One thing is clear from the start: Final Fantasy VII doesn’t mess around.
The game throws you right into the action. There isn’t a lengthy prologue intro like some other games (*cough* Zelda *cough*). Our hero, Cloud, jumps off a train and starts fights with Shinra guards. Bam. Let’s go.
It reminds of a story telling technique: “Start the story as late as possible,” also known as in medias res. We don’t need to see Cloud meeting Barret and talking about the plan, nor do we need to see them boarding the train in the first place.
Dropping the player into a fast-paced action scene first thing in the game is a great way to lure them in—what do I do? Where am I going? What will happen next?
Look at the opening of the film The Dark Knight as a comparison.
It starts with the bank robbers breaking into the bank, not with them planning it out or preparing. It sets the tone and allows for character development via their actions within the intense scene (in this case, the Joker’s cunning and ruthlessness).
What do we learn in the opening minutes of Final Fantasy VII?
- Barret has no problem blowing up a huge reactor in the middle of a crowded city.
- Cloud is an elite fighter for hire who could care less about Barret’s political and environmental beliefs.
- Barret’s dedication to his cause results in the ends justify the bloody means.
- Cloud has no qualms against selling his services to such a man.
And in 1997 they had no problem using the word “terrorist” in the game. And that’s what Barret is—an eco-terrorist. He’s blowing up mako reactors (which lead to death of innocents) to send a message to Shinra.
What I also liked is that there wasn’t a twenty-minute tutorial on how to play the game before you got to even play. This is something I’ve noticed more and more in recent games—they show you how to play before you can do anything. C’mon—I just wanna play.
I decided to keep all of my character names at their defaults, but my follow FFVII blogger Andrew over at The Idler has a great set of naming rules.
The level design of this game still blows me away, and now that I’m older I get some of the visual references. I see a lot of influence from the 1927 film Metropolis in the layout of Midgar, namely the “rich” city above ground with the slums below (as well as the city relying on dangerous machines for power).
Man, I love that I can just hold down the OK button to auto-select FIGHT in battles. It speeds things up, considerably.
On Level Building
I’m the kind of player who will spend a day or so getting into random encounters to level up early in a RPG (aka “level grinding.”). Sure, boredom sets in—but the work up front saves me a few headaches later on when I can beat baddies with ease. Plus, it helps pad the wallet and level up materia faster.
Back Story Time
After the reactor explosion, Barret wants to blow up a second. This guy is nuts. But, he is also a devoted father, which we learn post-explosion back in the slums. He’s one complex dude.
We also meet the first part of Cloud’s eventual love triangle, Tifa.
Oh, Tifa. A fighter woman with uh…”huge tracks of land.” What more could a sixteen year-old boy hope for in a video game in the 1990s?
Before heading out for the second terrorist attack, I did a bit of level building in the train grave yard. I also earned enough gil to equip each of my characters (Cloud, Barret and Tifa) with Restore materia. I’ve played way more Final Fantasy games since I last played VII, so I know that being able to heal is a good thing.
The Third Side
After the second reactor explosion, we meet the rest of the love triangle, Aeris. Two woman fighting over Cloud? This was like crack to a sixteen year old boy, I tell ya. Years later, it still makes for great story telling.
I forgot how much I loved the music for this game too.
Starting with the next post, I’ll try to list my location, Cloud’s level and the time.
I originally wrote this series in 2010 for my other site, Ginger and the Geek, as well as guest writer for The Idler. It appears here as a back-up with some minor edits.