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Let's Play: Final Fantasy 7 (Gaming)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Sunday, April 05, 2020, 16:06 (60 days ago)

With the remake on the horizon, why not revisit the original to see how far we've come?

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23 years ago this game came out. That's almost 2/3 my life ago. Crazy to think. Just how far have we come in this time?

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The game begins with a field of stars… which become the fireflies flying around Aeris in the heart of the Midgar slum. This blocky mess of a pre-rendered cutscene was in fact state of the art at the time, and as the camera flies all the way out from her to the edges of Midgar revealing the whole city from above. It was a hell of a way to start the game and say what we'd be doing on the Playstation: Motion JPEG at half standard def resolution! Then we push all the way into a mysterious group who jumps off a train, and wastes a few guards… The first thing you'll notice is the game is quite obviously designed for standard definition analog signals. The dithering on the polygons appears smooth and blended on a television but on a digital display it looks like ass. That being said… even on a CRT the big blocky models don't hold up too well anymore…

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We follow the leader and are ambushed by two guards with machine guns that somehow do ten times less damage than the giant sword we are carrying. Moving on and he regroups and we get to name our main character.

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Cloud… too silly. Let's call him Claude. The rest try to introduce themselves, but Claude is having none of it. Just wants to do the job and get out. The leader, a large black man with a machine gun arm gives you your objective: the Mako reactor. This game is totally sensible and not racist at all, as he's angry, swears a lot, seems to abandon his daughter quite often, and shoots stuff randomly. Let's name him Korny.

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Korny explains his goal: Shinra, the evil corporation the runs the city, extracts Mako energy from the planet and turns it into power. The energy is in fact the life blood of the planet, and before long it will dry up leaving everything lifeless. Good thing it's at least clean unlike our coal and oil! He joins, and gets to fight beside Claude. The rest of the team, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, open doors and provide support while Korny and Claude make their way to the reactor to plant a bomb. Korny Reiterates the seriousness of the coming environmental disaster, but Claude doesn't care and just wants his money when the job is over. He must be a republican.

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Korny and Claude fight their way to the reactor, where Claude sets up the bomb. But not before having a bizarre feeling… an inner monologue warning him about about something that may or may not make sense in what will be a crazy ass story.

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The alarm trips, and a boss is dispatched to fight them. A giant scorpion thing. And here, not 15 minutes into the game, a major translation error rears its ugly head. Korny yells "Attack while it's tail is up! It's going to counterattack with its laser!" Sounds as if you are being given a command: attack while the tail is up to stop the laser attack. NOPE! It attacks with the tail laser and wastes you. What you have to do is NOT attack while the tail is up. As in, IF you attack while the tail it's up, THEN it will counterattack with the laser. Also they said 'it's' instead of 'its'. That my friends is the first of many lines of a botched translation. They blow it up and it fades away like all bosses into a red wireframe.

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How satisfying. A clock starts at the countdown timer for the bomb. Let's get out of here. Korny and Claude fight their way out against weird ass security and shooty laser things. They escape, and the reactor explodes. Korny blows up their hideout to cover their tracks, and tells everyone to split up and regroup on the train to sector 7. Claude goes on and on about his money. We get it dude.

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Claude runs into the flower girl from the intro, and you can be a dick to her or be nice. The game keeps track and how you treat characters, which decides whom you'll go on a date with later on. Is she working as a prostitute? Her 'flowers' are unreasonably cheap, and this is sometimes a cover in real life. He mister, buy a 'flower'. Is it true?!

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Oops, Claude got spotted. Gotta fight your way to the train. Somehow the soldiers punches do more damage than their machine guns. Claude jumps on the moving train to escape. The cutscenes are wildly inconsistent. Sometimes the characters are 'realistically' rendered, sometimes they are prerendered as a blocky mess (as in this one), and sometimes the game draws them onto the cutscene in real time. It's like… pick one guys.

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Claude makes the train, and everyone is happy to see him but Korny. The only think keeping him from being Mr T is the word fool. His apostrophied "shit" let us know it's more like "sheeeeit." His dialect is very heavy handed… I still do not know what the hell this pizza line is supposed to mean. Another mangled translation. Claude demonstrates his republican principles by asking why poor people don't just stop being poor.

