Nostalgia Blues: Final Fantasy VII
Nostalgia Blues: Final Fantasy VII by the one who really killed Aeris, Ric!
Ric fights a nation-sized community of fans as he confesses his thoughts on Final Fantasy VII.
If you haven’t already figured out by now (unless this is your first article you’ve read of mine), I tend to lean towards the past more than the present when it comes to gaming. I just find modern gaming to be, generally, full of weak storytelling, poor innovation, and a lack of any ambition beyond making an easy 50 bucks off the consumer. That isn’t to say that all modern games are bad, as I wouldn’t be gaming today if I didn’t stumble across a decent game in today’s market every now and then. For the last few years, I’ve more often found myself instinctively revisiting classic titles from the past, and, in many cases, I’m still as satisfied as I was 15 to 20 years ago when I first played them. I find that many games between 1986 and 1999 still hold up today, especially if you’re not one to judge games by graphics (if you are, then you’ve missed the point of gaming). There are, however, classic titles that haven’t aged well at all, and I’d like to focus on the ones that most people refer to as ‘the best game ever’. To start off this session of Nostalgia Blues, let’s start with ye olde Final Fantasy VII, and maybe in the future, I’ll do more.
Now let me state very clearly before I unload: I don’t hate FFVII. I actually liked it a lot as a 12 year old, but in my humble opinion, the game was made for a teenage audience. Spiky hair, ten-foot swords, and characters (specifically Barret and Cid) shouting obscenities seemed hip and awesome for mid-90’s gaming. I can safely say, without a doubt, that nearly every person who has ever called FFVII a great game was under the age of 18 at the time of its release. Maybe if you were over 21, you were either not cultured enough with books and movies, or you just loved anime—and still do into your 30s. Being young, ignorant, and rebellious was the average mindset of many kids and teens, which fit well for FFVII, since the cast is composed of young, ignorant, rebellious people. My school-friends and I were almost obsessed with FFVII, just because the characters seemed like ideal role-models (makes me wonder what 12 year olds think of our current role-model video game characters). Yeah, we were pretty friggin’ stupid, but kids are allowed to act pretty friggin’ stupid, as they’re also allowed to fantasize about kicking ass with big-breasted fist-fighting chicks—with the condition that they keep those fantasies inside.
You know what’s not cool though? Still obsessing about FFVII when you’re over the age of 18 unless, again, you’re an anime-freak—I just pretend I don’t know those people, personally. So what are things that you might consider awesome from FFVII? The juvenile, goofy-looking characters? The turn-based combat that was repetitive, grindy, and dull? The Materia-system which, while inventive, lacked the attachment and depth of the job-system from previous incarnations? How about the cry-baby, mommy’s boy villain who spawned millions of user-names under his own name throughout the internet? Or maybe you liked the story—which actually started off fairly decent during the first disc, only to shit itself after reaching disc two and three. Let’s focus on the story, since usually that is what fans describe as the best aspect. If I did a full analysis on every single aspect of FFVII, I’d have to write a novella.
First of all, before I cut the story to shreds, I have an announcement to all the fans (including myself when I was 16), who jizzed in their pants at the notion of a potential FFVII remake. You don’t know what you’re asking for. Allow me to take this opportunity to explain what caused me to hate JRPGs after the PS2 era—it was voice-acting. Voice-acting, alone, killed Final Fantasy X, as well as other JRPGs. Most JRPGs do not translate Japanese scripts into English very well. The most basic advice you’re given, as a writer, is to read your paperwork out loud in order to be certain that what you’ve written sounds okay when read it’s aloud. A bunch of years ago, I remember playing FFVII with a friend watching, and I read the dialogue out loud—after about five minutes, he said, “Dude, just stop. I’ll read it quietly to myself.” No, it wasn’t because of my awful voice, though that didn’t help. If they remade FFVII and added voice-acting (which is a certainty, given how it’s almost illegal to not have voice-acting these days), you’d quickly want to ride the razor-blade of life. In general, I tend to like JRPGs when they’re not voice-acted, because the voice I imagine for each character paints them better than the voices we end up stuck with. The bottom line is: Fuck you, Tidus.
The death of JRPGs, alone.
