At the risk of sounding all Jerry Maguire up in here, in many respects, my fiancé and I “complete” each other. And while I might mean that in a mushy way, here it’s in terms of our culture at-large. As two people, we each have our own likes, dislikes, and prejudices; but together we make a fairly well-rounded individual. As an example, when we first met, our music tastes barely overlapped. But when we brought together his mostly punk/rap/metal collection and my mostly pop/classic rock/alternative collection, well, we suddenly had an extensive music library that covered a wide range of sounds. Our mutual love of art, with his affinity for the modern and my inclination towards the classics, meant we could both enjoy just about any art museum/gallery. And his love of meat and my willingness to cook meat (despite not eating it) sorta sealed the deal.
The same was true of gaming. I had my Super Nintendo and he had his Playstation. Together, we had plenty to play and explore. Since I had grown up with Nintendo, I was a bit reluctant to try the PS. It wasn’t my system for one, and the CDs and controller just felt so unfamiliar. In our early days together, I don’t really remember what we played as a couple – maybe a football or racing game? He already had a circle of gaming friends and I enjoyed more solitary gaming, so in that respect we were good and didn’t really step on each others toes much. But then, there came the game-changers…two games that forever marked (or marred, perhaps) our gaming futures. For him, it was Tony Hawk Pro Skater (1999). For me, it was Final Fantasy VII (1997). After those two games, he pretty much veered away from RPGs of all sorts and I gravitated right towards them. And FFVII was unlike anything I had played before.
THPS and FFVII are also the only PS games that we still own. So that’s gotta be saying something. (Wanna be starting somethin’…owww….yeah, you know I’m Bad.)
It’s difficult for me to put into words my experience with FFVII because, at the time…it was a little like finding religion. I had never played a FF game before or any game that used a turn-based combat system. I had also never played a game with such a complex and intriguing story line. The game was also on 3 CDs — insane! FFVII was also, well, so adult. Mature themes, cursing, the on-screen killing of main characters — nothing in a Mario game ever came close to that kind of adult-ness. The only thing I can really compare this game to in terms of discovery was the first time I used the internet. (You mean there’s more to the world that what’s in the encyclopedias?!?! Yay for Northern Light, ESPN, et al! How did I ever survive before this moment? Or something uber-dramatic like that.)
You can read specifics about the game here and here because Bad Memory Me will do a horrible job of recalling the story. I do remember that you play as the main character, Cloud, (or whatever name you chose for him. Yes, I’ll admit, I named him Jareth after ~dreamy sigh~ David Bowie in Labyrinth), who goes on a quest to defeat the evil Sephiroth who killed his girlfriend Aeris (or Aerith). Along the way, Cloud is joined by others – Cid, Yuffie, Barrett, to name a few — all of whom bring special abilities to each battle. There’s an incredible world map to traverse with plenty of areas and towns to visit (or avoid), plenty of intense story lines to go around, lots of magic, chocobos for certain, many special items scattered about, and plethora of enemies large and small.
FFVII impacted my gaming expectations in several ways beyond the greatness factor:
(1) Naming characters. I loved being able to make up names for not only the playable characters but also the summons. It made the game feel customized. From them on I expected to be able to name any character – and I still don’t like it when I’m stuck with a name I don’t like…Cole Phelphs.
(2) Play time. And I don’t mean in a Romper Room. Because we only had 1 PS and other stuff to do, we made up a schedule of when who could play what. This is when I discovered that my gaming time limit sat at about two hours. I needed at least two hours to really make progress; beyond that I usually got tired of staring at the TV and/or bored and/or frustrated. To this day, I still can only play for two hour stretches at most.
(3) On the spot decision-making. Being used to having to make spur of the moment decisions on most platformers, the idea of turn-based play and having a moment to think about what to do next was really refreshing. Since I played FFVII so intensely over several years (yes, years), I became really used to this trope. Going back to games requiring spur-of-the-moment thinking was somewhat jarring. Now I will regularly pause in those games in order to consider my next move.
(4) That Japanese “look.” (Aside: my apologies if I misuse terms here – I’m no expert in this field.) I’m not the biggest fan of anime, manga, etc.; it’s just not generally on my radar, though I do recognize its cultural significance. But I do know that, sometimes, it is beautiful. The character rendering, especially of the large-scale enemies and summons, were simply stunning. The SNES graphics just couldn’t hold a candle to the details achieved on the PS. After FFVII I wanted all graphics to be just as amazing, sharp, and crisp. And a lot of that had to with the sharpness of anime-style drawings. Mario, Mega Man, they all seemed like little blobs from then on.
(5) Story. Story. Story. One of the reasons I wanted to keep playing FFVII was its story, which just got more and more compelling as the game went on. No more did I want to just ramble about from level to level. I wanted clear and precise reasons why my character should move forward and why I should have wanted him/her (and myself) to complete the game.
Now [steps into confessional booth] here’s the thing. **deep breath**
I haven’t completed FFVII. I started the game in late 1998 and played very intensely and regularly until about 2002.
Sadly, with a heavy heart, this marks my 10 year anniversary of non-playing/avoiding/thinking about FFVII. I am irrevocably stuck in a spot that I can still picture very well, though I can’t remember the boss’s name right now – a place with a darkish “floating” landscape – the boss is a female with an over-sized head and, maybe, multiple arms or appendages of some sort. I know that I once tried every character combination to beat her to no avail. And I think I’m low on energy, which might be part of the problem. If anyone has any non-spoliery suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Sadly, again, I don’t have the time yet to devote to FFVII (ME3 is out for goodness sakes and we just moved), but it’s been on my mind for several weeks now. And really, 10 years mind as well be 100 years. Like I said though, we still have the game and it’s old memory card. It’s pretty much the only old game we still have that I’ve yet to complete. Maybe, just maybe, if the fates allows, this’ll be the year.