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I'm playing through all of Final Fantasy, and everyone is invited (Playing FF VII now)

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Last time, Aerith was kidnapped, and sector 7 was destroyed.

To get on a tangent immeditately, why don't people remember the names of these sectors. As I understand it, president Shinra is the one who found out, how to use Mako as energy, right? That means, many of the older people have lived in the former cities before Midgar was a thing, and experienced them becoming unhealthy slums. Dunno, sometimes it feels longer than it was, since Midgar became a moloch.

Cloud remembers how Sephiroth talked about having the blood of the Ancients. it's another flashback that makes Cloud kneel.

When reaching Aerith mother, she tells us about how she found the girl (and tells us, that she isn't her real mother? I already forgot, when we learn that). The war against Wutai is shown as a pretty bad war, with soldiers just not coming back, and people at home desperately waiting for them. Like Elmyra, who thought her husband would come back, but whose holiday had been cancelled.

One day, she saw little Aerith and her dying mother at the train station. That woman asked her to take Aerith in. They had escaped from a research laboratory.

Like, I don't need to go into detail how disgusting this is. What I want to point out is the similarity to Terra, from FF VI. Both are children, at least partly descendant from a race that has power to offer, that the antagonist wants. Both were in captivity, in the hands of the empire.

VII very much has it's own identity, but the main plot is really just a reinterpretation of VI. But I guess I have already talked enough about that, I'll just point it out when relevant. It just still blows my mind, how I never realized the similarities here.

Also, I find it fascinating how the war is, again and again, mentioned. It's still clearly stuck in the minds of the people, how it probably would be, considering how many people seem to have died. I wonder, was it known to the people of Midgar, that the war was started by Shinra, a company, or did the mayor act like it was just two cities against each other? I mean, both is bad, but fighting for a company just sounds too disgusting.

Also, how do the regular people of Midgar view Shinra? Are they blinded by the energy they get? AVALANCHE is different, Barret is wholly behind his fight, and Aerith is special. But most people are just dealing with surviving here, as it seems, and as it would be sensible. Maybe the change came so slowly, that they didn't realize how bad it became, and now they just have other things on their mind? Or, like in the real world, people talk about how Shinra has become horrible, but aren't doing anything against it. Because they have other things on their mind, and wouldn't even know where to start.

We learn, that Aerith isn't really sad for the death of her mother, as she just returned to the planet. They are still connected. Later, Aerith tells Elmyra not to cry. She realized, before the letter came, that Elmyras husband has died.

It is pretty cool, that Aerith, who stands for all that is good and correct in this world (especially being connected to the planet, probably the Life Stream and just everything) is not the demure woman. No, is probably better at finding joy in this city than most other people. Which might be due to her being connected to the planet, and her mother. I imagine that would give you strength.

Often, a Turk would visit Aerith. We see Tseng, how he asks Aerith to come back with him, as Shinra wants her to help find a land of supreme happiness, to bring happiness to the people. Which, dunno, Aerith was a captive and saw her mother die, due to Shinra. She isn't stupid. But it seems, the Turks didn't want to hurt her, and couldn't take her by force.

Elmyra actually critizes Barret, for leaving Marlene alone. Which is sensible, he has a responsibility to his daughter. But he also couldn't help himself - he wanted to stop Shinra. Considering that he was sure that the planet would die, probably soon, that seems sensible. Dunno, I don't have a child, I don't want to judge here. But being sure that the planet will die, maybe pretty soon, is probably a strong motivator. I dunno, it's a ard situation, I can sympathize.

When deciding to go to Shinras HQ, we learn that there were trains that went up there. So, social mobility was probably a thing, ot at least Shinra tried to make it one. Was it clear, that the lower parts would become slums? I just wonder, did Shinra start out as a monster, or did he actually try to make Midgar into nice place for everyone? With the upper parts nicer, but the lower parts not as slums? Did he just give up, because it was more complicated than he thought?

Sounds a lot, like I would imagine tech companies to act, if they got to power. Try to make it nice for everyone, but never sacrificing the technology, only the life of the people.

We try to look for a way up at the Wall Market. There is a boy, who slept, when we first came here. We could have taken his money, but didn't. He is so happy to have his money, that he gives us an Ether. I really like little, uh, side-quests(?) like that.

Also interesting, we can get to the glass walls of the city. There is a door, but no way to open it. Stuff like that, not being able to leave your city, sounds like a nightmare, and pretty fitting for a dystopia. But it's not surprising that this isn't something that Shinra cares about. Why let people just leave, if not for business, or a war?

That said, why is there a wall? It's new, as the whole city is relatively new. Considering that other cities don't have any walls, it's not because of the roaming monsters. Midgar also doesn't need to fear any attacks, not anymore, and they brought the war to Wutai, as I undersand it.

So, is the wall just there to keep people inside? What's the point? It's so weird and horrifying.

In the Wall Market, we find the "golden, shiny wire of hope" (Barrets words), which we use to climb out of the slums. There are some "puzzles", where we can input three batteries, and we have to make a very hard to measure jump - I had to watch a Youtube video to understand when to jump. We even see one of the trains that ran from the lower to the upper parts. Just another thing that fell apart. Was there an attack? Or, which I think of more likely, was the material used so bad, that there was a horrible accident?

In any case, the whole climb is pretty cool, especially when we can see over the wall. And then, it goes up more and more. Reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk.

When finally at the top, we see a great shot of the giant HQ of Shinra. So much wealth to go around. The sky is clouded, as the ground outside the city is barren and liveless. No nature left here, just a hell of steel and stone.

As always, I decide to take the stairs. It's kind of amazing, with them going up for such an absurd amount of time. I love the dialogue between Tifa and Barret, how he complains again and again, and Tifa getting more and more annoyed. Funnily, at the end I felt like Barret, and groaned every time the screen transitioned, and I saw more stairs. It's just really funny.

Also, Barret takes the chance to apologize to Cloud. Kind of.

So, is the staircase still in the remake? I do hope so.

At floor 60, we are immediately attacked by some guards. After some damage, the armor is destroyed, and shows some clearly inhuman monsters. So, I guess these are experimented on people? With the promise of enhancing them? It reminds me of FF II, where our enemies, even the knights, probably weren't human, but at least grotesque versions that were posessed by demons from Hell.

This whole place is the first one that looks actually nice. Which is no surprise, of course. It still feels weird. I think every time we see such luxury, it's in a bad place, right? The message is clear - there is something wrong, when you are so far away from a simple life. Connected to that, these places also seem to be the highly elevated, physically far removed from the planet, losing connection to it.

I always liked the way the HQ was structured as a sort-of final dungeon. Every floor has something special, and, I think, most are also sensible as parts of a business place, at least as an idea.

On floor 61, we see some greenery. It's a nice place for waiting, when you are visiting the main guys.

On floor 62, we find a library, with information about Shinra. There is also the office of mayor Domino, who is angry at Shinra, for making him into a librarian, without any power. He mentions being tortured, but that's probably more not being in power. He helps us - giving us a keycard for the elevator, if we answer a question correct.

I wonder, was Domino a good mayor? I mean, most people would probably have taken the chance of having Shinras HQ in their city, no one could have predicted how awful they would become. But did he care, and Shinra was at one point just to powerful to stop, or is he just angry that he isn't the one who is in charge, and would just like to rule over people, nearly all-powerful, himself?

Floor 63 has a fun puzzle, where you can open three doors to get three coupons. I always enjoy that one.

Floor 64 is a gym, even with a restroom and a savepoint.

Floor 65 has a model of Midgar, with a very strange puzzle. You have to open one chest at a time (all but one are locked), and get one more part of the model. We put that in, and another chest opens. We do this, until the model is whole, except for one part (I assume it represents sector 7?).

On floor 66, there is the conference room. We listen in, by getting into the air ducts through the toilette. Reeve tells the president, that the costs of the explosion is 10 billion gil. He doesn't get to say the costs for repairing, Shinra cuts him off. Instead, they will restart the Neo-Midgar plans. Also, probably to pay for that, the Mako rates are supposed to increase by 15 %.

Palmer asks for money for his space program, but doesn't get any. What exactly is he doing here? The space program has been cancelled for a long time, is there some other stuff that he is responsible for?

Reeve warns everyone against increasing the rate. Yeah, he is clearly the only one with a conscience here. But he is ignored.

At this point, Hojo comes in. Here he finally is, a new, more extended interpretation of Dr. Lugae from FF IV. Seriously, this is basically the same character, right?

Anyway, he tells the others that Aerith is inferior to her mother, Ifalna, with research supposed to take forever. But, no matter, Hojo plans to "breed" Aerith. I'll just say now that everything that Hojo says is gross.

We follow the scientist onto floor 67, where we find parts of his lab. There, we find Red XIII, trapped in a glass tube. There is also a container with Jenova inside, which makes Clouds head hurt.

Hojo has his own elevator to the next floor, where we find Aerith in a glass tube. Weird how she didn't want to come back here peacefully, isn't it? We aren't even hiding anymore, and just scream her name. But Hojo doesn't care, without him, no one can control the machines. Red is elevated, and together with Aerith in the glass tube now.

Interestingly, Hojo is so deranged that he seems to think he helps the "animals". He doesn't want them to go extinct, which, uh, yeah. It is really interesting, how he is so completely immoral and inhumane. So, I guess he is really similar to Cid, from FF VI, except for the little bit where Cid actually feels a wake-up call. Hojo never does.

Which fits. In FF VI, there is still hope. We hit rock bottom, but get up from there. Here, the game doesn't even make it clear if humanity survives. It seems like VII just has a more grim outlook on humanity, suggesting that we actually might be beyond redemption.

Barret doesn't care about anything breaking, and just shoots at the glass tube. Hojo panics, and opens the door, which makes Red jump him. He also says, he will help us, which means he can talk. Huh. We don't get to learn his real name, but learn that this is just the "name" Hojo came up with. I completely forgot this, but it really fits.

Apparently, there was something else in the glass tube, which attacks us now. I think that's also the reason, why Hojo escapes, and isn't brutally murdered by Red.

The boss fight is simple, no special gimmick. We do find an enemy skill materia, though, and I immediately put it on Cloud, and will never take it off. I still have to look up how it works, if Cloud has to get hit or only has to see a skill. But I do like, that we find it so early in the game.

We were supposed to meet up with the others on floor 66, but don't find them. Instead, when we enter the elevator, we are joined by the Turks. Next, everyone is tied up and brought to Shinra. He tells us, that Aerith is one of the Cetra, who lived thousands of years ago. She is supposed to lead the way to the Promised Land. Shinra assumes, there will be a lot of Mako, so it's ideal for building Neo-Midgar there. And then, we are put into prison cells.

Cloud and Tifa are in one, with Aerith to the left, and Barret with Red to the right. We can ask them how they are. Tifa asks Aerith, if the Promised Land really exists. Aerith doesn't know, but she knows that "the Cetra were born from the Planet, speak with the Planet and unlock the Planet".

It's not only Aerith, but the whole race of the Cetra. I think, we never learn anything negative about them. They were connected to the planet, the one thing that Shinra is very much not. The old race, long gone, did live correct, unlike the one that lives here now.

We learn, that Aerith can only talk to the planet at the church. Here, she is cut off. Ifalna told her, that Midgar is no longer save - I guess, that's why she finally tried to flee. She wanted to reach the promised land, maybe to summon Holy herself.

Barret wants to restart AVALANCHE, to save the planet. He still doesn't get it, how dangerous it was, what he did.

Asking Red, he misses his grandpa.

And with that, we go to sleep. There is nothing else to do. When we wake up, Cloud cell door is open, and the guard has been brutally murdered.

In Hojos laboratory, we find that the Genova speciman escaped, and seemed to have gone upstairs. Dead people are everywhere. One of them is president Shinra, who has a giant Katana stuck in his back. People recognise it as the sword of Sephiroth, which means he isn't dead, like everyone thought. The mystery thickens.

As Barret doesn't think too far, he assumes that this is it for Shinra. Which is silly, of course. Even without Rufus, it's a company, there are other leading people who can take over.

Palmer, though, is still alive, and he has seen everything. Sephiroth doesn't want to give the Promised Land to Shinra. Which, according to Cloud, doesn't make him a good guy.

At this point, a helicopter appears, which makes Barret remember Rufus, president Shinras son and heir to the company. Because of course the son inherits the empire. Palmer escapes to the helicopter.

Going outside, we have a funny scene, where everyone introduces themselves to Rufus by some title. Rufus immediately makes clear, that he is a horrible person - he wants to control the people by fear, not with money. So, yeah, with old Shinra it isn't clear how he views himself. Rufus, though, clearly sees himself as the destined dictator of the world.

I also feel like this is a bad move. Granted, the people in the slums can't actually do much, but the middle and upper classes could very well fight back. But then, he always has the choice to drop another part of the plate. Which, uh, is still very destructive, and also problematic for Shinra. I wished we learned more about how Rufus would change the lives in Midgar.

Cloud tells the others to go, as the real crisis is here. He will fight Rufus. The others leave, though Tifa stays back on the floor below. The others, Barret Aerith and Red, take the elevator, but are attacked. It's a pretty cool set-up, with the guard robots who fights us being in the other, also destroyed, elevator. Unfortunately, I forgot again that its this team that has this fight, so Red had no attack magic, and could only heal with items. Barret attacke,d Aerith cast fire. Was the best I could do, it was decently challenging.

We change back to Cloud and Rufus, with the latter explaining that Sephiroth was an Ancient. Cloud wants to fight, so he can stop Rufus from finding the promised land.

I did find interesting, that Rufus is dressed in white, while Cloud is dressed very darkly. There is something there, I feel, but I can't really get it. After losing, Rufus grabs a helicopter and leaves.

When the others are at ground level, they find themselves surrounded. Tifa appears, telling them to step aside. An then, a great video sequence starts, with very nicely done models. Looks really good, and is completely silly, with Cloud coming down the stairs on a motorbike, and the others taking one of the cars in the building, which are, apparently, both filled up with energy.

There is a new minigame, where we have to slash enemy motorcycles with Clouds sword, so they don't attack the car with the others. It's pretty easy. Thankfully, because the controls are not the best. We do this, until we reach a dead end, where the street just stops. I guess, it's for the potential growth of the city?

A final boss fight awaits, a car(?) that tries to kill us. Fittingly for the end of the Midgar part, we just get Cloud, Barret and Tifa assigned.

After the battle, we climb down an anchor, letting us just outside the city gates. Cloud will find Sephiroth, as he has a score to settle. Barret will go too, to save the planet. Aerith wants to find things out, and Red will accompany us, until we reach his hometown. And Tifa will join, as she has nowhere else to go.

Barret decides, that we shouldn't go in a too big group, so we split up. I chose Tifa and Red, but will probably switch my team around, this time. I normally focus on specific characters.

And with that, we are going away from Midgar. We are finally free. Sort of, but it is symbolically very potent, that we are out of this horrible place, where we seemed to have been stuck for so long. We can explore the world now.
 

ASandoval

Old Man Gamer
(he/him)
During my hard mode playthrough of the remake, I tried not taking the stairs and it was equally funny and had good character moments that it makes me sad most players will always opt to take the stairs because its so iconic.

 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
A little late for this, but I'll play along. It's going to be the PlayStation release, as emulated on the Vita.

I played FFVII for the first time in 1997--probably that Christmas, as the PAL release was that November and me and my elder siblings were pretty plugged into it being a thing. It really can't be overestimated how worldwide the hype was; magazines would talk it up and stage months-long dripfeeds of details and minutiae from the game in a way I'd never witnessed before--I wasn't on the Internet yet but old media built it up in all the ways it knew how regardless. I didn't know why I should be so invested in it at the time--I was seven years old, and didn't know much of anything--but that it was consistently presented in this way did the trick. It being an RPG--a type of video game I had no prior experience with--or the evidently seventh game in a series meant nothing at all--it arrived on the scene as a blank slate from my generational and regional context, independent of preconceptions and free to grab for its individual merits and acclaim with only its own perspective shaping those judgments along the way.

With all of that novelty that applied to it for me, it's consequently one of the most literally fundamental video games I've ever played. It taught me the principles of its wider genre just by notion of being the first of its kind I encountered, and in hindsight it's a terrific introduction to the concept of this kind of RPG because the mechanical demands are so accommodating and kind; the dazzle is the hook but there's a lot there to internalize and attempt to grasp without ever feeling like the game is leaving you behind if you quite don't. Because it involved reading text in a way the medium hadn't required of me before, I credit it at least partially for starting me on the road of learning another language in English, which would only start being taught in the educational curriculum a few years later. Simply because that language barrier existed and forbade my engaging, enjoying and immersing myself in something I wanted to be entertained by, I had to overcome it and did so in a way that never felt like a struggle or an exertion on my part. However infamous as the localization may be, interpreting it gave me a significant leg up in my language studies that I never actually "studied" English from then on as an external task to complete--it was just part of my life from then on.

So yes, FFVII has been with me for a long, long time, and there are incidental, fond memories associated with it because of that significance that put it somewhere beyond just a media product that was released in one's childhood. My dad used to cheerily lie to me about having developed the game single-handedly while in dentistry school, probably just because I would play and talk about the game and that was his farcically funny way of connecting with that enthusiasm. My brother doesn't play RPGs as much anymore, but his love of the game started a streak with the series that carried on for the several following series games, as different from each other as they were. My sister fucking hates Cloud Strife with a passion, which rules. My mom sometimes watched me play the game, and some of those sessions involved me taping the footage on a VHS. What was I going to do with that material? I don't think it really matters outside of illustrating that just playing the game wasn't always enough; it would not be contained to just passing, ephemeral entertainment.

I never took a break from video games as a hobby. Sometimes people do this with their interests, either as tastes change, a life situation alters, or available time, finances or whatever else prohibit continuing involvement in prior topics. I frame my history with FFVII sentimentally because sometimes it is pure sentiment, but I've never allowed it to become a vague memory. It's easy to return to, both for accessibility and the kind of game it is, and crucially how it still retains whatever appeal it might have had in its earliest days; it's just framed through a different lens now and that shifting context also greatly amplifies aspects of it that might've been overlooked before. I'm someone who's deeply anxious about relying on nostalgia in assessing one's own preferences and opinions; the concept of a childhood ruined because of the context of adulthood isn't something I subscribe to because I actively seek chances to reassess and refresh on media of the past, whatever the outcome of it. I've always liked FFVII, but I'm never going to "solve" it; the relationship will never be final and my views on it will continue to evolve. It's probably among the video games I've played the most, but this time around, like all those other times, isn't going to be any less compelling despite that familiarity.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
That was my experience with Final Fantasy IV (nee 2 in these parts at the time); I'd definitely been playing games for a few years by the time I turned ten, and to a lesser extent with Phantasy Star IV; my family owned a Genesis my father had bought off a family friend with a few games when I was six/seven, and I later got a NES in the early 90s but that was mostly platformers and Sword of Vermilion. We would make yearly trips to visit Dad's side of the family for a week or two in the summer, and one of my great uncles was a huge gamer owning pretty much every console and released video game at the time. It is a really bizarre experience to play Ogre Battle and Growlanser/Warsong as a ten year old, I'll tell you, but I latched really hard onto FF IV because of that easy presentation and low barrier to entry. The rest is pretty much history from there, but I never had a chance to legit play IV on my own hardware until the later PS1 emulated rereleases (I did play it through early emulation in high school).
 
Is it worth talking about Chrono Trigger as a bridge between 6 and 7? I always noticed an evolution across them of the portrayal of poverty and inequality.

In FF6 there's rich Jidoor and poor Zozo. Zozo's poverty isn't presented as an injustice that the wealthy people of Jidoor are responsible for and nobody does anything to improve the lives of the people in Zozo. The people in Zozo also aren't given names, personalities or back stories. It's this development team's first try at this theme.

In Chrono Trigger, the Kingdom of Zeal is divided into the Enlightened haves and the Earthbound have nots. It's stated that the Earthbound Ones were banished for lacking magic power. The Enlightened ones are shown to degenerate as they build the Mammon Machine to tap power from Lavos, it drives the Queen mad, then Lavos destroys the Kingdom, forcing the surviving Enlightened and Earthbound people to live together and start to build the more equitable society of 600 AD.

In FF7 there's Midgar, which fleshes out the themes of inequality and oppression even more. It's been said upthread that Midgar feels like a redo of Vector. The contrast between the slums and upper sections also makes it like the Kingdom of Zeal.

There's other similarities. Chrono Trigger reduced the party size from 4 to 3 and FF7 kept it at 3. The trio of spiky haired, sword swinging Crono, outgoing Marle and more reserved Lucca repeats to an extent with Cloud, Aerith and Tifa. Chrono Trigger's post apocalyptic scenario is thematically and aesthetically very similar to FF6's World of Ruin, with the party's goal changed from rebuilding it to preventing it. There's probably a bunch of other connections you folks have noticed.
 
