How Final Fantasy VII Delivered Me to Gaming
Sonic on Sega Mega Drive didn’t quite cut it.
I have been playing games for as long as I can remember, but that’s also because I have a memory only better than a gold fish (I can remember stuff for 5 seconds!) My eldest brother tells me that we had an Atari but as far as I can remember, the first ever console I laid my hands on was the slick, black, unapologetically pompously named Sega Mega Drive.
It was hard to let go of the console when it’s time came (Playstation One baby). I and my brothers painstaking saved a grand total of one Dirham from our lunch money every day for a year to save up for the big black box. It was an achievement on its own and the look on my parent’s face when we held up our piggy bank was priceless.
But the console never stirred the gamer inside me. I guess, it could partly be blamed for the lack of ‘funds’ to buy new games, with each cartridge costing as much as games are going for now. I distinctly remember dolling out AED 250 to buy a Brian Lara Cricket game for the system. Best Dirhams I have spent on a video game, by the way. The game literally made my school home work fun. I would simply put multiple cricket matches on ‘autoplay’ and eagerly check the television for the scores as if it were a Live game! Other than that, I had a Sonic game which I borrowed from a friend, and a 100-in-1 game cartridge which had the likes of Golden Axe and such. They were average games at best, to be honest and I soon lost interest as school work, and WWF shows and playing cards consumed my life.
Then came Game Gear, a gift from my uncle to my eldest brother who promptly sidelined it while he rubbed his fancy new mountain bike on our faces (it got stolen, and justice was served). That too failed to do anything to make me really interested in games. But the console itself failed on so many levels, it was really hard to give a damn about it. After it consumed the 6th battery pack within a span of a few hours, I gave up. It was sad, because the wrestling game that came with it was pretty damn sweet. I thought the graphics couldn’t get better than that.
A couple of years later, my father brought home the PC and things started to change. It was a medium-end system, with a Pentium I 122Mhz CPU and some crappy integrated graphics card that I am pretty grunted whenever I tried to even play Solitaire. The first game for the system, borrowed from a cousin who, for some reason, had two copies of the game, was EA Sports Cricket ’97. In fact, he really didn’t want to part with the CD. He suggested we copy the game on floppy discs; an idea which we gave up upon after spending hours transferring files from one disc to another. Clearly, neither of us had heard of piracy.
I played the game to death – so much in fact that I landed up on a glitch that allowed me to pile up on runs and wickets as and when I wished. It was an incredible game, made even more fantastic when I upgraded my CPU from 122 MHz to 250MHz. The super smooth frame rates made me, what could be equivalent in today’s times as ‘jizzing in my pants’.
Watching our growing interest in video games, and it becoming an excellent baby sitter, my father took me and brother to a game store in Bur Dubai during Eid. After venturing for about an hour just seemingly lost in fancy boxarts and weird names, my eyes diverted towards a thick disc-set that had a plain white back ground on its cover, with a blue-eyed teenage boy with spunky hair-style and a large sword. It called itself Final Fantasy VII and its calming silver, white and blue box design convinced me I wanted to play this game. I had no idea what it was about, how it played, and if at all I would play it, but I wanted it. In hindsight, it was a divine intervention.
Having never been exposed to Japanese role-playing games, I was utterly confused when I booted up it up. Why exactly was I fighting off strange looking monsters out of sheer randomness? What are all these menus and how do I make my character not die? I was disappointed. It wasn’t exactly the kind of game I hoped it would be. I wanted a simple shooter, to be honest, and in that respect my brother’s choice, Indiana Jones-something-something, was a much better game. It was third person, it had great graphics and it embarked us on a fantastical adventure with puzzles I and brother could solve together.
I neglected Final Fantasy VII for almost a year. But, again, by divine intervention it seems, I stumbled upon GameFAQs. Then it was the holy grail of cheat codes, and a simple search led me to a trainer for Final Fantasy VII. It allowed me infinite health, mana and other stats. It was the right kind of encouragement I needed to give the game another try. The invincibility not only allowed me to ease into the gameplay system, but the reduced difficultly also made me enjoy the game for what it was.
I became a believer with it. Final Fantasy VII delivered me to gaming. Never had I experienced characters so relatable, not even now. Never had I experienced a world so magical. The music was soulful and energetic, and still remains one of the best soundtracks ever made. The visuals, especially the craftily made CGI, blew me away. I spent hours upon hours exploring and collecting items, engaged in Cloud’s sad little story. I remember being quite emotional when Sephiroth killed Aerith. Angry when I came face to face with him.
As I sit here recalling every moment from the game that I can recover, I am slowly realizing there has been no game quite like it. Not even, to some extent, Half Life which I am a huge fan of. I have never been so emotionally attached with a game like I have been with FFVII. I still have the disc-set in, almost, pristine condition. It’s one of my priced possessions.
It defined gaming for me. And eventually, I guess, my life as well.