When I read this month's “Monthly Musing” theme, I took my time before rushing off to write the article. At first, I thought about writing about what first got me interested in video games (Atari 2600) but decided against that since those childhood memories are vague at best. Then I thought about describing the first game I owned (The Legend of Zelda), but vetoed that when I realized that I really didn't have much to say on that either. I looked then to the game that changed how I looked at games, seeing them more as a means to tell a story and immerse yourself in another world. But I fear that Zeph
already beat me to the game in question.
Then it dawned on me... Rev only said that, “[You should] Pick one that's special to you, and then talk about why that game or games had such an impact on you, and what that impact was. “
He never said it had to be a positive
So, here I am ready to reveal the one game that took the rose tinted glasses off of my eyes. The game that changed how I looked at upcoming games. It transformed me from being an eager fanboy to being a jaded, bitter, hollow shell of a young man. It took the joy our of a series I once loved. This entity started me down a path of semi-coherent rants and arguments on the internet. This fiend is known to the world as Final Fantasy VII
Now to understand why this game had such a negative impact on me, we must start long before the was even in the development stages. When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I received Final Fantasy II for the SNES (better known to most people now as Final Fantasy IV). This game had such an impact on me that when we had recess, my friends and I would play on the playground pretending to be Cecil and Kain. A few years later, Final Fantasy III (VI) was released and I got that game and loved it just as much as I love the last one.
So when I heard about Final Fantasy VII later in my life, I was overjoyed to see another game coming. I was upset when I found out it was going to be on the Playstation though, as I got the N64 at launch day because I was certain that Square would release the game on the new Nintendo console. Release day for the game came and went, but I still longed for the game. None of my friends at the time who had Playstation had any interest in Final Fantasy, so I could not get them to try it. I waited, anxious because I did not know what to do. There was no internet for me back then, not many gaming magazines either, I could not get any information on the game.
Then Christmas came, and I was overjoyed to see that not only did my parents buy a Playstation, but they got me Final Fantasy VII as well. I was so happy... for about five minutes.
My Parents are not exactly wise to electronic. When they get a new DVD player, I have to hook it up for them. The same was pretty much true back then. So I finally got my Playstation, Final Fantasy VII... and no way to hook it up to my gaming TV. But worse than that, my parents were not familiar with CD's either. When I asked where the memory card was, I was given confused glares. “Can't you just save to the game?”
“No, its a CD. You can't write data onto CD's.”
“Well that's stupid. You'll have to save your money to get one of those cards then.”
“... You don't give me an allowance.”
“Well, there's always your birthday.”
Needless to say, I was frustrated. My parents were no help, but I was not going to let that ruin the fact that I finally got Final Fantasy VII. I could not wait to play it. I convinced my parents to let me use the second TV and VCR we had in the family room to play the game (since none of our TV's at the time had AV jacks). I hooked everything up and started to play.
At first, I was amazed by how pretty the opening was... and then I turned into a squat blocky.... thing. “Okay,” I thought, “This isn't so bad. They could have just had the movies like that too, though.” So I played the game a bit longer, about two or three hours, not quite sure how I felt about it at that point. It was at that time that I decided to take a break, so I turned the TV off, left the game on, and walked away. I came back about 30 minutes later to find that someone had shut off the game. All my progress, everything I did, gone in a careless act. My mom walked by and noticed it was on. Thinking I had forgot to shut it off, she hit the power button to “save energy.”
I was so upset I refused to play it again until I got a memory card.
Thankfully, that happened sooner than expected, since my friend got a multiple memory card for Christmas and was looking to get rid of his old one. So I bought that off of him as well as the original Resident Evil for about $11. Finally, I could back to the game.
Then I found, that the more I played the game, the less I liked it. This was not the Final Fantasy I knew. I spent way too much time in this huge city, had to cross dress and play a damn mini game to get out of it, and I didn't feel a sense of accomplishment once I got out. Add that feeling that when I wondered to the nearest town, I had thought that I time traveled. The setting of the game was all wrong to me. I could get past how big the technological gap was between towns, it really bothered me.