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Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I saved the game when I got to Wall Market. The absurdity of this game is that this point is all at once the functional midpoint of the Midgar scenario, which grew to mythical proportions quickly after the game's release and stayed lodged there in the minds of players for decades to come, and then served as the blueprint for the actually gigantic remake that does nothing but adapt the same events--and it does all of this in its original form in maybe a few hours of play time. I would usually hold off a little on commentary for this slight a sojourn into the material, but VII is so preposterously, beguilingly dense that there's always something to talk about no matter how brief the contact with it.

  • the first five to ten minutes of this game are really something else. Just for starters, one is faced with "Prelude" in its most compelling form: melancholic, pensive and uncertain. It portends the tonality of the soundtrack to follow, in its overarching bleakness but with moments of great tenderness to offset the encroaching disquietude. The decision to rely on real-time samples instead of pre-recorded live instruments further frames the game as the liminal work it is, lending it the dissonant artificiality that its setting relies on to sell the thematic content. Later games in the series and subsequent treatment of this very material would adapt the work toward some other end, but you cannot divorce the music's instrumentation from the atmosphere of VII as it stands; it's completely essential to how the game comes off in its entirety.
The other great impression is the resounding statement made about just how these stories are going to be told from now on. Final Fantasy had always been cinematic, literary, or whatever combination of narrative and presentational patterns lifted from older media to shape itself, and the openings of each game had professed this emphasis and evolution. All of the Famicom games had opened with a narration of the plot premise, which had by the Super Famicom era morphed into a more in medias res presentation peppered with sprite choreographies and first-person character soliloquies--nevertheless, written content persisted, and the straightforwardly information-first storytelling had also remained, as recently as the game prior. VII offers no words for setting up the world, the players, or the conflict before the player themselves is already an active participant; it's completely verbally silent in its aims and relies entirely on the atmosphere evoked by its visuals, audio design, and cinematography. The pan from the alleyway Aerith emerges from, into the looming skies above Midgar, and back to the train platform by the reactor is the gauntlet being thrown on the ground in brash confidence: this is the future of the series, and if enough people take notice, maybe the genre or the medium itself. You can't oversell its effect when history reaffirms its impact in hindsight, but even without that assurance it's a spellbinding moment of presentational audacity that does so many things with such economy of the narrative hand and makes the most of the medium its represents all the while. It's not just external, disposable fluff to be seen as an emotionally cheap hoodwinking into the theatrics, but already does what this era of the series is going to go on doing the best in melding the high-budget cinematics to the game world they bookend--relatively archaic 3D models existing on top of the wild camera pans and smoothly seguing back and forth between the presentational modes.​
  • I think most are in agreement that 2D games are great, some of the medium's highest highs were to be found on the PlayStation, and that FF's own history with the format is of great significance and merit, but with full recognition of that: I cannot be happier they transitioned to 3D here. It's not even a full dive into those uncharted waters; they exhibited the same awareness of technological limitations that many other developers did at the time, and made the compromises necessary to integrate 3D models and objects atop pre-rendered environmental maps to facilitate the game even being able to function. We take this stuff for granted today, or we might view it as a vestigial deadend, a charming "cheat" to portray higher-fidelity worlds than the platforms of the time allowed, but that's rhetoric that both minimizes the efforts of crafting these portraits and landscapes and their validity as an artform unto themselves. People yearn for this specific transitory moment in video games to continue existing also because the imagery and iconography presented through them was not tied to processing power; that was the "cheat" that conveyed impossible detail in majestic scale with basically only the artists's imaginations able to limit the scenery's nature. There's no question 2D FF were handsome games for their context and eras, but they were always bound by cartridge storage sizes, and the symmetric geometries and palettes of tilesets; when you had seen one room in an environment, further permutations were just that--a different configuration of the already witnessed pool of materials. In VII and every game that followed in its style, this sense of environmental iteration no longer exists, even when thematically or aesthetically a locale's nature is adhered to: through the chosen camera angles that imbue completely different emotive framing to each scene, the distance the surroundings are examined from, or the infusion of whatever endless amounts of clutter and assortments of individual detail on each screen, all rooms in the game are a presentational event. It completely changes the nature of exploration as it's no longer driven by the thrills of treasure-hunting on its own--you just want to see what kind of view will be revealed upon the next screen transition. Curiosity about the world drives so much of the game, in synergy with the environmental emphasis of the narrative and what it turns its attention toward on both ends of the player-developer axis.
The other half of the equation falls on the 3D models themselves, mostly contained to characters and enemies. This is yet another field that marks VII in the unique position that it occupies as a transitional, liminal work, with feet planted in the past that's transpired and the future to come, ensuring that nothing before or since has arrived at its particular specificity. The characters in their field stature echo the squat proportions of past games, and in the more "realistic" battle models preview the aesthetics the rest of the series would largely follow. The sensibilities of the 2D era and its choreographies still live on here, with characters prone to jumping their own height in shock and other conveyances of physical comedy and slapstick that were so heavily relied on in earlier days; at the same time, thanks to the animation nuances of 3D rigging we can now have actual body language to put across those subtler emotions and gestures; the Cloud Strife shrug is a particularly memorable canned emote, but exchanges like him standing on his tiptoes to put his business-face right up against Barret's towering height are no less striking. The range of motion and animation elevates the entire game now, as in battles both party members and enemies have idle stances, attacking postures, hit reactions, unique evasive animations, even secondary hurt animations in case of a paralytic shock or the like--you're no longer staring at idle suggestions of foes encountered but as physically present and conceived representations of them as could be managed for the context. VII is no harder a challenge mechanically than the accommodating VI was--it is however never boring to interact with because the presentation's newfound avenues carry so much of the rest when engagement is at risk of faltering.​
  • as much as I think the game not engaging in writing is a delight on its own, this is still a very verbose game at heart, but not monotonously so. I am coming off a playthrough of Trails in the Sky FC, a starter of a modern legacy in contemporary RPG lineages. In there, there were oodles of text--a veritable literary deluge. The enormity of it wasn't the only thing that struck me, but how formulaic in the delivery of its content the entire game was: environments would always be packed to bursting with interchangeable NPCs conveying the same tonal content of relating their everyday nothings and monologues; very much time spent on colouring the world in the dullest of palettes. FFVII marks a shift in the narrative tendencies of the series in that there's just more text overall, but even with that increase in elocution none of it feels particularly draining to parse through, even if you're scouring the margins for the optional, rarely heard material. The train man embodies the undergone shift in writing incidental NPCs as previously the role of them in the series was to offer exploratory or game mechanics-oriented instructions or hints to the player in as diegetic a way as the designers cared to frame the interactions. In time, as the settings evolved in elaboration and the textual narratives arose to a prime player in the importance of shaping the adventures, more opportunities for atmospheric shading crept in, making the act of "talking to people" less goal-oriented in search of player advantage. VII is not without precedent, but it is the breakout moment for this type of writing; cartridge space limitations would not have permitted it before, and maybe it's also relevant to the predilections of the people involved. Game scripter and scenario designer Masato Kato held an important enough role in the development of the game that crediting a solitary nameless NPC to him would be conjecture at best, but the train man is pitch-perfect and evocative of the tonality Kato's projects reach for in the role of incidental characters and their function to the world. You don't "gain" anything from talking to the train man except the weight of his words, but they're over-the-top in their sentimentality, cascading upon and over themselves in a sequence of text boxes, the musings themselves and the texture they paint the world with being the only reason for them existing. The unpredictability of these interactions--where they can be found, who shares them--are their strength, as they come at you unannounced, and may leave a mark a signposted emotional gutpunch may not have landed as firmly.
For all of this casual introspection and impromptu philosophizing offered by the people met along the way, VII is still very much rooted in a comedic sensibility and tradition. It's in the exaggerated body language, but also the scenarios concocted by the game, its little offbeat moments. This is one of the most gaping divides between the original work and the remake, as the later adaptation reaches for a kind of super-sleek portrayal of fantastically-charged realism in how its people interact with each other, how the world is portrayed, and what is done with the moments inbetween. It's more anchored to the now-relevant standards of live human motion capture, stylized renditions of human faces and bodies, and the world that contains them. The effects ripple outward from the surface-level presentation to how its story is told, with more time given to lingering interactions facilitated by the new technology standard; those interactions as a result can come across as more muted in search of that pseudo-realism the game is now defined by. VII is not affected by this; it's a hodgepodge of varying presentational modes, leaping wildly from one scenario to the next at a pace that's a whirlwind tour through locales so imaginative that they could take the material that was there and expand it tenfold decades later and not have to embellish overmuch to hold the work together by current standards and expectations. The fluctuations of the original's storytelling and environmental design lend it that patchwork quality that prohibits predictions of what kind of wild tableau it's going to unleash next on the player; the anticipation built by this is its own source of humour when the outlandish does occur as regularly as it does.​
The most memorable example of it all in the early stages is the return of the Beginner's Hall, the in-game tutorialization center of the series in place for a couple of games by VII's time. VII up-ends the premise not by formally altering the mechanics discussion, but by having the cocksure merc jackass that Cloud's persona consists of at this point deliver the lessons, as a smug favour from his omnicapable self. It's dry material if conveyed at face value, the stuff that makes people dread tutorials as an intrusion upon their experience with games, but it's made into a moment of relevant characterization through a jokey, conversational writing voice Cloud is granted during it, the arrogant asides he makes (he never defends or runs away from battles), and the loose fourth-wall breaking self-awareness that delivers all this information in a way that's entertaining by its own merits. The self-serious Cloud Strife tells you about memory cards, warns about power outages and against gamer rage, while sentient save points and treasure chests mug at the camera and say farewell until you run into them again on the road. This was the media event of an entire medium, and it holds untold stature and significance to this day, and the way it's been presented then and now focus on the high drama within--the way it becomes singular is how it melds those lofty cinematic aspirations to the seemingly incongruous absurdities on the side without even blinking.​
  • Next to all the individual qualities about the game that I find compelling and even admirable, I continue to be fascinated the most by just how highly interpretive everything about it is. These are the errata of games of telephone in just getting the work out there, and perspectives altered by the passage of time as much as the nature of the work itself, but there's just very little about VII that stands in stark uncomplication when observed directly. I think it's what's kept it so fertile in the imaginations of its audience; how it was on one hand so easily approached but difficult to pin down after the fact just what it was about it that ensnared one's attention so totally. Some of it's regional and linguistic, as the English localization (and I hear many other languages too) is still infamous to parse. It's not even that it's unintelligible or grammatically incomprehensible on a consistent basis; the bulk of the material is understandable and it's capable of captivating just through the turns of phrases it uses. The issues arise from the lack of context clues the editors were surely plagued by and the vagueness of diction that comes about as a result; the speakers are difficult to identify at times or to whom statements are addressed, to say nothing of specifics like tense or plurality. It's an experimental story in the unreliable point-of-view it utilizes to begin with, marked with revelations and shakings of the status quo to a more extreme degree than previous games had attempted, and that sense of anxiety about character relations, how they fit together and what actually happened that time, in that place, are unwittingly compounded by a script treatment that obscures and flummoxes as it goes about wrapping its own head around the proceedings. This is a byproduct, a mistake, a flaw... but it's also the reality of the game as it has existed for a large part of the world for the last almost quarter-century. That the sometimes flailing localization has shaped the game's reputation as much as anything else is an irreplaceable part of its history, and contributes just as well to the sensations the rest of it spends so much effort on, from the perplexing to the comedic.
Other elements of interpretive license are similarly unglued in how they can be read: are they the result of creative intent, or just the end-result of a viewpoint much removed from their original context? Maybe it's an unnecessary distinction to make, as the game has many varying interpretations of what it offers. It resulted in the remake's respective lens, informed by decades of multimedia adaptations of the material; it's an alternative portrayal of the source, knowingly diverging from the baseline in search of something new instead of regurgitation. The increased fidelity however is such that whatever assessment is made of the remake, most will read its presentation and visual expressions in the same way; it does not allow for much else in its hyperfixations. VII was a massive step toward something new to series in its time, but it was interacting with unproven methods of finding its new standard; none of this was tried and tested in the same way as video game production now is. That's why its innovations can be read in so many personally relevant ways: is this character laughing or crying in this moment of heaving their shoulders back and forth; is this framing of the scene to be taken literally or not; is the scale of this environment as portrayed on screen? The search for "realism" in the relative context of any era has always been with video games, but VII existed in a time that by today's understanding of the term was of sketchy infancy, mere suggestions of where things would go. The abstraction inherent to its series is still so alive and prevalent in it which allows for the imaginative, interpretive texture to carry as much of the game as any modeled polygon or painted bitmap could. The inconsistencies that are sometimes highlighted, such as the many operative proportional scales of the cast on fields, in battles, in cinematics of differing art styles, mark that thread of the evidence of your eyes not being the only thing that matters to the conception of what the game ultimately is--it provides the materials, but you are the glue that holds the disparate, disconnected components together.​
~~~

More thoughts later... maybe.
 
Last edited:

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
Jessie isn't particularly old either, is she? Still in her late teens? I wonder what her motivation is, for being in a terrorist organisation.
Remake devotes an entire chapter to just this question:
Jessie's parents are part of the middle class that lives on the plate working for ShinRa in various roles, her dad's a worker of some sort at a reactor. Jessie herself was a stage actor with a promising future but her dad got Mako poisoning at his job and had been comatose since, and that caused her to join Avalanche to try and shut the rectors down (it also makes it explicit that Avalanche is a large organization with many cells, and Barret's is considered particularly extreme).
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
During my hard mode playthrough of the remake, I tried not taking the stairs and it was equally funny and had good character moments that it makes me sad most players will always opt to take the stairs because its so iconic.


Is this the case in the original too, that there is more to taking the front entrance instead of the stairs, than just fighting hordes of enemies? I always assumed that was the case - I just realized that this would have been the perfect chance to try the other route, just to see what it contains. A shame, really. I was always just motivated by the possibility of avoiding dozens of random enounters.

Is it worth talking about Chrono Trigger as a bridge between 6 and 7? I always noticed an evolution across them of the portrayal of poverty and inequality.
Sure there is, thanks for the input. Just so you know, I appreciate your input and thoughts, I just don't have much to add, in general. I'm certainly reading them, though.

I saved the game when I got to Wall Market. The absurdity of this game is that this point is all at once the functional midpoint of the Midgar scenario, which grew to mythical proportions quickly after the game's release and stayed lodged there in the minds of players for decades to come, and then served as the blueprint for the actually gigantic remake that does nothing but adapt the same events--and it does all of this in its original form in maybe a few hours of play time. I would usually hold off a little on commentary for this slight a sojourn into the material, but VII is so preposterously, beguilingly dense that there's always something to talk about no matter how brief the contact with it.

  • the first five to ten minutes of this game are really something else. Just for starters, one is faced with "Prelude" in its most compelling form: melancholic, pensive and uncertain. It portends the tonality of the soundtrack to follow, in its overarching bleakness but with moments of great tenderness to offset the encroaching disquietude. The decision to rely on real-time samples instead of pre-recorded live instruments further frames the game as the liminal work it is, lending it the dissonant artificiality that its setting relies on to sell the thematic content. Later games in the series and subsequent treatment of this very material would adapt the work toward some other end, but you cannot divorce the music's instrumentation from the atmosphere of VII as it stands; it's completely essential to how the game comes off in its entirety.
The other great impression is the resounding statement made about just how these stories are going to be told from now on. Final Fantasy had always been cinematic, literary, or whatever combination of narrative and presentational patterns lifted from older media to shape itself, and the openings of each game had professed this emphasis and evolution. All of the Famicom games had opened with a narration of the plot premise, which had by the Super Famicom era morphed into a more in medias res presentation peppered with sprite choreographies and first-person character soliloquies--nevertheless, written content persisted, and the straightforwardly information-first storytelling had also remained, as recently as the game prior. VII offers no words for setting up the world, the players, or the conflict before the player themselves is already an active participant; it's completely verbally silent in its aims and relies entirely on the atmosphere evoked by its visuals, audio design, and cinematography. The pan from the alleyway Aerith emerges from, into the looming skies above Midgar, and back to the train platform by the reactor is the gauntlet being thrown on the ground in brash confidence: this is the future of the series, and if enough people take notice, maybe the genre or the medium itself. You can't oversell its effect when history reaffirms its impact in hindsight, but even without that assurance it's a spellbinding moment of presentational audacity that does so many things with such economy of the narrative hand and makes the most of the medium its represents all the while. It's not just external, disposable fluff to be seen as an emotionally cheap hoodwinking into the theatrics, but already does what this era of the series is going to go on doing the best in melding the high-budget cinematics to the game world they bookend--relatively archaic 3D models existing on top of the wild camera pans and smoothly seguing back and forth between the presentational modes.​
  • I think most are in agreement that 2D games are great, some of the medium's highest highs were to be found on the PlayStation, and that FF's own history with the format is of great significance and merit, but with full recognition of that: I cannot be happier they transitioned to 3D here. It's not even a full dive into those uncharted waters; they exhibited the same awareness of technological limitations that many other developers did at the time, and made the compromises necessary to integrate 3D models and objects atop pre-rendered environmental maps to facilitate the game even being able to function. We take this stuff for granted today, or we might view it as a vestigial deadend, a charming "cheat" to portray higher-fidelity worlds than the platforms of the time allowed, but that's rhetoric that both minimizes the efforts of crafting these portraits and landscapes and their validity as an artform unto themselves. People yearn for this specific transitory moment in video games to continue existing also because the imagery and iconography presented through them was not tied to processing power; that was the "cheat" that conveyed impossible detail in majestic scale with basically only the artists's imaginations able to limit the scenery's nature. There's no question 2D FF were handsome games for their context and eras, but they were always bound by cartridge storage sizes, and the symmetric geometries and palettes of tilesets; when you had seen one room in an environment, further permutations were just that--a different configuration of the already witnessed pool of materials. In VII and every game that followed in its style, this sense of environmental iteration no longer exists, even when thematically or aesthetically a locale's nature is adhered to: through the chosen camera angles that imbue completely different emotive framing to each scene, the distance the surroundings are examined from, or the infusion of whatever endless amounts of clutter and assortments of individual detail on each screen, all rooms in the game are a presentational event. It completely changes the nature of exploration as it's no longer driven by the thrills of treasure-hunting on its own--you just want to see what kind of view will be revealed upon the next screen transition. Curiosity about the world drives so much of the game, in synergy with the environmental emphasis of the narrative and what it turns its attention toward on both ends of the player-developer axis.
The other half of the equation falls on the 3D models themselves, mostly contained to characters and enemies. This is yet another field that marks VII in the unique position that it occupies as a transitional, liminal work, with feet planted in the past that's transpired and the future to come, ensuring that nothing before or since has arrived at its particular specificity. The characters in their field stature echo the squat proportions of past games, and in the more "realistic" battle models preview the aesthetics the rest of the series would largely follow. The sensibilities of the 2D era and its choreographies still live on here, with characters prone to jumping their own height in shock and other conveyances of physical comedy and slapstick that were so heavily relied on in earlier days; at the same time, thanks to the animation nuances of 3D rigging we can now have actual body language to put across those subtler emotions and gestures; the Cloud Strife shrug is a particularly memorable canned emote, but exchanges like him standing on his tiptoes to put his business-face right up against Barret's towering height are no less striking. The range of motion and animation elevates the entire game now, as in battles both party members and enemies have idle stances, attacking postures, hit reactions, unique evasive animations, even secondary hurt animations in case of a paralytic shock or the like--you're no longer staring at idle suggestions of foes encountered but as physically present and conceived representations of them as could be managed for the context. VII is no harder a challenge mechanically than the accommodating VI was--it is however never boring to interact with because the presentation's newfound avenues carry so much of the rest when engagement is at risk of faltering.​
  • as much as I think the game not engaging in writing is a delight on its own, this is still a very verbose game at heart, but not monotonously so. I am coming off a playthrough of Trails in the Sky FC, a starter of a modern legacy in contemporary RPG lineages. In there, there were oodles of text--a veritable literary deluge. The enormity of it wasn't the only thing that struck me, but how formulaic in the delivery of its content the entire game was: environments would always be packed to bursting with interchangeable NPCs conveying the same tonal content of relating their everyday nothings and monologues; very much time spent on colouring the world in the dullest of palettes. FFVII marks a shift in the narrative tendencies of the series in that there's just more text overall, but even with that increase in elocution none of it feels particularly draining to parse through, even if you're scouring the margins for the optional, rarely heard material. The train man embodies the undergone shift in writing incidental NPCs as previously the role of them in the series was to offer exploratory or game mechanics-oriented instructions or hints to the player in as diegetic a way as the designers cared to frame the interactions. In time, as the settings evolved in elaboration and the textual narratives arose to a prime player in the importance of shaping the adventures, more opportunities for atmospheric shading crept in, making the act of "talking to people" less goal-oriented in search of player advantage. VII is not without precedent, but it is the breakout moment for this type of writing; cartridge space limitations would not have permitted it before, and maybe it's also relevant to the predilections of the people involved. Game scripter and scenario designer Masato Kato held an important enough role in the development of the game that crediting a solitary nameless NPC to him would be conjecture at best, but the train man is pitch-perfect and evocative of the tonality Kato's projects reach for in the role of incidental characters and their function to the world. You don't "gain" anything from talking to the train man except the weight of his words, but they're over-the-top in their sentimentality, cascading upon and over themselves in a sequence of text boxes, the musings themselves and the texture they paint the world with being the only reason for them existing. The unpredictability of these interactions--where they can be found, who shares them--are their strength, as they come at you unannounced, and may leave a mark a signposted emotional gutpunch may not have landed as firmly.
For all of this casual introspection and impromptu philosophizing offered by the people met along the way, VII is still very much rooted in a comedic sensibility and tradition. It's in the exaggerated body language, but also the scenarios concocted by the game, its little offbeat moments. This is one of the most gaping divides between the original work and the remake, as the later adaptation reaches for a kind of super-sleek portrayal of fantastically-charged realism in how its people interact with each other, how the world is portrayed, and what is done with the moments inbetween. It's more anchored to the now-relevant standards of live human motion capture, stylized renditions of human faces and bodies, and the world that contains them. The effects ripple outward from the surface-level presentation to how its story is told, with more time given to lingering interactions facilitated by the new technology standard; those interactions as a result can come across as more muted in search of that pseudo-realism the game is now defined by. VII is not affected by this; it's a hodgepodge of varying presentational modes, leaping wildly from one scenario to the next at a pace that's a whirlwind tour through locales so imaginative that they could take the material that was there and expand it tenfold decades later and not have to embellish overmuch to hold the work together by current standards and expectations. The fluctuations of the original's storytelling and environmental design lend it that patchwork quality that prohibits predictions of what kind of wild tableau it's going to unleash next on the player; the anticipation built by this is its own source of humour when the outlandish does occur as regularly as it does.​
The most memorable example of it all in the early stages is the return of the Beginner's Hall, the in-game tutorialization center of the series in place for a couple of games by VII's time. VII up-ends the premise not by formally altering the mechanics discussion, but by having the cocksure merc jackass that Cloud's persona consists of at this point deliver the lessons, as a smug favour from his omnicapable self. It's dry material if conveyed at face value, the stuff that makes people dread tutorials as an intrusion upon their experience with games, but it's made into a moment of relevant characterization through a jokey, conversational writing voice Cloud is granted during it, the arrogant asides he makes (he never defends or runs away from battles), and the loose fourth-wall breaking self-awareness that delivers all this information in a way that's entertaining by its own merits. The self-serious Cloud Strife tells you about memory cards, warns about power outages and against gamer rage, while sentient save points and treasure chests mug at the camera and say farewell until you run into them again on the road. This was the media event of an entire medium, and it holds untold stature and significance to this day, and the way it's been presented then and now focus on the high drama within--the way it becomes singular is how it melds those lofty cinematic aspirations to the seemingly incongruous absurdities on the side without even blinking.​
  • Next to all the individual qualities about the game that I find compelling and even admirable, I continue to be fascinated the most by just how highly interpretive everything about it is. These are the errata of games of telephone in just getting the work out there, and perspectives altered by the passage of time as much as the nature of the work itself, but there's just very little about VII that stands in stark uncomplication when observed directly. I think it's what's kept it so fertile in the imaginations of its audience; how it was on one hand so easily approached but difficult to pin down after the fact just what it was about it that ensnared one's attention so totally. Some of it's regional and linguistic, as the English localization (and I hear many other languages too) is still infamous to parse. It's not even that it's unintelligible or grammatically incomprehensible on a consistent basis; the bulk of the material is understandable and it's capable of captivating just through the turns of phrases it uses. The issues arise from the lack of context clues the editors were surely plagued by and the vagueness of diction that comes about as a result; the speakers are difficult to identify at times or to whom statements are addressed, to say nothing of specifics like tense or plurality. It's an experimental story in the unreliable point-of-view it utilizes to begin with, marked with revelations and shakings of the status quo to a more extreme degree than previous games had attempted, and that sense of anxiety about character relations, how they fit together and what actually happened that time, in that place, are unwittingly compounded by a script treatment that obscures and flummoxes as it goes about wrapping its own head around the proceedings. This is a byproduct, a mistake, a flaw... but it's also the reality of the game as it has existed for a large part of the world for the last almost quarter-century. That the sometimes flailing localization has shaped the game's reputation as much as anything else is an irreplaceable part of its history, and contributes just as well to the sensations the rest of it spends so much effort on, from the perplexing to the comedic.
Other elements of interpretive license are similarly unglued in how they can be read: are they the result of creative intent, or just the end-result of a viewpoint much removed from their original context? Maybe it's an unnecessary distinction to make, as the game has many varying interpretations of what it offers. It resulted in the remake's respective lens, informed by decades of multimedia adaptations of the material; it's an alternative portrayal of the source, knowingly diverging from the baseline in search of something new instead of regurgitation. The increased fidelity however is such that whatever assessment is made of the remake, most will read its presentation and visual expressions in the same way; it does not allow for much else in its hyperfixations. VII was a massive step toward something new to series in its time, but it was interacting with unproven methods of finding its new standard; none of this was tried and tested in the same way as video game production now is. That's why its innovations can be read in so many personally relevant ways: is this character laughing or crying in this moment of heaving their shoulders back and forth; is this framing of the scene to be taken literally or not; is the scale of this environment as portrayed on screen? The search for "realism" in the relative context of any era has always been with video games, but VII existed in a time that by today's understanding of the term was of sketchy infancy, mere suggestions of where things would go. The abstraction inherent to its series is still so alive and prevalent in it which allows for the imaginative, interpretive texture to carry as much of the game as any modeled polygon or painted bitmap could. The inconsistencies that are sometimes highlighted, such as the many operative proportional scales of the cast on fields, in battles, in cinematics of differing art styles, mark that thread of the evidence of your eyes not being the only thing that matters to the conception of what the game ultimately is--it provides the materials, but you are the glue that holds the disparate, disconnected components together.​
~~~

