I don’t play video games.
That’s not an absolute rule, but I generally don’t play video games. Between the day job, comics, writing, holding onto some semblance of a social life, and simply trying to survive, I just don’t have time to sit down and play a video game by myself. Yet the medium is still a big part of my life. I’ve been experiencing and enjoying video games vicariously through my significant other, Alex, for the past six years. She loves the stuff, and as a result I’ve fallen in love with a lot of the same things.
The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Sonic franchises are a big part of our household. They form the soundtrack to our living room, decorate our household, and pile up around the living room. I’ve become addicted to buying amoebas (sp?) because I like toys and Super Smash Bros. is a game I can have a lot of fun with even if I’m constantly getting my ass beat. But through all of this, there has always been one game that has held the #1 spot. It’s a game that Alex adores and is seminal to her relationship with the medium, and it’s also the one that I have the least understanding of: Final Fantasy VII.
Together we’ve been to three Nobuo Uematsu concerts and the Square Enix cafe in Tokyo. I know the names of some characters (Cloud, Barrett, Sephiroth, Yuffie) and a few major plot points (a girl dies and a Phoenix Down can’t bring her back), but it has mostly remained an abstract entity. Through Alex’s passion, I’ve developed a love for this game that I know almost nothing about. I was completely fine with that, but then I saw it was being released for iOS and realized this was an opportunity for me to better understand something she loved. So last night, right before midnight, Final Fantasy VII was released for Apple products and I downloaded it to my iPad.
In order to keep me attentive and prevent me from giving up, I’m going to be free writing about my experience playing through the game. I am awful at video games, possessing almost no hand eye coordination or basic understanding of how non-Nintendo controllers are supposed to operate. I also don’t possess much patience, expecting constant narrative satisfaction; that’s probably why I’ve quit endless Pokemon games halfway through never to return. But I want to finish this one, I want to understand it, I want to engage it.
Welcome to Final Fantasy VII, Chase Magnett. Hope you survive the experience!
It is already 11:45 in the evening when the app finishes downloading, and I have to be up for work at 6:00, so I’m just going to dip my toe in and find the first save point.
I don’t click through the opening credits, don’t want to miss anything. That and Uematsu’s soundtrack is boss. I love going to this guy’s concerts. It doesn’t hurt that he’s an incredibly sweet and humble person. Watching Arnie Roth, the conductor, coach him on stage is always a lot of fun. I imagine that there are going to be a lot of tangents where I just ramble about music in the future.
There’s a lady and then a bad ass looking city. I don’t really get how people discuss graphics in video games. I technically understand that these aren’t nearly as advanced as everything we have now, but I really like the aesthetic. You can see that someone worked on this, that there’s an element of craftsmanship involved, and a struggle against limitations. That’s really cool and I like seeing how this immense city was rendered almost 20 years ago.
Music changes, cue train, and here I am. Looks like I’m part of a gang? Rebels? I get to name myself! I’m going to keep the original names so I don’t get confused, otherwise I’d just be referencing the cast of Game of Thrones after a while, and these posts would become completely unintelligible. So the kid with the blonde Goku cut and Cable shoulder pads will remain Cloud.
Cloud is a dick.
Seriously, he is giving so much attitude to Barrett, who could obviously whoop his ass. Apparently SOLDIER and whoever runs this city is destroying the planet (points for ecological themes!) in a pretty blatant fashion, but Cloud does not give a fuck. He just wants to get this mission (whatever it is) done for… reasons? Is he getting paid to help these guys out? I’m not clear why he’s tagging along when nobody likes or trusts him. Maybe he has inside knowledge because he was part of SOLDIER? Whatever, point being: Cloud is a dick. I don’t like him.
Barrett on the other hand. This guy… This guy fucks. When god was handing out fists, Barrett handed the second one back and said, “I already got one of these. How about a gatling gun instead?” He has two hands that look like over-sized cinder blocks, one of which just happens to be an enormous gun. This guy can wreck your shit in so many ways; he is a human tank. I love him.
We fight soldiers as we get inside a power facility for… reasons. Are we terrorists? There’s no tutorial on combat, but it’s pretty easy to kill these guys if you just hit A a lot whenever the time bar fills up. I imagine that at some point this will get more complicated, but right now, I can just Attack or Item, and only one of these options sounds like fun.
After getting inside we… Holy shit! Cloud just ate Barrett! Wait. Nevermind. He’s just on my team now, so we walk around like a single person. After getting inside we reach some locked doors. Everyone is just standing around so I assume I’ll need to find a key. Those mad instincts I picked up playing that Zelda game on DS are kicking in. I wonder back out and keep bumping into random soldiers, but still no keys.
New bad guys! There are claw guys* and some evil looking butterflies (moths?). With five enemies, I figure it’s time to do more than just push A. Cloud attacks the first claw dude, so I want Barrett to attack the second one. I try to move the pointer, but lose track of it. Oh fuck, they’re attacking me and my attack bar is full, I’ll tell Barrett to attack. OH FUCK! Barrett is shooting Cloud. Cloud is still a dick, but I didn’t want that to happen. Why would this game even let me do that? I continue to just push A until all the claw guys and butterflies (moths?) are dead.
I go back to the locked door frustrated that the game won’t tell me what to do. Then I push A and random party dude opens the door. Fuck. All I had to do was talk to people. These last five minutes have been my work life in a nutshell.
Climb some ladders, fight some soldiers, and then there’s a floating doohickey. It sort of looks like a rainbow question mark. When I walk into the light, it tells me this is a save point. Thank god. I can go to sleep, as soon as I figure out how to save the game.
This takes me approximately two and a half minutes.
*I have been told by someone familiar with FF VII that there are no claw guys at this point in the game. That is a fucking lie. These dudes were creepy with extended sparkly forearms that looked like knives. No soldiers look like that.