It’s 1997. I’m about five years old. I watched The Rocketeer, and probably also Star Wars again.
That’s about all I can remember about the year Final Fantasy VII came out, because I was five. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was, I gather (I was five), rather impressed. Or at least they were by the next year, by which point seemingly everyone had played the thing.
I didn’t have any experience with the Final Fantasy series myself until a few years later, when my sister and I ended up with Final Fantasy VIII, having divined it out of a cramped computer store through sheer instinct. FFVIII is the one that comes after VII, which is a slightly less patronising clarification when taking into account some of the series’s history.
We would climb onto the too-tall computer chair (which spun, or at least should have) to play it together, unless I was being a dick. Which, I was a big brother. So that was probably a reasonably common occurrence. Still, it probably looked adorable. We were mostly cute kids, and it was an unreasonably tall chair. Comedy gold. Also, as the Final Fantasy series can attest, it’s often easy to root for the struggle buses out there, whether that’s two small children trying to climb into the same chair, or a young man riddled with trauma, identity issues and a bad case of bedhead.
My sister would go on to write a zine of FFVIII-inspired poetry, which is awesome. I would go on to not finish several other Final Fantasy games and also still call myself a Final Fantasy fan, because I’m the worst. I’d also get into Kingdom Hearts, because clearly I didn’t feel nearly nerdy enough already. That’s where I was properly introduced to the Buster Sword, which is a huge sword. I don’t know what anyone needs to know apart from that. I clearly remember seeing it in one of the many gaming magazines I used to buy because that’s what you did when you were me and also twelve in the early oughts. I remember thinking “that’s a huge sword”, and deciding I wanted the game. There’s probably something to psychoanalyse there. Cloud was also there, I guess, in the picture and in the game. He was smacking the cartoon characters of my childhood and the fourteen-year-old player character in the — it would be inaccurate to say face, because the sword is so massive it just hits you all at once. I would say several times, but I was more than likely woefully underlevelled.
Cloud was angsty. And unbothered. And he had a gigantic sword and a single black wing and — look, I’m not saying I had the best taste as a preteen, but I feel like it’s understandable. Did I decide to acquire Final Fantasy VII for myself? Of course I did. So I did!
Like seven years later. But then I actually finished it! About seven years after that — or, put another way, literally today.
Why did it take me so long? I mean, it didn’t, overall. Actually playing it, I discovered a really enjoyable game. Which is, naturally, a totally unique opinion. Just a blazing hot take. Just to give it some more of that pseudo-nostalgic feel, I did my level best to do it without any guides. Except I always used GameFAQs as a kid. Also I totally looked up how to get Vincent and Yuffie, because what? How is that in any way intuitive? What kind of demented child took the time to discover these things completely independent of any outside influence? Was it just like one kid stumbled across it by accident and then told everyone else? Am I just old and/or slow? Probably.
Moving on. No really, is it supposed to be some sort of communal parable? A message about relying on others. How. How?
My other major reliance on outside help came in a very classic form — I complained to a mate who was better at the game than me and he gave me some tips. I haven’t taken the time to ask him how he’d feel about being named and presented to the (infinitesimally small subset of) world (that will read this), so I’m playing it safe and offering up a representation of him that will hopefully capture my feelings at this moment.
Yeah, that about sums it up.
So I’m 15–20 years late to the party, but I couldn’t help but smile as the ending screens came on, and not just because I finally got past the one mandatory boss battle where the game actually required me to be somewhat competent. Although yes, that was also a big thing for me. I had been super casual up till that point, I didn’t expect literally the last hurdle to decided I needed to be punished for my hubris and indolence — though I guess it’s somewhat fitting for the character…
I’ve Finally Finished Freakin’ Final Fantasy VII. Thank the Planet they’re all separate games. Can you imagine if there was more of that particular story I needed to finish to fully understand the game, or something?