Experiencing FF7 15 years late

Content warning: This post contains discussion of loss and grief

Spoiler warning: This post contains spoilers for the plot of Final Fantasy 7

So Final Fantasy 7 is pretty good.

I mean, obviously it’s good. The fact that it remains the most popular title in the ever-popular Final Fantasy series sort of proves that, of course, but the series as a whole has sort of gone under my radar. I’ve never owned a PlayStation (when it was released or since), and by the time I was able to play the series on PC, I’d sort of lost interest. Not that I actively disliked it, mind, just that I’d sort of passed it by, just one other popular series that I hadn’t gotten into.

My interest in Final Fantasy 7 has been growing for a while, with the release of Remake in 2020 and the recent announcement of Rebirth, and while I was tempted to jump straight into the gorgeous Remake, I thought it would be better to experience the original first. (And the complete story, as opposed to waiting another few years for the remake trilogy to be completed.)

The real draw of FF7 were the themes and narrative of the game, which I found incredibly compelling. A huge amount of the game, particularly the first 10 or so hours, is also horrifyingly relevant to a lot of current events, something that keeps happening with older media. Corporations sacrificing the well-being of the planet for greed and profit, harvesting natural resources until the land is barren and inhospitable. Their willingness to disregard human life to meet their own profit driven needs or to silence those who oppose them and their continued destruction of life. I love how Midgar, one of the games main locations and the massive layered city you begin your journey in, is so beautifully forward and obvious in all its themes right from the start, a massive visual metaphor that cannot be ignored. A tiered city where the wealthy live above in splendour while everyone else is forced to live in the slums beneath, scraping together an existence from the broken machinery and crumbling architecture around them. And while I love seeing the glimpses of life and defiance in the face of corporate greed and oppression, the game never let’s you forget the cost. You see the toll it’s taken on the planet and the people, the wasteland that surrounds Midgar, the Mako poisoning, the horrific misuse of science and technology, the trauma and lives torn apart, all consequences of corporate greed and a callous disregard for life.

I’d be remiss not to mention the games emotional core, Aeris. There’s plenty that could be said about her place in the world and the story, but what really stuck out to me is how vital she is to the party and yourself as a player, and how cruelly she’s ripped away from you. The game almost forces you to rely on her as the parties healer, her stats making her better suited to a support role in contrast to all the other characters, who are far more balanced. She becomes so important so quickly, endearing herself to the other characters and to you. And about half way through the game, she’s killed by Sephiroth. There’s no way to undo this, no way to save her. She dies, and you are powerless to do anything but watch. The initial moment is devastating, but what’s worse is watching the goodbyes, some characters sharing a few words and others breaking down in tears, and then you just have to carry on, feeling the loss for the rest of the game.

More than anything else in the game, I appreciate this aspect the most. How unwilling it is to make it easy on you. How there is no way to undo it. How it forces you to confront the loss, the feeling that where once there was a bright and beautiful and important person, now there is nothing. It’s heartbreaking, but in a game so focused on life, it’s just as important to show death, to let it impact and effect the player in a real way. It’s not an easy aspect for me to deal with, loss and grief in stories hits me so much harder in recent years than they ever have before, but it’s so vital to the story and themes of Final Fantasy 7.

I’m so glad to have finally taken the time to enjoy this game and it’s story. There’s a so much I appreciate about it, like the basic but functional 3D models and beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, the way the game kicks off with an act of Eco-terrorism, the destruction of one of Midgar’s Mako reactors a statement of intent from the characters and the story. How the planet summons giant Kaiju as a means of self-defence against all the damage humanity has caused, which is such a perfect analogy for the disastrous effects of climate change.

As a side note, I did see a bit of a trans aspect to Cloud, with his arc being centred around his self-acceptance, and how he carries around the dress and wig he wears early in Midgar for the rest of the game. It was a little touching to me, seeing Cloud feel comfortable enough with himself to be seen that way, to show his vulnerable side to Aeris and then to hold onto the memory of it, an intimate moment shared with a friend, free of judgment. Hardly the most exciting part of the game, or even Midgar, but one that seemingly meant a lot to Cloud, and if I’m honest, to me as well.

Leave a Comment