Final Fantasy VII: Revisiting the Golden Saucer
When Steam released Final Fantasy VII for PC, I was so excited. I immediately purchased and downloaded it and then spent a significant amount of time trying to figure out how to control Cloud Strife on my laptop. Running from save point to save point (things I do not miss thanks to current gaming autosave options), I started to relive the good old days of Golden Saucers, AVALANCHE versus Shinra Corp, and one-winged angels.
With the news of the remake, I was tempted to start a whole new game diary so I could gush about Final Fantasy VII all by myself. But that’s not fair. Cloud and Tifa and the gang mean so much to so many people. Who am I to hog all the fun? So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see just what FFVII and its pending remake mean to all of us.
FFVII was the first video game to break into the mainstream in North America, with advertising on buses, commercials, etc. What did seeing those ads mean to you? Had you played any of the previous Final Fantasy games?
Jo Fu: I didn’t see any of the ads, because I was incredibly sheltered. I played Final Fantasy VII on the PC port, with agonizing failure and frequent crashes. It was my first FF game, and it completely changed my world. The opening cut scene was just so magical when I was thirteen!
Lindsey David: Actually, same here—I didn’t see any of the ads. I was exposed to FFVII by making a new friend and watching them play. After watching them play RPGs for a year, I spent all my birthday money to buy my own PSX and get a used copy of the game. It was my first foray into gaming on a personal level—as in, this was my console, my game, all mine!
Carly Smith: I did the math, and I was only six years old then! I definitely wasn’t paying attention to Final Fantasy VII then—I don’t think I was even aware of the series—so I didn’t actually end up playing the game until a decade later.
Wendy: Oh right. I’m far more seasoned than you guys. I was twenty when it came out and had a part-time job so it was a pretty big deal for me. A Playstation was one of my first major purchases because of FFVII (along with the TV/VCR combo I played it on). I had played video games since I was old enough to use the computer, but FFVII was something entirely new.
How did FFVII influence your gaming?
[pullquote]I think it’s safe to say that FFVII made me a gamer[/pullquote]Jo: I’d played stuff on an SNES before, and of course, there was Duck Hunt on the NES when I visited my friends’ houses. (I wasn’t allowed to have a console until I was fourteen!) I think it’s safe to say that FFVII made me a gamer. It gave me an innate love for JRPGs, and a patience for grinding and slotting materia into things.
Lindsey: Before getting FFVII, I played games, but not very seriously. I played on my Dad’s NES, my cousin’s SNES, the family Sega Genesis and N64, and finally my own personal GameBoy Color, which had only Pokemon Blue. FFVII was the jump from pick-up gaming to serious hobby. It is the spark that started it all.
Carly: It reminded me I definitely prefer JRPGs with an active time battle system (like Chrono Trigger, the Tales of series, and .hack) over a turn-based one! Oh god, and grinding! I nearly gave up on beating Sephiroth, because I didn’t want to go grind several levels. I really enjoyed the materia system, which made me think of another turn-based JRPG called Golden Sun (in that game you manage djinni), because it encouraged me to try out new combinations and tinker until I found something that worked.
Wendy: It opened up a whole new world where I started to care about story and characters and actually accomplishing things within a game. I dedicated so much time to it, and it became a big part of my regular entertainment with my friends. There was a time when a whole lot of my friend Trisha’s fanart focused on FFVII and anime.
Did you rename all your characters when given the opportunity? Who was your favorite? How did you feel about their stories? Did you cry when Aerith died? (I’m not crying. You’re crying.)
Jo: I’ve now spent over half of my life campaigning for team Tifa, and I just learned recently that there’s a deleted scene right before the final fight where Tifa and Cloud leave a barn separately (get it, girl!). I love the stories, but I feel like the rest of the ancillary materials (mean look at Advent Children) have diluted them a little.
Lindsey: No! I did not rename all of my characters, but my friend did and that is why I didn’t. She renamed all of her characters after Dragon Ball Z and her friends’ fan characters. She named Yuffie after mine. I thought it was so neat and immediately took to Yuffie because of it. It was after that that I found out my friend thought Yuffie was annoying as hell, which I heavily read into. Also, Aerith’s death was heavily spoiled by the time I got to it, so the emotional investment was lost. I was more drawn to the moment when you find out about Cloud’s memories and who Zack was. And in response to Jo with regards to other materials diluting the emotional story—Crisis Core. *Sobs*
Carly: I always refuse to rename characters! As far as Aerith, I thought she was really nice, but at the time I didn’t like her. In early high school, I was still very, “Eww, pink is for girly girls, and I’m hardcore,” and all that internalized misogyny, so I gravitated toward Tifa. More recently, I’ve thought back on Aerith, and I think I’d like her much more now if I were to replay the game. I have a soft spot now for women who are sunny! When Aerith died, I didn’t cry, but I was incredibly shocked. I don’t really like how her death is used as a motivation to pursue Sephiroth, because I’m tired of that trope of killing off female characters. But Sephiroth’s motivation to kill her made sense. It was also such a huge moment in the game.