But never the less, I kept playing, convinced that the game would somehow get better.
And then I fought the Wall boss.
It was about here that I realized that I would not like this game. The two Final Fantasy games I had past experience with were rather unique from each other, with only a few things that linked them. When I saw that this one had a boss fight straight out of Final Fantasy II (IV), I was upset.
Then I began to feel hatred towards the game's materia system. I was no fool going in, as I immediately noticed that this system was a helluva lot like the esper system that I loved. Upon closer examination, I realized that it was only a cheap knockoff that robbed the characters of their individuality. Sure, in Final Fantasy III (VI). once you got espers, Celes and Terra seemed less unique, but they still had unique abilities. In VII, in order to use any ability, like steal, you had to equip materia that anyone could use. I had no reason to care for any other characters outside of my highest level characters because, out side of their weapons, they had no distinguishing characteristics. And for those of you who are thinking “What about Limit Breaks;” would you kindly go find a fire to die in.
Limit Breaks annoyed me, mostly because they were inconsistent and it seemed that many fights were designed so that the player would have to rely on them to progress. I hated that. The limit breaks left a bad taste in my mouth. But whatever, that's just my opinion.
The linked materia annoyed me too, if only because it would bug the hell out half the time for me. I am sure everyone is aware of using Final Attack + Phoenix to ensure that the game is no longer a challenge, but did you every have X Summon linked with Master Summon along with that?
For me, the result was having a party member cast phoenix 4 times. Don't ask me how that math works, it just happened. For anyone who remembers how some of the summons dragged on in that game, it was quite annoying.
So anyways, moving away from the game mechanics, I also found that the story elements annoyed me. I did not care about the protagonists the way I did in the previous games. In fact, Cloud annoyed me. I could tell even in Midgar that there was something wrong about him. As the game progress, I figured out why I hated him. He was shallow. All the characters were shallow. They lacked the emotional depth required to make me give a damn about what happens to them. Barret was nothing more than a low rent Mr. T to me. Tifa was a bimbo. I wanted to kick Yuffie in the ass half the time. Cid just plain bothered me. Cait Sith was quickly lowered to the bottom of my “things I care about list,” especially after he “died” and was pretty much [b]immediately resurrected. Vincent, for some reason, was alright. And then, there was Aeris.
I clapped when that bitch got stabbed. I have never felt as much malice for a character as I have for her ever in my entire life. She annoyed the hell out of me in every interaction I had with here up to that point. I don't even know why. But when I watched her get stabbed in the most obvious plot twist ever, it was gratifying. I found it amusing that in a fantasy world where there were spells and items that brought people back from the verge of death, where being turned to stone was something that could be cured, where a guy could survive for years being trapped inside a coffin, that getting stabbed by an androgynous mamma's boy who compensates for his short comings through the length of his ridiculous sword would be the sure fire way to die. The entire fact that they built up the death scene as something that was supposed to be emotionally devastating annoyed me to no end too. This is not the first time someone died in a video game.
I was not shocked. I was pleased.
Also, as far as villians go, Sephiroth just sucked. Don't even bother arguing with me there.
Overall I found the story unsatisfying. It got to the point were I didn't care what the characters were saying, I just wanted to beat the game as a matter of pride at this point. I didn't even feel rewarded for doing the asinine side quests, since all it did was give me stuff I really didn't need to finish the game or make anything any more interesting.
As time passed by after finishing games, I would care less and less about up coming releases. No amount of hype generated joy for me anymore. I received Final Fantasy VIII later on and moderately enjoyed playing it, but it wasn't the same as it was back when I had that innocent, childlike joy when I saw something branded with Final Fantasy. VII was not great, and that pretty much set the tone of things to come. The feeling of betrayal has not left me to this very day, since I still see Final Fantasy VII crap everywhere. Final Fantasy VII did more than kill my joy for the franchise, it nearly cost me my love of gaming. Thankfully, better games came along and helped me avoid that fate. There is still hope in this world, but there may not be any left for Final Fantasy. At least not for me.