More thoughts later... maybe.
Great to have you playing along, again, Peklo. And thanks for the posts, both were very interesting.

The hype of FF VII completely escaped me. That was, of course, due to the game being the first FF to appear here (as mentioned a few times already), but also because the Internet wasn't a thing, and I only read magazines about Nintendo games and consoles.

I'm actually really surprised, how understandable the text is in most cases. I expected there to be more situations, where I was unsure about what had happened, but the only instance where the game came even close to that was the part were Reno appears in the church. Elsewise, everything works well enough, even if details are probably missing.

When writing about VI, I talked about how that game was the big change for the series, and I still think that's true. At least in certain aspects - new sprites and new settings, a general new atmosphere. But I am surprised, how much change happened in the transition to 3D and the new, technological capabilities. They changed the whole feeling of the game a lot, and give it a whole unique feel of it's own. I really underestimated how important this technological transition was.

Interestingly, in some ways it still feels very 2D-FF, especially when it comes to the bizarre detours, like the side-story with Don Corneo, or every time we experience a minigame. Stuff like this clearly grounds FF VII in an early, experimental stage of 3D, where all kinds of things were tried out. Particularly in this game, to find out how to really offer an interactive, cinemastic experience. They also offer much needed levity, from the bleak setting.

It's a great, fascinating game. There is absolutely no surprise, why this game moved so many people, and is so important to the History of video games.

Remake devotes an entire chapter to just this question:
Jessie's parents are part of the middle class that lives on the plate working for ShinRa in various roles, her dad's a worker of some sort at a reactor. Jessie herself was a stage actor with a promising future but her dad got Mako poisoning at his job and had been comatose since, and that caused her to join Avalanche to try and shut the rectors down (it also makes it explicit that Avalanche is a large organization with many cells, and Barret's is considered particularly extreme).
Thanks for the info. I guess that answers the question, how they changed this pretty short, first chapter of the game (which shouldn't take more than five hours, if even that) to a game of 40(?) hours? I'm guessing, but it's the time I remember being mentioned from people who played it. I mainly know about dungeons that are way too long.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Is this the case in the original too, that there is more to taking the front entrance instead of the stairs, than just fighting hordes of enemies? I always assumed that was the case - I just realized that this would have been the perfect chance to try the other route, just to see what it contains. A shame, really. I was always just motivated by the possibility of avoiding dozens of random enounters.

I mostly take the front entrance on replays because I've seen the gags on the stairway, don't really want the Elixir, and would rather avoid Tifa slinging slurs at her friends. There's a bunch there to make either an equally flavourful option, as in the remake: people hanging about in the lobby skitter around en masse running away from the group's intrusion; there's a Turtle's Paradise flyer on the information board that's necessary for that sidequest (the only other chance to check it is at the very end of the game); entering the ground floor shop has the clerk panicked by her customers, and Barret assuages her that she won't be hurt and may be even paid for purchases as usual; and there's an incredibly elaborate minute-long FMV dedicated to promoting Shinra's automobile business you can just casually view on the store monitor. It's both propaganda for the company within the fiction, as well as an ample example of what kind of production VII really was--that they could create something this extensive and labour and budget-intensive and then just hide it away in a nondescript corner where many players would never even realize it was there. The excess is part of what makes exploring the world so engaging now, as then; big money used toward something idiosyncratic rather than the risk-averse because it was pioneering its own audiences on a scale never before attempted.

The scenes in the elevator ride itself in the remake are also roughly sourced from the original; you make stops on randomly chosen floors fighting whatever enemy is lurking behind the doors, and some of those floors may have you come across hapless Shinra employees instead of a battle. Barret also has a character moment within the elevator where he recognizes a change in Cloud--or his own preconceptions of him--in that he evidently cares and is willing to fight for something other than his own self-interests, and apologizes for "lotsa things" on his part as a result. It's rather sweet.

