reconnected and achievement when Sephiroth finally fell. This was the first narrative in games that completely suckered me in and for that it retains a very fond place in my heart. That may not hold up now, I fear I could find many holes in it, but at the time my younger self was completely entranced.

I wil ladmit that the tranlation remains very rough and uses language in a way that can sometimes be described as interesting. there are also some scenes that will sit in a more uncomfortable space at this point in time, most likely the cross dressing scene in wall market.

It is not necessarily the best JRPG that I have played but it is the one that means the most to me as it was my introduction to the genre. If you want any further reading on it I can hearily recommend the following book:

https://www.thirdeditions.com/en/rpg/97 ... 23555.html

Ihonestly do not know how newcomers would find this today. They may find the battle archaic, the look twee and the pace a little slow but I would urge everyone to try it. It is an incredibly important game.

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OneCreditBen
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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (14.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by OneCreditBen » November 25th, 2018, 12:32 am

I use the terms "perfect storm" or "planets aligning" when describing certain games from golden eras gone by.

Of all the games however, it's very hard for me to think of a game that fits that description quite as perfect as Final Fantasy VII. I was 17 when this got a UK release, and still hungover from the golden summer of 1997. The summer between the non-consequential first year at college, and the imposing final year.

That sprawling summer seemed to last forever, but the close knit group of friends that I'd known for most of my life were aware our situations were all about to change. We all knew that university would pull us in different directions around the country, and pre-internet, this was a truly daunting prospect.

Over the summer we'd played a variety of Playstation titles multiplayer, but I'd been reading so much about Final Fantasy VII that when it finally came out, I had such high hopes for it I remember being legitimately nervous when I finally bought it and got it home.

I sneaked out of college on the day it came out, went up to town and bought it with the money from my part time job at Kwik Save. The bus that stopped at college from town went straight through to my house, and I had a college bus pass at the time. I went to stand up when the bus reached college, but felt strangely drawn to stay in my seat. I knew I couldn't have concentrated anyway, so I stayed where I was, and duly sacked off the rest of the day's studies to get home as quick as possible.

My initial impressions of the game left me somewhat curious. I was blown away by the story, loved the battle sequences and the materia system and instantly was fascinated by the characters but there was something that I couldn't quite understand. Was the whole game based in this claustrophobic industrial cityscape?

It was a bold idea if it was, but I was longing for 32 bit Secret of Mana style adventure, with a magical kingdom that would envelop me. Irrespective of this however, I ploughed onward through the first few hours of the story, becoming more and more invested in the story without realizing it.

Then it finally happened, after a grueling boss fight the game, out of nowhere, changed into a crazy Road Rash hybrid and I was escaping from Midgar. I was amazed by how playable this section was, and what a clever concept it represented but what happened next astounded me.

The battle with Motorball over, your party agreed that the only way was forward, and the only way to save the world was to defeat Sephiroth , and after a quick re-order you took your first steps into...

I literally stopped where I sat for what seemed like a lifetime. A world. A whole world, too massive to fully comprehend expanded out in front of me. Whatever was happening in the real world didn't seem to matter anymore, I checked the map screen and saw nothing but limitless possibilities and vast continents.

And that was where it began.

I honestly can't think another game that's taken my breath away quite like that ever since, or before. The next few weeks were a blur, but in the best possible way. Every single second I had was spent around getting back home, and getting on to Final Fantasy VII. Every single element building, adding, continually expanding this truly all absorbing experience.

There's not one moment that stands out during that time because they were all so magical for different reasons; I'll never forget Aeris dying because it had just started to snow outside and I thought I might have been dreaming for a short while. I walked downstairs to get a drink after that scene, and the whole thing hit me, probably the first time that I'd been really moved by what I'd seen in a game.

I beat the game legitimately after about 4 weeks, and then bought a guide and beat it comprehensively unlocking all the secrets, all the materia/weapons/armour and realizing why they'd made it so hard to get a gold Chocobo, because Knights of the Round really did end the world.

When I finally beat Sephiroth and the credits rolled I'll never forget that feeling of emptiness. I still get it now when I beat an RPG that I've put time into, but never to this level. That stolen glance of Aeris at the end still stays with me as one of the most powerful images from any ending sequence I've ever seen. This couldn't be it though, could it?

My friends later all got copies and we all talked for hours about our theories, adventures, and my good friend Tran's phenomenal grind to get Aeris to Level 99 and equip her with Great Gospel so maybe she wouldn't die.

