How Final Fantasy 7 broke my heart forever

Final Fantasy 7 battle

On the upside, the battles were pretty darn fun.

And no, it wasn’t Aeris.

I was excited for Final Fantasy 7. Hugely so. I had been a big fan of a lot of Squaresoft games, particularly Chrono Trigger, which was just about the greatest thing in the universe for someone of my age and interests. I enjoyed the Final Fantasy series as well, though coincidentally was more familiar with some of the lesser-known titles, such as the Game Boy editions or the original NES game, rather than the shining stars of FF2 and FF3.

I was also excited because Final Fantasy 7 represented enormous advancements, not only in graphics, but in complex storytelling. Very few games aside from JRPGs offered such immersive stories, characters, and struggles, and FF7 was poised to take that to a whole new level. 3 CDs! Many hours of gameplay! Lots and lots of characters! Huzzah!

But I never finished FF7. In fact, to this day, I’ve only ever completed FF1, and a few Game Boy versions. I got a ROM of FF2, got bored, and switched over to FF3. I got bored of that too, and switched over to FF7. I figured I was just desperate to play the flagship game, and couldn’t be satisfied at that particular moment with older games, especially when my friends were immersed in the adventures of Cloud and company. I got the PC version of FF7, and I became thoroughly obsessed soon after.

And then it all went downhill.

I suppose it as inevitable. Since I had been obsessed over the game for quite some time, I had been watching my friends play it, and knew all the characters, much of the plot, and many of the minor details such as which metaphorical path to take at whatever juncture. In many cases, when I actually played the game, I was just going through the motions, and plot developments were largely meaningless to me.

The 2nd hit came when I discovered Vincent (I called him Kenny, and clearly that was an excellent decision), and subsequently found his secret lair. The game revealed a great deal of Vincent/Kenny’s past, which was a fascinating look into this secretive character, and it was great. I knew something special had to happen, after all. It’s a secret location, it reveals a huge amount of his past, and it…seemed to be over quickly. Something had to be there. I looked all over. But nothing.

After maybe half an hour of this, I went online to find a walkthrough. I was getting annoyed at how hard it was to find anything, and I took a shortcut. Sue me.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a semi-disaster. Or a blessing in disguise. Perhaps both. The walkthrough informed me that this was indeed a special location, and it’s where you can acquire Kenny’s ultimate weapon. But only if you’re on the first CD. And I was on the 2nd CD. And there was no going back. If I wanted that ultimate weapon, I would have to start all over again.

Final Fantasy 7 Advent Children

Oh, and this sucked too.

This was a moment that may as well have been Squaresoft slapping me in the face. This was not a game that rewarded exploration. This was a game that rewarded tedium. Lots of it. It wasn’t about finding secrets, uncovering clues, and figuring things out; it was about knowing the walkthrough secrets and exploiting them. There was no way I could have known the CD1 vs CD2 thing without an instruction manual telling me so. And that makes it a shitty game.

There were other moments that weren’t this awful, of course, but this was such a frustrating moment that it made me lose respect for the game. It really wasn’t about having fun. If you wanted the best stuff, you needed a guidebook. That’s not fun. That’s research. How is it a game anymore?

Now imagine the difficulty of getting a Golden Chocobo. My friends describe the process of getting one, and how they spent every weekend breeding and racing Chocobos until they finally got the gold. It took them many, many hours, just to get one single magic item as well as mild convenience of not having to switch back and forth between blues and greens depending on where you needed to go. This wasn’t a reward for immersive gameplay, but again, boring knowledge of game mechanics. Strike two.

But the final strike was the fact that on the PC version of the game, you could just open up the game folder and access the files. And which files did I access? The movie files. Duh. I watched every cut scene of the game, including Aeris’ dramatic death sequence, as well as the ending, and, well, it was enough for me. I didn’t feel like slogging through hours and hours of tedious gameplay just to finish the story. The story was what I wanted. Not the bullshit.

I suppose it was inevitable. I had seen so much of the game already that, for the most part, it wasn’t that fun to find out what happened. It was like watching a movie for the 2nd time. Not so bad, but just kinda casual in terms of a viewing experience. It just wasn’t that much fun. And combining that with the fact that the only thing left was the gameplay, which included tedious nonsense that I despised, well…it was all over.

You know what else was annoying? Chrono Cross. Finally, the pseudo-sequel to Chrono Trigger! Surely I’ll enjoy that!

The game boasted 40 playable characters, only some of which you could access according to how you played through the game, meaning you could play it over and over and play a new game every time. Perfect, I thought. You don’t have to worry about all the bullshit about making the “right” decision. You can just play!

Nope.

There were “correct” answers every step of the way.

Towards the beginning of the game, there’s a moment where you can choose between two characters, and that one becomes a playable character for the rest of the game. Fair enough. Take your pick, and move on.

Nope. Turns out there’s a secret way to get both. Follow the steps in the strategy guide, and you’re all set.

Fuck you, Squaresoft. Fuck you right in the materia.



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