I was still living with my mother when they released “Final Fantasy VII”. It’s a computer game where you play a traumatised and taciturn ex soldier turned mercenary. I endured endless ribbing from mum. The name alone is fair game. It sounds like soft porn. The picture on the box is of a man with a sword as big as he is. “Very Freudian,” was the inevitable comment. “I dread to think what his other six fantasies are.”
I won’t spoil it. But you start the game basically as an eco-terrorist, blowing up a power station. The antagonist is the militarised “SHINRA Corporation” putting profit over everything including the survival of the planet. In that sense it was very prescient. But mum set her boyfriends on me to make sure I wasn’t being radicalised. The Daily Mail and other such organs were still grinding an axe about this unfamiliar new medium of computer games. Same sort of message they still croak at anybody who will listen: “Your children will become monsters buy more papers FEAR FEAR FEAR!” The boyfriends needed to make sure I wasn’t going to go rogue as a result of all the swordfighting. Plus I think some of them were genuinely curious.
The game was surprisingly good, as I remember. Restricted and sometimes a little repetitive, but it spanned four CDs which was huge, and as a result it looked amazing and there was plenty of depth. Even though the plot is mostly pretty rudimentary, it’s excellent for a game of that era and it carries a moment that I can still sharply remember to this day. Perhaps it did slightly radicalise me, in that I’m very wary of the real life SHINRA equivalents as they plunder planetary resources to the full extent of laws they’ve bent out of all proportion. So greedy. So blind to consequence. Maybe we need a guy with a sword as big as he is to protect us from them. Although there’s an irony – the games industry is worth billions of pounds annually, the machines we play on are full of plundered planetary resources that will mostly end up in landfill, and many of the companies making them are now at least as bad as SHINRA.
One of the companies is completely remaking Final Fantasy Seven with up to date technology. It can’t just be a cynical cash grab – it needs to be okay in order to sell. So they’ve worked on it. They’ve expanded it, split it into at least two completely different releases, and want something like £70 for each one brand new, which is terrifyingly expensive, but there’s a market. The first one came out in April. Now you can get it for £30. I treated myself. I’ve got this huge telly. Might as well use it. It’s expensive, but we’re in lockdown.
And that was the evening. It’s just gone midnight. I’m in bed now after a long evening blowing up power stations clutching my great big hard sword. It’s a loving remake. Some modern games are so vast and open world that I give up in despair of ever being able to finish them. This feels manageable, and they have gone deeper with some of the secondary characters, so there’s more human interest. It’s all voice acted, and mostly quite well, although still with the inevitable context mistakes. They always annoy me.
It’s under a third of the original game’s story, which means I might end up locked into buying the next two or three if I want to finish the story again. But I barely make time for games these days. This one is timed well. Maybe it’ll do. Although I miss having mum say “Get off that stupid thing now – we’re going out.” There’s no going anywhere in the world right now. I might as well go to Midgar. Or to bed.