Now we're all approaching 40 but still meet up when work/children (theirs not mine)/dogs (mine not theirs) and schedules allow. All 4 of us speak every day due to the wonders of the internet, and it's never too long before someone references Final Fantasy VII in some form or another. Even if it's just a reference to how cool Sephiroth looked strolling into the fire, or how we've probably all had dates as bad as Cloud and Tifa have at the Gold Saucer.

Final Fantasy VII is much more than just a game, it's a digital masterpiece that truly changed the way I looked at life.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (14.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by oni-link » November 25th, 2018, 9:35 pm

I first got around to playing FFVII in 2012. I had drifted away from gaming after the Wii years but started to get back into it in 2011 when I picked up a PS3

After a slew of AAA PS3 games I decided to try FFVII, as it's a game I'd long heard people talk about as one of the best of all time

I found the start to be quite a shock, as it's quite a contrast in visuals and pace from the AAA games of the last console generation, but after leaving Midgar everything started to click

The story, characters and music are all fantastic, but I feel like FFVII is a game where the overall experience is more than the sum of it's parts. Even 15 years after release the quality of the title is clear to see

My positive experience with FFVII piqued my interest in older titles, and since 2012 I've gone back and played dozens of fantastic older games I missed out on at the time, so even though I was late to the party, FFVII has had a huge influence on the kind of games I play and enjoy

I recently replayed it on Vita over a few months worth of lunch breaks and it's as good in 2018 as it was in 2012, an all time classic, full of charm, tragedy, humour and humility

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (14.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by welshmuzzy » November 27th, 2018, 12:58 pm

Let me just come straight out and say it - this is my favourite game ever!
I just love it! I may even theme my next tattoo around it.
I first played it in 1997 when i was 16 (in fact i still have my PS One discs) and i still play it today on my PS Vita.
The epic story, emotive music, colourful characters and unique gameplay (at least to me back then) all come together to create an amazing experience. I had never played a FF game before or even a RPG (or JRPG for the pedants) and this blew me away.
There is so much to do in this game, collect the ultimate weapons, side games in the Gold Saucer, breed a Gold Chocobo so you can get the Knights of the Round summon materia...
I'm not going to go on about it because so many other people can do it so much more eloquently than me, instead i'm off to listen to Nobuo Uematsu's masterpiece of a soundtrack.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (14.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by ColinAlonso » December 6th, 2018, 10:53 pm

The small country town near to where I grew up had one video rental shop. Among the videos it had three rows with, at most, 30 PlayStation games. Getting to rent one of those was always a treat. In 1998 my brother and I were looking through these games, there were sports games, racers, platformers and action games. Games that you could tell what they were from box art, games where it was obvious what you did in them. I was considering Wipeout 2097 when I saw it, a plain white background with the logo 'Final Fantasy VII'. 10 year old me clearly missed any hype and did not have a clue what this was. The back of the box, while containing pretty pictures, did not help me understand what this game was. But I was curious, after all what game needed three discs? Curiousity was all I needed and we rented it.

Back at our house we fired it up. A stunning opening followed by being thrown straight into battle. This was our first JRPG and being presented with battle options in a menu was weird to us. We picked it up pretty quickly though. Thankfully there was a tutorial on materia. It was our first experience with a story heavy game. Midgar was a wonderful environment to start in and a lot happens in the first few hours of the game. Before we had to return it my brother reached the moment where the sector 7 plate falls. We wanted the full game already but after that we were obsessed.

A while later, our parents were going on a weekend away. We wanted a present from the trip. It was an excuse to nag for Final Fantasy VII. They bought it for us when they came back.

The game just has so many memorable moments; finding President Shinra with Sephiroth's sword sticking out of his back, Barret and Dyne, Red XIII and the story of his father, the rocket launch, Sephiroth's unsettling and sudden appearances on the part's journey culminating in that death, which shocked my young self, and many more.

Sephiroth is a great villain but I also really liked the evil monopoly that is the Shinra Company as secondary villains.

It's a delightfully odd game at times, juxtaposing the serious with light-hearted events including riding a dolphin, marching in a military parade, performing in a panto (more or less), all of Wall Market, and all the different mini-games. I think you only have to do each mini-game once as part of the story, which means they don't become stale.

Graphically, many parts of the game have aged poorly but I want to mention the drawn 2D backgrounds, they give so much beautiful detail yet the fixed camera angles still leaves plenty more to the imagination.

The music is much loved and rightly so. My brother bought the soundtrack years later.

I felt the ending was ambiguous. My brother thought it was abrupt and wanted to know what happened to the party. I thought the Holy spell saved the planet but killed the humans, like Bugenhagen warned it might. Kinda strange for a kid to think about the ending that way.

