Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 1

As those of you who read these pages may have come to know, I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for fantasy. A lifelong love affair with a genre that has rooted itself deep into the very core of my being. An appreciation that reaches deeper than a darkspawn dallying with the dwarves in the Deep Roads of Thedas – here’s to thematically appropriate references folks!

From reading about it, gaming it, watching it and weaving my own world of fantasy as I write about it, this broad genre has opened my eyes to a lifetime of memorable stories, characters, concepts, ideas and worlds. So far, I’ve enjoyed almost every bit of it that I have encountered, with few exceptions. I’ve cited many examples here of what a great fantasy experience entails and I have enjoyed a great many of them in my life thus far, but before I became captivated with the likes of Game of Thrones, Dragon Age, Skyrim and even well before I discovered Lord of the Rings for the first time, there was a 12-year-old boy sitting in his room with a brand-new Sony Playstation and a copy of Final Fantasy VII.

Up until this point I hadn’t bothered with the genre, at least not that I can remember. I have no poignant, childhood defining memories about anything fantasy related until a chance happening upon a market game store with my grandmother. Amongst the potential selection, I happened to notice a game that I knew nothing about but I was drawn to anyway. Not because of fate, destiny or any of that superficial bollocks. I had read countless gaming publications during my youth, usually Playstation and gaming magazines, and they all told me the same thing. That this plastic little case I held in my hands was one of gaming’s all time era defining titles. Every one of them rated it incredibly well and so, despite my lack of solid research bar a few reviews and scores, I asked my dear old nan if I could have this one. And by the mighty machinations of all things bright and beautiful, my life changed that Saturday afternoon.

There will be mild spoilers regarding the game from this point on.

It took a couple of hours for me to get to grips with it, the concept of a role-playing game of any sort, especially that of a JRPG, was completely new to me but once I started to understand what I was doing – I was enraptured. The style, the sounds, the detail, all of it. It was a veritable cornucopia of quality storytelling and atmospheric music combined with satisfying gameplay set in a massive and magnificent world that combined elements of steampunk, science fiction, science fantasy and dark fantasy. I loved it so much that I didn’t even let the fact that I couldn’t save my progress stop me from playing the opening few hours over and over. I would eventually acquire a memory card shortly thereafter, thankfully. There was no way I was ever going to be able to complete an 80 hour playthrough in one sitting. Not that I wouldn’t have given it a damned good go if given half a chance. Bloody childhood and the need for food, sleep and schooling!

‘Look always to the eternal flow of time which is far greater than the span of a human life.’ – Bugenhagen

Some folks may scoff at this turn of events. As a writer of fantasy, there may be those who question how and why I should be able to cite any game as a contributing factor to my intent to craft my own stories.

‘How can a mere game inspire anyone to write anything?’ they may ask derisively.

Wait folks, don’t throw your plush moogles at them yet! To an extent, I can understand the question. It’s only recently that the games industry is finally starting to get the respect and recognition it deserves as a medium that provides some excellent storytelling experiences. Some still consider games to be nothing more than children’s play things that should be the sole domain of dark room dwelling, anti-social miscreants with too much free time. It is an ignorant perspective, to be honest. It shows those folks to have an inherent lack of understanding toward something they have little interest in knowing anything about and yet feel comfortable enough to judge our beloved pastime as an immature and unworthy newcomer to the spectrum of all entertainment. I pity whoever feels this way. To choose to be blind toward the potential of a great story just because you don’t like the way that it is portrayed, well such a stance is sheer idiocy in my opinion.

Would you fall out of love with your favourite story if you one day learned that it existed in another format, especially one that you do not approve of, first? Would you shun what the majority may consider a great fantasy experience just because it is happens to be a game rather than a film, a play or a novel? To play a game is to interact and to interact is to become a part of something in such a manner that you, the player, have the chance to craft your own personal experience for yourself. One that speaks only to you.

Gaming has long been an avenue for writers to showcase their literary talents. This was the case two decades ago when this behemoth of a game was released and it is still a prominent aspect of many games released today. Before voice acting became so widespread and a more realistic proposition in the industry, the only way to absorb the dialogue in any game was to do exactly what people have been doing in books and novels for centuries – to read it. Final Fantasy VII contains more than 600,000 words in its entirety, from start to finish. To give you a rough comparison in literary terms, this is more than War and Peace, Gone with the Wind and Moby Dick. It even surpasses all three parts of the Lord of the Rings in sheer word count. Yes, there is no guarantee that you will discover every possible line in the game but this is still more than many books, and so this was an experience that I not only played and watched, I had to read it too.

