Video Game Thoughts: Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII was a 1997 Japanese role-playing game by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) for the Sony PlayStation. Most kids didn’t have the money (or their parent’s money) to buy every video game console. They had to settle with just one company. In my circle of friends, I was the Nintendo guy. I always tried to get the best Nintendo games to show off to them. Because a couple of my best friends were into the PlayStation, I was lucky enough to experience the best games there too. I usually didn’t get to play them all that much though. Usually, they showed me the best parts of their games, but I never got to see them from start to finish.

One game I got to see a lot of was Final Fantasy VII. It took the video game world by storm when it released because it was so high-tech compared to all the other games out at the time. Not everyone liked the “anime” style characters, but it was full of detailed cinematics that blended seamlessly into gameplay. The technology behind this game was really cool. The gameplay itself was also good. It probably wasn’t the best Final Fantasy game, but it was one of the better ones. It was the game that brought the Final Fantasy series to mainstream gamers.

My enjoyment of games has always been based on how much time I get to play. In the case of Final Fantasy VII, I never got to play it that much. It was such a long game, and single player too, that no one wanted to play it during parties. I never got to really dig into the game and see what it was about. Because of that, I mentally kept my distance. This wasn’t a conscious thing. My mind did this because it knew I didn’t have this game. There was no use getting all excited about it if I didn’t have it at home to play for hours and explore every detail.

Years later, I heard Squaresoft had made a version of the game for PC. At the time when it came out, our old family computer wasn’t good enough, but my computer in college had more than enough power. The problem was the game never sold well on PC. Getting a copy of it would have been a huge effort and surely expensive. I wanted to be able to dig into this game, but not enough to try that hard. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to play Final Fantasy VII, but I accepted this and moved on.

Finally, last year after more than a decade, I happened to see that Square Enix had updated the old PC version for modern computers and released it on the Steam game platform. Final Fantasy VII was now within reach. I had a ton of fun playing it again. Because I had already seen many of the most impactful scenes in the game, the story offered no surprises, but I enjoyed exploring everything in detail. That is how I like to play games. I like to see it all. My interest dies if I can’t see it all.

My college years were when I first got to play Japanese role-playing games, when a few of them started coming out on Nintendo consoles. I never got to really play Final Fantasy though. That was the big gaming franchise in this genre. It was a blast to finally be able to experience what these games were all about. I found the story to be pretty good for an old game. The music was even better. It was mostly synthesized but still sounded really good. The battle system was a little basic compared to modern games, but I really loved the Materia system.

According to the game lore, materia was a hard, magical substance that was formed when internal energy in the planet hardened in caves over many years. I thought of it as similar to tree sap that turns into amber over many years. Materia was mostly unique having properties based on its location and how it was created. As far as gameplay, it was a fun, customizable magic system. Characters had a few unique special abilities called limit breaks, but the real fun came from mixing and matching materia setups. Some materia even modified how other materia worked, adding the possibility for powerful combos if configured right.

Besides the nostalgia of remembering this old game from my middle school years, Final Fantasy VII was a great introduction to the Final Fantasy series. It had all the basics of what made Final Fantasy great. I noticed that the Steam platform has quite a few more Final Fantasy games. I’m interested in playing some of these one day if I ever have the time, but I am more focused on other things these days.

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