The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Final Fantasy VII is still worth experiencing almost 30 years later

I’m sure the remake is worth it, but the legacy had to start somewhere
Cloud Strife from 1997 and 2024. Look at that Buster Sword! (Photo from Square Enix)

Final Fantasy VII may be one of the most poorly named video games in history.

First off, there’s nothing “final” about it. It’s numbered as the seventh in the series right there in the title. Speaking of, it may be the seventh Final Fantasy game but it’s essentially its own franchise. Its world is entirely self-contained from separate entries.

Despite my scathing indictment of its silly name, Final Fantasy VII became one of the most iconic video games of all time for a reason. It could’ve been named “Edgy Blonde Guy and the Eco-Terrorists” and would likely still be the behemoth that it is.

As a side note, I will simply refer to the game as “Seven” or “VII” for brevity’s sake from here on.

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Seven’s 1997 release changed everything for video games. The developer, Square (now Square Enix) told the world that video games were another art form, just as valid as movies and books in their ability to tell a story and send a message, if not more so.

The impact of the game has been well noted and documented, though, so I’m not super interested in touching on the cultural effects that VII had. There are plenty of blog articles, YouTube videos and so on discussing the waves still felt by this one piece of media. 

People with little to no knowledge of video games may know a thing or two about VII. Characters like Cloud, Tifa, Aerith (or Aeris) and Sephiroth are all recognizable. I knew about the scene at the end of disk one before I even knew Cloud’s name (if you know, you know). 

This admittedly causes a problem for people wanting to experience Seven, especially those already in gaming communities. Due to its fame, people will probably know some, if not all, of the plot points before even beginning the game. 

It is on “I am your father” levels of infamous spoilers. I won’t go into them here (mostly because I think jokes about one scene in particular are overdone), but it’s nigh impossible to play the game blind.

And yet, here I am, recommending people pick it up anyway. Square Enix is working on a large-scale remake whose second part just came out to rave reviews, and I’m telling people to revisit the ‘97 start. 

In all fairness, the remake is practically a different game. It has the same characters and world, but a lot of changes have been applied that make it feel distinct in its own right.

Seven follows Cloud Strife, a brooding blonde anime boy with a giant sword (not a euphemism), teaming up with eco-terrorist AVALANCHE as a mercenary. They fight the Shinra Electric Company with the goal of saving the Planet (called “Gaea” or “The Planet”).

The game rides the line between messages of “you only get one planet that you must protect” and “if you dig a big enough hole in the ground, you’ll get superpowers.”

That’s all I’m saying about the story. If you want to know more, check out this inappropriate song about the game’s simple and easy-to-follow plot. Spoilers.

Gameplay wise, VII uses Active Time Battle (ATB) during combat. Instead of simply selecting from the menu, each character has a gauge that will fill over time. When the gauge is full, then the player may select the character’s action.

Time doesn’t stop in the menu, though, encouraging concise decision-making to allow an ally to act and move before the enemy can. 

There’s also a dynamic magic system. With the Materia items, one can essentially put any spell on whomever they want. Do you want to make Cloud a healer, forever unable to use his flashy sword? Nothing stops you.

All of this is well and good, but the moment-to-moment writing is what really sets this game apart from the rest. Seven constantly ping-pongs between being serious and silly. 

Early in the game, Cloud believes that his childhood friend, the famous Italian Senator Tifa Lockhart, has been kidnapped by known sex trafficker Don Corneo. So, what does Cloud do? Bust down the door? Sneak in through the back? No, none of that.

He dresses up like a woman to gain admittance to Corneo’s manner. If a player goes to all the lengths they need to make Cloud as pretty as possible, he will even get some one-on-one time with the Don. 

You have to catch and ride a giant bird to avoid a monster in a swamp. You can spend all your time gambling on races or fighting in an arena. If you play your cards right, you can even go on a date with Barrett (who is decidedly not one of Cloud’s potential love interests).

While Sephiroth may be the main villain of Seven, my two largest foes in these articles are the Oxford comma and the evil word count. I feel like I talked more about the history of the game than why it’s worth playing today, but so be it. 

Final Fantasy VII is a masterpiece. Its world has been expanded, retconned and retold through video games, movies, books, comics and so on. Even if the plot has been rehashed plenty over the years, any fan of video games owes it to themself to give this one a fair chance.

Tolbert can be contacted at [email protected]. Tell him your favorite Final Fantasy game.

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