That being said: I'm out of Midgar now. Here comes the Planet, but some goodbyes before then.
  • when the game was released in 1997, console RPG audiences in its major markets all had varying working contexts of knowing what had lead to its creation based on prior sample sizes. Japanese players had more opportunities to cultivate knowledge about the genre than others, while North Americans had the next best thing going on, and Europeans had very little to go on unless they'd been savvy to importing previously. Outside of "fans of genre" who'd flock to the game of their own volition, the marketing push was so tremendous that people with no experience or even prior interest in such would try it out, and because of newly broken barriers in publishing via the PC port the following year, RPG audiences from that ecosystem would too, propelled by that same promotion. It lead to some really fascinating culture shock in just what "RPG" meant to people who'd internalized such disparate branches of the expression, even if the roots of it were shared through many twists and turns. VII was criticized in the expected ways by people who'd come to see design points like player agency and narrative self-determination as definitive to the concept, and had a difficult time adjusting to anything else; the game was judged by standards that didn't really apply to its own interests or goals. The parallel that was often drawn in those screeds was dismissal of it as an "adventure game", not a roleplaying one, which is probably more astute of an observation than intended as the branching point far in the past between the computer and console traditions had been conceived by an adventure game designer applying those principles to the dense genre of computer RPGs for the best possible adaptation on consoles. The long-absent family member had now returned to the audience that had borne its common progenitors and embraced their offspring, and it was found to be unrecognizable and undesirable for the changes it had undergone. Nowhere else does that divide exist stronger than in the Wall Market sequence.
Wall Market appears clearly in players's memories of the game for more than one reason, but right off it's positioned as unique for exploring design tenets that the series had not really been familiar with previously. It's a town environment with no battle component where the means of progression are tied to interacting with characters, engaging in a mini-game or two, and amassing key items through specific tasks. The closest forebear that I can think of would be Locke's misadventures in South Figaro in VI--but even there, the sequence is punctuated by battles as verbs, and then concluded by a standard dungeon jaunt. People hone in on Wall Market as iconic of the game largely because of the premise--assembling feminine attire for Cloud for him to pass as a woman--but it would not be so vividly remembered if that end result had been arrived at through conventional series standard means. It is, in effect, just what it was accused of being: a simplified adventure game, with puzzles that aren't really conceived with failstates in mind--the worst you can inflict on yourself is a less impressive end presentation. What it does so well is offer, silently, opportunities to continue what you'd been doing to gather the mandatory essentials, just because you were curious enough to poke and prod the environment for those interactions; two key items is what's needed, but that's only about a third of what's there. The appeal of the design isn't that it's difficult to solve, but that finding and acting on those connecting threads is a joy in itself because the game acknowledges your curiosity and reciprocates with whatever tangent it has in mind for completing the task. Cloud Strife is a hotshot merc who's fighting the good fight against a dystopian megacorp with fellow eco-terrorists and has a grand journey of self-discovery ahead of him and a destined rival to overcome, but he's also a guy who went to the local diner, ordered the daily special and exchanged the complimentary pharmacy coupon for digestives for handing out to someone jammed up on the toilet. Belief in the setting is belief in the characters, and the lengths to which VII goes to integrate the little moments along the momentous is nothing short of striking, and sometimes the way to do it is to break away from the dungeon/battle paradigm entirely.​
It's not to say it's all concocted with the best of intentions or results. Wall Market is as memorable as it is because of that central premise, and it's presented without fail with a snicker and a light embarrassment. Queer representation in media has never had an uncomplicated, absolute good moment, and that time certainly wasn't 1997, in blockbuster video games. The language and framing of crossdressing and gender and sexual identities all congeal into an incoherent, euphemistic mess that from its very governing premise--queer identities being disposable artifice and camouflage to infiltrate spaces one shouldn't be in--is unrepentant and unconcerned about what kind of damaging stereotypes are being employed for the sake of a cheeky shocker to the sensibilities. This was the overall tone of the medium, and culture at large and how it was "maturing" at the time: the world outside one's window would be recognized in existing, but only portrayed in the most unsavory, othering and mocking contexts for the benefit of voyeuristic asides for the gain of people to whom the commentary did not apply to. So you have the casual comments about "weirdos" and "people like you" and the gym full of meatheads who are automatically slotted into the gay-but-maybe-trans-well-those-are-the-same-thing-anyway role of the uncomfortable other, while the scenes at the Honey Bee Inn brothel both make light of sex workers and parade out the macho leather daddy gay man comic relief, culminating in one of two scenes with Cloud being assaulted in the bath by the moustachioed Mukki and his cohorts, the player given the option of voicing Cloud's discomfort on his behalf or just enduring it silently; none of the dialogue options suggest his enthusiasm or consent. None of it matters because these aren't seen as real, valid people in the game's narrative--they're just constructs created to elicit laughs at someone else's expense and to be forgotten about immediately after. Much was said about the remake's overhaul of the establishment and the events occuring there; I don't want to launch into my issues with it outside of summarizing that there's a tendency to pat giant companies on their proverbial backs for minimal effort in mending past mistakes and the most superficial of "good" representation in the media they sell to you.​
  • the direction of individual scenes in the game is so captivating much of the time. The dropping of the Sector 7 plate lingers as all the more horrifying in the memory because it plays out in silence as far as music goes; the BGM fades out so all you hear are the screeching and groaning of metal, snapping wires and ultimately, the screams of people underneath. It's immediately contrasted with President Shinra dispassionately observing the mass killing ordered by himself, safely ensconced in his luxurious offices that might as well be installed in heaven itself for their material remove from the people holding them up; Haydn plays in the background to underscore the utter disregard and contempt with which "fine living" views those below its notice or care. President Shinra the individual isn't a complicated villain, and he's so loathsome that he's likely no one's personal favourite character, but that lack of nuance isn't to be read as an exaggeration of the kind of evil he represents; the exemption of "cool" aspects about him prohibit regarding him as anything but the embodiment of the totalitarian corporate regime he's filled and molded the world with. His prompt death doesn't in essence mean anything when it comes; the systems of abuse he's left behind are at that point self-perpetuating and unstoppable, to be brought to fruition by those with stakes to claim, a position to maintain or profits to make.
Another standout scene this early on is Elmyra's recounting of her past and Aerith's youth. Long before the iconic context is reached, this is where Aerith's leitmotif first experiences its full-blown, elegiac form and arrangement. It's a more than apt debut of it as the story related by Elmyra is genuinely affecting for its strict content and how it's told. The directorial touch is such that the events are being told to the AVALANCHE trio in the foyer of the Gainsborough home in the present, and many of the discussed anecdotes take place in that very same space--an overlap the game makes the most of in panning the "camera" just so the interior cross-section shifts out of view and the past and the present transition between one another with no harsh screen fades to be seen. It's a tremendously inventive piece of cinematography achieved with what are static elements on the screen, and creates a sense of tumultuous recollections overpowering one another, reflecting the emotional weight of the memories themselves. Fantasy media has a way of sometimes enacting emotive remove from the subjects with those very fantastical elements if they're all that's there, but they can also be a great boon in achieving the contrary through the very deliberate contrast they can provide. In this weird world that has all these pointed parallels to me and mine, the most directly affecting may be mundanities like waiting for one's spouse on leave from the army, going to the train station every day looking for an arrival that never comes. It's very real amidst the unreal, and Elmyra's narration of the past, her choices and motivations at the time, work so well in creating an entire history for these two characters who really haven't had much screentime at all.​
  • I am prone to viewing the Shinra HQ in its likely intended allegorical meaning, as the modern-day equivalent to an evil sorcerer's castle, adapted to the narrative context enjoyed by the game. That's straightforward enough, but rhythmically and structurally it also calls back to other franchise passings of the threshold: maybe it's the construction of the bridge in I or escape from its introductory sea; maybe it's the departure from the floating continent in III. It's the plunge into the unknown, an expansion of the horizons, sometimes quite literally, but what it also heralds in its later moments is something that has no precedent in the series: horror. This is a tonal and genre shift that only manifested in VII, even so long after its release, and is part of what makes the work unique. The protagonist's flashes of recollection and memory whiteouts signal a more uncertain mood from the start, which are supplemented over time with the anticipation for just who or what "Sephiroth" is--the introduction of the even more inexplicable Jenova within the Shinra HQ instills an unease unfamiliar to what's supposed to be expected from this series and genre. The prison breakout finalizes the direction: it happens outside of the party's control, in eerie silence, and forces to reckon with the biological monstrosities unleashed in the wreckage. Something got out, but you don't know what, and can only follow its trail. The subject matter the game to come delves into is coloured by cosmic horrors, gruesome genetic experimentation and psychological repression and breakdowns in a way that leaves little doubt in the inspirations and thematics reached for; even the environmental designs, audio direction and enemy concepts take their time to unsettle in ways the series hadn't previously considered or attempted. It's a very novel tonal fit in the abstract, but drawing from the same creative melange that Squaresoft of the mid-to-late '90s was embroiled in; the games put out in that period often had origins or overlapping concepts shared between one another, an individual genealogy almost impossible to conceive of. The burgeoning genre of survival horror popularized by Resident Evil could also have given guidance to this thematic pivot, as the presentational parallels already existed between them, and the cross-genre explorations between the two would be realized before long by Square themselves and others. Whatever the case, it's something that still sets the game apart now from all of its siblings, rubbing shoulders with something that would be expected to be entirely apart from stories of heroic destinies and ever-inflating statistics.
Other assorted observations I want to highlight before they escape me:
  • VII has such good sound effects. I know for a lot of people IV is the one with the iconic SFX catalogue, and I don't doubt there's an element of what one's brain imprinted on in youth as these two are very common entry points to the series for many, but I don't think it's merely that factor at play, but the commonality of both games existing in the early days, and as the series debuts on their respective systems. Those contexts are often a playground and testing bed for the bounds of new technologies before they coalesce into something more uniform, and thus perhaps all the more striking for it. I can internally reproduce at a whim the hit effect SFX and the critical hit permutations thereof for the entire playable cast in this game, and many more actions besides--that's how insistently distinct they are in my memory.
  • I am not fond of the scenario Mukki is introduced in, as described, but I have affection for the character regardless. It has mostly to do with how he's among the few fellow travelers seen in several places after departing from Midgar, further creating the sense that the world continues to exist beyond the player's own context and is capable of change and to be experienced by others on their terms. Johnny is in the same situation, and he's seen even more--crucially, I like him in the original, because that prevalence is still completely off to the side, to be discovered or paid attention to at the player's behest. The remake frames him in a mandatory light, overshoots in the comedic aspects of the portryal, and crafts a loud production of what was previously a quietly recurring cameo to an extent that I now resent his presence whenever it occurs.
  • Limit Breaks are terrific fun and my favourite aspect of them is how they completely overwrite any command priority the ATB queue is waiting to resolve when you activate one--it'll always go first so long as another action isn't currently being performed.
  • I'm out of the remake's scope of material for now, so these direct comparisons won't happen as much, I think, but the climb to the Shinra HQ is very characteristic of both games in what they do with space and how it's traversed. The remake is primarily an action RPG; you fight battles for the majority of its runtime and the most significant interactions one can have in it are limited to them. Sequences adapted from the original are always expanded upon, and sometimes the treatment chafes, but the big distinction sometimes is just how differently navigation occurs in both for the kind of games they are. The remake's spaces are "physical", of live 3D surfaces with collision detection, and shared between exploration and combat; they have to accommodate both purposes, leading to mostly flat terrain with open expanses for room to move in, interspersed with transitional actions and animations. As a random encounter RPG that occurs on what are effectively interactive paintings, VII can go absolutely wild and do anything it pleases with how its environments wrap around and over themselves. The climb to the HQ is then just that, a twisting path of criss-crossing junk and wreckage pouring down from the destroyed debris all around; it requires jumping over obstacles, grasping to dangling wires, and generally making one's way through geometry that would have no chance of existing in a game engine and game design with the limitations that the remake has to operate under. It's a chaotic mess to untangle and visually process and it's only possibly realized in this specific time in the series and largely medium's history--the past and the future each forbid it in their own ways. I'll savour it while it's here.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I'm parked in the forests outside of Junon. This is where my playthroughs traditionally not quite stall, as that has a particular connotation, but I would say linger, as it's the first opportunity to recruit Yuffie and the enemies appearing in the woodland dole out oddly high damage in great aggression, and appear in significant numbers as well, making it a prime location for learning new Limit Breaks. It's absolutely not required or even recommended but just fun to do in zoning out for a time for its own sake, and maybe to reflect on what's transpired since the last time.
  • the Kalm flashback possesses a duration of maybe twenty minutes compared to the Midgar sequence's five to six hours (which is still remarkable when the relatively short length is contrasted with the definitive reputation the setting evokes, and what the remake does with it) but it is in most ways at the very least the opening's equal as a piece of interactive storytelling. Structurally, it's a fascinating false start: all the world open before you, having escaped the epicenter of its decay and collapse, ready to take in the sights on the long road ahead--yet one is immediately pulled back to the past, to events known to have transpired but which have no explanation or reason in the telling. The precipice of freedom from the script the player's been exclusively beholden to until now is underlined with the uncomfortable assertion and reminder that whatever happened On That Day, Five Years Ago still lingers on beneath the surface, in the circumstances that unravel and Cloud's own conception of them. Even if the player hasn't picked up on the odd comment and interaction so far, the characters themselves begin to openly question the common narrative at this point--and some of them just keep quiet on things they don't know how to confront.
Sephiroth enters the narrative at this point too, if not in person then as the brief portrait or sketch of one--he too is still a memory, but one threatening to be uncovered once more. From the start, the game begins to quietly build his legend through incidental mentions of who he was and what he represented to others; invariably it's awe at his martial prowess that's expressed. As an unseen figure, you don't know anything about him except the brief musings others allow, and the deeds done ostensibly by his hand do little to dissuade from the notion established. He is built up to something unreal even in the game's fantastical context, a perception that's finalized in the game's own language, as the flashback places him in your party. Or are you in his? Sephiroth as he appears within the game's mechanical confines is set apart by how he interacts with them in ways the player can't: he is autonomous in battle; only carries fully mastered materia; refuses to allow his equipment to be altered and practically glares at the player for even attempting to. The power that's contrasted with the fledgling teenage Cloud utilizes the game's own design language to tell this story purely through numbers, but it all appears technically attainable, someday, if one trains hard enough; he's only level 50, after all. But even in this, for the purposes of the impression he's meant to create, Sephiroth remains untouchable and supernatural: no enemy attack damages him, and no magic he casts dwindles his reserves of MP--he's a force that breaks the game's own rules to craft his own myth.​
With all that work done in establishing the reality of Sephiroth as more immense than the stories about him, it's also an approach employed to who he is as a character. Within the game's own narrative and the culture of Final Fantasy VII that's existed in the game's wake, it's difficult to conceive of the game's most iconic components and players as something else than the roles they've been slotted into since. Sephiroth is the inscrutable boogeyman; the nemesis and tormentor; the harbinger of planet-busting calamity. The beginnings of that are already in place by this point in VII, so it's always startling no matter how many times the game is returned to how utterly mundane it is to be in presence of Sephiroth, the person, in this glimpse of his past life and routine. He's a little wry, at times professionally distant but also mindful of others's feelings, capable of relating to others in a conversational way from the little that we see. He has insecurities and doubts about himself which eventually consume him. Nothing of this sort had been done with a primary antagonist in the series before, as they were always imperious overlords that did not interact with others in this way; even the most human of them in Kefka actively rejected personhood of himself and of others. Sephiroth is a coworker, a cog and enforcer of the military-industrial complex, whose "fall" is a little sad to bear witness to because it is so concerned with personal crisis and emotional breakdown, where there was an individual there before being overwritten by the genetically imprinted wills and wants of a hostile alien organism. Whatever specific interpretation one subscribes to in the Sephiroth and Jenova power dynamic, it creates a picture of him and his personal agency having been simply co-opted by another malignant entity that's dictated his life from the beginning, with results equally as disastrous to the Planet's future, shifting the perspective from the corporate to the cosmic.​
  • there is a not too uncommon rhetoric that VII is at its best in Midgar and only there; affection for the setting is what in part propelled anticipation and likely facilitated the development of the remake that focused solely on the city--it's where the game's thematic throughline is seen to be told the clearest and most convincingly. It's not really necessary to argue Midgar's merits on those fronts as they're firmly established, but if left unspoken, the contrary implication is that the rest of the game does not measure up to the standards in imagery, conceptually or in aesthetics. That is the part that I don't agree with in the least as VII's world design, the very communication of its expressed ideals and themes is entirely reliant on the presentation of the world outside of Midgar's borders, where Shinra's encroached but hasn't always fully subjugated. You need to be able to walk the land through its mountain paths, frontier villages and isolated homesteads to build a counterpoint and reason for the resistance given; personal investment in what's being fought for, and a sense that some of it can still be safeguarded or reclaimed. There are many reasons for why I haven't been able to emotionally connect with a game like FFVI, VII's most frequent comparison, and while some are writing considerations one of the most relevant is in how it treats its world: I don't think it cares one bit about its setting aside from a stage for its principal actors to play out their drama on; it's a game so utterly devoted to its ensemble cast that nothing else has room or reason to exist in its worldview. By contrast, VII is so enamored with its own setting that it frames it as the fulcrum--emotional, spiritual, material--of its own storytelling and something to be protected by the cast on a deeper level than the place that holds all their stuff. It's the most setting-oriented game in the series up to this point, and it supports that thematic backbone with environmental design that imprints a sensation of all the beautiful and bespoiled locations on the game-long nature trail that comprises of the majority of the game's spatial narrative. It means a lot experientally, narratively and aesthetically, all at once, right up to the very end in the Planet's veritable heart.
The remake is only part of the story told, but its fragmentary existence at this point affects the ways the work is perceived now, especially for audiences to whom it's completely new. As such, thoughts on the five party members that exist in it, at this stage of the game:
  • Cloud's a "walking mass of complexes", to borrow a phrase from his former idol. He vacillates between macho braggadocio, straightforward heroism and aloof indifference as if trying out different personas; nothing about him feels consistent or quite authentic. In a contemporary context he was seen as a turn from the upstanding leads of staple genre works; the reaction in the wake of megasuccess saw rejection of what he was seen to portend in the new cliches thus erected and upheld. The reality is always more interesting than the reputation, though, and his story of personal self-actualization is told with a deft touch that allows one to buy into the superficial persona so far constructed before it comes crashing down.
  • Barret, too, feels like a construct, of racially pigeonholed social roles mostly cobbled together from movies and media, not personal experience or input. I'm not one to have the perspective necessary to criticize or legitimize the portrayal, but observation that it is a factor seems tenable. Squaresoft in looking to inspirations from outside their context to have black characters in more prominent roles effectively created their own stock role for them to fulfill in the bereaved single father struggling to balance their work with parenthood; it's a framing so much more directly relatable than most others that these characters are often valued for just that mundane quality, even if they're caricaturized along the way in other ways like Barret is.
  • Tifa has long been reduced to just an object of sexualization from the dawn of the character's conception, which is frustrating for its inherent reasons but also for how it diverts from how she's written. In a way, I understand the inclination to grab onto whatever seems in reach as so much of Tifa actively rejects definition. Her barriers aren't the ones present in Cloud, who's often unaware of his own interiority and compensates with an exaggerated self-demeanor--Tifa always knows herself, but she doesn't trust who she is or her own decisions; whatever she communicates to others is tinged with uncertainty and guilt. It's a fascinating character who defines herself in her unwillingness to speak up, who holds so many answers but lacks the confidence to drag them out into the light, and so creates a perception of herself as just the superficial exterior-- the spotlight is there, but she refuses to step into it.
  • whatever the remake's accomplished when it's all said and done, hopefully it's served as a reminder that the saintly, demure Aerith was always a reduction and misconception of the character built on fixations with prominent imagery and the gendered assumptions wrapped up in her visual design and stock RPG positioning. The sassy, mischievous and flirtatious woman that she's portrayed as has no room for easy dismissals and is the source of why she's so immediately memorable in the contradictions and nuance that she brings with her. It was done so well and so against type that the legacy of the character and how this reality of her still has to be regularly stressed now speaks to how unbelievable the concept fundamentally is for many players; it's much easier to read her as one thing only, and the worst-case byproduct of it is that she's reduced to "the one who dies" in what she ultimately does in the narrative outside of the character's own qualities.
  • Red XIII is a character anything but standard for this context, but it still bears noting that they conceived of a Native American-themed character and then called them "red." One might argue it's a callous reflection of Hojo's inhumane morals as he assigned the label within the narrative, but I don't think those kinds of in-universe justifications really hold water or excuse creative decisions made by actual people, and if the intent is there, slurs aren't the way to achieve them. The most enjoyable part of Red XIII's characterization early on and going forward is the propriety of his language and verbiage, even in the game's inconsistent standards of localization. The eventual revelation that this is effectively a sixteen-year-old in his people's relative lifespans clicks it all into place, as it's the diction of someone who desperately wants to appear serious and impressive to others at all times. Even in as oddly contextualized instances as this, Final Fantasy tends to cut to the core of the teenage mindset.
Some miscellanea to close with:
  • it sounds like a joke, but: this game loves toilets, and I think that's important. VI included a few but they were extremely rarely seen, whereas VII makes them a regular fixture in the game's world and environmental design. Video game spaces are always going to be some measure of abstraction even when they make gestures toward realism, but the explosion of analogous technology and standards of living and human habitation in VII's setting brought with them a veritable revolution in interior design and how those spaces were portrayed. The dioramas and cross-sections that make up the game's housings are so varied throughout and make a real effort in creating floorplans and layouts that if not totally incorporating of the necessary daily amenities, then are at least cognizant of the human need to have distinct spaces for distinct purposes. Thus we have the introduction of bathrooms into the environmental makeup of the world portrayed, with some being plot-critical and some being just there because they should be, and all of it characterizes the world as something other than a carefully curated prop of just the most picturesque elements.
  • this game does scale within battles to a greater effect than any of its peers, if your conception of "greater" is "larger." There will be huge opponents in the games to come, but combined with the increasing processing needs of increased polygon counts and more elaborate texturing, FF on PS1 doesn't cast their heroes as quite such ants as VII does, when it has the allowance to throw colossal giants at them, hacking at their toes. The first big showcase of this is the Midgar Zolom, which is so enormous that it has to be rendered as a visible entity on the world map itself--another first. Facing it in battle is intimidating enough, but then it coils further skyward when provoked, and the camera follows suit in capturing it in its full height. All these things are important to conveying the newfound physicality of the opposition, now that they can actually move and interact with the player party--many of the game's most memorable and dramatically portrayed opponents are to be understood on the kaiju scale.
  • Yuffie's introduction presents a funny reminder of how she's positioned in the game and what she represents outside of it. It's absolutely unthinkable now that a major production like this would have two characters of its nine-person principal playable cast relegated to optional, hidden character status, but it's also something that we probably take more conceptionally granted in retrospect, as the suggestion is that this is just how older RPGs could be and were, but no more after this point. The reality of course is that only VI utilized hidden characters in a comparable way before or since in the series, and even there they were more unattached, almost referential gag figures of no particular narrative integration. VII not only makes a large percentage of its cast easily missable but portrays them as individuals of equal mechanical relevance and with deep-set ties to setting or characters within the game's own fiction, allowing them to interact with the rest of the cast on par with the mandatory faces in basically all instances. The only concession in not including either Yuffie or Vincent in the game's CG sequences seems almost a strength in this context rather than an unfortunate omission: they had that much faith in the characters remaining appealing and of merit even if they weren't part of the glitz and glamour, their optional status rendering them more special for it.
Outside of that element, the act of recruiting Yuffie is in itself another playful experimentation in the game's design and making character-relevant shading out of ostensibly mundane interactions. The post-battle screen where one has to negotiate with the itinerant ninja is all a large trap, where the prominent save point or even just checking the menu are interpreted by the game as you having turned your eyes away from the playing possum Yuffie; she will promptly rob you and dart off. Without knowing the "solution", those kinds of details can trip a player up in figuring out just how to approach the situation, and the centerpiece of the scene itself in the multi-stage interrogation that transpires is another interaction in that vein, with one having to gauge Yuffie's persona and what she would respond positively to and what would set her off. It's an entertaining dialogue puzzle that's probably the most involved the game has, and a lighthearted comic beat for a character whose existence is mostly defined by levity, without reducing her to just a one-note joke.​
 
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Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
The last time I played Final Fantasy 7, there were two things that really stuck out to me as I went.

One of them was the way the dioramas of small interior areas used an isometric perspective of rooms floating in a black void in a way that reminded me strongly of Super Mario RPG, Square's most recent foray into volumetric environments. It's a stylistic throughline I wasn't expecting, but I think that the experience gained from that earlier game can be observed elsewhere. A shift from 2D environments to 3D environments demands a shift in the design of the way the player nevigates them. In two dimensions, areas meant to be difficult to traverse are labyrinths of varying complexity: no matter what kind of place is supposed to be represented, it's all just floors and walls, with the "flavor" expressed solely through ornamentation.

The complexity introduced by an added dimension, even if that dimension is only used for varying camera angles, allows there to be a closer correspondence between the space the player is navigating and the function that the narrative ascribes to that space. That means there are no longer any generic environments and abstract obstacles, only specific places whose navigability is impacted by its features. Chrono Trigger's use of a 3/4 perspective also allowed them to experiment with the increased representationalism enabled by increased dimensionality, so this is something that had been on their minds for a while, but the use of real polygons opened up even greater possibilities.

Second, I noticed how frequently and consistently the game rewards you for ignoring what the story is telling you to do and going off exploring. It's not just things like Yuffie and Vincent hanging out in optional areas that you can simply give up on solving. Powerful, unique materia is often just hanging out in the background of screens that you don't know you will never be able to return to. The player's experience of increasing the verbs available to them is at odds with the characters' experience of going on this bogus journey. This trend has largely been abandoned since the 90s. Players are motivated to try to solve the game, and hate worrying about whether they're going to miss something, and modern design tries to satisfy that desire. Loot can be reacquired by other means later, or areas can be revisited, or there are indicators of whether perfect completion has been attained. The Remake offers a very drastic reversal, giving the player a truthful checklist of sidequests in each chapter, and asking directly if they're really sure they want to proceed past each point of no return. And it even has New Game+!

But the thing is, this disconnect between what the player might want to do and what the characters are logically motivated to do never caused any kind of dissociation with the story. Ludonarrative dissonance doesn't occur, or at least doesn't detract from the fun, even though the ludo and the narrative are pulling the player in totally opposite directions. With only days left until the end of the world, Cloud spending weeks breeding chocobos or trying to beat his high score at the snowboarding simulator in the arcade doesn't take the player out of the experience at all. And why not? I think it's simply because both the game systems and the fiction are worth paying attention to on their own, so when the player blows off one, it's to focus on the other, not because they've stopped taking it seriously.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I am prone to viewing the Shinra HQ in its likely intended allegorical meaning, as the modern-day equivalent to an evil sorcerer's castle
Or a tower perhaps?

Sephiroth remains untouchable and supernatural: no enemy attack damages him, and no magic he casts dwindles his reserves of MP--he's a force that breaks the game's own rules to craft his own myth.
Or could this just be an exaggeration coming from the mind of a hero-worshipping teenager?

Hmm...
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I mostly take the front entrance on replays because I've seen the gags on the stairway, don't really want the Elixir, and would rather avoid Tifa slinging slurs at her friends. There's a bunch there to make either an equally flavourful option, as in the remake: people hanging about in the lobby skitter around en masse running away from the group's intrusion; there's a Turtle's Paradise flyer on the information board that's necessary for that sidequest (the only other chance to check it is at the very end of the game); entering the ground floor shop has the clerk panicked by her customers, and Barret assuages her that she won't be hurt and may be even paid for purchases as usual; and there's an incredibly elaborate minute-long FMV dedicated to promoting Shinra's automobile business you can just casually view on the store monitor. It's both propaganda for the company within the fiction, as well as an ample example of what kind of production VII really was--that they could create something this extensive and labour and budget-intensive and then just hide it away in a nondescript corner where many players would never even realize it was there. The excess is part of what makes exploring the world so engaging now, as then; big money used toward something idiosyncratic rather than the risk-averse because it was pioneering its own audiences on a scale never before attempted.

The scenes in the elevator ride itself in the remake are also roughly sourced from the original; you make stops on randomly chosen floors fighting whatever enemy is lurking behind the doors, and some of those floors may have you come across hapless Shinra employees instead of a battle. Barret also has a character moment within the elevator where he recognizes a change in Cloud--or his own preconceptions of him--in that he evidently cares and is willing to fight for something other than his own self-interests, and apologizes for "lotsa things" on his part as a result. It's rather sweet.
Thanks. I really need to make a mental note to go through the front entrance, next time. Sounds really neat. I should have known that this game has more to offer than a bunch of mobs to fight.

The parallel that was often drawn in those screeds was dismissal of it as an "adventure game", not a roleplaying one, which is probably more astute of an observation than intended as the branching point far in the past between the computer and console traditions had been conceived by an adventure game designer applying those principles to the dense genre of computer RPGs for the best possible adaptation on consoles.
Yeah, while it is silly to critizise FF VII for having adventure game elements (maybe more than one would expect), they are certainly there. As you mentioned, the Wall Market feels way more like an adventure game than anything else.

President Shinra the individual isn't a complicated villain, and he's so loathsome that he's likely no one's personal favourite character, but that lack of nuance isn't to be read as an exaggeration of the kind of evil he represents; the exemption of "cool" aspects about him prohibit regarding him as anything but the embodiment of the totalitarian corporate regime he's filled and molded the world with. His prompt death doesn't in essence mean anything when it comes; the systems of abuse he's left behind are at that point self-perpetuating and unstoppable, to be brought to fruition by those with stakes to claim, a position to maintain or profits to make.
I would really love to read two books: The autobiography of President Shinra, written by the corporation itself, and one written by a mainly objective observer, maybe a later historian. I would just really love to learn more about this man, if he always was such a heartless creature, and generally the way his company became the world-dominating monster it has become. How Midgar developed, and if it started as more of a benevolent place.

While thinking about Shinra, I'm always reminded of real-world technological companies, and how this might be the way they would lead the world. Heartless and calculating, only focused on getting bigger and better technology. Less money-hungry than President Shinra, though, I assume.

It's the plunge into the unknown, an expansion of the horizons, sometimes quite literally, but what it also heralds in its later moments is something that has no precedent in the series: horror. This is a tonal and genre shift that only manifested in VII, even so long after its release, and is part of what makes the work unique.
Not quite, there is the battle against Calcobrena in FF VI, which has bizarre, disturbing music and creepy dolls as enemies. But yeah, there isn't much done with that beyond this fight. Except maybe, when you are attacked by Edges parents, who were made into monstrocities.

But you are totally right, and I didn't even realize it, before you mentioned it. The white noise during the flashbacks, and the weird way Clouds memories work, is very weird and disturbing.

  • Limit Breaks are terrific fun and my favourite aspect of them is how they completely overwrite any command priority the ATB queue is waiting to resolve when you activate one--it'll always go first so long as another action isn't currently being performed.
They are great, I love them. I feel like this is the best implementation of them - you can do them regularly, but that's ok, because they are not completely dominate a fight, at least not in the beginning.

Second, I noticed how frequently and consistently the game rewards you for ignoring what the story is telling you to do and going off exploring. It's not just things like Yuffie and Vincent hanging out in optional areas that you can simply give up on solving. Powerful, unique materia is often just hanging out in the background of screens that you don't know you will never be able to return to. The player's experience of increasing the verbs available to them is at odds with the characters' experience of going on this bogus journey. This trend has largely been abandoned since the 90s. Players are motivated to try to solve the game, and hate worrying about whether they're going to miss something, and modern design tries to satisfy that desire. Loot can be reacquired by other means later, or areas can be revisited, or there are indicators of whether perfect completion has been attained. The Remake offers a very drastic reversal, giving the player a truthful checklist of sidequests in each chapter, and asking directly if they're really sure they want to proceed past each point of no return. And it even has New Game+!