Nostalgia affects my thoughts on the game, of course it does. As I said, this was my first story heavy game so I can see past its flaws, the translation being the most obvious. To me this game is a wonderful epic. It is the reason I have, over the last 18 months, played entries 1 through 6 so I could see what came before it. It is still one of my five favourite games of all time and the most important in my gaming history as it introduced me to the JRPG genre and to story-driven games.

What would have happened if I stuck with Wipeout 2097 eh?

TWR: Still a favourite.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by macstat » December 7th, 2018, 7:28 am

My adventure with FF7 was when my parents bought me in '98 when PC port was released. It may be the first grand adventure I played (or at least one I can recall). A lot has been said already about memorable moments, meaningful relationships between characters, interesting locations, great music. Instead of repeating all the praises I'm just going to say that FF7 still holds a personal record of a game with the longest uninterrupted playtime of 36 hours.

On the other hand, I tried to replay it when it was re-released on steam a while back and it, unfortunately, didn't go as I thought it would. To be honest it has more to do with the genre than the game itself. Outdated graphics, low res backgrounds are not a problem and story still felt good after all those years. My biggest problem was with how this game (and probably jRPGs in general) like to waste my time. There's a lot of two things that I often don't have time for anymore. One thing is how significant the grind is, especially when you want some of those juicy summon materia. Second, there's a lot of waiting ... waiting for dialogue window to change, waiting for slow animations to go through. Those things are tiny when you look at them one at the time, but because they are so prevalent it adds up to a significant amount. After almost 40 hours and realizing that I haven't even left the first continent I stopped playing.

3-word review : First Grand Adventure

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Joe81 » December 7th, 2018, 7:47 am

The first time I played Final Fantasy VII was at a family members house shortly after its release. I was just coming off the epic trio of SNES JRPG's: Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger (shout out to Illusion of Gaia) and not really that aware of the Sony Playstation yet when my slightly younger cousin showed me what I was supposedly missing. In my opinion, compared to the games I just mentioned, this one was, and is, severely lacking, and yes it has always been about the polygons for me.

Even as a teenager in the mid-90's I never understood how character models like the ones in FFVII could be considered more aesthetically pleasing than good pixel art. Let's remember that Square were at the top of their craft when it came to pixel art in this time period. The clear difference in visuals between FF6 and FF7, with the former being vastly superior, is just one of many advantages the sixth entry in the Final Fantasy series has over the seventh.

Despite these misgivings though I still find this game to be quite enjoyable, however hard to look at. The combat and materia systems are dynamic and versatile while the story and characters remain some of the most iconic in the series. Nobuo Uematsu treats us once again to music that is as timeless as it is haunting; bittersweet yet youthful and energetic in the right places. His work on the Final Fantasy series is often worth the price of admission alone, as it is here.

When the upcoming(still?) FFVII remake was announced I found it somewhat disappointing that they didn't just slap new visuals on the original game and call it a day. We would presumably already be playing it and I could finally get over those awful character models.

Three word review:

Looks like shit
.......no?
ok

A step forward...

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (14.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Joe81 » December 7th, 2018, 7:53 am

OneCreditBen wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 12:32 am
[...] or how we've probably all had dates as bad as Cloud and Tifa have at the Gold Saucer.
You should have gone with Barret, a much more pleasant date if Tifa didn't do it for you. :P

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Mr Ixolite » December 9th, 2018, 10:34 am

I vividly remember the first time I played FFVII. My parents were reconnecting with some old friends, and had set me up with their son while they were busy doing adult things. I was a seasoned playstation gamer by then, but he managed to surprise me when he pulled out a bigger than normal PS1 case. A game on three discs? What madness was this? He booted up the game just to show off the beginning, the unforgettable Bombing Mission, and five hours later we were raiding Shinra HQ. I was utterly transfixed. I had never seen anything like it; I had encountered stories in games before, but this was the first time experiencing the story was the main draw for me. It made me reevaluate what I appreciated in games, and set me on a path that would obsess over japanese popculture for the better part of a decade. And it also gifted me the person that would eventually be Best Man at my wedding.


FFVII is not perfect. The story feels a bit bloated by the time of the Big Materia hunt, the localization is downright bad, and the actual turn based combat could’ve been more exciting.

But what FFVII does better than almost any other game I can think of, is ATMOSPHERE. As much as I like the characters, simply experiencing the world itself is what hooks me on the game. There is no other game that Feels like FF VII.
A big part of that is down to the visuals, specifically the pre-rendered backgrounds. These were most likely used due to the unfeasibility of creating a fully 3D environment for the PSX, but as they say, art is born from limitations. And precisely because of their pre-rendered nature these environments are certainly art. Having a fixed perspective means that each screen is always presented with the correct angle, zoom, colors etc. to evoke the current mood of the story, from the hugeness of a Mako reactor to the intimacy of a broken church. The result is that nothing ever feels samey, and that every single screen of the game becomes memorable.

