The Big Final Fantasy VII post – part 2

Let’s just jump right in and continue where I left off last post. This time we will focus more on the story and presentational aspects of the game. I’m going to stop using Chrono Trigger as a point of comparison, because I don’t feel the need to compare the two in this way. That being said, Chrono Trigger has an excellent story that is much less ambitious in scope and makes far more sense all around. This post contains spoilers as earth shattering as Meteor.

Starting with the positives, the game does have some pretty great music. I can’t help but enjoy One Winged Angel every time I hear it. Also, the game did have the balls to kill off a major character. Sure, Chrono Trigger beat them to that punch, but FFVII made it a permanent plot point.

On to the negatives then? Here we go.

The translation is abominable. This is another one that even fans have to admit to. It’s shaky in some places, and just awful in others. The last boss is called “Safer Sephiroth”. What does that even mean? Maybe it’s that I’m an English student, but it’s more than just the occasional awkward sentence and strange word choice. The absolute killer in this one is the typo DURING Aeris’ death scene. The only thing that could take you out of the moment more than that would be Dan Forden popping up in the corner and going “Toasty!”.

Some parts of the plot are just plain badly written. Listen to me before you go crazy. Cloud gets the Black Materia, and Sephiroth’s power causes him to give it up. This is a pretty important moment, plot wise… I mean, the hero has just given the power to destroy the earth to the villain. I was totally mystified when later in the game after a boss fight I got the Black Materia again, but then gave it up to Sephiroth a SECOND time. What kind of writing is that? There’s no reason for that to happen two times! That’s like Boromir betraying the fellowship twice! Or blowing up the death star tw- oh wait…

The game often does a bad job of marrying plot points to gameplay. Here I’m thinking mostly of the quests in Disc 2 where you need to get the “Huge Materia”. You have to go through it all, but getting all of them is still optional for some reason. In the end, these are hardly used in the actual story… and they raise more questions than anything else. Isn’t Shinra’s plan to destroy Meteor with the Huge Materia essentially the same plan that Cloud and company uses? Shouldn’t they be teaming up with Shinra at this point? They have a common enemy… and they even have a guy on the inside that can talk to them! The whole huge materia diversion is typical RPG magic rock collecting stuff… and it’d be fine in any other game, but if we’re going to be holding up this game as the pinnacle of storytelling in this medium, we can’t overlook stuff like this.

The character development is there, but it is completely jammed in. Most of the supporting characters are given one and exactly one flashback sequence that explains their story, usually presented just moments before it is resolved. For example, we hear Barret’s backstory involving Dyne minutes before their confrontation. I was rolling my eyes when Red XIII suddenly mentioned his father being cowardly, because I knew that this was going to be neatly wrapped up in the next half hour. This isn’t character development… they don’t develop. For the most part, the characters state their background, confront it, and then continue on with the group.

The character motivations are often questionable. I’m not one of those people who needs to constantly do a mental check to make sure each action that a character takes is completely motivated and believable, but the plot in FF7 pushes this a little hard. Cait Sith is a pretty good example… there’s little to no reason for “him” to have a change of heart and help the party out. A really good example is why Aeris didn’t tell anyone what she was up to when she went off alone to pray and cast Holy. You can throw whatever “I need to do it alone” shit in there you want, but at least tell your friends what your plan is! She just traipses off without telling anyone that she can single handedly save the planet? Really!?

Sephiroth really isn’t all that cool as a villain. Granted, he looks awesome…. and that sword is badass. All the flying around is kind of silly. He has some interesting lines in the middle of the game, but is left with nothing to say at the end. Not in a cool “I shall never speak word” kind of way either. I don’t think he transcends the “evil warlord on a quest for power” type. He also raises all kinds of questions with regard to plot convenience. If he can fly around and appear wherever he wants, can’t he murder the whole party while they sleep? (except maybe Cloud, if he doesn’t feel like it or whatever). He kills off Aeris because she is a threat to his plan, why doesn’t he kill off them too? Or kill off some of those high ranking Shinra guys who are firing cannons at him maybe…Or at least Hojo! Certainly he’s pissed at Hojo…

This game features some of the worst expository dialog ever written.

I was going to paraphrase this and goof on it… but no, a direct quotation is so much better:

“Wow you used to be in SOLDIER all right!… not every day you find one in a group like AVALANCHE.”

“SOLDIER? Aren’t they the enemy? What’s he doing with us here in AVALANCHE?”

“Hold it Jessie, he WAS in SOLDIER. He quit them and now is one of us.”

… Eew.

Okay, some of this might seem petty and nitpicky. However, if you are really going to say that this game has the best story and best presentation out of any game ever, you’re opening yourself up to nitpicks. I didn’t even delve into the many complete grey areas of the plot, such as Tifa’s memories of Cloud and why she doesn’t tell him about them, or how the hell Red XIII babies at the end if he’s the last of his species.

I don’t know why people applaud the writing of this game. I think it’s purely the nostalgia factor. They were probably spirited away by this game when they were kids. I’m sure more than one gamer saw a little bit of themselves when the real story behind Cloud was revealed and he freaks out (I’d be sad too if I found out I based my pretty blonde existence on some dark haired dude).

Fans, I urge you to look at this game once more and ask yourself if it holds up.

Thanks for reading if you stuck through all this ! 🙂


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June 2009
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