But the thing is, this disconnect between what the player might want to do and what the characters are logically motivated to do never caused any kind of dissociation with the story. Ludonarrative dissonance doesn't occur, or at least doesn't detract from the fun, even though the ludo and the narrative are pulling the player in totally opposite directions. With only days left until the end of the world, Cloud spending weeks breeding chocobos or trying to beat his high score at the snowboarding simulator in the arcade doesn't take the player out of the experience at all. And why not? I think it's simply because both the game systems and the fiction are worth paying attention to on their own, so when the player blows off one, it's to focus on the other, not because they've stopped taking it seriously.
Very interesting points, Bongo. I always was of the opinion, that missables shouldn't be a thing, but by now, I slowly come to appreciate them, in giving you something cool, unique for the next playthrough. It is just a different feeling, when you play through a game a second time, and find something great that you didn't get the first time through. I still clearly prefer it, when I can get everything at the end, with a checklist that shows me IF I have everything. But I can see the value in a different approach now much better.

------------------------------------------------

As for me, I got a fair bit further too.

When I stopped, we just had left Midgar, seeing the world for the first time. And it felt great. Having the sky upon us, being able to see the horizon, just having grass under our feet - it felt very freeing, as a player, to be out of the danger zone. And aside from that, while we are not truelly free, the danger of Shinra fades a bit into the background. Walking the land will do that. To switch to real life for a second, going for a walk, through areas where I can see far, and see nature around, below and above me, is absolutely essential to my wellbeing. Seeing the horizon, with only grass and trees around, feels beautiful.

But, as Peklo mentioned, the freedom isn't as true as it seems. Our characters are still trapped in a world, dominated by Shinra, and that domination is in their heads too. We need to get some backstory from Cloud. For that, we visit Kalm, the small city next to Midgar. It is only a minute, but in-game, it's probably supposed to take a few hours, at least.

I always liked Kalm, and I imagine the name is chosen very intentionally. After the intense flight-scene, we come to a town that isn't directly controlled by Shinra, and where nothing is happening. Also, I imagine the sectors having looked similar to Kalm, once upon a time. Not that their freedom is complete - they, too have a Mako reactor. The other two members of your team visit the inn, but you are free to explore.

One person mentions the famous, floating continent of Midgar. Makes sense - when broadcasting about the city, only the upper part is likely shown, the one that actually looks nice. No mention of the awful slums, so that everyone thinks Shinra is the greatest.

People here already know about Rufus replacing his dead father. Considering that this douchebag was kind-of the leader of the world, this news has to be spreading very fast, and likely stopped any tv program for some time.

We learn, that someones father was a mythril miner. But with the reactor, monsters appeared, which made mining impossible. Now, the father spends his life drinking, in the bar next to where the son stands. The father even tells us the very same story.

So, this is the first time that Mako is brought in connection with the appearance of monsters. Mako is life, in a way, and can give some. It lets you revitalize unconscious people, and heal them of all kinds of problems. So it makes a kind of sense, that this energy would create new life. And, because the way it is used is wrong and destructive, the product is equally wrong. Considering that Mako is clearly an analogy to atomic energy (just consider the mushroom cloud from the tv program, that talked about the blown up reactor), we are likely talking about mutated creatures here. Just one more, actually pretty big thing, that Shinra does - it alters the flora and fauna of the planet, in a big way.

And, people know about AVALANCHE, but only bad things, of course. But, honestly, even a neutral news program would probably talk badly about them. All we visibly did was blow up two reactors. And everyone who noticed the fight for sector 7 is probably dead now.

One person says, that all is well, as long as the world is at peace. Which, I guess this game is the best proof that this isn't true. Yes, there is peace, but only because everyone has been brainwashed or beaten down by Shinra. A horrible dictatorship can also offer peace.

In one house, we find a boy who wants to become part of SOLDIER, when he grows up. I wonder how the commercials for joining look like. I can't help but think of Babylon 5, which showed a commercial for the Psy Choir at one point.

Also, in that house is a Peacemaker, a weapon for Vincent, just lying around. I wonder, is this just something, so you know that there is a hidden character in the game?

Another house contains a locked chest. I wonder whats inside. I'll try not to forget it.

People do seem to notice bad stuff happening, though. In one house, we find a woman who considers the energy from Shinra as a blessing. But her daughter disagrees, as she noticed the plants and animals getting fewer and fewer, at a fast pace. The planet is visibly dying.

After exploring, Cloud goes to the inn, and we get a flashback. He worked with Sephiroth, as his coworker, in SOLDIER. Cloud started after the war, when he was 16 - SOLDIER was tasked with putting down any resistance to Shinra.

People actually know about SOLDIER, right? Why are they ok with it? A corporation with a private army sounds like a nightmare. But then, I guess corporations aren't THAT different from states, in a sense? I need to think a bit more about that.

In the flashback, we see Cloud, Sephiroth and two grunts in a truck, during the rain. Cloud talks with the grunts, asking them if they are ok. Sephiroth tells Cloud to calm down.

We learn, that Cloud wanted to become a part of SOLDIER, because of Sephiroth. So he could be a war hero. But, when he became first class, the war was already over. And now, he signs up for big missions, so he can get some of the glory, too.

It is the first time we actually see Sephiroth, and, at this point, he seems very human. He isn't too personal with the others, but that could just be someone professional, who doesn't want to make friends at work. He seems decent.

We learn, that there is a malfunctioning reactor that produced a monster, and we are here to investigate. Chance wanted it to be Nibelheim, where we are going, Clouds hometown.

At this point, we are attacked by the created monster, a giant, green dragon. Sephiroth kills it very easily. Peklo talked already about how strong Sephiroth is made out to be here. It's a great introduction, especially considering that he is ALSO still pretty human. He does show interest in Cloud, and asks, how he feels, coming back home.

But then, that's probably just because Sephiroth doesn't have a home. No father, his mother being Jenova. And, at this point, I'm confused. Considering his breakdown later, what did he think this meant? Did he not know that Jenova is a space parasite (or one of the Ancients, as he believes later)? I mean, he knows that he isn't like other humans. Why the breakdown?

Actually, let's talk about Sephiroth for a bit. When I played this game the first time, he was fascinating and mesmerizing. I enjoyed him a lot, as an antagonist, and thought he was supercool. This changed completely, when I played this the second time. Because, when you learn the whole backstory, you see that Sephiroth didn't achieve anything. He lost against a random soldier, Cloud, and sort-of died in the process. Being broken, just because he learned he wasn't human. And the only thing he did was cast Meteor, which also failed. He didn't seem particularly impressive, as an antagonist (which was all that I viewed him as). I always compared him to Shinra, who I viewed as way more interesting.

But similar to Kefka, looking for more than the cool, dominant antagonist makes him way more interesting and well-rounded. Sephiroth is, essentially, just another victim of Shinra, and is, similar to Kefka, incapable of dealing with the grief he experiences. This is the very thing, that differentiates Terra and Cloud from Kefka and Sephiroth - the ability, to get back up, and try again. Because later in the flashback, Cloud says it very well. "What about my sadness?" He feels pain too, as do many people here, all due to Shinra. Sephiroths pain isn't any more important, and no reason to lash out at everyone else.

And despite all the powers Sephiroth got from Shinra, he couldn't deal with their abuse. Cloud, on the other hand, will deal with it. Like, Shinra brought the world convenience, but it never solved the bigger problems of the people. How to deal with grieve and pain. How to actually solve problems. Technology, as great as it is, just isn't everything, and it's not worth giving up everything else.

Back to the flashback. Sephiroth mentions, that Jenova died after giving birth to him. Right, that might explain it, he does think Jenova was a real woman, I guess. Most people likely don't even know about Jenova.

At this point, Barret realizes that we are talking about that monster in Hojos lab, and gets angry. Tifa makes him stop, so that Cloud can continue with the story. He says, that the town was quite, because of the monster. But, maybe, they were actually afraid of SOLDIER? So, what do regular people know about this organization? Is it known, that it exists to do horrible crime?

With that, we have some free time, and look around the town for a bit. People recognize Cloud, after looking at him closely, which is nice. But this isn't the first time in the series, where someone is coming back home. It was also possible to do with Bartz, in FF V.

When trying to enter Tifas house, it gets weird. Tifa asks, if Cloud actually entered it, and we can basically choose his memory. Because, I assume, Cloud is making it up on the spot, not knowing, or not WANTING to know, how it actually was. Tifa also asks, if he entered her room, and played the piano. Which we can do, as a nice bonus. But there is clearly something off here. No one is there. Was Cloud inside?

It's similarly weird, when visiting his mother. And this is a new one - all the other heroes, at least the main ones, were orphans. Terra is the only exception, but that one is complicated. Here, Cloud actually visits his mother, and has this awkward moments with her.

I'm actually not sure, if he did visit, but it feels real. There are the creepy, white blackouts that Peklo mentioned, which made the whole scene very eery. But, considering that Cloud was ashamed of coming home, not having achieved his dream, the way he interacted with his mother made sense, and feels very true. She worried about him, like mothers do (Do you eat right? Why don't you settle down, with a nice girl? ...). And Cloud, not wanting to talk, didn't give anything back. Considering that he is 16, that makes even more sense. Of course, he is just a moody teenager at this point.

Cloud still is an orphan, of course, but we experience a scene out of his regular life, together with his mother. I appreciate this scene a lot, and I wished his mother wouldn't completely vanish from the game, in every possible way.

In another house, there is a person who starts to remember Cloud, but then vanishes. It's weird and off, probably another memory that doesn't work with what Cloud wants to remember.

And then, there is Zangan, who feels like he is out of another game, cape and all. This guy seems, at least here, completely out of this world, like he isn't under Shinras control, and not disturbed in any way. His cape makes him feel more like a fantasy character, maybe someone from FF VI. But then, he might fit well into the Gold Saucers battle arena. In any case, he is Tifas master.

The innkeeper tells Cloud, that not much has happened in the two years since he was gone. Except for monsters appearing, and that all the trees have died. Which seems to be quite a lot, actually, but I guess you learn to live with that, as time goes on. The innkeeper also KNOWS, that there is nothing to be done about the reactor now. They probably wanted it, and didn't know the consequences. No one did. And now, they can't get rid of it, because that would make Shinra simply kill them.

The next morning, we are waiting outside, until Tifa, our guide, arrives. Cloud doesn't want her to come along, again, but she doesn't care.

Tifa here seems like a different person from the one she will be, later, in the presence of the game. I always loved her hat, as a symbol of having something fun in this sad, cold world. It seems pointless, for protection, as Nibel probably gets no sun, so she likely was a bit into fashion. But also later, when she wants to enter the reactor, she isn't the person she would become. She is more rash here, more emotional, less careful. Part of that is likely just growing up. But her fathers death probably traumatised her, and changed her to a calmer, more thoughtful person, who might be afraid of losing people. Something like that.

A guy takes a picture of Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth. I feel like we will see it again, later?

Next, we get a CGI view of mount Nibel, and the reactor. There might have been more trees here, but with all the edges, the mountain looks pretty nightmarish. I wonder how green it actually was earlier, before Shinra came. It just doesn't look like there was much live here, ever.

Immediately, the connecting bridge collapses (is there even another way?). One of the grunts has gone missing, Sephiroth doesn't take the time to look for him. Which seems pretty cold, honestly. You can't sacrifice a bit of time for a colleague? They have slept for one night, so the urgency can't be that big.

The mountains are full of Mako, even containing a Mako fountain, where the stuff seems to exist in liquid form. We even find some plants here, and actual, natural Materia, which is produced, when Mako energy is condensed. According to Sephiroth, the knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is in the Materia - with it, you can interact with the powers of the Land and the Planet.

So, what do regular people know of the Ancients? Are there myths about them? Or is this just special knowledge of Historians, and of people like Gast and Hojo? It sounds like mystic nonsense. Mako is the life energy of the planet, right? So, the Ancients probably used it, they didn't create it. Just, instead of abusing the planet, they acted respectful, and in harmony with it.

After some time, we reach the reactor, which reminded me of the temple in FF X, with the rocks flying around it. But that's likely just a coincidence.

The surviving grunt is positioned outside, to keep Tifa from entering. Again, she acts more like a teenager and more energetic, than I would present Tifa expect to act.

In the center of the reactor, we find the Jenova room, with multiple pods and a closed door. One of the pods was broken, and we fix it. We learn, that Sephiroth doesn't have much respect for Hojo, who seems to have invented a specific way of transforming Mako into usable energy. But he considers his predecessor, Gast, to be a great scientist. The system from Hojo freezes and condenses Mako. If it is condensed too much, it becomes Materia. So, the Materia we find is just garbage, that got created when the reactors don't work perfectly?

Anyway, in one of the pods we see a really creepy looking monster. Sephiroth mentions, that SOLDIERs are showered in Mako, to enhance their abilities, which is very similar to how the strengthening of soldiers in FF VI worked. Including one (Sephirot/Kefka), where this worked too well.

The creature inside the pod seems to have been exposed to an even greater level of Mako, which implies that this is a human, who mutated due to too much Mako. A few moments later, we also see one of the creatures...hatching(?)...from its pod, looking like it is suffering horribly. The whole thing is grim and scary, and feels very Resident Evil-y to me (who doesn't have much exposure to the series, but still). But as Peklo said, very much in the vain of horror.

At this point, Sephiroth realizes it. He, too, was such a mutant, only he was a success. I did wonder how fast he broke, as he pretty much immediately starts hitting a pod with his sword.

Cloud is actually shocked to learn, that Shinra created monsters. The propaganda division of Shinra is probably its most competent department, only trying to show the good side of the company. Even a SOLDIER doesn't know stuff like this, after all.

As the flashback was somewhat long, we get a short break, so we can save the game. Very thoughtful.

With the collected knowledge, and a very silent Sephiroth, we walk back to Nibelheim. He vanishes, though, being found again in the old mansion at the back of the village, which was used by people from Shinra. We find a secret door, leading to an underground laboratory and library. And Sephiroth is reading, for the whole night.

We learn, that Gast has found out about a 2000 year old organism, named by himself "Jenova". He thought it was an Ancient. Sephiroth asks himself why Gast didn't tell him, why Gast had to die, if his mothers name was a coincidence. We leave him alone, with his breakdown.

For many years, I wondered how this would be. Learning, that you aren't really a human, but a clone, or maybe even something "lesser". Just some scientific...thing...that wouldn't exist in nature. Would that create a breakdown, like Sephiroth experiences it here? Probably, for many people it would likely be a shocking realization, and if one hadn't already dealt with being "other" in some way (like, being queer), one would maybe question their whole identity.

Is Sephiroth still worth existing, if he isn't human? Is he essentially human? Just because he thinks, and feels, and basically is a human in every sense, except for the way he was created? Does this stuff matter?

I assume for people on this forum, it's pretty clear - be a good human, that is all that matters. Stuff that you couldn't influence, like your skin color, sexuality, all this stuff doesn't matter. Just be a good person, or at least try. Not to put words into anyones mouth, it's certainly my opinion.

But for someone, who always considered himself to be the peak of humanity, who always saw himself being stronger, faster, just better than everyone else...and then realizing he isn't a human, per se, could really break everything apart.

And here, again, we see how little this superficial stuff matters. Sephiroth probably has it all - a job that he is great at, and that he likes, I guess(?), being seen as a hero and living legend, some sort of star. When your psyche breaks down, all his strength is useless. Shinras presents to the world are without any real substance.

To be clear, this is a reductive point of view. Scientific advances are great, and make our live better. There is much superficial stuff, but technology and medicin, especially, help us a lot. As much as the internet, for example, can be horrifyingly awful, there is so much useful stuff it offers. Just look at everything Covid, and how it allowed us to keep in touch.

Going overboard is dangerous, of course. But I think it's important not to simplify these points, or at least be aware of the simplification.

Well, after Cloud woke up, he went back to Sephiroth, who called him a traitor. He learned about the Cetra, according to Gasts research, who were space travelers, who would settle on a planet and then move on. Until they would find the Promised Land, and the happiness it offered. But some disliked the journey, and wanted to lead an easier life. According to Sephiroth, they took everything the planet and the Cetra had made, without giving anything back. Clouds, and everones, ancestors.

I wonder how Sephiroth would have reacted, had he learned the actual trueth. Maybe he would just hate himself, not everyone else?

Disaster struck, and Clouds ancestors hid, and survived that way. Sephiroth thinks, the Cetra were sacrificed to save the planet. And now, there is nothing left of them.

And with all this, Sephiroth decides to visit his mother, Jenova, who he thinks was an Ancient. But before that, he sets the whole town on fire, and we get this amazing, horrifying shot of him, how he walks away, through the fire. I'm sure everyone here who has played the game knows exactly how that looked.

So, Sephiroth killed many people here, probably including Clouds mother. Cloud doesn't mention it, but he is clearly very hurt by what just happened, and wants...vengence, maybe? Just to talk? It does feel, like he is ready to kill Sephiroth.

Near the core of the reactor, we find Tifa, kneeling near her dead(?) father. It's the shot from earlier in the game, where Tifa grabs Sephiroths sword, and screams how she hates him, Shinra and basically everything. She tries to attack, but is just thrown away, getting badly hurt. Cloud puts her into a somewhat better position, and then follows to the Jenova room. Where we see a Giger-esque creature, with an upper body of metal, vaguely female face, wings and a tube, attached to a machine.

Sephiroth wants to find the Promised Land with his mother, to rule the planet together. He rips the metalic body apart, and finds Jenova behind it, in a glass tube.

As mentioned before, Cloud has a very good point here. He asks Sephiroth, why his sadness makes what he did here ok. Cloud is sad too. Why is his sadness less important? How is sadness a reason to make others sad?

I do find it interesting, that Cloud isn't talking about pain, or anger. No, he talks about sadness. About being emotionally open, and wounded. He talks about him and Sephiroth being emotionally hurt, vulnerable, real. No trying to be hardcore, Cloud is just hurt, and isn't afraid of showing it. And he knows, that Sephiroth is too.

Sephiroth, though, prefers to push his feelings away. Because, for all his power, he is weaker than Cloud ever was, even here. At this point, Cloud psyche is still whole, and he is more in connection with himself, than his antagonist is.

Sephiroth talks about being the chosen one, to rule over the planet, that he isn't sad at all.

Here, all the hero worship that Cloud had for Sephiroth fell away. But it's also the end of the memory. Cloud has no idea, how he survived challenging Sephiroth. We are left with this mystery, which, I want to mention, is excellently done. If I didn't know how the story ends, I would be totally hooked. Which, actually, I still am. It's a really well told story.

This is a nice point to take a break. I played some more, but that post is already too long. So, see you later.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
But then, that's probably just because Sephiroth doesn't have a home. No father, his mother being Jenova. And, at this point, I'm confused. Considering his breakdown later, what did he think this meant? Did he not know that Jenova is a space parasite (or one of the Ancients, as he believes later)? I mean, he knows that he isn't like other humans. Why the breakdown?

This is one of the parts where the localization poses an actual hindrance in understanding the nuances of the plotting through its unintentional vagueness. Sephiroth says "my mother is Jenova" which is not how anyone talks about their parents and suggests he is addressing his mother as Jenova, the space horror--which he is not, as he has no idea about that aspect of her at that point and goes on to believe otherwise anyway, thanks to spurious conclusions made in academic research papers (that these are the circumstances leading to a crucial turning point for one of gaming's most iconic antagonists is genuinely all kinds of incredible). He is just saying that his mother's name is Jenova; he is unsettled by the "Jenova Project" found in Gast's research papers and wonders aloud whether it's all a coincidence or not, as you observed. It's something you can puzzle out from context clues after the fact, but for the editors doing this work with probably very little time or resources, and people playing for the first time, it's really no wonder it's unclear and that VII has a reputation of being a game where people aren't really sure what even happened in it. The source material's nature in being reliant on untrustworthy recollections that get revised and retold over the course of the game compound on the inadvertent misdirection provided by the missed connections in the English script.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
I mean, you've got Bezos and Amazon and Musk and his stable of companies right here and both men treat both their employees and customers as nothing more than ledger entries.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I think most are in agreement that 2D games are great, some of the medium's highest highs were to be found on the PlayStation, and that FF's own history with the format is of great significance and merit, but with full recognition of that: I cannot be happier they transitioned to 3D here. It's not even a full dive into those uncharted waters; they exhibited the same awareness of technological limitations that many other developers did at the time, and made the compromises necessary to integrate 3D models and objects atop pre-rendered environmental maps to facilitate the game even being able to function. We take this stuff for granted today, or we might view it as a vestigial deadend, a charming "cheat" to portray higher-fidelity worlds than the platforms of the time allowed, but that's rhetoric that both minimizes the efforts of crafting these portraits and landscapes and their validity as an artform unto themselves. People yearn for this specific transitory moment in video games to continue existing also because the imagery and iconography presented through them was not tied to processing power; that was the "cheat" that conveyed impossible detail in majestic scale with basically only the artists's imaginations able to limit the scenery's nature. There's no question 2D FF were handsome games for their context and eras, but they were always bound by cartridge storage sizes, and the symmetric geometries and palettes of tilesets; when you had seen one room in an environment, further permutations were just that--a different configuration of the already witnessed pool of materials. In VII and every game that followed in its style, this sense of environmental iteration no longer exists, even when thematically or aesthetically a locale's nature is adhered to: through the chosen camera angles that imbue completely different emotive framing to each scene, the distance the surroundings are examined from, or the infusion of whatever endless amounts of clutter and assortments of individual detail on each screen, all rooms in the game are a presentational event. It completely changes the nature of exploration as it's no longer driven by the thrills of treasure-hunting on its own--you just want to see what kind of view will be revealed upon the next screen transition. Curiosity about the world drives so much of the game, in synergy with the environmental emphasis of the narrative and what it turns its attention toward on both ends of the player-developer axis.
Environment design is a huge thing I love about the PlayStation era games, Squaresoft's and Capcom's in particular.