It wasn’t until I fully dove into Final Fantasy VII that I began to appreciate certain aspects of setting and storytelling. The story-line is complex, very complex for what started out as something so traditionally black and white. It wasn’t simply a journey to defeat the ‘big bad’ of Shinra and Sephiroth.

‘These days, all it takes for your dreams to come true is money and power.’ – President Shinra

This adventure became infused with so much ‘grey’ that I started to doubt whether I could even trust some of those I was travelling with. My suspicions were confirmed when the traitor amongst allies finally revealed themselves. Even the supposed villains of the game had moments that led me to think beyond the facades they were portraying. After countless journeys through the lands of FFVII, there are only two entities in the game that I am convinced were absolutely selfish and completely malicious in their intent. Character depth was something I began to truly comprehend for the first time after I had finished this game.

The history of the world came to the fore from the backstories and circumstances surrounding Aeris, Last of the Ancients, and Jenova, the Calamity from the Sky. Each new location that I visited was riddled with detail, lovingly crafted to showcase different cultures and creeds. From bleak Midgar to industrial Junon, spiritual Cosmo Canyon to unsettling Nibelheim, traditional Wutai to the long-lost and tragic City of the Ancients. No two places were alike and I began to understand how a world could be crafted to be connected by common themes and yet so diverse and varied in its implementation of culture. Much like our own world.

Forged From Reverie.

45 thoughts on “Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 1

  1. I keep meaning to play ff 7 but I haven’t gotten the chance! I’m glad that they’re finally putting it on a more playable console because I was seriously considering walking into a vintage game store and just buying the damn original console so I could play it already :p I like your writing style and how you said that it was hard to trust anyone because it’s a little ironic since the theme of friendship is so strong. The bond between Cloud and Zach is so well written. And the fact that no two places look the same, as you said, is definitely a trademark of FF. I feel like other games sometimes get lazy in that aspect but if there’s ever one thing FF excels at, it’s world building!

    Nice post, I enjoyed reading it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. *spoilers for DA:I in this comment.

    I completely and wholeheartedly understand this. While Final Fantasy 7 didnt get me into writing, Dragon Age: Origins did. (FFVII did get me into gaming tho 😉 along with Kingdom Hearts). I smiled when I saw the DA reference in the first paragraph. I spent hours pouring over the codexes in each of the three games, actually setting aside time in the week, so I could read them all. I’ve replayed the games half a dozen times each, and still can’t get enough. (Personally, I think the choice in DA:I to kill Hawke is just… all kinds of wrong). I bought David Gaider’s books, and was inspired to begin writing my own! To start my own world filled with magic and people constantly at war with each other and themselves. In the future, I hope to become a video game writer for Bioware. On that note, who are your favorite characters in each of the games, barring the main one of course? (Mine are: Morrigan, Fenris, and Cole)….. but back to FFVII 😂 Reno was and still is everything to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I just want to say that Cole is awesome but I despise Fenris. It was mutual too. He doesn’t like mages and Hawke was a mage and I kept helping people which he didn’t like either. Oh well lol. 😁

      Liked by 2 people

      • I adored Fenris. Especially if you romanced him with a Mage Hawke. That’s me headcanon actually. Female mage Hawke and Fenris. I always say I’ll romance Anders next time, but I never do. He has… lots of jagged edges. To each our own.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Um I think I somehow may have initiated some from of rival “romance” if you will. I think his rivalry bar was at 3/4 and something really weird happened afterwards. Hawke went back home and all of a sudden this cutscene starts where Fenris barges in and I’m thinking “dude how the hell did you get in here? I didn’t even think NPC’s could come in here.” And he makes a beeline for Hawke so I’m thinking he’s going to kill her but he kisses her. And then he starts complaining about how much his markings hurt and he needs someone to soothe him and I think you can guess the rest. The next day my entire party is telling me “I don’t know what you see in Fenris but he’s dangerous.” And I’m like “You don’t say.” 😒 That idiot totally trashed Hawke’s reputation.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yea, you did get the rivalry romance. I personally hated all of the rivalry romances in DA:II. I tried them all, and each one made me want to scream. I was actually friends with everyone during my first playthrough, and subsequent ones where I wasn’t purposely trying to anger my companions. It was easy since what I did was keep Isabella, Varric, and Fenris as my usual party. When I had to bring someone else along or when I was doing a mage/templar quest, I’d switch up the characters depending on who I wanted to side with. (Warriors are so OP in DA:II, it’s ridiculous. I didn’t even need an extra mage in my party like I usually do.)

