Welcome to Life-Changers!
A new semi-regular feature where our writers discuss the games that have meant the most to them!
Final Fantasy VII
When writing the first of a rotating feature that deals with a topic that precariously walks a tightrope between an inclusive walk down memory lane and a narcissistic vanity article, it’s difficult to know exactly what to write about. In regards to games that have changed my life, what do I talk about?
Do I talk about Granny’s Garden, a little educational game that was my first experience into the world of computers? Do I talk about Chucky Egg or Locomotion, some of the first games to have me skipping lunch in order to play them? Do I talk about Asteroids, the first game to make me wail in agonised defeat? How about Sonic the Hedgehog, the game that made me fall in love with everything Sega?
In the end, and while it might incite groans from the deliberately pretentious, I ended up going with Final Fantasy VII. Why? Not because I believe it’s the best RPG I’ve ever played, although it’s certainly one of my favourites. Instead, it’s because it changed my gaming life in so many ways that it’s never really been the same since.
First of all, it was the first game to make me break rank. I was always a Sega kid, unless you count my pre-Sega Atari and my family’s Amiga. I never really felt the urge to own or play on anything other than a Sega console. However, when the hype for Final Fantasy VII first swept me up, I couldn’t help but suddenly want a PlayStation.
Of course, it helped that the Saturn was beginning to sink and the PlayStation was becoming the console of choice, but there was just something about Final Fantasy VII that called to me. I would later work out that it was the complete novelty of it all, as like others, Final Fantasy VII was the first Japanese role-playing game I had ever played.
I was very new to the linear, turn-based experience that these games offered, and I was completely swept up in the majesty of the story. Who could forget the first time they saw Cloud ride down on his motorcycle, or the first time you saw Sephiroth completely own something that took you out in one hit? Final Fantasy VII was the first time I had experienced such things in a video game, and in my eyes it still remains one of the shining examples of the genre.
And of course, Final Fantasy VII was also the first game to change my outlook on death in a video game. Before, death was merely a sort of failure mark. You didn’t so much “die” as you failed. You could always come back, there was always an extra guy. I could rip Scorpion’s head off in Mortal Kombat, but it didn’t really mean he was dead.
Like everyone else, I shed a tear when Aeris died. But I was still of the belief that she could come back. Like so many others, I didn’t believe that such a major character could be killed off at such a point in the game, that her little menu icon would remain forever blank. I fell for the resurrection rumours, and I spent ages trying every conceivable task (all of which were complete bollocks) in an attempt to bring her back.
But I never could, and it slowly dawned on me that indeed Aeris was dead. And suddenly, my belief about death in video games was changed forever. Suddenly, no character was safe. It was no longer unfathomable to me that a major character could be killed off. It forever changed how I look at video games. I’ve started playing through Heavenly Sword, and as it tells you in the first few moments, Nariko dies. I don’t know if she stays dead, but thanks to Final Fantasy VII, I can’t help shake the feeling that perhaps she does.
Ultimately, it is this view of death in video games that is the biggest change to my gaming life, and ultimately why I chose Final Fantasy VII. Yes, it definitely made me ask for a PlayStation for my birthday and yes it was my first experience with Japanese RPGs – but ultimately the biggest impact it left on my life was the fact that even in my escapism, death had finally become a very real and very final event.