I mean, Square's always had some really good environment designers, even the fairly simple tilesets of the earlier games do a good job of crafting places that feel lived-in. But with the advent of disc space they really got to show off what they could do. Final Fantasies 7, 8, 9, SaGa Frontier, Chrono Cross, Legend of Mana, they all have worlds I enjoyed exploring. Often I longed for just one more disc dedicated to allowing full exploration of these worlds without any of the plot locks or destroyed locales (monsters optional) because I enjoyed sightseeing in them that much.

I was so disappointed when Bravely Default was lauded like it was the second coming of the PlayStation era and its locales were so streamlined in comparison to those games. Though I definitely realize that it was a handheld game on a budget and that it had bigger problems; Chapter 2 was where I bailed for a good reason.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
This is one of the parts where the localization poses an actual hindrance in understanding the nuances of the plotting through its unintentional vagueness. Sephiroth says "my mother is Jenova" which is not how anyone talks about their parents and suggests he is addressing his mother as Jenova, the space horror--which he is not, as he has no idea about that aspect of her at that point and goes on to believe otherwise anyway, thanks to spurious conclusions made in academic research papers (that these are the circumstances leading to a crucial turning point for one of gaming's most iconic antagonists is genuinely all kinds of incredible). He is just saying that his mother's name is Jenova; he is unsettled by the "Jenova Project" found in Gast's research papers and wonders aloud whether it's all a coincidence or not, as you observed. It's something you can puzzle out from context clues after the fact, but for the editors doing this work with probably very little time or resources, and people playing for the first time, it's really no wonder it's unclear and that VII has a reputation of being a game where people aren't really sure what even happened in it. The source material's nature in being reliant on untrustworthy recollections that get revised and retold over the course of the game compound on the inadvertent misdirection provided by the missed connections in the English script.
As mentioned before, I'm actually surprised about the quality of the script. I expected more impossible to understand, little parts, but most of the stuff isn't too bad. And, considering what the translators were up to (as you mentioned) it's a miracle that this complicated story came out as well as it did.

In any case, thanks for explaining this part.

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To continue with part two of my big post (I feel like they get longer and longer, but this game has just so much to talk about, it's crazy), we learn about someone in a black cloak walking east, "towards that grassy field." We soon find the Chocobo Farm the happiest place in the game. I mean, even this place isn't save from tragedy, as the parents seem to have recently died, for yet unknown reasons. But there are very cute, 3D Chocobos, and it seems like Shinra isn't controlling the farm in any way.

You can interact with the Chocobos, if you like, and talk to them. It's actually really delightful, with dialogue that consists of different versions of "Wark", and our choice for "Wark" or "Warrrk". The latter does nothing, but the former makes all the birds do a little, cute dance, which ends with us getting our first summon, the Mog/Chocobo one!

I never had gotten this one before. I probably never talked to the Chocobos, and missed it every time. A shame, as it is super-cute. Especially the end, where the moogle is dizzy, and saved by his Chocobo buddy. Or you get the alternative, the fat Chocobo. It's a really neat summon, and one of only two ways of seeing a moogle in this game.

The farm owner has the delightful name Choco Bill, and he suggests to use a Chocobo to cross the swamp, to avoid the Midgar Zolom. To rent one, we need to talk to his grandson, who is in the stables. The granddaughter is also there, and tells us that the high prices seem to be a result from the parents death. Something seems to have broken Choco Bill and his grandson, Choco Billy a bit.

Billy explains the process of catching a Chocobo, and sells us the Materia needed for 2000 gil.

I think I already mentioned, that my friend and I were too dumb to catch a Chocobo, and decided to try getting through the swamp on foot. We were just really lucky, and I think fled the one time we encountered the giant snake. This time, I learned that, even on a Chocobo, you still have to fight the Midgar Zolom, if you touch it's shadow. Didn't expect that. At the end, we see another example of Sephiroths power - he impaled a Midgar Zolom. And, while it is pretty impressive, I feel like this is a bit redundant. We already fought on Sephiroths side, and saw him sleigh a dragon in two hits. We know that he is unbeatable.

The following cave is a nice, little dungeon, with a few things to find. It's also very short, and we soon encounter Rude, from the Turks. Accompanying him is the rookie Elena, who got a place in the group, because we hurt Reno so bad. She tells us that they are tasked with finding Sephiroth, and stopping us (which means I misremember, or they are really bad at their job). Tseng appears, and tells Elena to stop telling us everything. Is he the boss of the group? He exudes some amount of authority. But he also ignores his own rule, and tells us, that they are going to Junon Harbor, where Sephiroth was heading towards.

Rude finally says, that Reno wants to thank us personally, when he is healed. And they ask about Aerith, who isn't in my group. Then they leave.

So, they don't actually care about us, do they? Are they just ignoring their orders, or am I misremembering already? Are they waiting for Reno, so he can get his revenge?

Out of the cave, we find Fort Condor. The people there are defending it against Shinra - being a reactor, where a giant Condor has built his nest, and breeds an egg. Shinra would kill the bird, and destroy the egg. The people who live here, seem ready to die.

I generally ignore this quest, and only do the one at the end, where I just kill all the enemies myself. This time, I tried one battle. Which seems consistent with my group. Yes, we are on the way to find Sephiroth, but we ARE fighting against Shinra, and are supposed to help other who suffer from them. Considering that Shinra attacks, while we are here, it would be weird for us not to stop them.

It feels a bit overwhelming at first, but you even get some pre-battle information, to make a good decision about the units you buy. Even though it seems like the amount of units is a bit much for the start, it works out fine. I lost nearly all my units, but defeated the boss monster.

The whole thing feels pretty similar to the tactics-like battles in FF VI, except more streamlined. It's a fun diversion, if you are into this stuff, and is one of the (nearly) game-long minigames. A first for the series, again, and considering that the prices are decent, not a bad idea to do, if you enjoy it at all. I got a new weapon for Red, for example.

Next, we got into a fight with Yuffie. This is one of the things I remember watching, as my friend played the game. It's a fun puzzle, and we lost Yuffie a few times (as probably everyone does). Just the pure idea of the battle ending in a special screen - of course, you save here, and get some money stolen. It's also not THAT easy to get the answers right (I made a mistake with the second one, and she left). I remember that my friend lost her at the last moment, where we could switch to the naming screen. That was mean.

I really like the idea of hidden characters, and wished that more games would do that. It just feels like such a big think. It's a little bit different in FF VI, because there are so many of them - one of the points of the game is, that there are all these people who fight with you, that you can get or not, depending on your choice. Hidden characters feel natural there, as they aren't really hidden, just unknown at this point. And only Gogo isn't even mentioned.

Here, you have two of nine characters, who are completely optional, but have so much added to them. Granted, I don't know too much about Vincent, but without Yuffie, you probably can't do the whole Wutai stuff, which is a relatively big part, considering that. I really love, how there is so much optional stuff in this game, including a whole continent that only offers you content, if you got an optional character.

Also, the way Yuffie is integrated is pretty fun. You probably will encounter her at some point, while running through the woods, but lose her, because you still need to learn who she is, and how she will react to your actions. So, you have an idea that there is this person who you can encounter, not understanding what her deal is, that you likely want to find again. And then, you get rewarded with a new character. What a great bonus.

When you finally get her, that's not the end. She makes clear, that she has some hidden agenda, which just adds to the fun.

All the other times, I only got her after Junon. Last time, I was surprised to learn that you can get her here again.

Next point of interest is Junon, the former fishermans town. A sibling to Midgar, in that both were once small, nice villages/cities, that got overtaken by Shinra, by placing another city on top of it. In Midgar, it is energy. Here, it is military.

The whole thing feels pretty horrifying. Just imagine, you have this nice place (people mention how lovely it was, at another point), and then a damn corporation comes along, and builds another whole city above yours, just to win a war. We also see the excesses of Shinra here, with the gigantic canon, that was used to shoot Wutai from afar, I assume. Good lord. And, as with Midgar, Shinra brought pollution with it. The water isn't sustaining live anymore. No fish have come here, since Shinra appeared. And, as all parasites do, Shinra didn't leave after they won the war. The came to stay, not caring about the lives of the people at the lower part.

Here, I want to take Peklos and Bongos point up, about environmental design. It's amazing, how all these houses look like lived-in spaces, all individualised and interesting to look at. Priscillas room especially spoke to me - it looked so nice, such a neat contrast to what the town became. It might only be a small part, that people maybe don't even recognize, consciously, but making the environment enjoyable is a big, important reason why games like this stay in the memory of people. It makes it fun to just explore the world.

Down at the beach, we find Priscilla and a dolphin. She is scared of us, thinking we are from Shinra, and wants us gone. Thank god that we aren't, I feel this girl would die otherwise. Right at this moment, a giant seamonster appears, and we have another boss fight. I had a bit of a problem, because the bubbles work a little bit different from Renos pyramid, in that you need to attack them, not the character it traps. Which I didn't realize, so I had to fight a good part of the battle with two characters. Still, nothing too hard.

The bosses up to this point were pretty weak, and actually forgettable, except for Reno. Which is a bit of a shame, considering the beautiful random encounters the game has to offer. Consider creatures like the Hell House, Vargis Police, or this weird guys inside round pods, that sometimes look out with their grumpy faces. Some really great random encounters here.

After the fight, Priscilla is unconscious, as she ran after the dolphin and got hit by the monster. Her father(?) comes along, telling Cloud to do CPR, which leads to another minigame. I think you can't lose, and it's very easy anyway, but still...really strange.

Not to be misunderstood, I love these minigames. It's great, how many different things Square tried out, and kept in. This game isn't just a JRPG, it's an adventure, it has a snowboarding game, a racing game. It's wild and beautiful, I love how much they tried to get everything out of the new capabilities.

After saving the girl, the old man offers us his house to sleep. And Cloud has another...well, not dream, but he talks with another voice in his head. The music is creepy and off, and the voice talks about somthing important, from five years ago. Why didn't we meet Tifa, back in Nibelheim, on the first day? What did actually happen? They were good friends, why didn't they see each other. Cloud can't remember. The voice suggests to ask Tifa herself.

Who is standing in front of Clouds bed, when he wakes up. Some march is playing, very loudly from the upper city, likely annoying everyone. Cloud asks her about five years ago, but Tifa clearly avoids the topic. Something is really off here.

Outside, we meet Priscilla, who is better now. She thanks us by giving us the Shiva materia, which is really nice.

I always loved Shivas design in the 3D games. My memories are especially focused on FF VII and X, where she just seems so incredibly powerful. All she does is blow some dust, which freezes everything over. And in X, when she snips her finger, it feels like it breaks the world. Aloof and cold, like an Ice Queen, I enjoy her summons a lot.

She also tells us, that the music is rehearsed for Rufus. Here we learn, how the city was once beautiful, before Shinra came, and blocked the sun. You know, there is a reason why the Simpsons let Mr. Burns do exactly that. Taking the sun away from people is short for "This guy is incredibly evil.". Except Shinra probably didn't even realize what he did, not thinking for a second about the people of Junon.

Aerith suggests, that Rufus might cross the ocean from here, to follow Sephiroth. Which means, that we need to come along. And we play our next minigame, where we have to whistle for the dolphin, to let us jump into the air, above the part of the steel structure that is under high voltage.

That dolphin can jump really high. Also, it's a decent minigame, with a bit of trial and error, you can find the right place easily, and you can try again pretty fast. And then, we climb again from the lower parts, the slums, to the higher parts, which is closed off to regular people.

Something about closing off a big part of the city really spooks me. I mean, there is of course private property, and you can't just get into the building of a company, or just someone else. But blocking regular people off from a whole part of the city, the better part (which is very questionable here, but still) seems so disgusting. But, I guess if you have a military complex as part of a city, that would be normal, even in real life.

We finally get our first shot of an airship here. It is the first time in the series that we actually get a feeling for how incredibly big these things are. It's kind of amazing. But also feels like just one more thing, that is absurdly big, like so many of the things Shinra produces. The HQ, the cannon, the airship, the tower of the Gold Saucer - Shinra is so excessive with everything they do and produce, it's grotesque. And, considering the game we are in, there is a clear critizism of this excess.

We immediately reach the barracks, where a captain with his two soldiers is late for the Rufus, but also thinks that we are part of his group. He screams at us for not dressing right, and makes us change. Cloud thinks back, on how proud he was, when putting on the SOLDIER uniform the first time. Memories of a more innocent time.

We get some weird intructions, about how to march in formation, and then get out.

I think it's here, that we see Rufus drive through the streets, forcing people to give him a triumph. It's certainly here, where I want to punch this stupid brat in the face. That might be weird, considering that his father let an insane number of people die in the most horrible fashion, but the gall of Rufus here makes me even more angry.

Old Man Shinra probably knew, that he was just some asshole, who came to illegitimate power, and just didn't care. Rufus grew up under him, and probably thinks that he is the rightful heir to the figurative throne. That it is his god-given right to rule over people. Which would also explain, why he doesn't want to satisfy people, so his power isn't lost. He just expects them, to live under his rule. And so, he gets a triumph, despite never having done anything, certainly nothing good or worthwile.

President Shinra created a dynasty here, which takes, of course, a life of its own. Except that the family is made up of the top executives. You can kill the old president. It doesn't matter. If Rufus weren't a part of this, Scarlett would take over, or Heidegger. Maybe a power vacuum would get created, and the top people would fight over the leadership. It isn't so very different from how, when in Ancient Rome an Emperor died, there would sometimes be these huge civil wars, because there was no clear heir.

Shinra Inc. isn't just a company any more. It's an empire. One that isn't even based on the idea of protecting the people under you. Or that offers any civil rights. There isn't any protection for the citizens from the state, because companies don't work like that.

It's really scary.

One word on the city - it looks very inspired by communist cities, or at least what I have in mind, when I think of them. There are all these cold, colorless houses, that look very much the same. The only color is an aggressiv red, from the banners. This isn't a fun place to live, which is made all the more clear, when you look into the flats, later on. The are small, without sunlight, and just depressing. Upper Junon is a horrible place.

We are late for the parade, so we take a shortcut through a side street, and one of the soldiers shows, how to get into formation. It's a really funny scene, actually - we see it through the views of a tv camera, including the viewer ratings, which go down all the time, because I'm bad at this game. Despite doing it like the first soldier, I do something wrong, and get screamed at by the captain. The third time works, but I have no idea how.

The funniest part comes after, though, where the tv guys talk about what the hell I was doing, one of them gets suddenly fired, because Cloud acting nonsensical to them, and then he gets sent a bomb, so he would explode(?). Which means we get a grenade for our inventory. What a weird minigame with a fun context.

We soon see Rufus and Heidegger, who talk about the long-range airship, which is still being prepared, and should be ready in three days. Heidegger seems to laugh about everything, with a very loud, annoying laugh, that makes Rufus angry all the time. There is no jokiness here, Rufus is just an angry, emotionally cold boss without any sense of joy or humor. But seeing Heidegger dressed down, whose personality is godawful, and who also seems really incompetent, feels good. What a disgusting person.

When Rufus is gone, Heidegger laughs again, and all the soldiers (except Cloud) do the same. Good lord. Then he runs around, and punches soldiers, because Heidegger can't deal with his emotions like an adult, but does so like a five-year old. I'm probably insulting five-year olds here, sorry.

Like, does Shinra Inc. actually have any competent people in the lead? President Shinras only competent offering seems to be the use of Mako, and that seems to be an achievement of Gast or Hojo? Rufus is cold-blooded, and would likely create an atmosphere that would lead to riots, one day, even in the upper parts. You can't just treat the rich people like dirt, this never works. Heidegger is completely worthless, and the guy who was responsible for the space program doesn't do anything, anymore, as far as I can tell. Reeve has a conscience, but still a small one, and he actually seems to do his job well, but is drowned out by the bullies.

Scarlett seems competent. I guess she invented the giant cannon? And Hojo, despite him being a horrible human being, probably is good at his job. Maybe? Sephiroth thought differently, but he doesn't seem neutral. Eh, I'm up for the idea that Hojo is also incompetent, and just plays around with stuff, because it's fun to him.

So, the main thing that keeps Shinra at the top seems to be just brutal violence, and a lucky break in science. It doesn't seem to be based on competence. Which probably isn't too far away from real live.

Heidegger is on edge, because Rufus seems to actually expect something from him - specifically, finding Sephiroth, find Cloud and his friends, and finding Hojo, who left with only a letter of resignation (I guess he doesn't know how vacation works?). Under Rufus' father, he probably did whatever he pleased to do.

Cloud has one more assignment, namely to see Rufus off. That's a bad idea, captain, you already saw how incompetent Cloud was with this military nonsense. You will only make yourself look bad. But he doesn't seem to be too competent anyway, considering he was late, even without Cloud, and doesn't even have a grand finally for seeing Rufus off. He asks Cloud, who shows off his sword circling move, which is just fun.

Anyway, we are sent there, and get a chance to visit a few houses on the way. There are mainly shops, but also a few items to find, plus a second Enemy Skill Materia. There are also tutorials for Limit Breaks and Materia.

The latter was actually interesting, and I learned that it is a good deal more complecated than I assumed. You can do really nice stuff, and I can see now, how the idea for junctioning develped from this. You can give your weapon status effects, increase your ability points in some ways - the basic ideas are already here. Interesting, I never knew that, because the game is easy enough that you never need to learn the more intricate details of using Materia.

We also find an underground bar, where Rude spends his time, and find the guy, whose uniform we stole. He actually would have been even later, and no one would have known, I guess.

Then, we see Rufus off, and have to do a Simon Says minigame, which was way too fast for me. I think I got 30% approval, mainly because I went right instead of left, or something like that. Heidegger, of course, laughed at us the whole time.

Funnily enough, we see Red inside the hangar of the ship. How did the others even get inside? Why did Cloud do all this nonsense? But we also get inside, and see the ship start its journey to the next continent.

Everyone here is wearing a uniform, to hide among the crew. Red is my favourite, trying to walk on hind legs and having his tail sticking out, of course. Maybe he could just hide in the cargo area? It's fun.

Barret watches Rufus and Heidegger, wanting to kill them. But suddenly, the alarm starts, a suspicious character is on board. Weirdly, at this point everyone on the ship, besides us, is either gone or unconscious.

We walk into the engine room, where a guy stands, but immediately dies, when we talk to him. And out of the ground, Sephiroth appears. He says, that the time has come, after his long sleep. He doesn't recognize Cloud, though, which is intereting. Cloud is taken aback by it. But Sephiroth doesn't care, starts to fly (this alone seems really weird, actually), and leaves the arm of Jenova, which transforms into Jenova-BIRTH, and fights us. I don't have anything written down about the fight, so there probably wasn't a great gimmick. But it was the most challenging boss battle, up to this point. Not hard, I never was in actualy danger, but harder than anything else.

The group recognices Jenova, from the pod in Hojos lab.

And with that, we reach Costa Del Sol, which seems to be the only really nice place in this world. I guess it's such a nice vacation spot, that Shinra didn't want to do anything stupid here? It feels a bit like from another game.

We do see Rufus and Heidegger getting off the ship, and Rufus harshly criticising his underling for catching neither us, nor Sephiroth. Rufus explicitly states, that he expects results now, and then boards a helicopter. Heidegger, like the child he is, lets off steam be pushing people into the water. What a pathetic excuse for a human being.

Well, that's where I'm at. Next is the Gold Saucer, I think. Then Cosmo Canyon, and then already Cids town. With a detour to Wutain and finally the northpole, the end of the first CD. Honestly, the whole game seems shorter than I remember it. There are only a handful places, before the end of CD 1, and CD 2 and 3 are way shorter.

Oh, right, Nibelheim is somehwere in there, too.

