After finishing Persona 3 Portable on my Vita, I found myself wanting to play more JRPG’s. It’s a good feeling, to know that you plan on sinking a huge amount of hours into a game, especially if it happens to be one of the greats. After finishing Persona 3, I managed to snag a copy of Radiant Historia on the DS, a game I had been looking forward to getting for quite a while, as I heard it was quite good. It started out great…but past that I wouldn’t know how it is. The cart keeps freezing up on me, which is supremely depressing. I even tried restarting the game, hoping it was just a corrupted save file. However, this was not to be the case. It seems no matter what, my copy of Radiant Historia freezes at the same spot, so fuck it, it can sit around gathering dust. Maybe trying a different DS eventually will work, who knows.
So in my need, I turned to a game I had sitting around on my Vita for a while, Final Fantasy VII. Now I have played this game a ton in the years past, in the PS1 and 2 days. However, I haven’t really played it in a while, short of giving it a go on the recently re-released terrible PC port. So while I want to keep up my interest in the JRPG genre, I figure why not go play something I know I love? Well thankfully my nostalgia is casting a wide net, because I just left Midgar; and while the game is still fun as hell, it is showing some warts that I only notice now that I am a bit older and arguably a bit wiser.
First of all, the systems at play in the game are still great. The battles move smoothly, especially with the speed turned all the way up. The Materia system is still as addictive as it was back in 1997, and brings out the worst kind of completionist in me. I already know I will be grinding out AP in the Forest of the Ancients with triple AP weapons eventually. This will become a problem, and I will lose many hours to it. Mechanically, FF7 continues to be one of the most mechanically sound JRPG’s ever made, as it is never really complex, but somehow deep. That depth goes as far as you want it to as well, as really no one needs to have absolutely insanely leveled materia to beat the game, but some of the side-stuff will require a heavy time investment. A game like Final Fantasy VII asks the best type of question: How much time do you want to put into this game? This title holds a few answers, all of which should satisfy the JRPG fan like me.
However, with mature thinking and improvements in both video game writing, and localization, the flaws of Final Fantasy VII become more readily apparent. It is a bit sad, but whatever, it also leads to some laughs. First and foremost, the fact that the cursing is “blanked” out with things like @’s and &’s leads to no small amount of laughter. Only two characters in the game really curse, and they really only say the same curse over and over again, so this always looks stupidly out of place. I know the game is rated T for Teen Square, but trust me, every teenager knows what Cid and Barret are saying.
That actually gets me to my next thing. Barret. Oh my friggin god. Barret may be one of the most poorly written characters ever in a video game. From the needless cursing to the racial stereotypes. He really should have been a very good character, having a crazy former friend, and raising that friend’s daughter, but no, we don’t get that. It seems at the time, Square’s localization team got all their information on black people from watching reruns of The A-Team and marathoning Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking your Juice in the Hood, over and over again. Possibly also the Barbershop movies. Point is: Barret is a poorly stereotyped character, and looking at someone like Sazh, Square hasn’t put in much more in the way of racial understanding.
Barret being a poor clone of Mr. T aside, FF7 is also just horribly localized, with bad scripting, awkward conversations, and needless exposition all over the place. Shrina executives have meetings simply to discuss how evil they are, people go on about Sephiroth pointlessly, and the actual plot points, and severity of mission tend to be all over the place. It is at times not clear if the main point of the game is stopping Shinra, stopping Sephiroth, or if it changes, and if it does, when. The goals seem to be interchangeable when they’re really not, it is just tied together by poor writing.
The real saving grace to the poor writing though is what came in the years after FF7. Crisis Core on the PSP and Advent Children help tie up many of the plot-holes present in FF7 and bolster some of the terrible writing. The less spoken about Dirge of Cerberus the better. It’s still a fun game, and definitely worth playing, however in some areas, besides the obvious graphical age; Final Fantasy VII shows its years, and not all of it has aged well.
Score through the lens of 1997: 4/5
Score through the lens of today: 3/5