What also makes FFVII engaging is that, despite the statis of the backgrounds, its world feels alive, with hundreds of small and varied challenges. These can range from huge setpieces like escaping Midgar in an exciting bike chase or simply doing squats in order to win a wig. Individually these micro-games don’t amount to much, but together they’re a core part of the games identity; The actual Turn Based Combat of the game is completely acceptable, but I’m certain I’ve invested more time making sure to get a date with Tifa than ever strategizing about materia. And maybe most importantly of all, these kooky little challenges serves to balance the tone of the game, and inject it with a persistent sense of Fun. FFVII contains themes of environmentalism, capitalism, terrorism and more, but and could easily have been a dreary, pretentious experience. But thankfully, it is also the kind of game that asks you to march in a parade every once in a while, and where you can find the villains chilling on a beach. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be FFVII.

And for this reason, I have absolutely zero problems with the controversial FFVII LEGO men. Yes, they look dated, and are a result of the limitations of the time. They’re clearly alien. But precisely because of this they reinforce the very particular tone of the game, which is more pulpy than serious. And the developers are leaning into the puppet-like nature of the models, imbuing them with cartoonishly exaggerated movements, such as the ability to jump extreme distances, or get punched into the camera, smash-bros style. But this detachment from realism does not mean that the game is incapable of being emotionally affecting- Quite the contrary, in fact, as the puppet-like characters disarm what would otherwise be annoying plotholes and melodramatic clichés. For instance, Caith Sith joining the party is extremely forced, but the fact that he joins by walking directly into a protesting Cloud and then dissapearing makes me more forgiving of it. The game isn’t called “Final grounded, po-faced Anime Cliché narrative with some fantastical elements” after all, and the thought of the Remake reenacting the FF7 scenario with photoreal, fully-voiced anime people in complete seriousness is…not exactly hype-inducing. Sadly, the entire “compilation FFVII” seems to have adopted this approach, which has always been a major dealbreaker for me. In virtually every appearance outside of the original game Cloud is a glum, angsty loner, which is a far cry from the sarcastic, dolphin-riding warrior who says “Let’s Mosey, everyone!”.

Because FFVII is a game of huge contrasts. Its dark, but immensely colorful. It deals in gruesome themes and adult imagery, but is also deliberately corny and silly. It Is a game where you will both partake in a KEWL BADASS BIKE CHASE and puppet-like stage performances. Lean too much on the serious side of this equation, and the game loses its heart and soul.

3 word review: Gateway-drug to Japan

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Stanshall » December 9th, 2018, 4:42 pm

(Excellent post, enjoyed that. I couldn't agree more about the strengths of the game and its wonderful tone. I started replaying it recently for the show and just for the atmosphere and it's a lot darker than I remembered and I absolutely fucking love it. I will get round to a proper post before the recording but just wanted to acknowledge yours.)

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Shabbasnake » December 10th, 2018, 11:37 am

Despite it being one of my favourite games - if not top of the list - I wasn't originally going to post something for Final Fantasy VII. The panel and others on the forum were sure to cover anything I wanted to raise far more eloquently. Then I saw that the issue in question concided with what's become an annual tradition around this time of year: another playthrough of Final Fantasy VII.

For me, this game is forever linked to fond memories old and new. I first played it on Christmas Day. It had been put on my Christmas list after seeing the adverts which, as it turned out, focused heavily on the cut scenes. So my initial reaction was negative: I'd never played a turn-based game before, so the idea that I had to just stand there and let enemies hit me took some getting used to. But I did, and spent the rest of that day learning about Mako energy and getting to know the Avalanche team. I completed the game with a few setbacks - mainly due to my lack of understanding about how important levelling my characters was - and would occasionally dip back into it over the years.

Fast forward and I'm a grownup, moving to London with my then girlfriend and away from my friends and family. That separation made me nostalgic for things I'd take for granted, and I came back to the game again. I can't remember what it was: maybe a piece from the soundtrack on Sound of Play (yes, I do listen to both podcasts!); or some reference to the game appearing out in the wild. But the moment I heard those first few notes and the camera pulled on first onto Aeris, then Midgar, before zooming towards that train pulling in I was back on my parents' living room floor surrounded by wrapping paper. Since that connection was formed about six or seven years ago, I return to Final Fantasy VII every Christmas. It's as much a tradition for me as other festive standards, and as I spend my final few weeks in London beginning my latest run - on my phone this time - there's a sense that next year it'll remind me of the life we made down here, too.