Anyway, looking forward to revisiting the Gold Saucer, and being trapped in a desert prison.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Made it out of the Gold Saucer.
  • as the group increases in number, an interesting aspect of the game's storytelling becomes more prevalent. Previous series games were either completely static in terms of party composition throughout (I and III) or practically so as the scenario dictated the lineup (II, IV and V). VI was the first time a player was free, at times, to choose their own characters to explore the world with, and those opportunities would be more focused around the more freeform latter half, even if they periodically turned up before then. Regardless, the cast was now something more than the confines of a battle system and a pause menu would contain, so a question would arise: what are the "inactive" characters doing while the player is going about their adventures? Do they cease to matter until called upon mechanically, or are they taken to be invisibly present, as abstracted as the other storytelling methods these games use?
It's never been a clean break, but VII does a lot of work in including little moments and asides to create the impression that the offscreen half of the party is walking down the same roads the player is, always just out of sight. It's there from the start of the travelogue as the two unpicked characters make their way to Kalm on their own, and these occasions continue as long as the journey is shared. It's especially concentrated in Junon, as intermissions in the story lead to the party dividing up amongst themselves, conversing idly and actively creating that sensation of camaraderie that's supposed to be implicit in these kinds of narratives. You can see glimpses of them proactively stowing themselves away on the cargo ship as Cloud is undergoing his own trials; they don't cease to exist when the camera isn't strictly on them. The arrival at Costa del Sol creates more of these kinds of ephemeral moments, as the three (if you recruited Yuffie) not with Cloud disperse around the resort to catch their breaths before the trek ahead and displaying autonomy that's both effective characterization and added interest in the locale in tying it to the individual interactions with it. Tifa can reunite with Johnny here if she's free to do so; Yuffie may take up a temp position at a Materia stall, probably practicing her grifting ways. They're really lovely interludes both because they're easily overlooked and because they don't revolve around the player character's graces and priorities.​
  • the passage over Mount Corel is one of the highlights of the game for me, despite and explicitly because nothing much of note happening there. Just the approach to the location itself on the world map indicates something that's been observable about VII's world design as soon as one made it out of Midgar, but is now underlined more strongly by the kind of topography traversed: it's a 3D world and can interact with the traditions of RPG world maps in new and novel ways because of the added dimensionality. Much of it is visual flavour--a mountain range appears as a physically forbidding obstacle in ways a graphics tile wouldn't communicate with the same results--but also functional in how the world comes off; the shape of the land is much more uneven, sloped and slanted, its environmental narrative more convincingly naturalistic. Height differences now exist; a bridge is more than just an alternate tile on an equally flat plain, and there is a memorable one crossing a waterfall and river on the mountain path towards Corel. Before the location proper has begun telling its story, the shape of the land itself on that grander scale has already primed the player for it with tools previously unavailable.
The mountain itself is as memorable as it is because it juxtaposes the game's thematic core in its characteristically unsubtle but effective ways, in the serenity of nature being threatened and eclipsed by the offenses of Shinra, in a very literalized example. "Holding My Thoughts in My Heart" as a gentle, comforting reprise of the majestic main theme mixes with the private solitude of the hike, as something to take reprieve in amidst all the intrigue and uncertainties, but it is quickly broken by the jarring intrusion of yet another despoiling Mako reactor, accompanied by the BGM that are intrinsic to their emotive scale. It's completely offensive to the burgeoning atmosphere and in one guiding step of environmental and audio design has the capability of communicating the game's themes more saliently than any protracted sermon by its characters. To depart the installation's shadow is a deeply felt relief, even as its effects maintain in other forms along the way, with falling apart infrastructure left behind in the driven-out coal industry's wake; Shinra's take always exceeds its returns. It's isolated country with a whole two souls to be met along the way, with one of them sequestered away in a secluded hollow, surrounded by the tools of a trade the region can no longer support. "Walking the earth" is an ubiquitous status quo for genre narratives that are concerned with providing a framework for what's essentially voeyuristic sightseeing; VII has the benefit of being so environmentally concerned on multiple levels that even the anonymous routes and pitstops have the possibility of communicating much about the kind of story it's invested in telling.​
  • all the business with Dyne is mostly well and good for my tastes; he is framed as the tragedy that Barret could've become if not for the mockeries of happenstance. My attention and appraisal of the character is distracted from the presumed intent because of the longstanding Final Fantasy legacy he's part of, a mostly undiscussed one because it reflects wider societal indifference about the subject: we're talking handedness in Final Fantasy, and does it ever have a clear agenda to push and stereotypes to propagate. This isn't FF's invention; much as it would be tempting to believe otherwise but human existence and societies have practically always discriminated against left-handed people, with the world being constructed and ordered for the ease and comfort of those with dominant right hands and all other considerations being secondary or nonexistent; the attitude is baked into the very etymology we discuss the topic with. Video games as products of pure fancy and fantasy which are actively projected onto have the perfect vehicle and context to reject the bias and stigmatized narratives and provide the heroic and aspirational examples and avatars whose handedness isn't devalued and diminished; it's the reason why a character like Link who in recent history has been re-envisioned as favouring his right strikes as such an inconsiderate insult to what significance he previously held and how thoughtlessly it was all taken away.
Final Fantasy leans heavily on the social biases directed at sinister folks, in making that connotation almost always literal. Handedness as a mechanical feature only really existed in II and IV, and those games used it as a narrative shorthand of making judgments upon the moral character of the left-handed minority: Leila and Leon are the ones affected, characters whose narrative role is defined by initial duplicity or some kind of internal corruptibility that makes them morally questionable. The pattern continued into IV, where the characters so treated would again follow suit in Palom, Kain and Golbez. The presence of this mechanical footnote isn't engaging on its own so it's to be read as characterization through mechanics as these games explore in general--it mostly exists as an excuse to signal to the player that handedness defines trustworthiness in the individual, in an archetype directly reflective of damaging societal biases, uncritically applied to imaginative contexts where they should not exist in this way. Even in VII, where handedness no longer lingers as a note on a stat sheet, those same attitudes persist in who the trait is informally applied to; examples include Reno, Sephiroth, and yes, Dyne. It wasn't enough that Dyne is written with the same physical and emotional trauma Barret was and that the trajectories their lives took from then on were only differentiated through uncontrollable circumstance--by the storytelling language the series has so often played by, the tragedy and ultimate fate of the left-handed Dyne seems more deliberate and reliant on ugly predestination than initially might've been assumed.​
A couple of odds and ends:
  • there's a funny little throughline in VII where it directly echoes very specific iconography or situations from V, of all games. An unmistakable example would be the Chimera roaming the Gold Saucer desert, to be avoided for its relative threat level when initially met but possessing the potential reward of the Enemy Skill Aqualung for those that dare to chance learning it--one of the very few Water-elemental attacks in the game. This isn't something so much referenced but lifted wholesale from the prior game in all its specificity, and these things continue to pop up unassumingly but reliably consistently; Death Claw's made an appearance so far too and more mirrors are yet to be unveiled. It's a curious bit of parallelism as the connection between the two games isn't so often highlighted in commentary by most, so it's to be guessed at what exactly motivated it. Was it simply shared staff inclined to reuse material they knew was sound? Or maybe, as the series had now moved fully into the future, these echoes of the culmination of its prior self were included just for that reason, as a bridge between the past and the new frontier.
  • remember how the party left Marlene tending bar on her own near the beginning of the game? If not clear from context, it comes up in the conversation with Dyne that she's literally four years old. This is the kind of cheerful absurdity that the game engages in around the margins, and which does not exist in as great prominence in the remake's comparative treatment of the material. In Barret's recollection of the day he lost everything that ever mattered to him, he bounces and cartoonishly dances on the hail of bullets directed his way, moments away from the injury that would define the course of his life. Even at its most serious, the game has one foot in absolute farce in ways games with more sedate and codified ways of presenting themselves could never reconcile.
  • Dio is such a weird character, to the extent that when people consider what VII even is he might not enter the equation despite multiple story-critical scenes he's featured in. On one hand, the class struggle and critique through conceptual and visual design is at its most exaggerated in the Gold Saucer and the desolation it's built on top of... on the other, here's this impossibly buff guy strutting around in a speedo, as its sole owner and proprietor. It's not even the first time the game's gone to this particular well, and it always raises the question of how the remake will adapt the interpretive absurdities of the original. In cases like Mukki, he was simply written out and replaced with something else, but characters like Dio, and more to come, are oddities that nonetheless command relevance in the overall shape of the game's arc. This question is probably more than a little relevant in being unable to predict the remake in any shape or form before it's actually done, as the directions open to them are so vastly undefined and uncharted.
 
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Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
In Barret's recollection of the day he lost everything that ever mattered to him, he bounces and cartoonishly dances on the hail of bullets directed his way, moments away from the injury that would define the course of his life.
FF7 is really the bridge between the old style of sprites jumping and twirling and the more expressive 3D models that made that kind of choreography obsolete. We gained more than we lost in terms of cinematics and storytelling, but something of value was still lost there.
 
I think FF7 was what started my interest in console RPGs in general, even though I wouldn't get to actually experience it until about two years after it was out. It was seeing the ad campaign on TV that lodged the idea in my brain that I was going to have to play this at some point, but not having access to a console or the requisite funds to buy one meant I was limited to whatever I could download at home on our 28.8 modem connection from the plethora of r0mz sites that had sprung up, while trying to piece together a history of the series from what scant information was available back then. This is how I ended up playing Mystic Quest as my first FF game (or "Final Fantasy (USA)" as the rom header titled it), and had a lot of lingering questions like "why are Final Fantasy II and IV just the same game but one's in Japanese?"

As a result of that, by the time I could actually afford my own Playstation with FF7 bundled, I'd already experienced most of the landmark RPG titles at least up to the end of the 16bit era, just because of that initial desire to know what this amazing new thing was and what had come before it. Even though most of these would've been played on Snes9x with terrible framerate issues, graphics layers displayed incorrectly and most of the sound effects not working. But I'm glad I did.
 
On my first playthrough of FF7 I think I was confused about the geography of Midgar. If there's an upper section on top of a plate, I felt it should be visually distinguished from the lower section by showing the daytime sky when you get to Shira HQ. Except apparently Square wanted to reserve the first appearance of daylight for the escape from Midgar for dramatic effect. This made the upper and lower sections of Midgar feel less distinct to me than they could've been, though the tone that sets may make a useful statement: the act of oppressing brings down the oppressor. When the plate over Sector 7 came down, I wondered: Were there any people on top of the plate and if so, what happened to them? Now that the plate is gone, shouldn't there be sunlight coming down into the lower part of Midgar?

Hearing about the plate between the upper and lower sections made the opening camera pan confusing in hindsight: If Aerith is in the slums and there's plates between the slums and Midgar's HQ in the upper section, where's the plate during the intro?

I've heard that in the 1990s the Final Fantasy development team was an ensemble and much of the job of the team leaders was to stitch together the highly diverse pieces of fabric the rest of the team created. I feel like Midgar's rich content and incoherent concept are both results of this.

I haven't played the remake or watched many videos of it, though I thought I saw one that seemed like there was sunlight in the slums? Or maybe that's just the artificial lighting.
 
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The directorial touch is such that the events are being told to the AVALANCHE trio in the foyer of the Gainsborough home in the present, and many of the discussed anecdotes take place in that very same space--an overlap the game makes the most of in panning the "camera" just so the interior cross-section shifts out of view and the past and the present transition between one another with no harsh screen fades to be seen. It's a tremendously inventive piece of cinematography achieved with what are static elements on the screen, and creates a sense of tumultuous recollections overpowering one another, reflecting the emotional weight of the memories themselves.​
  • but what it also heralds in its later moments is something that has no precedent in the series: horror. This is a tonal and genre shift that only manifested in VII, even so long after its release, and is part of what makes the work unique. The protagonist's flashes of recollection and memory whiteouts signal a more uncertain mood from the start, which are supplemented over time with the anticipation for just who or what "Sephiroth" is--the introduction of the even more inexplicable Jenova within the Shinra HQ instills an unease unfamiliar to what's supposed to be expected from this series and genre. The prison breakout finalizes the direction: it happens outside of the party's control, in eerie silence, and forces to reckon with the biological monstrosities unleashed in the wreckage. Something got out, but you don't know what, and can only follow its trail. The subject matter the game to come delves into is coloured by cosmic horrors, gruesome genetic experimentation and psychological repression and breakdowns in a way that leaves little doubt in the inspirations and thematics reached for; even the environmental designs, audio direction and enemy concepts take their time to unsettle in ways the series hadn't previously considered or attempted. It's a very novel tonal fit in the abstract, but drawing from the same creative melange that Squaresoft of the mid-to-late '90s was embroiled in; the games put out in that period often had origins or overlapping concepts shared between one another, an individual genealogy almost impossible to conceive of. The burgeoning genre of survival horror popularized by Resident Evil could also have given guidance to this thematic pivot, as the presentational parallels already existed between them, and the cross-genre explorations between the two would be realized before long by Square themselves and others. Whatever the case, it's something that still sets the game apart now from all of its siblings, rubbing shoulders with something that would be expected to be entirely apart from stories of heroic destinies and ever-inflating statistics.
I feel like the memory Edgar and Sabin have together in Figaro Castle in 6 have a flashback in the same room with a camera pan, though I think 7 uses the technique to greater effect. This technique also feels to me like something that was invented by Citizen Kane or by another movie around its time, though I can't say for sure off the top of my head.

As for horror, I think in Dr. Lugae's experimenting on Edge's parents in 4 and the captive espers in the Magitech Factory in 6 are pretty horrific, though again, 7 goes farther with it.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Whatever incidental examples of horror iconography or moments that have existed in the series before this point don't really have anything to do with the overall tone those elements are put toward realizing. IV's a bright storybook fantasy romp; VII's a frequently moody techno-thriller--they do different things with their shared genre. You can point to games in the series after this too where they'll provide something ghoulish or downright body horrific for specific moments--the distinction remains in what the overall theme and tone of the story being told is even if all of them are capable of these examples in a vacuum.
 
On my first playthrough of FF7 I think I was confused about the geography of Midgar. If there's an upper section on top of a plate, I felt it should be visually distinguished from the lower section by showing the daytime sky when you get to Shira HQ. Except apparently Square wanted to reserve the first appearance of daylight for the escape from Midgar for dramatic effect. This made the upper and lower sections of Midgar feel less distinct to me than they could've been, though the tone that sets may make a useful statement: the act of oppressing brings down the oppressor. When the plate over Sector 7 came down, I wondered: Were there any people on top of the plate and if so, what happened to them? Now that the plate is gone, shouldn't there be sunlight coming down into the lower part of Midgar?

Hearing about the plate between the upper and lower sections made the opening camera pan confusing in hindsight: If Aerith is in the slums and there's plates between the slums and Midgar's HQ in the upper section, where's the plate during the intro?

I've heard that in the 1990s the Final Fantasy development team was an ensemble and much of the job of the team leaders was to stitch together the highly diverse pieces of fabric the rest of the team created. I feel like Midgar's rich content and incoherent concept are both results of this.

I haven't played the remake or watched many videos of it, though I thought I saw one that seemed like there was sunlight in the slums? Or maybe that's just the artificial lighting.
Remake makes it explicit that there were people on that part of the plate, they all died or lost their homes, and Shinra doesn't seem to care.

Aerith lives in the slums, but she travels up to the plate to sell flowers, and that's where she is in the intro and when you run into her after escaping the reactor.

The light in the slums in Remake is still artificial, but it does have more of a natural quality, while in the original everything in the slums looked like it was tinted yellow.

Now that I'm thinking about it, everything Shinra builds is constantly shrouded in darkness; besides the Shinra building, the upper part of Junon is darker than the lower part, and the screen in Mt. Corel with the reactor is dark despite the rest of the area being well lit. On the other hand, Gongaga's melted down reactor has normal light, and the remains of the plate that you climb are lit by a setting sun (this is more apparent in Remake, which devotes a whole chapter to that sequence) until you get to the top as night falls. It's like light returns wherever Shinra's constructs are destroyed.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Remake gave the slums a proper skybox because being full 3D means you can tilt the camera up, and there's a surprising amount of sky still visible down there. Yellowing it would require a bunch of smog, but that's not lore-friendly. You also directly interact with the lights on the underside of the plate at one point. But all your trips topside are at night.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Edit: I feel like this was more summary, and less interpretation. I hope it's not too boring, I feel a bit tired today.

Costa Del Sol is a nice place. It actually feels really weird, that there is no dark part to it, like later on, with the Gold Saucer. No, just a nice place for your holidays. We get some mentions here, about the Gold Saucer, Chocobo Racing and snowboarding at the Icicle Inn. As Peklo mentioned, there is this nice bit with Yuffie working at the Materia store. And, when sleeping here, you can hear the waves, which is a nice detail.

When continuing our travels, we soon see the Gold Saucer from afar, which makes it clear immediately what a giant monstrosity that building is. But, due to a river, we have to take the long road through the mountains, where we find another horrible looking reactor. Going further, we reach a giant bridge. Another minigame is added here, where parts of the bridge break off, we fall down for some time, and are supposed to press buttons to move left or right, to get some items. I'm way too slow for this.

Knowing where we are makes this part rather sad. Aside from the monsters (which are here, because of the reactor, anyway), this might be a nice place to do some hiking. But now, you are greeted by this gross reactor, with all its unnatural lights.

There is a small, neat bit, at the very end of that bridge. You can hear some chirping at a dead end. If you realize that you can climb that wall there, you can reach a birds nest, with some chicks inside. It's really nice to see, and, as far as I can tell, only there as a neat easter egg (or something like that, it doesn't seem to fulfill any gameplay function).

After the bridge, we find Correll, Barretts hometown. And it makes an immediate, strong impession. Midgar had the feel of a modern-world dystopia, of a city with a totalitarian government, where some parts are completely neglected, but modern niceties might still find their way in. Junons upper part looked similar to a communist city. And Correll immediately strikes me as post-apocalyptic, similar to the smaller cities in a Fallout game. Which fits well - this place was alive at one point, and is dead now. It's trade has been given up, and even if it hadn't voluntarily, it would have died economically.

Barrett isn't welcome here, and call him stuff like "Death Sentence". He just takes it, accepting the blame. I'll get to that in a second. For now, I wonder who came up with the idea of making people, who want to visit the Gold Saucer, go through the slums that are Correll? I wonder that no visitor ever died on his way - whoever goes to the Gold Saucer has got to have money, unlike the people here. But then, it's Shinra - they aren't were they are, because they are competent.

The ride to the Gold Saucer is free. During the time, Barrett talks about his past, and we learn how he, and everyone else (except for his best friend Dyne), was into the idea of building the reactor here. Which is what makes the towns hatred for Barrett so insane to me. EVERYONE believed Scarlett, when she promised that Shinra would make sure that everyone would be cared for. The people in Correll just won't accept their share of the responsibility for the problem.

Not that it would matter much, I assume. What was Corrells choice? To slowly die, due to their work becoming obsolete? Dyne just didn't want to give the trade up, that had made this town important for decades. But Shinra would have won anyway.

Aside from that, as Cloud mentioned, SOLDIER was there to put out resistance against Shinra. I wonder how long it would have taken, for them to come with guns, forcing the issue. That Scarlett was lying is obvious, I just wonder how this horrible person is capable of acting like a decent, human being. Aside from that, Shinra burnt down the town, because of a malfunction in the reactor. Just...what kind of insane reaction is that? Not a surprise here, but Shinra is led by a bunch of preschool children. I mean, I get it, they want to deflect the blame, but maybe don't kill everyone?

Interestingly, Yuffie doesn't sympathise with Barrett, thinking he shouldn't have trusted Shinra anyway.

This makes it very clear, where Barretts anger came from. Blaming yourself can be horrible, especially if you feel at fault for killing a ton of your friends. Your hometown. That must hurt horribly. But it's also completely misplaced. This is all Shinras fault. It still feels, though, like Barretts anger comes from selfhatred. He knows, that Shinra is at fault, but he thinks he shares some of it. Which is nonsense, of course. But also pretty human.

We get a CGI scene of the Gold Saucer, which looks amazing. It's another case of Shinra going completely overboard, that thing isn't only giant, it's colored in gold (of course). Another sign of Shinras disgusting excesses.

The place is fascinating, but shows it's true face immediately. There is a savepoint here, but it costs money to use. Not real money, but GP, money that is only worth something in the Gold Saucer. I assume stuff like this is a thing, in some amusement parks, but it always struck me as awful. I can't help, but think of Itchy and Scratchy Land, where Homer wastes a bunch of money on worthless "money". It feels so much like a scam.

Also, there is a guy in a fat chocobo costume running around here, and we see the entrance, as the mouth of that thing Cait Sith rides, plus a moogle and a chocobo on top. So, are chocobos so popular, that there is media for them? Like, is there a tv show for kids, about a moogle, a chocobo and whatever that Cait Sith robot is?

With this in mind, I want to ask about summons in this game. Like, most materia enhance your abilities in some way, or give you straight-up magical powers. Which makes sense, you use energy to do stuff. But what are the summons? Are you actually summoning creatures from another dimension, or a hidden land? The idea that I like the most is, that these materia give us the chance to summon creatures from old and new legends. This would explain the weird Chocobo/Mog summon, in all its cartoony glory. So, maybe this world has legends about creatures like Shiva, Ifrit and Ramuh. And maybe, they had their own medieval times, and legends about twelve powerful knights.

