Why I Love Final Fantasy 7 | Teen Ink

Why I Love Final Fantasy 7

December 4, 2020
By Athena_Taylor BRONZE, Valley Village, California
Athena_Taylor BRONZE, Valley Village, California
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I think everyone can agree that 2020 has been a pretty rotten year. The COVID-19 pandemic has plagued the globe for months now, causing severe economic recessions in most countries and disrupting daily life for everyone. School transformed into an online experience and my family’s annual summer road trip was canceled, as well as all my plans for volunteer work and outings with friends. However, there has been some silver lining, even it’s miniscule in the grand scheme of things. All this extra time spent at home has allowed me to make some progress with the massive backlog of media I’d been meaning to consume, but hadn’t yet. One game I managed to cross off the list was Final Fantasy 7.

I’d been interested in delving into the Final Fantasy series for a long while before beating Final Fantasy 7 this summer. Two years ago, back in my freshman year of high school, I played both Nier Automata and Persona 4 and, through those games, discovered a newfound love of JRPGs. Final Fantasy is a juggernaut of the JRPG industry, so it was the logical next step in my search for more games I would enjoy. In addition, one of my friends had recommended the series to me and I wanted to be able to talk about it with her. I was sure I would enjoy the games and there’s nothing that sparks joy quite like discussing something you love with someone who loves it just as much as you.

Final Fantasy is an anthology franchise, which means each numbered entry has a story that takes place in its own contained universe with no major connection to the other titles in the series. The only things binding the games together are similar gameplay elements, reoccurring motifs, shared creatures, and recycled names. This setup ensures that each entry is a fresh, unique experience, but it also means that there is no definitive starting point. To remedy my dilemma, my friend offered up several of her favorites games from the series -- 7, 9, and 10 -- as potential jumping off points. Out of her selection, I found Final Fantasy 7 to be the most intriguing. I had heard of the game before: it’s widely touted by its many fans as one of the best games ever created. It was also the only suggested game to feature sci-fi elements, which I adore. Furthermore, it was also the cheapest game on Steam, a compelling reason to choose it over the others for me and my meager allowance. However, Final Fantasy 7 is also the oldest game on the list. The game, released in 1997, was Square Enix’s first foray into the realm of 3D graphics and it really shows. Bad graphics aren’t enough to dissuade me from playing a game, but they’re certainly off-putting. The unappealing visuals combined with an ever increasing workload from school, clubs, and volunteer organizations caused me to put off playing it for almost a whole year. However, when pandemic lockdowns were put into place, I was finally able to just sit down and play the game.

When selecting a new video game to play, I’m usually looking for a good story. The gameplay could be clunky and the visuals could be ugly, but as long as the story is engaging, I’d still give it a shot. As it happens, Final Fantasy 7’s story is the game’s most praised element. I’ve heard many older fans describe it as the game that got them into story-based RPGs. I’m happy to report that the story really is, in fact, phenomenal. The characters that make up the core cast are lovable and contain a surprising amount of depth. The main antagonist, Sephiroth, somehow manages to be both sympathetic and detestable at the same time. Through these characters, the game manages to explore complex themes like self-loathing and self-discovery, life after a great tragedy, and the negative impact placing someone on a pedestal has on the people on both sides of the relationship with a startling amount of maturity and respect. The most impressive aspect of the story, however, is how relevant it manages to be despite being created in 1997. It’s about a group of people who come together to stop a corporate conglomerate from destroying the planet with its questionable business practices. In fact, given that the climate change crisis has only gotten worse in the last two decades, I’d argue that the game’s message is even more important than it was when it was released. Having said all that, it’s still not quite the magnum opus some people make it out to be. The major thing holding the story back is the poor localization. The dialogue can be awkward to point that it’s sometimes difficult to parse out what the characters are trying to say. After doing some research on the subject, however, I learned that the majority of the translation was done by only one person, so the clunky dialogue is, at the very least, forgivable. As a matter of fact, I think it speaks for the quality of the game that despite the subpar localization and bad graphics, it has still become one of my favorite games of all time. I can definitely understand why this game was so mind-blowing when it was first published.

Of course, the problem with having a groundbreaking story is that everyone knows the big twists, whether they’ve played the game or not. The death of Aerith, one of your core party members, is probably one of the most famous spoilers in gaming history. Anyone with even a passing interest in JRPGs knows about it. Thus, I knew about her impending doom before beginning, and yet I still managed to get attached. Aerith is spunky, not afraid to call people out for bad behaviour, and, at the same time, still incredibly kind and deeply dedicated to the planet and its people. She quickly established herself as my favorite character. Inevitably, however, there comes a point in the game where Sephiroth obtains the Black Materia, an object that would allow him to summon a giant meteor to destroy the world. Aerith, who is the last remaining descendant of an ancient race called the Cetra, leaves the party in order to travel to her people’s forgotten capital to cast the counterspell, Holy. You follow her to this ancient city and arrive just in time to witness Sephiroth descend from the sky, sword pointing downward, and impale her at the alter where she was praying. I think what struck me the most about her death was the unnecessity of it. In terms of the story, Aerith’s death is required. It moves the plot forward and paves the way for critical character development. However, in terms of the game’s universe, her death wasn’t necessary. The counterspell didn’t require the death of the caster. There was no need for her to be a martyr. If Sephiroth had just taken a little longer to arrive, Aerith would have been able to cast Holy without being impaled and the world would have been saved right then and there. 

Aerith’s death resonated with me to such a deep degree because it reminded me of an event that had just occurred in my own life. About two weeks before I started Final Fantasy 7, my grandfather died of COVID-19. I didn’t actually know him all that well. He lived in Scotland and I was only able to visit a few times. Still, the suddenness of his death got to me. One moment he was fine, if a bit frail, and the next, he was dead. I had always wanted to get to know my grandparents better, and my family had even been considering a trip to the United Kingdom before the pandemic began. The timing of it all made it seem especially unfair. Nothing bad would have happened to the world if my grandfather had gotten to live long enough for me to see him one last time. To my surprise, as I played through Final Fantasy 7 in the weeks following his death, I could see the characters expressing similar sentiments after Aerith’s death. It was comforting beyond words to witness other people grappling with the same emotions I was feeling, even if they only existed in fiction. Watching them come to terms with their feelings helped me come to terms with my own.

I’ve noticed that some adults who didn’t grow up with video games write them off as a waste of time. I can say, without a doubt, that this is not true. Playing a video game has just as much merit as watching a movie or reading a book. I know there are loads of people who have a comfort movie they watch when they’re feeling down or a book that they happened to read at the right time to aid them through a tough spot. Video games are just a capable of providing that sort of relief. After all, I just explained how Final Fantasy 7 helped me through a dark time in my own. Even if most video games you play aren’t going to have that sort of profound effect, they’re still extremely fun and a nice way to unwind after a long day. As long as it’s not harming anyone, I don’t see any reason to shame someone for doing something they enjoy.

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