Retro recollections: Final Fantasy VII: The Adventure Continues (for now)

Once more back to Midgar, to see if the magic is still there in the second week of my 20 year anniversary playthrough of Square’s classic Final Fantasy VII.

My second week of playing through Final Fantasy VII continues, which means it’s time to load it up once again.

If you’re confused at all, the first week is here, but the basic idea is that I’m going to make my way through Final Fantasy VII, often lauded as the classic PSOne RPG.

It’s been 20 years since I last did this, but does it still stack up as a classic — and will I keep playing all the way through?

As a reminder, I’m being lazy and screenshots are literally screen shots, taken from the hip while playing. You want a Let’s Play, there’s bound to be plenty on the YouTubes.

Also, because I’m playing through the game and taking notes as I go, spoilers abound.

Final Fantasy VII: Hour Two: One step in a chain (Mako) reaction

It’s once again off to blow up a reactor, because in the late 90s you could still have games about blowing up large structures without it seeming somewhat insensitive or politically unsound. Hey, we’re the good guys here, you know?

Given the shape of the save points, I half-expect Batman to turn up and solve their riddles.

First up, a Materia tutorial, which means magic comes into play properly. I wonder how many players went with the stereotypes, and gave Barret the attack Materia and Tifa the Restore one? I always tended to swap them around quite a lot, for whatever that’s worth.

Final Fantasy VII: Suicide is painless?

So in order to get to the reactor, it’s time to head to a train. I stop to talk to the folks at the railway station, including two characters chatting near a lamppost. They declare they’ve “had it”… and then commit suicide!

Seriously, all I did was talk to them! Brief interaction with Cloud is more of a downer than an evening date with Arnold Rimmer!

As a reminder, this game was rated G+, and I’m starting to wonder if the censors even looked at the same game I’m playing. That’s quite dark for a game that does have large, blocky cartoon visuals most of the time.

The train journey doesn’t involve much “game”, but it does do a nice job of cementing the reality of the world that I’m in. In other words, it’s a boring train journey on its own merits, but it further enhances the way that the characters have been drawn, which has so far largely been with big broad brush strokes.

FF7: Downside: Barret really is a certain kind of stereotype, and in no way a subtle one. Upside: He's one of the few characters who actually has a nose. (how do the others smell? TERRIBLE!)

Downside: Barret really is a certain kind of stereotype, and in no way a subtle one.
Upside: He’s one of the few characters who actually has a nose.
(how do the others smell? TERRIBLE!)

Again, the onscreen timer intrudes on the dull journey, this time to ensure I run to the end of the train. I’ve never deliberately failed this, and while I’m kind of tempted to see what happens, instead I just head in the way the game wants me to.

It’s then time to run around the reactor searching for the way in.

One nice visual trick that reduces the annoyance you might feel at the blocky polygons is the way that the backdrops appear drawn from completely different distances.

It gives Final Fantasy VII a nice sense of cinematic style, but it also means that you look closely at each section, if only to work out where you’re going. The end effect is that you’re drawn more closely into the game world. Clever stuff!

A few random battles along the way, but nothing much to worry about, even when I’m ambushed and attacked from the rear.

Only Tifa has noticed that the party is being attacked from behind. Remind me again why she’s not in charge?

Enemies do huge attacks for tiny amounts of damage. I swear at one point a guard fired an attack that looked like Tifa was hit by a nuke. 27 points of damage was all that it did, and sure, she’s only got 311 right now so it’s a solid percentage, but still…

There’s also a very small tap-at-the-same-time minigame. It’s not fun, and it hasn’t aged well. I have fond memories of differing play styles from my original run through. Is this a sign of things to come?
Getting to the reactor leads to my first flashback! Or is it a flash forward? It’s so hard to tell where Cloud is involved, and where my memory of what happens specifically later in the game is so, well, cloudy.

I'm getting a solid Fast Show vibe out of President Shinra here. 'Int Sephiroth BRILLIANT?

I’m getting a solid Fast Show vibe out of President Shinra here.
‘Int Sephiroth BRILLIANT?

Broad plot strokes build intrigue, and Sephiroth gets namedropped again. But like the best horror flicks (or Godzilla movies) less is more, so he’s not going to enter the story just yet. Instead we get President Shinra, about as evil a stereotype as one could possibly wish (or indeed vote) for.

MAKE MIDGAR GREAT AGAIN!

Ahem, as Ben Elton would say, a little bit of politics there. But this kind of stuff could never happen in the real world, right?

FF7: Operation! Great, I'll get the tweezers and... Oh. Not that Operation.

Operation! Great, I’ll get the tweezers and…
Oh. Not that Operation.

Then onto a boss battle, with the AirBuster. Which now sounds like something the Mythbusters would have dreamed up, but back then was probably pretty threatening.

Actually he is, and I have to mix up my attacks, healing and magic in order to take him down.

FF7: AirBuster blows up, Cloud falls down. Barret... just leaves me to my fate. Who's the cruel heartless one now?

AirBuster blows up, Cloud falls down. Barret… just leaves me to my fate. Who’s the heartless one now?

Final Fantasy VII: Hey, you, get offa my Cloud

You okay? Oh, I dunno. I just fell HUNDREDS OF METRES OFF A MAKO REACTOR TOWER ONTO SOME FLOWERS!!! Actually, yeah, I'm quite fine. Surprising, that.

You okay?
Oh, I dunno. I just fell HUNDREDS OF METRES OFF A MAKO REACTOR TOWER ONTO SOME FLOWERS!!!
Actually, yeah, I’m quite fine. Surprising, that.

And thus, Aeris, enters the tale. And it’s only now that I remember that back in the day, I renamed every single character. I can’t recall most of the names chosen, but this time around I’m going with the “official” names.

Aeris offers herself as a date to pay for Cloud’s protection. Again, I’ll remind folks: G8+ rating. Write your own jokes.

Then we must escape from the threatening guards. That Aeris can (one on one) take down with relative ease.

In the eternal battle between highly trained paramilitary forces and flower retailers, flower retailers ALWAYS prevail. Makes perfect sense to me.

In the eternal battle between highly trained paramilitary forces and flower retailers, flower retailers ALWAYS prevail. Makes perfect sense to me.

Hang on, what did she need my protection for, precisely?

Next time: Chapter Three: Flowers (or is it Icehouse?)

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

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