Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 2

If you wish to read the first part then hop aboard the train to Sector 7, last stop – the Train Graveyard.

Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 1

As mentioned previously, there will be some minor spoilers relating to the story.

Final Fantasy VII showed me for the first time the concept of an untrustworthy narrative due to the unreliable memories of its primary protagonist, Cloud. This changed my perception of the story when relating to his counterpart, a lost legend risen from the shadows whose background is coated in a great degree of sorrow and twisted circumstance that is Sephiroth, whose past was heavily manipulated by other forces to forge him into the destructive being he finally became. Every character was distinct with their own unique perspectives and personality. You’ll have the chance to explore their own histories, their reasons and motives for carrying on despite the overwhelming pressure of forces working against them. The overprotective and headstrong Barrett, the sombre yet powerful Tifa, thoughtful and wise Red XIII, enigmatic Vincent, playful Aeris, deceptive Yuffie, upbeat Cait Sith, excitable Cid. All of them were created in a manner that made me realise that my companions weren’t just there to make up the numbers. They were important, they had a purpose, all were meaningful in the grand scheme of things if you take the time to speak to them, listen to them and help them when the time comes.

I loved progressing these characters through combat, to watch them slowly become more powerful as the game continued. Cloud, Barrett and Red XIII were my chosen three for my first playthrough, though through subsequent runs I began to use each of them at different times where I thought it most appropriate for them to shine. I treasured every orb of materia that I collected and salivated at the unknowable prospect and tactical battle variations that lay at the heart of each possible piece. I trembled in amazement as the planet shook to unleash its terrible wrath as its monstrous Weapons were let loose upon a world that abused it. Damn you Ruby Weapon and your incessant need to murder my people at every possible opportunity because I lacked the necessary preparation skills as a mere child filled with an impatient desire for victory! (I experienced this defeat many times) And the loot, oh did I come to love the loot! This game offered me my first taste of what would become a lifelong desire, the never-ending quest to keep tracking down all of that in game, in any game, loot. Nothing could beat equipping each party member with their ultimate weapons and watching as I cleaved my way through the late game Behemoths and Marlboros with satisfying ease. I even began to appreciate the prospect of chocobo racing and breeding, which at first seemed to be little more than a confusing and frustrating distraction. Even this, a completely optional mechanic, can yield great rewards (Knights of the Round summon materia – hell yes!) for those who travel far to seek and abide by the knowledge of the Chocobo Sage in the quest for that hard earned, elusive golden chocobo.

‘The knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is held in the materia. Anyone with this knowledge can freely use the powers of the land and the Planet. That knowledge interacts between ourselves and the Planet, calling up magic.’ – Sephiroth’s explanation of Materia, FFVII’s magic

One of my most fundamental experiences with Final Fantasy VII came around the ten or so hour mark for me. Up until this point, I had assumed that the entire game would be taking place in the malevolent metropolis of Midgar. After escaping the Shinra building on a motorbike, an unexpected minigame added to the mix to keep things interesting, with my comrades following alongside in a truck that I had to defend, the next phase of the game kicks in to reveal a depth and scope that had my jaw wide open as my eyes temporarily lost the ability to blink. The world quite literally opened up for me. It gave players an opportunity to roam the landscape, battling a variety of fiends and monsters with every attempt to continue along this wonderful journey. I’ll never forget my first encounter with the monstrous Midgar Zolom, a thirty-foot cobra with a vicious bite, and being almost wiped out with just a single move.

I’ll also admit to it getting a little weird at times, such as certain parts of Wall Market for example, which is not entirely unexpected considering the cultural differences between western audiences and Japan. There were some obvious translation difficulties as well. Some of the scenes were, let’s say, I didn’t fully understand them until I returned to the game as an older, more experienced person. If you’ve ever watched a film recently that was a childhood favourite and then had that ‘Oh yeah!’ moment when returning to it as an adult, you’ll understand what I mean. This just makes the game that much richer in context though. It is large enough in scope that there is something to be gained every time you decide to restart it and have another go.

If the legacy of FFVII could be summed up in one, offering but a single example of the profound effect it has had and still continues to have to this day, I would have to mention the moment, THAT moment when something and someone is taken from you in a solemn instant of utter devastation. A moment of heartbreak without equal. A bitter calm at the end of a blade. Every fan of fantasy can relate to a fictitious tragedy that just took their breath away and left them empty and aghast for what seemed like an age. If you talk to readers of A Song of Ice and Fire about the Red Wedding, you can see spark in their eyes dim into a sullen shadow as they recollect the instance. For fans of Final Fantasy VII, we will always remember the moment we lost a treasured companion to the merciless whims of a warrior lost to madness and sorrow. Two decades later, this is still remembered as a quintessential example of just how powerful the story of a game can be.

‘What I have shown you is reality. What you remember… that is the illusion.’ – Sephiroth

I’ve prattled on for quite a bit now about this much-loved darling of the industry but honestly, it is no more than it deserves. I could probably write another several thousand words on the subject and how even after all these years, from my first time playing the game one dreary weekend, it still has such a profound grip on what a quality story of fiction and fantasy should be like. It set a huge standard for me going forward in the years to follow.

