>EOiNA: FF7 initial impressions

>Before I get started, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the statute of limitations on Final Fantasy 7 spoilers expired at least 10 years ago; the game came out in 1997 on the PS1, which was two generations ago. That said, the whole point of this feature is that I’m playing this game for the very first time, and so I certainly wouldn’t want anything spoiled for me. So, then: I’m not going to put any spoiler alerts in my posts, but I would also ask that nobody puts any spoilers in the comments.

Here’s my current status: I was able to play for about 30 minutes or so last night. I blew up the first tower (out of 8, I presume) and am currently at the first save point after getting off the train.

My initial impressions are, to be honest, much better than I’d anticipated. I’m not even really sure what I was anticipating, actually, but I was thinking it would be a bit more stereotypically JRPG-esque – something a bit more anime and cutesy and twee, like a young boy on a farm, hoping to see the world, golly gee.

Instead, the game starts with a literal bang, without really telling you who you are except that some of the people on your team think you’re a bad ass, but the large sassy black man on your team doesn’t trust you at all and thinks you might be a traitor, but in any event you and your crack squad are hell-bent on destroying this energy tower which is somehow evil.

I was pleased to recognize this opening level as something I’d played in FF7:Crisis Core on the PSP, and I figured out the battle system almost as quickly, as something I’d played in both Chrono Trigger on the DS and the Penny Arcade Adventures on XBLA; it’s quasi-turn-based, except you have to wait between actions. (This initially confused me to no end in both PAA and CT, but I figured it out almost immediately here.)

There’s no question that graphics have come a long way since 1997, and yet the game’s art direction and sense of style do a fantastic job of obscuring how primitive it looks; I can only imagine how impressive it must have looked in its proper context. And the FMV cut-scenes – my God, even though they look horrifically compressed now, they still fill you with awe and wonder. Which is what cut-scenes are supposed to do, really. Back in the late 90s, cut-scenes felt like rewards for finishing a level; they featured incredible production values and were something to look forward to. Whereas now, everything’s done in the same engine, so it’s more like you’re taking a quick break and you’re more often than not inclined to skip ahead; this is why we praise games like Portal and Left 4 Dead where there are no cutscenes and the story is told contextually. Up until FF7, I was convinced that the original Oddworld games did this cut-scene-as-tasty-carrot-on-a-stick better than anybody – and yet after only 30 minutes, I’m already fully appreciative of FF7’s staggering FMV prowess.

That said, the game is definitely antiquated in certain respects. The game uses the d-pad to control movement, which is crazy because there’s 2 perfectly good analog sticks sitting right there not being used, and you need to press the X button in order to run – and because the default movement speed is ridiciulously slow, I found myself running all over the place, and you should never have to push more than one button in order to move at a satisfactory speed. And maybe it’s because the PS3’s emulation isn’t perfect, but I found some strange glitches here and there, specifically in battle – selecting an enemy to attack felt a little clunky, and the arrow that points to your target didn’t always show up. I think the biggest thing for me to get used to, though, is that the game uses the O button as the default action/confirm button, as opposed to the X button. (Of course, everything about the PS controller still confuses me, as I’m used to the Xbox’s color-coded ABXY.)

I am totally on board, though, and I’m definitely looking forward to diving back in. I do indeed see what the fuss is all about.

And I should also confess that I’ve already come up with more game ideas for this EOiNA feature, and that I’m maybe a little embarassed about it because there’s quite a lot. I’m gonna lose all my street cred!



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