Wendy: I’m just kidding. I didn’t cry. But it was pretty damn shocking for a game to do something like that. Aren’t games meant to be for kids? We don’t kill people in kids entertainment in North America! Except maybe animals. *Cries quietly over Artax and Bambi’s mom* I always renamed my characters when given the chance, mainly because I like playing around with names and loved the idea of this game letting me do what I wanted. While the characters were still ultimately Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, etc. no matter what I wanted to call them, I figure this process was the beginnings of my hours spent in character creation with current games that allow me to change far more than just names.
Did you kill all the weapons? Get all the Enemy Skills? Level up all the materia? Get that gold chocobo? Get all the Limit Breaks? Buy the villa in Costa Del Sol?
Lindsey: Ha ha ha ha HA HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHA. You’re funny. No, I didn’t. One thing FFVII did teach me—I effing hate grinding.
Carly: How do people even find the time to do all of that?
Wendy: I spent a ridiculous amount of time running around in circles in the forests in order to level up and get all the limit breaks. I raced chocobos until I got that precious gold one so I could get the Knights of the Round materia. I got all the enemy skills. But I never beat the weapons. Skilling up is one thing. Great big challenging battles that make me want to tear my hair out? No thanks. I did run up and poke the weapons and then run like hell, though. That, I am good at.
How do you feel about the subsequent Final Fantasy games and other material?
Jo: I love FFX, so come and fight me. But besides going back and playing the older ones, none of the Final Fantasy games have ever been as magical for me. Breathtaking, maybe. But there was something about the intersection of new graphics and childlike wonder that made that cut scene in Cosmo Canyon one of the most beautiful things I’d ever see. The other games were kind of whelming, max.
Lindsey: I like a lot of them, actually! I will admit that most of them I tried around the same time as FFVII and had to shelf because they were either too confusing in terms of gameplay or just didn’t appeal then. FFVIII’s Junction system turned me off when I was younger, but I got to grips with it later. It was like a guilty-pleasure soap opera! IX was one of those where the appeal wasn’t there, but playing it in the last few years as been more enjoyable. Liked X as well, especially the music. I even had XI on the PS2! I have a love-hate relationship with XI though. The game was fun, but so damn grindy. It was almost impossible to play solo without being super hardcore. After that, I stopped caring. XII held no allure, XIII was lackluster (to be kind), and XIV was a flop, but I do enjoy XIV Reborn. As for supplement material, I enjoyed Advent Children, and Crisis Core tugs my heartstrings something fierce.
Carly: I’ve played FFX, FFX-2, a part of FFXII, and FFXIII. I fell asleep sometimes while playing X because of the incessant grinding, but it was still a really solid game and its story felt somewhat similar to another JRPG I had played at the time called Tales of Symphonia. I ended up liking Yuna and Rikku, but otherwise I didn’t care much for the cast. Good thing Yuna and Rikku were in FFX-2! I know that game got a bad rap from lots of people—mostly men, though, hmmmm … But I thought it was so much fun and energetic, and I liked the dressphere! This was also around the time I was getting into cosplay, and I noticed people were really into many of the outfits from the game. I don’t really have anything to say about XII because it bored me, but I did like XIII. I didn’t love it, but I really liked most of the characters. There were some really tough boss fights that made me want to break the game disc, though.
Wendy: I hadn’t played any FF games before that, but I had to play them all after. I loved Tactics and love that my daughter is playing Tactics Advance on the Gameboy right now (though Advance isn’t as good). I have a Lulu statue on my shelf from FFX, the game which also features my favorite incarnation of Shiva. FFXII let me down, and I would love it if Lightning would just go away, but FFXI will always be my beloved. It was my first MMO. I was nervous about playing an MMO, because I’d heard stories, but was excited about something in the Final Fantasy realm. I ended up playing that game for about a decade and making friends with some wonderful people who’ve recently tempted me to return.
Come on, that totally implausible Bahamut super jump scene in Advent Children was awesome, right?
