By guest writer Matt Jorgenson.
A lot of things had to go wrong in order for me to play Final
Fantasy VII at the precise time for it to have as huge an impact on my
life as it did. In fact, Final Fantasy VII doesn’t even appear in this story
until the middle. I’ve considered jumping straight to bringing it home
and playing it, but I don’t think it does justice to the impact this game
had on me, and it’s a somewhat comical journey. And hey, if you aren’t
interested in all that junk, skip the next paragraph.
The Christmas of 2005 my sister and I were gifted a refurbished
PlayStation 2. The following day, I convinced my mother to drive me to
a game store so I could spend most of my meager savings on games.
But in a few short months the console stopped working and I couldn’t
figure out why. The internet was no help, and game store’s solution
was to spend money I didn’t have on a new PlayStation 2. With
Summer quickly approaching, I resigned myself to saving up for a new
one with all the summer work I could find. But on the last day of school,
I missed the bus home. On a normal day, this meant going to the library
and waiting the few hours for one of my parents to get off work and
catch a ride home. But school released early that particular Friday and a
major leak in the bathroom saw the library closed for the day. So, I
found myself wandering around my smallish home town. At some
point, late in the afternoon I wandered past a garage sale and I decided
to stop. And it was there, covered in Thomas, The Tank Engine stickers I
found a PlayStation 1. I had the required 20 dollars and the lady was
willing to throw a game in for free, and it was better than nothing right?
Afterwards I B-lined for our local grocery store and rummaged through
the old game rentals until I found something that looked interesting;
which I couldn’t rent because I was a minor. Buuuuut, he could sell me
this other game behind the counter. It had been sitting in one of the
bins because it didn’t have a jewel case and the PS1 games were going
to start being sold off anyways. He was pretty sure it was some sort of
fighting game. But it was probably fairly-long because it had 3 discs.
And that brings us to how I played Final Fantasy VII.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I sat down to play Final Fantasy
VII. I wasn’t really an internet goer yet, and it had drifted out of the
zeitgeist by the time I started picking up magazines about video games.
I knew Final Fantasy was an RPG series, most of the time, and that
Dungeons and Dragons was an RPG so I thought I knew what I was
And then a train pulled into a station, and our blocky protagonist
back flips in action against gun toting guards with a sword larger then
he was, all while attempting to plant a bomb in a faceless corporation’s
reactor in order to strike a blow to save the planet.
What was I even seeing right now? It had equipment and magic
like other JRPGs I had played, but those were all wizards and knights,
not mercenaries and cyborgs. The protagonists of previous game were
either voiceless avatars or cheerfully kind, but Cloud must be convinced
to do the right thing more often then not. Barrett had a friggin’
machine for a hand for Pete’s Sake! Sure, it didn’t look great compared
to the PS2 games I had played but this was a whole different kind of
wild! All of this combined with an excellent music track, and it being my
only game, I buckled in for what I thought was going to be a weird and
bizarre game. What I wasn’t expecting was the feelings. I legitimately
cared about the characters. Why was Cloud so closed off? How was
Barrett going to balance being a father AND trying to save the planet? I
was legitimately concerned when Tifa disappeared and was relieved to
see her okay, if only for a minute. And Aerith… That scene had a
profound impact on me. My line of thoughts in that moment are seared
into my mind.
“This can’t be happening… It HAS to be a dream. Or Cloud is going to
swoop in and save the day at the last second.”
But he doesn’t. Sephiroth kills her.
“Maybe she is just hurt! They will rush her to a doctor and she will be
But that doesn’t happen. Sephiroth kills her.
“She will come back! Like Gandolf! I just had to find the right thing!”
But she doesn’t. Not really. Sephiroth had killed her.
I wouldn’t realize it until much later in life, but it was this moment
that I would become a lifelong fan of Video games. Even though I was in
pain, for the first time in my young life, a piece of media had made me
feel real life emotions. Up to this point I had, at most, felt mild
excitement after finishing Pokemon or frustration at failing at SeaQuest
(AGAIN). But not pain. Not REAL heartache over the death of a
character I really cared about or REAL anger at the character who cause
I was afraid of how strongly I felt and decided to take a few days
off from the game. But I needed to know how the story ended. I
needed to know if Aerith’s death was in vain. Or if, after all the fighting
was over, the world could be… not okay again, but maybe balanced
again. And so, I tentatively started playing again. But Alas, my
misfortune would strike one final time. The last disc was scratched
beyond reading, and worse, it corrupted my save file. I was reduced to
reading the last little bit of the game from a guide I found online. I
wouldn’t actually see the game in its entirety until I was 22.
I will turn 27 this year. It’s strange to think that I’ve lived over half
of my life since playing Final Fantasy VII. And it’s been even longer
since it came out. And on an objective level I can admit, with a bit of
arm twisting, that maybe it hasn’t age with grace. It’s a little on the ugly
side, and it has some problematic parts, and some of it is straight up
bonkers. But I’ll never shake the rush of emotion I feel every time I
download it on a new system or walk past a copy in a game store,
because at its core, I think, it’s still an excellent game well worth its
weight in gil in 2019. Now if you will excuse me… I have a train to a
reactor to catch.