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The group meets up at a bar in Sector 7. Oh look who it is! The bar is owned by Claude's childhood friend. Hmmm. Judging by her figure, CommandrCleavage seems like an appropriate DBO name, but that won't fit. So just Cleavage. You can give her the flower you bought, or give it to Korny's daughter Marlene.

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Ahhh he said it! Full on Mr. T! Also this option is a little spicy.

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The news reports lots of casualties from the bomb planted earlier. Korny and Claude flex a bit and try to out macho each other. Claude's like "gimme my money!" Cleavage begs Claude to stay and fight with them, and reminds him of his childhood promise…

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Cleavage and Claude sit atop a well back in their hometown during a flashback. Claude mentions he wants to join soldier and become as cool as Sephiroth (first mention of him). Cleavage makes him promise that if he makes soldier and she's in trouble that he'll come save her. Claude's like, yeah no I can't do that like a massive tool. Claude decides to stay after Korny pays him, even knowing that the money is for his daughter's education. Dick move Claude. Claude sleeps over in the bar, and in the morning you once again get a rather spicy dialogue option. Which makes no sense because if she's hot you WOULDN'T get sleep, but none of this makes sense so whatever.

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Everyone heads to the train station to head for the next reactor target in sector 5. I am not sure how faithful the translation is, but is sure does encapsulate the crippling ignorance of the 90s.

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On the train, they are all found out and have to bail. There are various security systems in the train tunnel, and miraculously Cleavage can dodge a rocket that exploded mere inches away. The group makes their way to the new reactor through maintenance access routes, and fight weird things along the way like flying fish. Because that's totally normal.

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Inside the reactor and at the detonation location, Claude collapses and has a flashback. Cleavage's father is dead, and she's yelling about hating Sephiroth and Shinra. The plot thickens I guess. Claude plants the bomb, then everyone heads for the exit. No countdown this time. And right here we have one really stupid damn minigame. You all have to hit the buttons at once, but do you think Korny or Cleavage will give you a countdown or anything? Like 3…2…1… go? NOPE! You have to do it completely blind and guessing. Ugggggggg.

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Ambushed by the president of Shinra, he goes on about how Claude isn't as cool as Sephiroth, then drops off a mechanical monstrosity to fight, and in true James Bond fashion leaves before the kill is made. The boss fight is pretty easy given it's surrounded and back attacks do double damage. It explodes but oh no! Claude falls through the hole in prerendered cutscene in which everyone is still a blocky mess. So far the opening is the only cutscene where they seemed to try hard.

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Claude lands on a church and a flower bead breaks his fall. Yeah Right. Anyway turns out this is where the flower girl tends her flowers. What should we call her? How about… Sammy. The Turks, a special forces group from Shinra shows up to take Sammy. And even though Claude doesn't care about anyone or anything, he decides to help her out of there. Because she's pretty! Oh, and there are little demon monsters in the back of the church. WTF man. WTF. Sammy attacks with a staff and a Jordanesque jump. After escaping the Turks, Sammy convinces Claude to be her bodyguard on top of a not at all proportional building to how big it was on the inside. She reveals she knew someone from Soldier herself, and that's why she's drawn to Claude, but not much more than that at the moment.

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Good thing she has a bodyguard. In the streets there are thugs, who have a disturbing attack called 'Grind' in which they come up behind and just kind of rub you… Also score another one for the translators.

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Claude takes Sammy home, and her mom basically tells you to get lost since someone else from soldier broke her heart. Claude tells Sammy that he has to meet back up with Cleavage, and she gets a wee bit jealous. Claude sneaks out, but Sammy is too smart for that, and insists on coming with Claude to meet up with Cleavage.

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On the way, we encounter the most bizarre enemy in the game. A house. A literal house. Which we apparently also fight in the remake too. Sammy and Claude talk for a while, and tells him he's a lot like her first boyfriend. But wait! Cleavage appears in a sexy dress, on a chocobo drawn carriage bound for the wall market. Sammy and Claude go to investigate.

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The following portion of the game is easily the strangest. They discover Cleavage is in Don Corneo's mansion, who's a local crime boss. He picks a 'bride' from three girls every night, so he's only letting women into his mansion. And thus, the plan becomes to dress Claude up as a woman to get inside.