Because that girlfirend I moved with is now my wife, and we're planning a big journey next year before moving home. And wouldn't you know, I've started to associate the Highwind's theme with that journey. I remember bonding with the friend who would become best man at my wedding over our mutual love of the game (how funny that Mr Ixolite above has their own best man connection to FFVII too); the weekend my younger brother decided to blast through all three discs in bed one weekend, despite the smell that built up when he didn't shower or change clothes; and now, I'll always remember poring over maps of Asia while the stirring music which signalled Final Fantasy VII was ready to let you really explore piped up.

There's not much I can say about the game that won't be discussed in the issue, I'm sure. But I'm here now, so for what it's worth: it's aged, really badly, as many PS1 games have done. The graphics are downright ugly in places, and with adult eyes the shifting art styles are a distraction. Sephiroth isn't quite as nuanced a villain as the younger me thought he was, although he has more depth than some villains do now and the overall plot still holds up in my opinion. The materia system is terrific, offering more options to customise your party than I've ever truly taken advantage of. I always end up putting certain materia in the same members each time: when Cloud successfully connects with Deathblow, for example, I always get a jolt of adrenaline like I'm watching the football. And with some exceptions (Vincent and Cait Sith never really resonated, despite being visually striking), the characters are excellent. I haven't enjoyed spending time with a game's ensemble this much ever, with only Mass Effect 2 coming close in recent memory. By modern standards they aren't that rich, so this might be another area where I'm viewing the game through nostalgic eyes, however even now I don't grudge any deviations from the main plot to see more of their backstories.

The strangest thing about this - as my rambling draws to a close - is that personal link to the game has arguably stopped me seeing it all. I've never gotten involved in extras like chocobo breeding, or collecting the rare summons like Knights of the Round. If the plot doesn't demand it, I've never gone near one of the notorious Weapon battles. Or seen each character's best weapons and limit attacks. I appreciate that they're available, but that's not why I play this particular game. I see the flaws, I wilfully ignore substantial parts of it, and most of my playthroughs follow the same path. But Final Fantasy VII is one of my go-to comfort games, for reasons beyond anything its' mechanics achieve. And for that I'll always have a version of it somewhere, for at least those first few hours every December.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Will » December 12th, 2018, 11:28 pm

Well, this is the big one. It’s not the first and may or may not be your personal favorite, but if you ask the average gamer to imagine a JRPG they will almost certainly picture something like FFVII; it is literally a genre-defining title. It was also a system-seller for the ascendant PS1. Final Fantasy fans followed Square to the new console in droves - indeed, in a nice bit of symbolism I literally sold all my NES and SNES games so I could afford to buy a PS1. FFVII also introduced a generation of non-RPG players to the genre by repeating some tricks from previous Square titles and adding some new ones. For a first-time player, starting up VII must have been breathtaking. Unlike so many RPGs that start with a quiet village or the mechanical work of designing a character, VII kicks things off in the most visceral and cinematic way possible. The opening FMV drops you breathlessly (and seamlessly) onto a train speeding towards combat in a mission to blow up a megacorp’s reactor. The camera spins, bullets whiz by, and the game never lets up. "C'mon newcomer. Follow me." indeed!

Square used this tight narrative control and cinematic sensibility for setpieces like the opening or the motorcycle chase, but also for suspenseful moments like following a trail of blood across the eerily still Shinra Building or the quiet despair of the slums of Midgar beneath a glowing Loveless sign. The fact that you encounter a My Bloody Valentine reference two discs before you hear the until-then-standard Prologue speaks volumes about the way VII reimagined the series. New fans followed this game onto the forums suddenly available in dorms and family rooms across the internet, and perhaps inevitably down the rabbit hole of wacky - often trolling - rumors about how to revive Aeris, in place like this charmingly era-appropriate Tripod page: http://ff7rumors.tripod.com/aeris.htm

To me, VII is linked to the sense of late-90s sophistication you discussed on your PS1 podcast. I remember being blown away watching the trailer on a big screen at our local theater. Loading the game on black-backed CDs felt so different from banging a squat grey cart into a Nintendo console. This cyber-futurism goes a long way to making some of the PS1-era graphics work for me, especially the smoothed PS4 version: VII’s blocky polygons look exactly the way cyberpunk authors had been telling us the digital future would. Presenting characters as a set of synthetic cubes and cylinders also suites the story. If it was released as an indie title today, I can imagine critics raving about the brilliance of telling Cloud’s story of confronting his own alienation and lack of specialness by representing him as a literal collection of generic building blocks.

