Friday, 20 May 2016

Review: Final Fantasy 7


Well Ms. Allers, this is the big one. The entry most fans were exposed to first, and one of the better selling games in the genre. As always, how much about this game did you know going in?

Uh I knew a fair chunk on the major spoilers actually, and I had seen Advent Children (movie sequel) too. Not that it really helps as much as you’d think in understanding the general premise/world. I knew that Jenova was the big god-enemy thing, and Sephiroth was some sorta Metatron type effort. I roughly knew the playable cast and that it would mostly be dominated by Cloud, and his relationships with Tifa and Aeris.

This THRILLING tale of romance.

Figured. I was in a similar position when I played it for the first time. I guess the game had a bit too big of a footprint on video game culture to play it unspoiled these days. Not sure how I feel about all of this. I don't mind spoilers too much, but I feel like I knew a little too much going into it. Given how the game left such an impression on folks for these exact elements, I feel like we're missing out a little bit on the complete experience. Anyway since this was the big break for character-designer-rockstar Tetsuya Nomura, what did you think about the cast?

I didn’t care for them at first, ranging from ‘This guy's an asshole’ (Cloud and Cid) to ‘They seem OK I guess’ (Tifa and Red XIII). They actually started growing a tiny bit on me by the end, though still nowhere near as much as I liked the FF6 cast. But yeah, I felt like by the end of the game, the characters had really developed and come around a bit. For about as much as I could kind of attempt to interpret from the really rough and messy dialogue anyway. Barret had figured out that blowing up Midgar was super messed up, and Cloud’s coldness started to seem slightly forgivable.

I mean... *slightly*.

That’s a good bridge to what I wanted to talk about actually. On a scale from “huh?” to “...what the frig?”, how weird was it to basically play a game where you were actual terrorists blowing up nuclear power plants, killing boatloads of innocent people? I'm not even sure they acknowledged it was even the wrong thing to do until 50 hours into the game, and even then it was kind of glossed over.

I feel like it actually did know it was being edgy. And honestly? Maybe not as shocking as you’d think. In other JRPG games, I've destroyed habitats for dwarves and pixies and gone on a hate-fuelled indiscriminate revenge quest against a bunch of civilised robots. Plus there was that time I just destroyed the world... 

Barret definitely celebrating burning a village here.

Anything you found that distinguished FF7 from all the other games before it? It pretty much has the rep of being the best, if not one of the most influential games on that system. What do you think made it tick?

REAL THREE-DEE GRAFIX!!! Nah but really, the generational jump meant a lot of the game had to feel really quite revolutionary. Not only was it obviously huge undertaking in terms of content, but I took a look at how fast they blew through set-pieces and thought to myself ‘this games not gonna be all that big…’ even after playing the other FF games before it. Mario 64 felt big back then, and that all took place inside a castle. Sorta. 

It's the first FF game you can have a slap fight on a cannon. Art.

Speaking of the 3D graphics, the pre-rendered backgrounds looked quite good and they were able to do some really ambitious camera work with it. They were sadly enough clearly inexperienced with it though, causing some control issues that were present throughout most of the game. What also stood out to me when were were playing it were all the minigames that the game would throw at you non-stop. I didn't particularly like any of them, so the volume and frequency really hindered my enjoyment of the game for a large part of the journey. Did they bug you in any capacity, or was there anything else that you didn't think succeeded all that well?

Yeah, I totally agree. Even though some of the minigames were more competently done than I expected… I just spent a lot of the game like ‘Man, is this going to be a thing? Can I please just wander around and fight enemies like normal already?’ Also a lot of that content was ssssooooooooo slowwwwwwww. I guess it relied heavily on the idea that what it brought would be enough as a spectacle.. Like watching an automated chocobo race that goes on for like 5 minutes. In fact, it had an abundance of these optional side quests where the idea seemed to be that you could just take a break from saving the world and spend like 20 hours gambling or playing some really rudimentary tower defense. Dear all games: NO THANK YOU. We have phones and internet browser gaming now.

Hmmm is there a button to AGGRESSIVELY pass on this.

When you weren't doing mini-games or in combat, you were probably getting exposed to the writing of this game. It’s often touted as Final Fantasy VII’s strongest point. Since this is the element you were spoiled in the most, do you think it worked out OK in the end?

While it had some memorable and well executed moments, it’s just an absolute mess. Why is Vincent a vampire anyway? How do vampires work in this world? Why’d we have to spend half the game following Sephiroth from town when the game was holding back all these other sub-plot narratives that they rushed through later? What was up with the cultists? And the Turks? Why did they double back on the revelation about Cloud?

And then there was... *sighs wearily* ...this whole... thing.

I felt the same way. I enjoyed some of its ideas and scenes, but the pacing of the game was strange and all over the place. Things were often vague, poorly explained, or marred by its atrocious localisation. Some plot holes here were inevitable. It had some bold ideas, but I'm not sure they executed on it all that well. The majority of the journey felt like a carrot-on-a-stick with little character motivations, and when they finally start trying, they kind of rush through things.

The game was recently announced to get a full-blown remake that was willing to have a hard look at what worked and what didn't. Do you have any constructive tips for the developers based on your experiences?

For the remake I would say… Maybe reinterpret and rewrite a lot of the regressive garbage that makes the cast look like a bunch of actual assholes. Get some way more intuitive menus and streamline the inventory and spells. I guess I can see how the game could indeed be split into episodes, but… let’s be real, that's just gonna be used to prolong the release schedule and make people spend a lot of money. It’s too late to rework the core story though. Even though it’s flawed, I think people like most of the stuff in it. I think the remake will be okay if they don’t just… drag it out too much...

Maaaybe reconsider some of these ability names. Idk.

Unless you have anything else you’d like to bring up, I’d say we can wrap this up. Final verdict?

I think once you stop being overwhelmed with set pieces and optional tutorial dumps, it actually holds up really well as a FF sequel to me. I actually feel bad for anyone to whom this was their first FF game, because the series has such a huge array of magic, items and battle systems that are all very specific and familiar. You’d probably go through the game not knowing how to utilize a lot of the stuff the game gives you. 

I mean... Probably a cold, sharp stabbing sensation? Amirite?

I give this game a long exquisite, exhausting chocobo race across a twinkling rainbow road/10


  1. I enjoyed this game, despite playing it through very late on. The only two points that spring to mind are that:
    - Certain elements of Japanese culture that would seem alien/unusual to a western player occasionally push through, despite the game's characters not being oriental. For example, Cloud's whole 'dishonour' issue from his past time as a soldier.
    - Cait Sith's self sacrifice, although he was a doll anyway.