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Final Fantasy VII: Discovering the Magic of the JRPG

Final Fantasy VII: Discovering the Magic of the JRPG

As gamers, we all share a common, shameful secret. A miserable pile of secret games that taunt us with their mere existence, snigger at our lack of free-time, and pile up like it's nobody’s business. Even though we have new games coming out left right and center, as someone born in 1997, there are many games from before our time that we haven't experienced as well, with even the ultimate excuse of not actually existing yet barely being acceptable in the round-table senate of the nerds.

The list is too long to admit openly, but one genre of game, indeed one in particular is the topic of conversation this week: SquareSoft’s (now Square Enix) classic 1997 JRPG Final Fantasy VII. The sprawling, cyberpunk epic JRPG is the perfect example of a ‘backlog’ game; a game that you know is great, a game that you’ve known about since you were capable of turning on the PlayStation, a ‘classic’, a ‘what the hell is wrong with you, you freak’, sort of JRPG.

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So, it's safe to say that I’ve been meaning to play the title for a long time now, having been sitting on my Steam pile for the past four or five years, barely played, barely delved into, neglected, scared and starving. It and countless other JRPGs for some reason, are the only kinds of games where I'll play for about three or four hours, love it, get engrossed in the complex storylines and wrongfully-maligned turn-based combat, but never come back, never see to the end of the 50+ hour-mark. Perhaps it's the subconsciously spooky run-time of the games, perhaps it's the rude nature of a random encounter, I don't know what it is, but too many JRPGs have been neglected by me, so I decided it was time.

I couldn't have chosen a better game for it; with the remake barely a month away, it gave me even more of an incentive to complete it, incentive which wasn't necessary in the first place as I soon discovered.

From the word go, the game has a mysterious hold on you; it starts like all good things do, with a shot from outer-space. The purposefully quiet music barely fades in with a whisper, as the stars peacefully revolve around a pitch-black night sky, inviting us into a world of magic, pure magic. As the music swells, we have our first taste of the world: Midgar, the now legendary, polluted city which has become synonymous with the imagery in one’s mind when looking back at the classic game, and for good reason too. There is an ultimate sense of foreboding and mystery; there is the immediate sense of grand scale when looking at the Mako Reactor right in the centre, but upon further inspection we see miles and miles of secret alleyways, seedy, neon-lit bars and unswept cobblestone that feels both at home yet at odds with this ugly, metallic goliath in the middle.


This seems to be the theme of the game: the corruption of the government on the people below it, the impact of greed on nature and the poor-attempt at concealing the gap between the rich and poor.

You might be thinking, this is pretty weighty stuff for a turn-based videogame from the nineties, but if this game’s plot is anything, it isn't simple. It is to me, one of the crowning achievements of the game, in how it keeps throwing new nouns at you, trying to throw you off-balance, but the game’s world is so infectious, the characters so lovable, that it demands your attention and your always dying to see what happens next (no spoilers intended).

I am of the opinion that the start of a game is its most important section; it's the same as a movie, or even a song, if it doesn't introduce itself perfectly, you aren't gonna stick around for its final chord. The start of this game is absolutely perfect.

We discussed the music at the start of the opening cutscene, with its quiet yet intriguing tone, which builds slowly and exactly (thanks to now veteran composer Nobuo Uematsu) into something completely and unapologetically jamming. As that Midi-Rock bass kicks into high gear, we see two badass members of good-guy terrorist organisation AVALANCHE flip off a train and beat up two guards, with their bulky leader Barret hopping off too, shouting at you, ‘come on newcomer, follow me!’.

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It's funny that even with its polygonal graphics and downright hilarious 90s translation (apparently done by ONE PERSON), the game still manages to hook you, to make you believe in this world, and its testament to just how good the game is. There's a moment later on in the game where a certain character does something unexpected, and it literally had me shouting at the cheeky bastard on the screen in disbelief!

Whether it's rageful shouting or shameful-crying, it's the music that elicits every emotion; the soundtrack is absolutely stunning and if you’re having second thoughts about playing the title, go and listen to the main theme of the game. It’s nothing short of beautiful, and it's the type of soundtrack that doesn't overshadow the quality of the game, it makes it something more, something that tugs on the heartstrings whenever you hear it.

It’s things like this which make the global response to the FF7 Remake completely understandable, having now played the original game. I feel almost bad that I’m currently loving and playing the game non-stop, having to only wait one measly month for its remake, while some fans have been waiting for 23 years! I am beyond glad that I did embark on this epic journey, and you may disagree, but I couldn't recommend enough playing the original before the remake. You can bet from what we’ve seen so far of the remake that you’re in safe hands, but to really experience it, to really appreciate it and to really and truly love it, you’ll just have to play the original.

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