So like I said, regarding the story, the first disc is, for the most part, tolerable. I like how you spend a handful of hours before exiting Midgar, the first city. You leave, realizing that Midgar was only one city, and there’s a whole world for you to explore. I could nit-pick moments that were stupid, such as Cloud cross-dressing in order to infiltrate a slut-house, or Cait Sith—that is, the entire concept of him. I’m actually convinced that most of the people who defend FFVII specifically have nostalgia for the first twenty hours of the game. Whenever I hear folks discussing FFVII, I usually hear them bringing up moments like the motorcycle chase, Gold Saucer, and Aeris’ death (whoops, spoiler—meh, who cares, everyone’s spoiled that to death). I don’t hear people talking about how Cloud’s actually some brain-dead clone-reject, or how Sephiroth really wants to get his little Oedipus on with his mother Jenova—maybe a couple of super-nerds mention those parts, here and there.
The thing that confuses me the most is when Cloud reveals the truth about not being a badass member of SOLDIER (stupid faction name, by the way); that he was, instead a nameless grunt who he confused for another spiky-haired badass, named Zack. You might have thought that this was a neat plot-twist, since it makes Cloud’s real story more engaging when he does get revenge on Sephiroth for killing his friends and family—but then if you started to think hard on this, none of it makes any damn sense. First of all, how the hell is it possible for you to forget your role in the past? It’d be like me saying that I was the guy who fought the predator in Predator, only to realize that I was not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character, but rather one of the helicopter pilots who recovers him later. And if you can actually swallow that BS—why the hell doesn’t Tifa, who witnessed all the events, remembers either? I might be convinced that Cloud had amnesia (another stupid plot-device, by the way), but Tifa doesn’t remember either? Really? Maybe if Zack was actually a blonde guy named Cloud as well, but is she that stupid to forget about a dark-haired guy who looks nothing like Cloud? Now don’t say that I’m an idiot for not ‘getting’ it, because I ‘got’ it—I just call it bullshit, and it’s a mockery to good story-telling. It’d be like if I set up a novel’s plot for five hundred pages, and then said, “That was all just a dream.” Fuck that. That’s not good story-telling. That’s a cop-out.
And we’re not allowed to leave that part of the story alone, since the build up toward Cloud’s realization is the majority of disc two. I’ll bring up one more part that always annoyed the shit out of me, and this is part of disc one. Aeris’ death was one of the most contrived moments I’ve ever seen in a game plot. Here we all are, on the verge of catching up to Sephiroth, and then Aeris suddenly claims that she’ll handle everything. Yeah—everything will be all right—Aeris, a fragile mage, versus Sephiroth, a monster of a warrior who can single-handedly impale giant snakes and cut down dragons without a shrug. So what’s Aeris’ plan? Praying and getting stabbed. I understand that she essentially died in order to become a part of the planet or some hippy-shit like that, but seriously—why-oh-why did she ever think that this was a sound plan? You know what would have been sound? Telling Cloud about the white Materia and using first-grade logic: Super-gluing the White Materia to one of Cloud’s boots and stomping Sephiroth in his ghostly testicles with it.
I hate when games have to find insane excuses to up the epic-ness in a story. It’s like they didn’t know how to raise the stakes of the story when they were about to reach Sephiroth, so they needed to come up with some contrived twists and turns for Sephiroth to obtain the Black Materia, summon the world-ending meteor, awaken the Weapons (again, more stupid-ass names for things in this game), and making a bigger asshole out of Hojo than he already was. Speaking of Hojo, I find it funny how there’s a point where you think Hojo’s saying ‘screw it’ to science by becoming a dude who picks up chicks on the beach for a good time—and then surprise! He comes back and acts like a wacko lunatic in the name of science! Why? Oh, because Hojo’s actually Sephiroth’s father—okay, seriously, fuck off, Square.
Like I said, I really enjoyed the journey-aspect of FFVII, despite bashing its story in the balls, simply because the scale felt huge. It’s just a shame that we had to insert some of the laziest, silliest, juvenile twists just to make the story feel more intense than it was. I didn’t want to do a full analysis of FFVII, because if I did, I would probably have to write a giant analytical essay to get all my thoughts out—maybe one day I’ll consider it, since that would be a fun little project to work on. I could easily spend a few pages just talking about small aspects, such as the stupidity of the ‘Sister Ray’, and how it realistically should never have worked. Instead I chose to keep things concise in the name of some Nostalgia Blues. The bottom line is this: If you haven’t played FFVII since you were young, then I suggest booting it up again to test your aged mind. You might be surprised how silly it really is.
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