As has been proven so many times in the history of video games, technology rarely determines the longevity of a game’s popularity. Huge hits might make a splash for a year or so only to be swept away in the face of something even bigger or shinier. A generation of fickle gamers have made this the norm nowadays, so much so that many would-be classics can’t find their footing long enough to make that strong emotional connection games used to make.
This is the result of a general atmosphere in which the rush to play the next big game dominates all. New hits every week make it impossible to just stop and run through a favorite a few times.
I mention this because the video game world’s erratic relationship with Final Fantasy VII has come back into play recently thanks to the announcement of a remake. If ever there was a game-changer which challenged everything we thought we knew about video games, it was this gargantuan hit in 1996. Final Fantasy VII changed how we looked at graphics. It challenged plots in video games, launched JRPGs into the mainstream for a few years, and many rode its coat-tails well into the following generation.
Seriously, who can remember the bombardment of generic JRPGs on the PlayStation 2? All Final Fantasy VII‘s fault with a little help from Final Fantasy X.
Final Fantasy VII has escaped the clutches of being a fad and has become a staple of video game history. A classic, so to speak. Even twenty years after it first released, new gamers are still flocking to it in exasperating numbers, claiming it to be the greatest thing on Earth even though they are drastically so far removed from the context in which it was first released. This generation of number pinchers obsessed with “frame rates” and “screen resolutions” and the statistics regarding the number of polygon output can put their magnifying glasses and digital timers aside for a few minutes and just enjoy a good, old fashioned game for what it’s worth… seemingly just for this game.
And yet, at the same time, many of the people who should feel nostalgic towards Final Fantasy VII, the ones who were there when it first launched, have changed their tune a bit. I find myself in this crowd, having played through it at least five times in the late 90s. Yeah, it was a fun game and a huge technical breakthrough, but looking back, the Materia system isn’t that great. The characters aren’t as deep as I remember, especially Aeris, and the different character models create a bit of disconnect between the world, battles, and CG scenes. Maybe we overreacted a bit?
Nah, Final Fantasy VII was great and still is great. It was a game created for a time and place, and because we were able to sit back and really soak it in, not dissuaded by a barrage of holiday hits or annoying distractions like “adult responsibilities,” it has been able to survive. It is everything that is “PlayStation” distilled into its purest form: experimental stories, confidently crude 3D, and always trying to push the limits. I might not enjoy it as much as I used to, but there is still plenty of nostalgia for me to wax over. 11 year old Ron wasn’t always incorrect, and maybe he was right in a few areas about Final Fantasy VII.
What blows me away, though, is how gamers are still discovering it all these years later. 20 years come 2016! If you are under the age of 20 and love this game, please, explain to me how you came by it and why you love it so much. I’m genuinely curious about the repeated revisionism this game seems to exclusively get.
The above gallery has screenshots from the PlayStation and two PC versions. See if you can pick them out. It’s not that hard.