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Resurrection: Final Fantasy VII

Old faithful…

Resurrection: Final Fantasy VII

Resurrection is a regular feature here at Resolution, in which we get all misty-eyed about a classic release. This week, Greg Giddens explains why FINAL FANTASY VII is still at the top of his list.

I PUT it to you that Final Fantasy VII is the finest RPG of all time.

Don’t argue. I’m right, and in your heart you know it to be true. I’m tempted to end the discussion right there as a one-way statement. I feel no need to justify this with proclamations when I know the majority are right behind me in the righteous standing of truth. But for you naysayers out there who are yet to conform, allow me to sway you.

FFVII was revolutionary due to its 3D visuals, narrative themes, and the timing of its release. Taking any series into the realm of 3D can be a rough transition, but FFVII made it seem effortless. Timeless pre-rendered backgrounds shaped the environment and the only real 3D elements were the interactive objects and cast. The blocky characters are starting to show their age now, certainly, but thanks to a lack of unnecessary detail, they have stood the test of time, with only minor pixelation.

The story is just as timeless. The fundamental theme is one of a crisis of identity, an issue many of us deal with at some point in our lives. This makes FFVII’s narrative universally appealing: you can actually relate to the main character on a level far deeper than what many other games – and, in fact, other forms of media – can achieve. That in itself is astonishing, and supremely clever. Square created the perfect protagonist, a deeply human character with doubts and weakness, determination and strength. And the now almost ubiquitous additional option to rename the character cements your bond to him completely.

Through your attachment to protagonist Cloud, you’re drawn to the other characters. Tifa’s strength and independence, as well as her deep sense of loyalty to a friend in need, breeds respect. Barret’s physical presence and well-hidden softness of heart are inspiring. But next to Cloud, the other character who really demands your attention is Aeris, Cloud’s love interest. Aeris carries a heavy burden of knowledge and untapped power, and as you progress through the story you come to appreciate her importance more and more.

Then – and here be spoilers, but heck, it’s a 13-year-old game – the most shocking event occurs. Aeris is killed by the villain of the piece, Sephiroth.

Life after death

Killing off a main character mid-game shocked players to their core. But instead of feeling detached anger at the game for losing an asset you’ve spent 15 plus hours building up, you feel anger and sadness side-by-side with Cloud, fuelling revenge and justice. Aeris’ death was unconventional and achieved a powerful sense of compulsion to continue playing: the compulsion to understand why she died, and punish the one responsible.

Death was certainly not the end for Aeris. As you progressed further, you came to understand her burden, and how she had touched the lives of others. FFVII grieves with you, helping you remember her and miss her, appreciate her and respect her. The bonds FFVII forms between you and the characters is comparable to those formed in life. Each has meaning and scope.

And, of course, the timing of FFVII’s release was hugely significant to its success. JRPGs were a small band of underappreciated titles back in the 1990s, and the Final Fantasy series was known mainly by the older generation of Nintendo gamers. The Playstation format granted FFVII a huge stage on which to perform to the world, and with its aforementioned qualities it put on the show of a lifetime. It introduced several generations to both JRPGs as a genre and the Final Fantasy series. To so many people, FFVII is the game that fuelled weeks of constant joy, and years of replaying.

FFVII is still bold, brilliant, beautiful and flawed. I come back to it time and time again because it represents life in a completely fantasy setting, but in one of the purest and most tangible ways possible.

14 Comments

    Sorry, Greg, VII is a good lark but it’s hardly the best in the series.

    See: http://resolution-magazine.co.uk/content/resurrection-final-fantasy-vi/

  • The notion of a “good” Final Fantasy game is totally alien to me.

  • I think you’ll both find that VIII was the best!

  • This game introduced me to RPG’s and nothing has topped it’s ability to make me emotional since.

  • While I think FFVII will always be my favourite RPG, IX is a far better game. Everything was vastly improved, and having replayed VII fairly recently, the pacing in the middle section is just a mess.

  • They’re not really RPGs, though, are they?

    VII is great though, fantastic setting and awesome battle system, though I’d argue the narrative devices and characters themselves were way more lame than everyone seems to think. Aeris’ death might be one of the earliest examples of ludo-narrative dissonance, come to think of it.

  • The term ‘ludo-narrative dissonance’ needs to burn in a fire.

  • Also, the ‘are JRPGs actually role playing games’ debate is rather tiring. Of course they are, they’re just not Western RPGs.

  • Is it too Friday for my “all games are roleplaying games” essay?

  • Probably. But you’re right: technically you do play a role in most games.

  • Some games are. Far Cry 2 is the greatest example. Depends to what extent though; in the traditional sense it’s assuming a different character. If games allow for self-expression or self-expression of the assumed character by proxy of the player, they’re definitely RPGs, but if they’re too restrictive and everyone has virtually the same experience then I’d say that disqualifies them. JRPGs maintain only the abstract placeholder from pen and paper games: reams of stats. The rest is usually completely linear and not “role playing” at all. Western RPGs are steadily getting away from that, which is where everyone assumed they’d go in the first place. With Oblivion a lot of people lamented the lack of emphasis on “RPG” stuff, but the whole point of making that more organic and seamless was to get closer to the actual experience of inhabiting this world and questing.

    Weird, recursive shit going on here.

    tl;dr, Oblivion and FFVII are good.

  • Lauren, you are clearly insane. (But I knew that already.) Nobody thinks that FFVIII is the best one, not even the developer’s mums!

  • Yes, nice game. It’s been imprinted in quite a few minds. But best RPG of all times, is best served with a bit of salt. A lot of salt… Well, actually it’s best not to be served at all.

    The game is truly non appealing to a whole group of gamers who are more interested in less… mental characters. A staple of Japanese writing, which far from being criticizable as a whole, still invites a lot of derisory comments.

    The RPG that gathers the most consensus with only a small margin of detractors is perhaps Planescape: Torment. You have too a broad consensus around Baldur’s Gate. And Legend of Zelda. But I suspect this is so because it became institutionalized the notion that people will think you are cool if you say Legend of Zelda.

    In any case, Final Fantasy VII doesn’t gather such wide consensus as these games. Or so I seem to perceive.

  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and the world would be a scary place if everyone were a clone with the same tastes and perspectives. Having said that, I seriously cannot see how anyone who has actually played and finished Final Fantasy VII–despite all the other wonderful RPGs that exist–could possibly see this it as anything but the crowning achievement, the very pinnacle, of role-playing games. In fact, the title is so immense and flawless it is almost a futile exercise to even *begin* to describe all it’s ground-breaking qualities.
    Gamers want alot of different things in their RPGs (and all games). I don’t know what any of the nay-sayers could possibly be missing from FFVII that it failed to provide. Characters you love, a well-crafted storyline, the revolutionary for it’s time graphics, the beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, the immensely creative Materia system, full-motion video used cleverly, a treasure trove of mini-games actually interspersed in the story (and thus made relevant), humorous dialogue, funny situations, the “date point” system, a great cast of villains, epic battles, chocobo breeding/raising, 2 extra “superbosses”, and on and on. No game ever made has more substance, more yummy goodness and variety of gameplay, than Final Fantasy VII. Much like the author of this post, I can’t imagine how any of you can debate it is the greatest RPG and perhaps game, ever. Is it your *favorite*?? That is a whole other matter. But Final Fantasy VII is a masterpiece on every level.

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