When I read the topic for this monthís Musing, it took me about 15 seconds to realize what game I will always come back to: Final Fantasy VII.
Or Fainaru Fantaji Sebun, if you want to make yourself giggle.
I know FFVII has become quite the clichť, but I like to think clichť bounces off me like rain off a duckís ass. Final Fantasy VII seems to be one of those things that can be just ruined for others by its fans. I havenít spent as much time perusing the internet as many of you reading this, but even I am sick of ďSephiroth through the flamesĒ avatars. And as a music fan, I can tell you empirically (my opinion is law!) that One-Winged Angel is not the best track on the FFVII soundtrack, or at least not the only track. Finally, I certainly donít believe we need Final Fantasy VII: Everything. But Iím not here to argue the impact and perception of FFVII in modern culture (this time!), so letís rap about the game itselfÖ *turns chair backward before sitting*
Final Fantasy VII was released for the Sony PlayStation in the Year of Our Lord 1997. I think I played it for the first time in 2000 or so. Still, even a few years after its release, the graphics were enough to blow your mind back then. I was taken aback by the beauty of the pre-rendered art, and fleshed-out cinematic presentation. Before playing FFVII, I had not been exposed to that many RPGís, so maybe my standards were a bit open, but controlling Cloud, commanding him to drive that ridiculous sword through a giant robotic scorpion, was enough to set my little tween heart ablaze.
"Hey Guys! I'll bet you 20 Gill I can put my big-ass sword through that building!"
The Materia system in Final Fantasy VII, confusing at first as many customizable ability systems can be, was ingenious to a point that I think it still stands as one of the best today. Before my days of rushing eagerly to GameFaqs, I felt exceptionally clever for pairing Odin and Added Effect on my weapon. I still have a blast collecting those pretty little gems and combining them in the smartest manner for more efficient domination.
One of my favorite things about a good RPG is a rich portion of side quests and secrets, and FFVII has it in spades. From hidden bits as important as Yuffie and Vincent to endeavors as involved as obtaining the coveted Knights of The Round materia, Super Mario RPG is one of the few games I can think of to rival the lushness of optional content so expertly.
Then there is the music. Oh that wonderful soundtrack by the masterful Nobuo Uematsu. As I mentioned before, I am a music fan. Not an aficionado, but an enthusiast. I couldnít point out a scale or even a key to you, but I know whatís good when I hear it. How many of you reading can say there isnít one song from the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack that you thoroughly enjoy? Seriously, your friends arenít here, you can admit it. Some are touched by sweet melodies like Sending A Dream Into The Universe, whereas others get pumped listening to the notorious Those Who Fight Further (over and over until I almost canít stand it anymore!) The point is that the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VII touches on so many points and themes, and doesnít slack on any of them. In general, Uematsu seems the kind of composer that puts his all into every track he composes, no matter how small or relatively unimportant. This is why The Black Mages is one of my favorite bands of all time. Well, creative work ethic AND guitar solos is why I love The Black Mages, really.
Seriously, this guy only stops working to play with puppies!
Now we come to the most important part of any RPG: the story. Final Fantasy VII is nigh 14 years old, and I am still struggling to grasp some points in the lore. That should say something about the amount of thought that went in to its structure and content. Iím not going to say itís the greatest story ever told, but anyone who wonít give it credit for at least being a bigger story than was often told by video games in its time is probably just being a dick. Something I donít think gets enough respect is just how well designed Sephiroth is as a villain. Sephiroth was a hero, an icon. He was the best of the best in SOLDIER and was revered the world over. Then his employers, the evil Shinra Corporation, experimented on him against his will, filling him with the very essence of the worst kind of monster imaginable, the planet-devouring Jenova. He promptly goes mad and tries to kill EVERYTHING! Itís not the kind of origin story weíve never heard before, but itís the caliber of story that we donít hear often enough. Itís also proof that the Sephiroth character is more than the emo wet dream heís often boiled down to today.
I could write pages and pages more about the epic Final Fantasy VII, and I just might because it always comes back to that game for me. It will firmly hold a spot in my heart and the hearts of many others forever. I look forward to living the world of FFVII over and over and over and over, for many years to come.
Edit: I took some of the pictures out. Reason: too many pictures.