Well, time trudges on and games get played. And I have finally finished Final Fantasy VII and put it back on my metaphorical shelf to sit. You know, I don’t know what I can say at this juncture that won’t invoke the ire of many internet dwelling denizens. Final Fantasy VII has taken on this mythic larger than life position that has rendered it untouchable by so many, like Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Mario 64. And part of my really gets why that is. It’s solid from a game play standpoint, even if the materia gets a bit grindy toward the end. The minigames are fun, and reminds me so often how much I’d LOVE a Gold Saucer style area in an MMO with racing, PvE arena battles with handicaps, little arcade minigames, etc to win prizes and have fun. And for the time, the technology was indeed a huge leap forward in the genre and it is really easy to see how it would endear itself to a generation of gamers both as a jump forward and as a first glimpse into the Final Fantasy series. I mean, the Playstation was how many people’s first console? FF7 was how many people’s first Final Fantasy? Yea. There’s a nostalgia factor and it’s not hard to see why.
I suppose all this complimentary stuff is being dumped up front because I am trying to build a shield with it. You see, after completing the game. Doing everything I could save for the Ruby and Emerald Weapon and mastering 100% of the materia, I can honestly say that I found the story to be ATROCIOUSLY LACKING.
Did I get your blood boiling? Good. I’ve just gotten started. I talked about this with some people on Twitter yesterday, but I keep coming back to it as the greatest single problem with Final Fantasy VII. The gameplay, solid. The music, beautiful. The technology, amazing for its time. The story? OH MY GOD WHY?! Not only is the plot so complicated to Evangelion proportions (Starting to see why this one is so popular with anime fans), it is told is the most sideways methods that David Lynch would stop the game to say “Wait. What?” with buckets of exposition tossed on you combined with misinformation that has some fans of the games stunned when I mention the bit that Jenova ISN’T a bloody Cetra.
Worse yet, the way the story is conveyed is usually via the party talking, which means you spend most of the time with the characters trying to figure out the story instead of getting to know these character’s personalities. Combine that with the fact that so little time is spent with their individual stories save for usually one town on Disc One that serves as that character’s “backstory town” and then you move on and never bother with them again. Red XIII does a complete heel turn about his father. Any and all resentment is just dropped and now he is the proudest frickin’ lion dog thing ever to be the son of Soto. If it was that damn easy, why didn’t Bugen just tell him that crap years ago? “My dad sucks.” “Your dad was a hero.” “I love my dad!” “Good, now heal the party and don’t be relevant till disc 3.”
I know I’m really harping on this, but come on people. With the exception of Cloud, Tifa and maybe Barrett, these aren’t characters. They’re cardboard cut outs that can cast spells. Even Aeris falls victim to this, hence why I had no emotional weight to her death (Spoiler warning for a 15 year old game by the way). She was cheerful? And she offered Cloud a date in exchange for protection? And then she was a Cetra. And she summoned holy. And she’s dead now. Sure, you get a bit more time with her if you do the Gold Saucer date, but by that point I didn’t give a damn about her and was much more interested in the childhood friend who clearly knows something isn’t right with her friend and shares an emotional tragedy with the loss of their mutual hometown and their parents. And you know that much about them by the time you get your first chocobo. Aeris’ backstory is… she’s a Cetra. She dated Zach. Her mom died… somehow? And she’s a Cetra.
Not convinced? How about Cid? Cid who becomes the de facto leader when Tifa stays with Cloud at the hospital for a few missions on Disc 2. Captain of the airship in the game. Clearly an important figure. Why does he join this mission to save Planet? Well, in his own words: My time in that town is over, and my business with Shinra is through… So yea, why not? Why not indeed. Why not join a bunch of terrorists? Got nothing else to do. And it’s true. He has no reason to get involved, but he does because the plot says so.
It just drove me nuts. I’d take a simple plot with great characters over a complex plot with bland characters. I mean, if I can have both, sure. But this ain’t it.
So I’m glad I played it. I enjoyed the game. But I wish the story were handled better. It wasn’t a bad story. Just… not told well. I remember the problem being similar in Final Fantasy 8 – another on my list to revisit someday – but right now we’re going back to a game I know I love that I’ve been wanting to replay forever.
A game beneath cerulean skies…
Oh! I suppose I should note in terms of offline gaming, my fiance and I picked up Age of Empires III on sale and decided to give it a try. First impressions were… mixed? I guess it’s like an historical warcraft game essentially? I think we were both hoping for something more like a more realtime active Civilization, but hey at least it’s on the cheap. And it fulfills that “Lets blow up the other country!” feeling.