And so we arrive at this one.
This game gets off easy with a lot of people for the same reason Final Fantasy VIII gets off easy with me. Nostalgia. This game was the first Final Fantasy on the PS1, and for a lot of people it was their introduction not only into Final Fantasy, but possibly JRPGs in general. This game, this game has a ridiculous number of flaws, but because of the warm fuzzies associated with it, a lot of people will defend it tooth and nail.
So unless I upset the might and powerful internet let me say this.
This is not the worst Final Fantasy I have ever played.
We'll get to that one.
This is however, well.... Depressingly bad at times.
However, having said that, I must admit the game did do one thing right. Materia. The combat in Final Fantasy VII is actually pretty fun, and as a result it doesn't feel as repetitive as it could. The materia system allows for a lot of customization with your characters, including some things that weren't quite possible in previous Final Fantasies. If you really want to you can set up a tanking Black Mage, or you could make everyone well balanced so you can have high damage output without having any squishies. Certain characters do tend toward certain rolls, but you can easily switch things around to alternate who does what. This makes the game genuinely fun. The game can actually feel really different each time you play it just from using different materia sets.
So what's wrong with it?
The storyline, is one of the worst I've ever seen in a game, and that's saying a lot. I mean.... I've played games that end by the final boss falling off a cliff, BEFORE you fight him. Anti-climatic.
But this. This is a mess.
Honestly the story is largely awful because of two very specific characters. Sephiroth, and Cloud.
Let's start with Sephiroth, the villain of the story. Apparently he was originally a good guy, and the game does a bit of build up about how he used to be this really awesome hero, and prequels confirm that he might not have been a total pushover. However, then he finds out he was born from Jenova, reads books in a library for a few days and then goes.
"Whelp! Looks like it's time to destroy the world!"
And proceeds to commit arson, somehow fails to destroy the hero's town in a JRPG. I mean what the heck? It's the hero's hometown. How can you not destroy it!? I mean blowing up the hero's hometown is like the cornerstone of villainy. It's an easy cop out for why the hero would go chasing them, so villains always do it, but somehow despite setting the entire town on fire, Sephiroth does not manage to quite destroy the town, as it's still quite alive and well later in the game. Funny that.
Well okay so he misses one mark of villainy, surely he do something else impressive.
So he proceeds to run to a power plant or something to rip his mother's head out of it. It makes sense in context. Okay it makes sense in context if you're drunk or high. Anyways, he proceeds to prove he's awesome by going ahead and killing off the hero's girlfriend!
Except she lives.
Don't worry though, he'll kill of the cooler mentory guy to the hero and.
Oh wait he lived too.
Oh hey he's fighting the hero in the flashback, of course Sephiroth is going to win and... Oh wait, he lost.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the villain we're supposed to take seriously. He somehow failed to burn down a town, managed to somehow miss hitting any vital organs with his massive sword against named characters, and then lost to the hero at level 1.
I can't be the only one who's really unimpressed here.
Maybe though, the villain is going to come back later and do something totally impressive!
So later he shows up and killed a giant snake! Oh wait, I killed six of those on the way here.
Well, I guess it's mildly impressive.
Later, he proves he's awesome, by killing a bunch of bureaucrats who... can't... fight... back. Alright is he actually the villain, or is he just a parody of one? I mean is this just Japan's private joke.
"Okay okay okay. So I got this idea, for a guy who looks like a girl, who fails at every act of villainy ever. And, we'll totally say he's the real villain with a straight face and see how they react!"
"They liked him."
Well okay, so our villain so far has been beaten by the hero at level 1, and killed some paper pushers. Surely he'll do something impressive later!
Like kill the leader of a group of mercenaries who is not actually all that super strong.... and got better later.
Or kill a party member! Who... fully intended to die.... in order to cast a spell. And her death means he loses and can't do anything else for the rest of the game.....
Ladies and gentlemen, our villain. Killer of defenseless secretaries, and people who are committing ritual suicide.
I mean, just wow.
Well okay, let's take a look at our hero!
Ah yes Cloud. The guy who looks like a blue lego man. Well that's not quite fair. A lego man would have more of a personality.
Yes, Cloud only comes in two modes. You suck mode. And Cloud sucks mode.
In you suck Mode, Cloud will be abuse and jerkish to any other character that shows even the slightest amount of care for him, because how dare they have the audacity to have human emotions. He takes a little girl's college funds for crying out loud. He then refuses to acknowledge anyone else as being capable of anything even remotely resembling competency, which makes even less since since mode two happens.
Yes the Cloud Sucks mode. Where Cloud is filled with self hate about his own inability, how he fails time and time again. He fails to become SOLDIER, he fails to become a proper clone, he fails to die instead of the awesome character, he fails to save his first girlfriend, he fails to then throw a phoenix down on her, he fails to not hand over the plot coupon that would let the villain actually do something without a good reason, he fails to be interesting, he just plain fails.
Honestly I know why Cloud is the hero. He's the only hero in all of existence that Sephiroth would have ever stood a chance against. Anyone else would have ended the game before the first disc.
So you know what. Imagine if just for a moment.
Imagine if we had Zack as the main character, with some emotional baggage about letting Cloud die when that platoon of soldiers happened.
Now imagine if Jenova was the main villain, and we got to see her slowly warping and controlling Sephiroth, using him as a puppet. (Actually looking at it this way makes his evil actions a lot more believable.)
Just, take a moment, and think about how that might turn out.
And I'll leave you with that thought.