        Liked by 2 people

      • Warriors are amazingly powerful! Idk how some people rave over the rivalry romance between Fenris and Hawke. After he came to Hawke’s house, I just avoided all conversation with him because I was beyond done. XD I didn’t *TRY* to make Fenris hate Hawke, I think I just didn’t realize that he’s genuinely an ass and really hates mages. And I’m trying to make Hawke all nice and I love mages so that’s why he couldn’t stand her.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t either. Though I adore Fenris, I hated his rivalry romance. It was just… all kinds of wrong to me. And oh!! Well, he was a slave to Danarius for the better part of his life. Lots of festering hate and all that. (*pause* While we’re on the topic of Tevinter mages, have you played the Legacy DLC? Because goddamn THAT ENDING!! I can’t wait for DA:4) For some reason though, even if I did side with mages and got rivalry points with him, I always still ended up getting maxed out friendship in the end. Even, I don’t know how. I think it mostly has something to do with me keeping him in my party throughout most of the game, so I’d get little bonus friendship points here and there. The only time I’d ever get rivalry points is if I’d use the aggressive option.

        By the by, which Dragon Age game was your favorite? I’m hard pressed to choose between Origins and Inquisition. I liked the story of Origins, but the gameplay of Inquisition got me.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I haven’t played that DLC. Origins was my favorite because I really liked the story and didn’t mind the gameplay. DA2 had better gameplay, but I got really annoyed how the entire game was just Templars v. Mages. And my main character in DAO who gave her life to save the world was a mage. So…yeah.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Its definitely worth getting!! It opens up the story to dragon age 4 at the end and you learn a lot about the old elves. I find the storyline best when you play as an elf mage that romanced Solas because it adds am extra layer of depth to the DLC

        Liked by 2 people

      • To each our own. 🙂 This is one of the things I like best about Bioware. They create such an eclectic list of romance options, just so we’re all satisfied. It’s… damn, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

    • As much as I could go about Final Fantasy VII, I feel that could write just as much, if not more, about Dragon Age Origins. FFVII got the ball rolling but DA:O extended my expectations for the realms of fantasy and darker themes. It is a true testament to a fantasy game done well.

      If I had to pick favourites it would be Duncan, Loghain, Alistair, Sten, Shale, Leliana and Oghren (named our dog after him!) from DA:O. Varric and Merrill from the second and I’ve yet to complete Inquisition so I can’t speak too much about that one.

      Kingdom Hearts is a brilliant experience too, I share your enthusiasm for that and good luck with becoming a games writer for Bioware Mr Rinth.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea this game was like that. I’ve heard good stuff about it but never knew it had that shades of grey thing going on. I may need to play it! 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope you do one day. Some games come along and just show you that they can be more than just a bit of entertainment on the side. FFVII absorbed many hours of my childhood and I don’t regret spending a single minute with it.

      It’s twenty years on now so I doubt it will have the same impact that it once did. However, the story, sound and gameplay still hold up quite well after all these years. The character models do look a little blocky now though!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another solid post. Permission to share?
    It took me a little time to get used to the changes that FFVII brought to the Final Fantasy series. FFVII was so different from FFVI and earlier predecessors and the complexity of the game by comparison was overwhelming.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never had the pleasure of playing a Final Fantasy game until I came across number 7 and so I had to wait to experience FFVI. Whilst the visuals were obviously a little outdated, there is no denying that the story and gameplay were still top notch.

      And by all means, you are most welcome to share this and you have my permission to share Part 2 when it drops on the 14th of May if you feel so inclined.

      Thank you.

      Like

  5. Great post! The stories, plot and dialogue of many RPG games harbour examples of literary brilliance. This should definitely be more widely acknowledged. I’ve never played Final Fantasy, but I’ve played a LOT of Oblivion and am currently immersed in Skyrim. It’s not just the missions which are so beautifully crafted, but even the smallest details bring pleasure. I love reading the books within the game itself. Some of them are real gems! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve often wondered what reading this games script would be like if it were transcribed into a book. I’ve contemplated if it would still hold up without the setting of the game to give it context. I’m also confident the answer would be yes.

      Cheers for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 😀 I never really thought of the literary side of gaming. Final Fantasy is one of my favorites from the first one to the most recent! That’s one game that has held my heart forever.❤
    Great read!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Oh the childhood memories! FF7 was the first Final Fantasy I’ve ever played. After that, I did play the older ones, and for a while I couldn’t just get enough of Final Fantasy. I have to admit after FFX I started losing a bit of interest in the Final Fantasy serues. As for the most recent versions… Nowadays I know I don’t play as much as I used to, so I’m trying to take that into account when judging new games. FF7 will always have a place in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a game that enraptured many, myself included. I’m the same too, after FFX, something about the series just started to lose its shine. I have high hopes for when I eventually give FFXV a go though. Maybe that old spark will reignite for me.

      Thanks for reading Nya.

      Liked by 1 person

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