Retro recollections: Can I replay Final Fantasy VII?

Final Fantasy VII is a classic. But should I revisit it after so many years, or should I leave it in a warm nostalgic retrogaming glow?

It’s very safe to say that, back in 1997 when Final Fantasy VII hit store shelves, I was besotted.

Absolutely transfixed by what Square had done not just with visuals, but with narrative, music, even gameplay styles. Final Fantasy VII was pretty much all that I played for the next year, and while I didn’t quite rinse it in the way that some folks did, I well and truly got my value out of my copy.

Twenty years later, I still have that copy.

It has been lurking on my game shelves ever since, and while I’ve tried every once in a while to play it, I’ve always faltered, largely for time reasons. Final Fantasy VII isn’t exactly a title that you can casually play for five minutes and then go and prepare dinner. It wants and demands time.

Time that, by and large, I have not had.

So here’s what I’m planning to do. At least once a week, for at least an hour, I’m going to play Final Fantasy VII. That should be long enough for me to get to a proper save point and keep going, but not so long that I feel overwhelmed. We’re only just into 2017 (give or take) and my plan it to finish it by 2018. I’m giving myself the year, because even now, I know of a couple of weeks where playing any Final Fantasy VII is going to be completely impossible. Such is life. Then again, that’s kind of the point, because 20 years ago I had a lot more disposable time, and this was how I chose to spend it. Will I make the same time-buying choices again?

Barret is secretly a HUGE Billy Joel fan. Other special moves (in the original Japanese) include "Pressure", "Just The Way You Are" and "It's Still Rock 'N Roll To Me", but the censors would not allow Square to animate "The Downeaster Alexa".

Barret is secretly a HUGE Billy Joel fan. Other special moves (in the original Japanese) include “Pressure”, “Just The Way You Are” and “It’s Still Rock ‘N Roll To Me”, but the censors would not allow Square to animate “The Downeaster Alexa”.

I’ll also document the process, not so much as a way of review or reflection, but just to see how I find it, and whether the rose tinted glasses that mix both nostalgia with what was also obsession still work after all these years. Which means, amongst other things, that spoilers are inevitable. Frankly, if you’ve never played Final Fantasy VII before, you absolutely should do so without delay. It’s OK. This article will still be here when you’re done, some time from now.

If it wasn’t obvious, I’m also being somewhat lazy. I can’t quite be having with capture devices right now (my attitude may change in the future and if anyone has suggestions, fling ’em my way), so I’ve gone for the poor man’s screenshot, and simply photographed my action. Learn to love it, folks.

With all that said, here we go.

Final Fantasy VII: Chapter One: In the beginning

When a strange man WITH A GUN FOR AN ARM says to follow him, YOU SAY YES SIR.

When a strange man WITH A GUN FOR AN ARM says to follow him, YOU SAY YES SIR.

That music… it’s still so very good. I’ve been typing the above intro just while the opening crawl and credits roll, and it’s lovely and atmospheric and evocative, even now.

Oh yeah. Load times. These are going to very much be a thing, aren’t they. Still, the stars are swirling, which means that it’s time to start playing.

Wait there. I’ll be right back.

Wow. That hour passed like it was a minute, and it was the 90s, and I had hair and a fully working spine and lots of time on my hands again. Still, it’s interesting to play the first hour again, for all sorts of reasons.

The apostrophe abuse. IT HURTS! MAKE IT STOP!!!

The apostrophe abuse.
IT HURTS!
MAKE IT STOP!!!

Final Fantasy VII absolutely assumes that you’re already au fait with standard RPG conventions such as turns and tactics, because there’s very little hand-holding beyond the Materia tutorial to speak of.

The music is still awesome. Just to throw up a single example, it does a superb job of keeping you on your toes while fleeing the reactor. Really, there’s plenty of time, but you never think that there is because the music is just so frantic.


Reactor-thingy-go-boom. Cloud can get paid now. It’s all about the Gil.

Visually… yeah, those polygons have not dated well, and, like a lot of early 3D graphics there’s not quite as much charm as there is with pixels. But the art direction, and, subtly, the use of camera angles informs the story very well indeed.

Probably just a minor side character. You know. Nobody important to the plot or anything.

Probably just a minor side character. You know. Nobody important to the plot or anything.

One solid sign of the times: Imagine pitching a game in 2017 where you explicitly play as the terrorists. Sure, Shinra isn’t exactly composed of good guys either, but still…

Random wacky thought: My copy of Final Fantasy VII, which is the Australian PAL version, is rated G8+, with a warning for Low Level Animated Violence and Low Level Coarse Language.

Terrible Pokemon joke goes here.

Cloud is going to have to catch an awful lot of Snorlaxes if he hopes to battle Sephiroth.

Something tells me the censors didn’t quite see all the content and context of this game, hmm?

Final thought: The top secret lair… is underneath a pinball table. very cool.

Next time: Final Fantasy VII: The adventure continues. Or does it?

Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

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