Jo: 😐 A friend of mine had forgotten that the movie existed entirely, and I said, “The super jump scene was the best part of Advent Children, by default, because the rest was entirely unmemorable.”
Lindsey: Aww, I liked Advent Children! That said, I watched a lot of it with subs and not the dub. The dub voices were okay, though why Crispin Freeman wasn’t the vampire Vincent, I won’t understand. I mean, c’mon—that part should have cast itself. The one thing I didn’t like was the dub script. It might have been because I had an earlier sub version, but the dub’s script was just … ugh, what even is “Dilly dally shilly shally” really?! C’mon! So stupid! The sub I had watched translated it to “Dragging along, dragging along,” to which Cloud later said, “I guess I dragged it so long it wore out,” which makes sense in the context. But how does, “I feel lighter. Maybe I lost some weight. All that dilly-dallying” work?! WHAT EVEN IS THAT ASDFGJGJD— (Also, I kinda thought the Bahamut jump scene was the cheesiest part of the movie … Now the Kadaj/Cloud fight to the J-E-N-O-V-A music … Mmmm.)
Carly: Awww, I remember watching Advent Children in my high school anime club! I think the consensus was that it was pretty, but lacked substance.
Wendy: I don’t remember anything about that movie except that scene. It made my heart burst to see them all together again being awesome, even if Cloud is still a pouty, whiny face. Friendship really is magic.
So, this remake business. What does it mean to you?
Jo: I think we saw from the Ghostbusters folderol this year that it’s easy to get upset over what you imagine to be a precious childhood memory. But your actual childhood will always be insulated by time. Yes, it’s tragic that kids these days really like the frenetic and useless Star Wars: Episode I, because A New Hope isn’t entirely generated by computers. To an extent, that’s how I feel about the FFVI remake: they can make it prettier, but to me, Square hasn’t managed to create magical feelings for a long, long time. I’ll play it, sure. I’ll let them try. But I’m pessimistic that this is going to be my Golden Saucer Ferris wheel date. A new generation of gamers can fall in love with it.
[pullquote]It’s probably against the Grumpy-Old-Man Gamer Code to say that I’m looking forward to this without much trepidation, but I am.[/pullquote]Lindsey: It’s probably against the Grumpy-Old-Man Gamer Code to say that I’m looking forward to this without much trepidation, but I am. While I absolutely love the game, there were a lot of things in it that just haven’t aged well or were even lacking at the time, such as inescapable restart-your-game dead-ends. You can have hard games or grindy games, but you shouldn’t have irredeemable stuck points, and FFVII had plenty of them, like the Temple of the Ancients and Wutai. I also think playing Crisis Core made me more open to an HD version. Midgar just seems to beg to be in HD and explorable. Some people will, undoubtedly, be disappointed. They’ve already announced that some things will change to get the game updated and fresh (though cross-dressing Cloud has been confirmed as still in, whoo!), but I’m remaining optimistic for once.
Carly: Because this was far from my first JRPG, and because I don’t love the Final Fantasy series, I don’t have any nostalgia for FFVII. I’m more interested in hearing the redone music! I’ve heard some orchestras play “One-Winged Angel,” and it was so intense. I can’t wait to hear it more! E3 this year was a huge nostalgia-fest, and while I don’t think that’s inherently bad, I think it’s more important to focus on what’s ahead rather than constantly looking back. There are some adults who would love to show their kids Final Fantasy VII, and I’m going to be so amused if they play it and don’t end up liking it, crushing their parents in the process! When I played FFVII in 2007, it felt dated to me—not horribly so, but enough to get some giggles out of me. Like with any remake, I’m sure some people will love it and others will hate it. If the game ends up being true to what it was in 1997, while also bringing it up to speed and changing the annoying parts of the game, I’d consider that a successful remake.
Wendy: Yes, the music! My husband took me to a Distant Worlds concert for my birthday a few years ago. The music was and is still stunning, and I still hum “One-Winged Angel” and the chocobo theme from time to time. I am definitely looking forward to hearing the updated music and seeing the updated visuals. As much as I am enjoying the nostalgia of replaying FFVII, I would really like to see what they do with a new version. I’m curious to see just how true to the original they will make it. All I ask is that they add an autosave option.
So there you have it. Final Fantasy VII meant a lot to many of us at different times in our lives, and the remake makes us tentatively excited to revisit a game that influenced a lot of our gaming careers. Are you a fan of FFVII? How do you feel about the original game and the remake?