In the end these themes of isolation, loss, and self-doubt have stuck with me more than the epic summon animations or looming presence of Sephiroth. I first played the game as a new university student after leaving behind all my friends and someone I thought was the love of my life. I was struggling to fit in to a new city and felt like a failure as I disappeared into a crowd of bright young students. I put on a brave face for family over winter break, but coming back to an empty apartment with no heat or cheer, I felt totally lost and alone. I was initially suspicious of this spiky-headed sci-fi protagonist until he came to the train graveyard, which took my breath away. It wasn’t a flashy cutscene or mind blowing plot twist; simply the loveless atmosphere of a broken down world haunted by lost hope and failed ambition. As I sat still and alone with my breath misting in the frozen air and the song Anxious Heart washing over me, I literally could not move for several minutes. Kitase has said that VII is ultimately about the “big empty space” you feel in the presence of death, loss, and profound failure. I think everyone has felt that empty space at some point in their lives, and VII uses every painstakingly prerendered background and diverse character relationship to amplify and explore that feeling.

In many ways Square never got over VII, chasing the sugar high of the game with mercenary spin-offs, dubious full length films, and one ill-fated attempt to reverse-engineer Cloud’s appeal a decade later. In 2018 I'm not sure we really need a multi-part, DLC-laden remake, but, as the man says, "there ain't no gettin' offa this train we're on." No matter how it turns out, VII belongs to the fans who have made the game their own with updated versions like The Reunion and albums like Mega Ran’s Black Materia that remix Uematsu’s music to tell a different story about kids growing up in poverty and struggling to live in a society that devalues their lives and dreams. It would be easy to make a cute comparison to the climax of the game itself - VII reinvented the genre and may or may not have a place in the new world - but replaying today I see a game that continues to inspire and entertain and I hope every generation of players has a chance to explore this world for themselves.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Magical_Isopod » December 14th, 2018, 9:44 am

Final Fantasy VII might be the single piece of media that impacted my life more than any other in my formative years. The way this game stimulated my imagination, made me feel giddy every time my brother and I popped it in the PlayStation to resume the plot... FF7 is simply something very near and dear to me.

I'm not exactly sure where to start in illustrating just how important this game is to me, but I think it's core themes are probably what sticks with me the most today. As a kid growing up in the 90s, I was weirdly obsessed with conservation and ecology - I'd see the TV ads about the importance of recycling and water conservation, the dangers of CFCs and acid rain... Even back then, I had a very strong sense of justice. There were evils in the world, mankind had its follies, but nothing was as profoundly insidious as harming the planet. Final Fantasy VII is not overtly a game about protecting the environment, or corporate pollution, or the prospect of global destruction... It's an intensely spiritual game that looks beyond the actions of mere humans, and asks the player to see the world as a living network of death and rebirth... Our mortality is not ours alone, but rather an energy loaned from the planet. The cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth is not at all uncommon in Eastern religions - indeed, most pre-Christian societies have their own views on what it means to live and die. In Rodvovery, the pagan beliefs of the ancient Slavs, the circle of life is represented as a spinning wheel - the wheel is always in motion, but will always return to its origin. Everything follows this principle - night and day, the annual harvest cycle, and even life itself, rising from the bog to inevitably return to the bog. It's said that one of the lead designers on this game - and forgive me, for I can't remember which one - was coping with the unexpected death of his mother while this game was being made, and I think that visceral understanding of mortality really permeates this game from start to finish.

More than any other media that I can recall, Final Fantasy VII really does a great job of highlighting the fragility of life. The opening hours of the game see you acquainted with a bustling urban neighbourhood and the colourful folks that call it home - only to see presumably thousands of lives destroyed in a single act of malicious revenge. The first antagonist the game introduces is not a man, or a God, or a demon, but rather an electric utilities corporation that has effectively seized control of government. Unhindered by its own rule of law, the Shin-Ra corporation embarks on whatever pursuit it damned well pleases, regardless of public opinion or consequence. The energy it uses to generate electricity seems to kill the lands in and around Midgar, rendering it a blackened scar on a vibrant continent. And as we learn not long after, Shin-Ra also embarks on scientific and military research without ethical restraint, presumably to entrench itself as the only authority in this world.

Our heroes are not set up as chosen ones, or legendary heroes, or even particularly gifted warriors... If anything, they are anti-authority political activists operating as a resistance force to a corporate world government that has presumably destroyed or absorbed the rest of the world's armies. Final Fantasy VII is not afraid to get overtly political - at no point does it ever condemn the anarchistic actions of Barret and his crew; if anything, it only continues to justify the desperate struggle they face against a seemingly indominable tyrant.

