Impressions: Final Fantasy VII

Sometimes, in my mind, I like to pretend that Final Fantasy VII was released in North America, everyone really enjoyed it and then that was that.  The compilation of Final Fantasy VII never happens and I don’t have to be reminded of this any time I think about the game.  It wasn’t all bad.  Advent Children was fun, and Crisis Core was one of the better Final Fantasy games to come out in a while.  But none of it captured what made VII special and only served to diffuse its impact and inflate the value of inconsequential elements of the game in the name of fan service.  Even in spite of this, playing VII is like jumping into a time machine and going back to 1997 where I can remain blissfully unaware of the nonsense that followed its release.  In any case, VII has served as my petri dish of sorts to rattle around ideas about the composition of games.  It’s still easily one of my favorite games (as well as one of the best games out there) and when I get around to debating the merits of the medium in my own mind, VII is inevitably used to help me try to figure out whether or not an argument holds water.

VII sits up there in my mind with Chrono Trigger: jRPGs set to engaging science fiction plots – my favorite film genre.  I hadn’t really appreciated the initial hours of VII until recently with how it manages to simultaneously introduce you to the world of Avalanche, Shinra, and the ancients while breaking you into the materia system, one of the series most satisfying game systems.  The way it all manages to build up to the escape from Midgar, a dark, closed, and dirty city, to a wide open and green world to pursue an enemy that makes Shinra, the world’s controlling super-power, look helpless was entertaining even today.  Perhaps the monotony and inaccessibility of Final Fantasy XIII put it into perspective in my own mind.  XIII wasn’t something more complicated or intrinsically bad, but it was not a coherent experience in the same way games like VII were.  It also doesn’t hurt that I don’t have to sit down in front of a TV and play from save point to save point when I can just suspend my PSP whenever I need to and play where ever I like.  It might be a bit difficult to justify sitting down and playing a 15-year-old game, but if you want to sink your teeth into a game that helped define an era in gaming history then it’s hard to do better than Final Fantasy VII.


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