Anyway, we enter, and soon split up. If we enter the correct part, we meet Cait Sith, who tells us our fortune. The first two are random fortune cookie stuff, but the third one says that we will find what we are looking for, but that we will lose something important in the process. Which basically talks about Aerith' death. Uh, my reaction was the same as Clouds: What.

He uses this as an excuse to force himself into our party. Which, honestly, feels very weird and creepy. Like, it's such an essential thing in RPGs, that you choose your party yourself. It feels like a violation, that a character might force himself onto us, and will not go.

We can play some minigames, but to continue on, we need to meet Dio at the Speed Square. He is the owner of this place, and was asked by a guy with a "1" tattoo, if he knew about a black materia. Huh.

Entering the Battle Square, we find a scene, similar to another one - a lot of people were killed, their corpses still lying around. But it wasn't Sephiroth, they were killed by a gun. Someone with a machine gun for an arm, as a surviving employee says. Which, ok, that points to Barrett, no question. We get caught, and thrown into prison, which is called "Gateway to Heaven".

The prison, like Correll, has a strong Fallout vibe, for me. The desert helps there, of course. But really, this place always struck me as very grim. It's not only another part of haves in the upper parts, and have-nots on the lower ones, it also is the prison of a casino. One, where you can't get out, except for very special circumstances. Just, the idea of a company having the right to put you in its own chail is really chilling. And most people probably don't know about it. How, if they do something wrong in this amusement park, they might end up trapped here, in the middle of a desert. Where monsters are roaming around, so most people will probably just die.

We find Barrett, who doesn't want to talk. The others join us soon. Some guy tells us, that we have to win as a jockey in a chocobo race to get out, but we need to talk with the boss first. Soon, we meet Barrett again, and he tells us, that he doesn't want us to get involved. Aerith, amusingly, points out that this is Clouds line.

This is an important theme - you are not alone, even if the world acts like you are. I wonder if this is some sort of callback to FF IV, and the scene at the end, where Cecil tells Rydia and Rosa to go away, because it's too dangerous. Cloud and Barrett at least don't want ANYONE to get involved, not just the women. But the concept is still the same. You don't have to deal with this on your own. Trust your friends, let them help you. Especially in this game, this message is essential. We are all part of the same planet, the same entity.

As Peklo mentioned, this is the first game where the world really feels like a character, and is treated as such. And while there will be games like X, where the world feels even more planned out, VIIs world is more of a character than even Spira, I think. Here, the planet is in active danger, it cries out for help, and it strikes back. The planet has agency. It is more active than any other planet in the franchise. At least I think so, it's very long since I played the later games in the franchise.

We see the rest of Barretts past, and how he and Dyne got their arms hurt, so that they needed to replace them.

Again, Barretts says he needs to deal with this alone, and Cloud is not having it. This is the first time, where Cloud explicitely makes clear, that Barrett (and probably all the others) are very important to him, and that they are there to help each other. Barrett accepts, and we go.

Making it through a part of the desert, we find Dyne. He is even angrier than Barrett, having lost his wife and daughter in the fire. But that's not true - we learn, that Marlene is actually Dynes daughter. But Dyne is broken. He wants to see his wife again, and take his daughter with him. And so, he and Barrett fight. When Dyne loses, he throws himself of a cliff.

This was one of the grimmest scenes in the game, for me. Part was the surroundings. There is this cliff in the background, it's dark, it's a desert and feels post-apocalyptic, crosses look out of the ground. And Dyne is just so broken. He feels like a mirror to Barrett, similar to how Sephiroth is a mirror to Cloud. Dyne and Barrett have both been traumatised by Shinra, but Barrett didn't stop. He continued on, and he tried to save people. Maybe in the wrong way, but he had a positive endgoal.

Dyne, though, gave up. Even if he had won, he felt that his hands were too dirty for Marlene. He couldn't go on. Another victim of Shinra. Maybe it was just Marlene, who Barrett found in the ruins, who gave him the strength to continue. Friends, family, people who care for you and who you care for, they are essential. Especially in this world. You are always connected, and responsible for other. Forgetting that, makes you into a monster.

Dynes pendant works as proof, that we are allowed to enter the races. We still need a manager, but someone named Ester appears, and tells us that she will be ours. And she does basically all the work - explaining how the racing works, giving us a Chocobo, that makes it very hard to lose, and getting our friends out, afterwards.

We don't learn much about Ester, which is a shame. I always thought she was a robot, but looking at the wiki, she seems to be just a human. Still, she just comes here and saves us. I'd like to know more about her.

Dio apologizes (why, actually? You still throw people down that hole, don't you?), and gives as a buggy for our troubles. Which makes it possible to cross rivers. He also tells us, that Sephiroth went south, to Gongaga.

We don't need to travel far to find it. When entering, we first encounter the Turks. Reno seems fit again, and, together with Rude, attacks us. It's a very easy fight, but it is fun how these jerks always act, like the have to be somewhere, when they lose.

But the Turks knew, that we would get here. Cloud assumes, that this means there is a spy among us. Which he immediately rejects, being sure that everyone is to be trusted.

Granted, this bit is somewhat weak. It's obvious, that the spy is Cait Sith, just because of the weird way he forced himself onto us, and how he hasn't been with us very long. It is probably longer than it seems, though. Maybe the travel to Gongage took a few days, and Cait Sith did help on the travel to Dyne.

Here, I realized how much I still love the game. Part of that is the spectacle it provides. I don't like to have to say this, but the 3D really offers a ton, and makes this all possible. Generally, I love sprites, so that is hard to accept. But seeing stuff like the summons for the first time still blows me away. Ramuh, for example, just looks really cool, when there appears a hill, Ramuh stands on top, with his magnificent beard, and thunderbolts are thrown everywhere.

This game just offers so much, and always gives you something new to do. Even if it's a silly minigame, it never lets up. Like, you have with Gongaga this sad place, but in the surrounding area, you also have this goofy enemy "Touch Me", a frog that can teach you the blue spell "Frog Song". It mixes goofy nonsense like this, with sincere tragedy, and it works.

To let my inner fanboy speak up a bit: This game is amazing, and it's no wonder that it is seen as one of the best games of all time. It offers so much, in theme, story, characters, battle system, mood. They packed so much into it, and it is still not only "very interesting, but deeply flawed", but just a really good game, with so much to offer.

Anyway, we can also visit a reactor, which is just a ruin now. When we enter, Scarlett appears, looking for a big Materia, to build a new superweapon. After she is gone, we can find the Titan materia, where she looked. Nice one, game, I'm sure I missed this one in earlier playthroughs.

Gongaga itself is a small town, with a cemetary. People remember their family members and friends, who died when the reactor exploded. It's just another dark facet of the horrors that Shinra produces, because they never care for anything or anyone.

It's also the birthplace of Zack, which the game didn't really mention up to now, I think. His parents ask Cloud, as they recognize him as a SOLDIER, due to the sparkle in his eyes, if he knows Zack. He doesn't, but the name sounds familiar. We learn, that his parents hadn't had any contact with him for ten years. They don't even know that he is dead.

I wonder if Zack was also fourteen, when he joined SOLDIER. It's so awfully early to be part of the military. Not that later is much better, but Cloud, who joined at that age, was probably not the only one. They are still so young, though. It's just depressing, thinking that they can't wait, because, instead of having a popular sports team, or basically anything, the only organization that is globally known, and therefore popular, seems to be SOLDIER. No wonder, that so many kids are blinded by whatever lies Shinra sends out.

On a brighter note, a shop here sells Time materia, which means my strength has suddenly doubled. Haste is awesome.

Our next stop is Reds hometown, Cosmo Canyon. It's another place, that seems generally untouched by Shinra. Red immediately runs, to meet up with his grandpa, Bugenhagen. We learn, that his people were protectors of the land. But they all died, except for Red, while defending this place from the Gi, an enemy tribe. Red is, similar to Aerith, the last one of this kind. Red, whose real name is Nanaki, also thinks his father was a coward, because he ran away, when the Gi attacked.

This place also offers the Study of Planet Life, Bugenhagens laboratory. People come here to study, as did Barrett. He tells us about this, and that he couldn't do nothing. So he created AVALANCHE.

Bugenhagens place looks really great. It's on the top of the mountain, and has a giant telescope, for watching space. There is also a moving satelite. Really nice.

Bugenhagen also tells us, that Red is, in the age of his people, still a teenager. Which explains a lot about him always acting cool and adult.

Bugenhagen tells us, that the planet will die soon. Maybe in a week, maybe in 100 years, but it's not too long off. We hear sounds, of planets dying and being born. And, in between, we hear the screams of the planet. Bugenhagen shows us into his laboratory, where we see a 3D projection of space. It looks really, really cool. Here, we learn that the souls of people, after they die, go back into the lifestream, basically the blood of the planet. When new creatures, not only humans, are born, a bit of the livestream goes into them.

But when the livestream is abused, and energy taken out unnaturally, the planet will die.

After the lecture, we meet up at the fireplace, where an eternal flame is burning. Cait Sith was here, at one poijnt. I guess that is the reason, why Reeve is the only one of Shinras leaders, with some kind of a conscience. All the more sad, that he still tries to make us problems. He should know better.

Barrett thinks of the others from AVALANCHE, how he promised them to come here, after they beat Shinra. He finally takes responsibility for them, sees how his actions cost them their lives. Not to minimize Shinras role here, but without him, Biggs, Wedge and Jessie would still be alive. He still wants to defeat Shinra, but now to save the planet. It feels like, at the start, he primarily wanted to defeat Shinra, with saving the planet mainly as an excuse. It grew up, somewhat.

Bugenhagen overhears, as Red still calls his father a coward, so Bugenhagen decides to show him something. We enter a sealed door, into a cave. We have to climb a good bit down, and there is a nice effect, as the music gets more and more silent.

After every screen, we learn a bit more from Bugenhagen. Aside from this, the dungeon stood out to me, as the first one with some bite to it. Especially the big spiders hit like a truck. Not too dangerous, but still one of the most challenging places, up to now. Also, I found the blue spell "Death Sentence" in here.

We learn, that the monsters in here are spirits of the dead Gi, who were too vengeful to become part of the Lifestream again. At the end, to Bugenhagens surprise, we find a collection of angry souls, and fight a boss. It felt similar to Wrexsoul, from FF VI, with two flames who could possess a character. Which only seemed to make sure, that they wouldn't be targetable, though. A weird gimmick, but not a hard fight.

Finally, we learn that Reds father, Seto, didn't run away. He came here, as the Gi attacked from here, and stopped them, being turned into stone during the process. Which makes Red finally proud of his father. Bugenhagen asks Red, to keep accompanying us. He thinks, the planet will die, but we should try anyway.

To be honest, the whole thing with the Gi feels weird. Our enemy is Shinra, and Sephiroth, who is just one because of Shinra. The whole game talks about, how we are all one, and it never seems to care about nations or other aritificial differences between people. Having this tribe, that is just evil, without any explanation even, just feels off to me. Conflict is a thing, of course, and there are bad people. But so evil, that they won't even become a part of the Lifestream seems too much, for someone we never meet.

Next up, we reach Nibelheim. And it is a weird place, still standing, instead of being burned down. Barrett asks Cloud about it, but he remembers it clearly. Also weird is how the town is full of black-robed people with number tattoos. There are also regular people here, like a woman in Clouds house who says she has lived here for a long time, not knowing Cloud. Tifa is confused too - the innkeeper also says he lived here for a long time, but doesn't know her or Cloud. It's really weird and bizarre.

The cloaked people talk about a reunion, in the old Shinra building. So we enter it. We find a letter, with some information about a former Turk, who was put away, because he was in the way of research. I tried to understand the hints, but the number for "Behind the Ivory's short of tea and ray" (What?) was at the back of the piano. As always, I looked up the solution, and the hints still made no sense. I also remembered the boss, Lost Number, being pretty strong, but he fell pretty easily.

This mansion really felt weirdly Resident Evil-y, I wouldn't be surprised if it was inspired by the mansion in that game. The monsters were, in general, pretty strong, and their animation took forever. Not a good place. We do get Odin, though, whos summon looks really great.

On the way to the lab, we find the hidden chamber, where Vincent was sleeping. Instantly, he didn't want to come along, as he was atoning for his sins. Only when we mention Sephiroth, do we get his curiousity. Bet he still goes back to sleep, and we have to talk to him a second time. We learn, that Lucrecia, Gasts assistant, gave birth to Sephiroth (what?). Also, Vincent clearly had a thing for her, with all the weird talk about how she was so great and special. Vincent says, that he couldn't stop her from doing a human experiment. Uh, sure, dude, I guess we will get into this later. But for now, I appreciated Clouds reaction: "And that's why you sleep in a box? Give me a break!" There, even Cloud thinks that's silly.

Still, he hopes to meet Hojo, if he tags along. Before doing so, he talks melodramatically into his cape.

I don't think I appreciate how he deals with Lucrecia, as it is really weird, but having the game make fun of his silly brooding is pretty fun.

In the lab, we find Sephiroth, who tells us about a reunion, north, past Mt. Nibel. It's an invitation. Then he flies away.

The library here offers some interesting information, which we only later learn is about Cloud and Zack. How one of the two "escapees" fled for Midgar. The first, a former SOLDIER, the other just a grunt. The former shot for resisting, the latter escaping.

The bridge in Mt. Nibel is also intact. I'm honestly unsure, what exactly is happening here, but I'm curious to find out. This place is another harder, longer dungeon, but that's probably partly because I wanted to find everything. We even find the Green Dragons here, that Sephiroth fought in the flashback. It makes sense - the reactor is still there, and it would probably create other monsters of the same kind.

Also, while they aren't trivial, we can defeat them without too much trouble. Which, I feel, makes Sephiroth look a bit less impressive? I dunno, maybe we are supposed to know that we are already extraordinarily strong. Elsewise, we couldn't defeat two of the Turks.

I was surprised to learn, that the Materia Keeper wasn't a voluntary encounter. Somewhat challenging, but not too much. Also, he taught me Trine, which is super good.

Afterwards, we find the last town on the continent: Rocket Town. In there, we see another excess of Shinra, a space rocket. But it works different here. The space program is never shown as something bad (the contrary, actually), Shinra just gave up on the first sign of trouble, like always. And, while they disappointed Cid enormously, the town on the whole was never traumatized by the company. The problem here seems to be, that nothing is happening. Which seems pretty good, considering the problems in the rest of the world.

I remember always liking Cid, for the same reasons as everyone else. His Limit Breaks are strong, he swears, doesn't care about anything. But, man, what an awful person. He is so horribly abusive to Shera, has been for years. The game implies, that this is due to her botching the start, back in the day, and ruining Cids chance for space travel. But in the flashback, we see him be horrible to her, even during his great moment (while being decent to the rest of the crew). He always was an abusive jerk, but instead of accepting that (or, I don't know, changing it?), he just acts like it is due to that incident.

Cids last hope is, that Shinra will change their opinion, and restart the program, as Rufus plans to come here, now. But when he arrives, he just wants Cids Tiny Bronco, his airship. Which makes Cid, understandably, angry - flying is his thing, that he will not give up.

While they talk, we go to the airship, where we find Palmer trying to steal it. He seems to start it, and does, I think. Anyway, we fight Palmer (which really surprised me, even with his guns, one hit should kill this loser), and after a few hits, he runs away, and is hit by a truck, which was hilarious. The Tiny Bronco starts, for some reason, and we jump in. There is a cool CGI, as we fly up, on the side of the rocket, fly down again and get Cid. In the process, the Tiny Bronco is hit, and will only be useful for moving through rivers and shallow water.

Funnily, while Wutai is completely optional, the game clearly wants us to go there. When the scene ends, we are at it's coast, and, if I remember correctly, if you go a bit inside, Yuffie steals all the Materia, which makes you stuck here. So, if you don't know that his is Wutai, especially during the first playthrough, you will likely do the whole sidequest.

Well, that was it for now. Next time, I will visit not-Japan.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
It's obvious, that the spy is Cait Sith, just because of the weird way he forced himself onto us, and how he hasn't been with us very long.
Also if you take Cait Sith to that fight he very blatantly denies that he's the spy, even though nobody asked him whether or not he was.

Way to make yourself sus, Reeve.
It's also the birthplace of Zack, which the game didn't really mention up to now, I think. His parents ask Cloud, as they recognize him as a SOLDIER, due to the sparkle in his eyes, if he knows Zack. He doesn't, but the name sounds familiar. We learn, that his parents hadn't had any contact with him for ten years. They don't even know that he is dead.
If you take Aerith and Tifa to Zack's house you'll get a reaction out of both of them.
After the lecture, we meet up at the fireplace, where an eternal flame is burning. Cait Sith was here, at one poijnt. I guess that is the reason, why Reeve is the only one of Shinras leaders, with some kind of a conscience. All the more sad, that he still tries to make us problems. He should know better.
I feel like Reeve is in a weird spot.

He's basically the only good higher-up currently at Shinra, and he wants to help, but Shinra is likely breathing down his neck the whole time and even if he knows they (Shinra) were responsible for destroying Sector 7 these are still a bunch of people who blew up two reactors and caused countless casualties.

Holding Marlene and Elmyra hostage to force the party to keep working with him after the upcoming obvious betrayal isn't cool (even though I suspect it's less a hostage situation and more protecting them from Shinra, we never find out where they are) but I get the feeling that the only way he was allowed to accompany the party at all with his animatronic cat was by feigning loyalty to Shinra.
Next up, we reach Nibelheim. And it is a weird place, still standing, instead of being burned down. Barrett asks Cloud about it, but he remembers it clearly. Also weird is how the town is full of black-robed people with number tattoos. There are also regular people here, like a woman in Clouds house who says she has lived here for a long time, not knowing Cloud. Tifa is confused too - the innkeeper also says he lived here for a long time, but doesn't know her or Cloud. It's really weird and bizarre.
If you take a close look around and examine stuff you can find some papers that pretty blatantly spell out that the (non-robed) people at Nibelheim are actors hired by Shinra to cover up the tragedy that happened there five years ago.

Pretty much anybody who's there that they knew of is dead (or presumed dead) or was tossed into a tube at the lab, and presumably the town is in a prime enough location that Shinra wants to sell it as a still-functioning town and maybe take people's eyes off of the (currently nigh unoccupied) suspicious mansion that is still standing where mad science happens.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
If you take Aerith and Tifa to Zack's house you'll get a reaction out of both of them.
Unfortunately, that only seems to work if you bring them the first time with you. So, I took a look at an LP, and...damn, what a shame that I never saw this. It's really easy to miss. Tifa especially (I wouldn't have expected her to say anything special here), but Aerith is clear, if you know a bit about her. But as soon as you find out that these are Zacks parents, which you can't know the first time, it's too late. Really nice, either you get something interesting that your friends likely missed, or you have something to remember for the second playthrough.

The stuff Tifa says is really...off. I'm basically saying the stuff that the LPer argued, but it seems right - Tifa knows more than she lets on (which has been obvious for some time now). That guy argued, that she might be the spy, and I can see that. She knows something, and doesn't tell us. Strange. Creepy.

I feel like Reeve is in a weird spot.

He's basically the only good higher-up currently at Shinra, and he wants to help, but Shinra is likely breathing down his neck the whole time and even if he knows they (Shinra) were responsible for destroying Sector 7 these are still a bunch of people who blew up two reactors and caused countless casualties.

Holding Marlene and Elmyra hostage to force the party to keep working with him after the upcoming obvious betrayal isn't cool (even though I suspect it's less a hostage situation and more protecting them from Shinra, we never find out where they are) but I get the feeling that the only way he was allowed to accompany the party at all with his animatronic cat was by feigning loyalty to Shinra.
These are great points. Reeve is really interesting, and definitely the only person with a working moral compass at the top of Shinra. And I find the idea of him keeping Elmyra and Marlene away, to actually protect them from the rest nice and fitting. But, and this might be me reading into all of this, the way he acts and talks as Cait Sith (particularly forcing himself into the party, I already mentioned how uncomfortable that made me) feels like he is just halfway there.

Like, he probably has sympathy for us, but he still seems somewhat loyal to the company. He also was at Cosmo Canyon, and seems to remember it in a good way, so there is clearly something interesting going on with him. But part of the journey with us is probably to learn about the world outside, and see how the shit Shinra does is affecting and hurting all these people, everywhere on the planet. I always read it this way, that he has an arc and learns to be a better person.

If you take a close look around and examine stuff you can find some papers that pretty blatantly spell out that the (non-robed) people at Nibelheim are actors hired by Shinra to cover up the tragedy that happened there five years ago.

Pretty much anybody who's there that they knew of is dead (or presumed dead) or was tossed into a tube at the lab, and presumably the town is in a prime enough location that Shinra wants to sell it as a still-functioning town and maybe take people's eyes off of the (currently nigh unoccupied) suspicious mansion that is still standing where mad science happens.
I completely missed the paper that tells you this, but damn, this is messed up. And really, really creepy. I mean, totally fits Shinra, to deal with this problem in such an over-the-top, bizarre way.
 
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