The Shin-Ra building is absolutely the highlight of the game for me, because not only is the dramatic tension leading up to it absolutely incredible, but it does such a fine job of encapsulating every beat the story has told, and intends to tell. So to set the stage - Sector 7 has been destroyed, and everyone who couldn't get out has been killed. To top it all off, Cloud's new ally and crush has been kidnapped as a science experiment - the last survivor of an ancient race of mystics. Faced with the ire and soldiers of what basically amounts to the capitol of the world government, Cloud and his allies decide, "Screw it, I've had enough, let's break the front door down and show these bastards we mean business." It's a suicide mission. And really, if you think about it, the characters in this game are very much mortal - they get injured, they are never shown to be supermen... My interpretation is that they go into the Shin-Ra building not really intending to survive - they just want to fight as far as they can, if for no other reason than to prove a point. But this level is set up with so much energy and such a great floor-by-floor structure that you start to think, "Wait a minute, these guys might actually make it!" But while this is happening, all the essential pieces of the plot are moved into place - we meet a talking wolf, we discover JENOVA and the experiments being performed with it, we start to learn about Cloud's backstory, the president of Shin-Ra is found murdered, his son Rufus is introduced as the new Top Dog, and, of course, Sephiroth is name-dropped for the first time.

Sephiroth is a super-compelling villain because, in a way, he's not really the main villain. Every step of the way, this man has been a puppet - he was created to be a military killing machine, and when he discovers the nature of his creation, he gives in to the influence of JENOVA and becomes a pawn for her ambitions. As much as the guy is spoken about, we barely ever see him - the majority of the physical encounters are actually pieces of JENOVA projecting the image of Sephiroth. He has very few speaking lines, and nearly all of them are in flashbacks. The real villain in this story is Shin-Ra - they are the ones killing the planet, they are the ones that dug up JENOVA and started using its body for experiments despite the warnings of the people who sealed it away, and they are the ones that create Sephiroth. This is a very anti-corporate, anti-authority narrative that continually spotlights corporatism and the lust for power as the greatest evils in the story. There's the story of Barrett's village getting violently shut down by Shin-Ra, there's the people of Juno being poisoned by water polluted by Shin-Ra, almost every locale and personality in this game has been harmed by these guys in one way or another. And when it comes down to brass tacks, when the entire planet is about to be destroyed by a giant meteor, when there's giant Godzilla monsters destroying human settlements as a manifestation of the planet's rage, all Rufus Shinra can do is stare snidely out his office window with the unspoken, unapologetic sentiment of, "Yep, I did this."

But not all is doom and gloom. There is still hope. The game does an amazing job of showing just how *important* the natural world is. The natural areas of this world are absolutely beautiful and full of biodiversity. The Lifestream itself is this beautiful neon mist of pure energy, so powerful and overwhelming it's beyond comprehension. The ancient Cetra peoples, the most devout worshippers of the planet, built these amazing, ethereal cities lost to history. While technology limits what this game can ultimately show with graphics alone, very few things can ever beat that "WOW" feeling of when you first escape Midgar and see the beautiful, seemingly endless green surrounding you. In stark contrast to the filthy, dying city, the open world immediately feels like walking out of a musty basement and into fresh air.

And this majestic perception of the world - of Final Fantasy 7's world and of our own - is what makes Cloud and Friends' struggle to save it so profoundly impactful to me. The stakes are there - the "good" you're out to protect is this poetic beauty of nature, a very abstract concept. The evil is a very human, very possible corporate machine out to suck up life and liberty to peddle for power and greed. It makes the game work. Without the stark contrast of these two diametric forces, I'm not sure the rest of the story would quite have the same hook.

I also wanted to quickly mention too that Cloud's search for identity and the arc he has in confronting it is just excellent. The guy is painted as this super-talent super-soldier who can seemingly do anything... When the whole time, he was actually just a normal dude, and kind of a screw-up at that. He was a fraud the whole time, with a very human flaw - he wanted to tell himself he was something bigger and better than he really was. And he lied about it enough times he forgot what parts of his story were his own, and which were fantasy. It's probably the greatest tale of imposter syndrome I've ever seen - watching this kickass soldier absolutely fall apart when he has to confront his own artificial identity? Holy heck was that ever deeply affecting! Every single person listening to this podcast has wanted to believe in a fantasy, has wanted to be someone else, has lied about their origin or history at some point. Whoever wrote this character arc is incredibly plugged in to a very uncomfortable and embarrassing part of the human psyche. It kind of seems tangential to the rest of the plot, but because so much of Sephiroth's story is told through flashback and Cloud is revealed to have been an unreliable narrator the entire time... it's just brilliant, brilliant writing. And I love it.