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And so you must get a dress, a wig, and various accessories to cross dress your way into Corneo's mansion. You can obtain a wig by out squatting some bros, some sexy underwear from a group of older gay men in a hot tub, makeup by Donald Trumping your way into a dressing room, a dress from a depressed dressmaker whose passion is restored by the ridiculousness, and many other optional items to make you more convincing as a woman. I can't particularly say the whole thing is handled with sensitivity, but it did break ground at the time.

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Inside the mansion, Claude and Sammy find Cleavage is waiting in what appears to be a sex dungeon. She explains she's here because they need information the Don has, and this was the way to get close. She is quite accepting of his choice of outfit. The three parade themselves in front of the don, and depending on the job you did he will pick one of the three. This time lucky Claude was chosen!

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You go to his bedroom, distract him, and Sammy and Cleavage bust in. You squeeze him for information by literally threatening to rip off his balls. He confesses that Shinra is going to blow up a support, and have the slums below crushed by the top level of the city and blame it on you. Of course knowing he'll win, Don opens a trap door and sends you right to a sewer monster. Because sewers are always spacious and full of monsters.

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Escaping the sewer you make your way through the train graveyard, with literal ghosts and demonic chariots. Here you can steal a great weapon for Sammy, but you barely get to use it before she's taken away. Korny has already rushed to the support to stop Shinra, so they send Sammy to take care of Korny's daughter. They reach the top of the pillar right after the Turks set the bomb, and barely escape after fighting them. They catch Sammy being taken away in a helicopter, and she tells them Marlene is safe. Swinging on a conveniently placed cable to freedom, the pillar blows, and everyone in the slums is crushed while president Shinra watches on from his office at the top of the city.

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They go back to Sammy's house to get Marlene, and Sammy's mom tells them that the Turks want her because she's an 'ancient', the chosen people who will find the promised land. Sammy's mom isn't her mom, but an adoptive parent. Ancients have powers… can feel the planet… Wanting to stop Shinra, they all decide to rescue her from the headquarters. They find a wire that will lead them up the wreckage to the top of the city. This has to be my favorite line of the game.

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How to get in? Korny wants to run and gun, Cleavage wants to sneak in. Let's sneak in. The game makes you literally climb 60 flights of stairs, and once again displays a lot of sensitivity. Once inside, you must make it to the top floor by getting various keycards that let you progress. There's another stupid minigame where you have to signal to your party when to cross the room to as not be seen by guards. If you mess up you start over. Just lose four times quickly, and it'll let you skip it.

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In all your snooping, you manage to overhear a meeting with Shinra's elite. It confirms the worst suspicions, and reveals Sammy's location. In the research lab, Claude finds "Jenova", a headless creature who will become very very important in the plot later on. The group rescues Sammy and a strange talking red lion, who goes by RED XII. But he says we can call him whatever we want. How about John 117? Cool then!

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Of course you're all kidnapped and brought in front of the president. He explains the promised land is full of Mako, and they'll be crazy rich if an ancient will lead them there. Then you get thrown in holding cells. But after falling asleep, the door mysteriously opens…

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Running out, a trail of blood leads from Jeonova up the stairs to president Shinra, head. Skewered with the sword of Sephiroth. Claude explains he thinks he knows what's going on, but will explain later as they've got to get the hell out.

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Rufus, the VP and son of the President, helicopters in and takes over, explaining he's going to run Shinra differently: through fear. Claude fights him while the others escape fighting a giant robot on the elevator down. Claude bests Rufus, but he hightails it.

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The crew makes their escape on a truck, and Claude takes a motorcycle. While the characters are finally more detailed in the cutscene, the animation is janky as hell. Everyone 'skates' across the ground. Still, this blew my mind when I first saw it. remember what 3D games looked like in 1997! You play what is probably the game's most fun minigame, where you protect the truck from the Shinra soldiers on their own bikes by slashing with your sword. Of course when you reach the end of the highway, a giant tank shows up that you have to destroy.

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And so, the crew bids Midgar farewell as Claude tells them they need to go after Sephiroth. He says he'll explain as soon as they leave the city and get safe. And so here will end the first installment of the remake…

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Does the game hold up? If you're under 30 years old, probably not.


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