My friends at school eventually began to tire of my incessant desire to regale them of my adventures because I just wouldn’t shut up about it. Sorry lads!

Without Final Fantasy VII, I doubt I would be quite the same man I am today. My eyes were opened to new possibilities and I fell for the genre of fantasy in all of its glorious forms because of this game and what it showed me. From the very moment Cloud jumps down into the streets of Midgar, wielding his Buster sword and battle ready, to fight alongside Avalanche in a war to decide the fate of a dying planet, the flickering fire of my curiosity was set alight and by the games end. With one brutal Omnislash against the hero’s arch nemesis, the flames were fanned even further into a blazing inferno of passionate appreciation. The sheer range of emotions I felt, the awe, the joy, the dread and the sorrow, they would keep me coming back. I craved more. I needed to see and do everything this game had to offer.

From here I moved onto other stories, other books, other films, other games, all giving me new concepts and perspectives to consider. It was, and always will be, an absolute inspiration to me and was one the first stones laid in what would become the foundation of everything that I create to this day.

I wonder how things would have turned out for me had I not asked my grandmother for this game? Perhaps I’d be writing spy thrillers if I’d discovered Goldeneye on the N64 instead. Oh, who cares! I’m off to play Final Fantasy VII again.

*Begins to hum the boss battle music to get psyched up*

I’m coming for you Sephiroth!

Forged From Reverie.

25 thoughts on “Final Fantasy VII: Where It All Began – Part 2

  1. One of the really awesome things about ff7 is the fact that all the characters, like you said, have a purpose. Obviously leads are important but I absolutely hate it when other characters don’t have any story to them or the writers treat them like they’re unimportant! But you don’t get that with Aerith or Tifa or even Sephiroth who has a really interesting backstory. Awesome article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would be an entirely different person without FFVII, and I completely agree with you about Midgar (also love the alliterative phrase “malevolent metropolis of Midgar…I’m also reading the Poetic Edda right now, Norse mythology, so I have to remember to use/not use the “d”). You really do think it’s the entire world, not realizing there’s still plenty of planet left that’s not corrupted, but if something isn’t done soon, it very well may be. FFVII is one of those stories that holds a mirror up to us and forces us to realize what we’re doing if we dare to look. Unfortunately, video games still being considered a bastard medium by some even to this day (and the fact that humans HATE to see themselves as the bad guy) makes it hard to look. Though it’s not just games that suffer from this. There are plenty of books and films that do the same thing, but it’s easier to brush them off as “just stories” instead of taking them for the warnings they are.

    Wonderful assessment of an iconic game!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed your posts about this game. I’ve never played FFVII. My first entrance into the Final Fantasy world was XI. My husband introduced me to the game because he’s a huge FF fan. (He’s currently playing XIV; no joke). I especially liked the bit you added about the gaming industry and how its perceived. You make great points and I’m glad it had such a positive impact in your life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Greatest game ever.. Story captivated my soul at the young age of 10, played it almost once a year since. The way it was written, the depth of every character (even the optional ones… so much that Vincent got his owm game!). The connections between every role, has always been the most powerful for me… The tragedy in Sephiroth, who was the hero of Zack & Cloud. Zack, who was a total badass, and the way he passed himself off to Cloud, who ends up falling in love with a girl who was linked to both parties…

    It was definitely a dark turn for the series, the overall visual design matched the grim story… Great article! Glad there are others that are so passionate about this story

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our numbers are many and the level of appreciation this game has garnered in the last two decades is even greater still.

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and you’re completely correct – Zack was a badass! Vincent too.

      Like

      • Zack became my favorite character, almost instantly. The concept of his story was thrown in at the last minute, and it totally changed the dynamic of Cloud’s walk through the story. (Hence why there are so little scenes with Zack, in the original game.) Then the Anime “Last Order” came out, and showcased just how beastly Zack really was.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You’d probably end up with fantasy anyway, I’d say;) I never played this game myself, but some friends of mine did back when it was new and one of them couldn’t stop telling me how amazing the story was. I’ve seen some parts as well, and of course, it looks amazing. So… Some day, maybe:)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. And I have to laugh at a part near the beginning… FFVII was rentable, at my local movie renting store, when I was a kid. Mom rented it and I played through the first couple hours of that game time, and time again! I remember in one sitting, going from the start to where Reno was on top of Sect. 7, and losing to him, because I didn’t quite grasp the idea of the pyramids. After I got mad and started over, mom Asked what was wrong, and being the saint she is, got me a memory card!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And from the pyramids of despair came the memory card of persistent hope – haha! I remember that battle, and losing to Reno, very well.

      At least some good came from it.

      Like

      • Hahaha! Being a previous player of cartridge gaming consoles, with their solid state saving options, the mystic “memory card of persistant hope” was a thing of legend for cd based console owners..

        Liked by 1 person

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