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Why I’m glad Final Fantasy VII was my introduction to the series, despite its shortcomings

Let me preface this by admitting that it's technically a lie, as I played FF XIV: ARR a handful of hours a few years ago, but I don't really count that as my introduction to the "single player" part of the series. (And I also remember watching FF VII: Advent Children when it originally came out, despite never playing the game, so needless to say I was pretty clueless as to what was going on…)

Anyway, I decided to give VII a try, after so many years of hearing about it and seeing it as one of the best RPGs of all time, and I'm really glad I did, despite all of its shortcomings (which I'll go over) and the fact that I think that it hasn't necessarily aged so well.

I remember seeing a thread a few weeks ago about another FF (was it X?) being ideal for "people who like the idea of RPGs, but not necessarily playing them". I'm pretty sure I fit in this category.
I despise grinding / long stretches of "nothingness" and I really enjoy storytelling, and it seems that both of these tend to go hand in hand in a lot of RPGs, which is why I usually do not play RPGs as much.

Thankfully, FF VII was pretty much a paradise in that regard. I did not grind whatsoever, and the pacing was great, as was the story overall (it feels different enough from most two sided stories to actually get you to care about the progression, and there are some twists that I could not foresee). If every other FF game is similar, then count me in! (I'm sure they aren't, but one might hope)

I know this might be unusual, but I actually preferred Midgar over any other locations in the game (with Cosmo Canyon / Golden Saucer being close seconds for the music alone / fun factor, resp.), because of the ambiance, its somewhat dystopian aspect and design.

I do however think that a number of its shortcomings could be considered game-breaking if it were a game from nowadays, let me explain:

  • First and foremost, backgrounds are incredibly hard to figure out, so much so that I got stuck several times trying to find my way through to the next screen / part of the screen and had to resolve to walkthroughs to understand where I could go. Even with the arrows on, it's not always straightforward. To me, this is what could ultimately have kept me from enjoying a great game, and I'm glad I was able to look past that, but it would make a second playthrough more than unlikely.
    (Please note that I was playing on PS Vita, with the original aspect ratio, so it might have contributed to that feeling)
  • Second, and arguably as important, (movement) controls are… really poor. It feels extremely stiff and imprecise (which certainly does not help with my first point), bugged at times (when next to a character / some piece of furniture, I'd often have to move away from them and then back, instead of simply turning around, as it would not work otherwise). And it's pretty slow overall. Again, this would have been a clear deterrent for me, were the game released nowadays.
  • This has surely been talked about in lengths before, but the translation is pretty horrendous. Even in the context of a 25yrs old game, this is probably what I have the hardest time looking past. It feels "unprofessional" (in the way punctuation is used for instance), words are often missing and it is hard to figure out the meaning of some sentences. I don't know whether there's a fan translation available (I'm sure there is) and perhaps I should have looked into that when I first started the game. Definitely my biggest gripe, as it directly affects the story (and I was ultimately playing for the story).
  • It can get pretty hard to figure out where you need to go / what you need to do at specific points in the game. I wasn't trying to complete any side quests, but I never found any to begin with. I might have missed out on some fun parts of the game (especially with additional characters), but I didn't want to have to follow a guide during my playthrough.
    I admit that this is probably the case with a lot of RPGs of that era, and before, so it's not specific to FF VII.

The rest is not as impactful IMO, and could easily be overlooked even in a recent game.

Despite all of these issues, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. Most of the story was great and kept me going, even though I didn't finish the game (I got stuck at the last boss, and I'm certain the only way forward would be to go back and grind, which I'm not willing to do and I'm fine with never properly finishing the game), I watched the last few minutes of a playthrough.

I'm really looking forward to other FF games now, even more than I used to, even if FF VII is not one of the greatest games of all time for me. And being that it's the first game I decided to talk about with a dedicated thread, I'd say it had quite the impact on me…
I have FF VI, X HD, XV and VII Remake on my backlog, and I honestly wouldn't know which one to start with.. We'll see!

Thanks for reading my short write-up, and please let me know your thoughts/experience with the game as well 🙂

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