I, back in 1997, was a much younger man than I am today. 25 years younger, to be precise, but even back then I had long been a fan of an RPG type game. I had spent some of my hard earned student grant money (remember that?) on a copy of A Link to the Past, and when I was finally gainfully employed, it was only a matter of time before I ended up with one of those new fangled Playstations. And boy was I glad I did get one, as I have very fond memories of gaming in those days. The original Resident Evil (and those bloody dogs jumping through the window), the original Tomb Raider, and last but not least the subject of this article, Final Fantasy VII, which came on not one, but four CDs!
What I hope to present to you here is a nice, leisurely stroll down memory lane, looking back at the times I had with the game, the battles and trials I went through to try and defeat Ruby Weapon, get a Gold Chocobo and so on. So come with me, back to when the world was all shiny and new with Final Fantasy VII.
Now, there have been countless articles before about Final Fantasy VII, about its story, the impact it had on the world of gaming, and so on. And there is no denying that it was a very important game, in the grand scheme of things. It is largely on the back of this game that RPGs became more popular in the West, as prior Square had seemed to think that the audiences over here weren’t ready for their games; games such as Parasite Eve, which despite being released after Final Fantasy VII, never got an official release here in the UK. Anyways, even today, Final Fantasy VII will appear every time on lists of top ten video games, for instance, and for a game that is 25 years old to still have that effect, it’s not a bad legacy is it?
The idea of these types of articles are more to focus on one person’s memories of the subject game, rather than to provide a blow by blow account of the story, and so I’ll touch lightly on the parts that stood out for me – both for the good and the bad.
I don’t know if I need to include a *SPOILER ALERT* for a game that is 25 years old, but I’m about to discuss something that happens, so look away now if you haven’t played it. First off, one of the most iconic moments in any game ever, I’m sure we can all agree: the death of Aerith/Aeris (depending on where you played the game). Seeing a presumed main character die at the climax of only disc one, seeing Sephiroth as the evil force he is, and hearing that piano music as her Materia bounces down the steps still affects me to this day. I can still remember the feeling of shock as Sephiroth descended from above, with the ridiculous sword. It still makes my jaw drop today.
However, it wasn’t all good news in the main story. The whole kind of section in the middle where Cloud is trying to find himself is just plain weird; I’m still as confused as I was the first time around, and time hasn’t been any kinder to it these days in my opinion. It just struck as a real killer of the pace of the game, if I’m being honest, and while it fleshed out Cloud’s back story a little, surely all Tifa had to say was “That wasn’t you, Cloud!” at the start to avoid it all?
Where Final Fantasy VII came alive for me though was in the optional things that you could do. Now, remember, this is pre-internet age, so any help to find secrets had to be sources from actual paper magazines, and when the steps in a lot of the missions were so complicated, the chances of figuring it out on your own seemed minimal. Take getting the Knights of the Round Materia – in order to do this, you needed a Gold Chocobo, that could basically run over any terrain. To get a Gold Chocobo, you had to play the breeding mini game and build your way up through a variety of different colours of chocobo, and have luck on your side, in order to finally get one.
Then, if you wanted to defeat the optional bosses, Ruby and Emerald Weapon, not only did you need the Mime Materia, you also needed the Underwater Materia in order to remove the timer for Emerald Weapon. Oh, and you needed to level each Materia up in order to master them and make copies; basically the whole thing, for me at least, became an obsession. I can’t tell you how many evenings I spent at home, just grinding out fights and watching chickens breeding in order to be competitive. Let’s say, by the time I got to Sephiroth at the end of the game, he was pretty much a formality, and went down without so much as a whimper – Quad cast linked to Knights of the Round, with the other members of the team using Mime meant the damage dealt in a single turn was absolutely insane.
I never did Ruby Weapon, however, mainly due to the annoying attack where he would knock a member of the team out of the arena – usually the one guy your strategy depended on, of course!
Obviously, the people lucky enough to get their hands on a Playstation of the modern generation can play the remake of Final Fantasy VII, but I am still happy sitting here, with my Xbox Series X, playing the original. It still stands up today, and the side story (a none too subtle one at that) about environmental damage still stands up as well. It is still a surprisingly good game, and doing the various quests to recruit all the side characters is still a lot of fun. Well, apart from Yuffiw stealing all the Materia, but I’ll forgive her.
But what about you guys on the other side of the screen? Did you play Final Fantasy VII back in the day, via one of the many re-releases or in the new modern remake? How long did it take you to get a Gold Chocobo? Did you beat Ruby Weapon? Let us know in the comments!
You’ll find a copy of Final Fantasy VII for Xbox over at the Xbox Store.