Man oh man, how do I even conclude this commentary and summarize what Final Fantasy 7 means to me... I could talk for hours about the themes, the story, the characters... And it would be saying nothing about how tight the gameplay mechanics are, and how addicting the materia system can be. The game's full of great moments, little events, great lines, great cinematics, miniature stories hidden in every corner of the world... And it's just done so, so well. Yeah, the charatcer models look like Lego men. Yeah, the game has unfortunately been remembered in pop culture for its giant swords and spiky hair more than for what it achieves as a literary work. Yes, the translation is bad, Barret is a racist stereotype, and the crossdressing scene is cringe. It has all these little blemishes. But Final Fantasy VII is a masterpiece. It took the world by storm, and tthat was no accident. This game has affected my spirituality, it helped shape what my teenaged brain defined as "cool", it was my first introduction to themes of anti-authority and reverence for nature... It's a very special game to me. I was not really plugged into the cultural zeitgeist of the day, but the game seems to have taken on a reputation for being silly, bombastic, and absolutely overrated... But it's not. It truly is one of the greatest games ever made. And I think when you look at modern Square, they have been coasting off the success of this game for two decades now. And it deeply saddens me that the folks at that company seem to understand the *aesthetics* of FF7, but not its themes, or its great writing, or what it truly has to SAY about the world and humanity's place in it.

This post is long as he'll, so definitely feel feel to chop up the paragraphs and present them in whatever order you like. I had a ton of fun writing about this and remembering this game, and I'm super stoked for the show. Love you guys! <3

Three Word Review: Truly, A Masterpiece.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by ratsoalbion » December 14th, 2018, 11:45 am

I appreciate and enjoy all your posts as always. FFVII was always likely to elicit a lot of passionate correspondence.

Just to manage expectations though, if I was to include all of every post here the show would last about four hours and would consist mainly of reading, with no time or space for our own analysis and discussion.

So I’m going to have to be very selective and include what I can of the pieces that really say something that we can use as a topic starter or offers some real personal insight.

Incorporating each lengthy post into the show in sections takes a huge amount of time too, and so while I have set aside a few hours for just that this afternoon, sadly I also have other things I need to attend to.

None of this is to discourage your wonderful feedback but as I say, just to manage expectations as regards to what you might hear in the finished show.

It’s safe to say that the Patreon podcast is likely to be a significantly extended cut for this one.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.12.18) - 350: Final Fantasy VII

Post by The Baboon Baron » December 14th, 2018, 1:59 pm

There are far more valid options than mine on Final Fantasy 7, I love it too, it’s not perfect, it changed the scenery of gaming forever, but more learned commentators will be in a better place than I am to dissect these details.

Rather I would like to share a more left field thought on FF7’s enduring influence-

It is quite possible that FF7 is the Seinfeld of gaming- by which I mean it has been imitated so well, that the imitations have now supposed the original. Seinfeld isn’t funny for a younger generation- cut-aways, nonsense dialogue, real life observations and bursts of slap bass are now common place in nearly all sit-coms. So much so that younger comedy fans cannot appreciate how revolutionary it was at the time.

And I think FF7 has similar traits- so many elements have been aped to the point that the original seems almost unoriginal when you look at it now. This is all stuff you’ve seen before- detailed story, fleshed out characters, shocking reveals and grand set pieces- and you’ve seen it all in dude-bro pro, HD 1080p, bells and whistles, “cor blimy ain’t it pretty mum” quality of the last few generations.

To examine a game such as this you must approach it like a time capsule- the magnitude of the impact should be measured by the shadow this monolith has cast, not by how it looks or even plays by today’s standards. Because our perception of “today’s standards” owes a lot to games like FF7.

And if you don’t like Seinfeld, then Twin Peaks, The Pixies, The Shawshank Redemption and The Clash all work equally as well.

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Re: Final Fantasy VII

Post by Stanshall » December 14th, 2018, 6:31 pm

I had and have got so much to say about this, my favourite game alongside Dark Souls, but it's been a bastard of a few weeks. I wanted to write predominantly about the music but I'm sure there will be lots and lots to say about that. Great shame (for me) that I missed the deadline but I really can't wait for this show and for the Patreon cut. Also can't wait for the Switch release. That'll be me done.

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Re: Final Fantasy VII

Post by duskvstweak » December 15th, 2018, 5:55 pm

My friend and I basically filmed our feelings on Final Fantasy VII about ten years ago...


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Re: Final Fantasy VII

Post by KSubzero1000 » December 15th, 2018, 6:44 pm

duskvstweak wrote:
December 15th, 2018, 5:55 pm
My friend and I basically filmed our feelings on Final Fantasy VII about ten years ago...
Aww, that's adorable! :lol:

...Dig the collared t-shirt, btw. ;)

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