Before 1997 I wasn’t much of a JRPG guy. I was mostly into platformers, some fighting games and well, basically anything that wasn’t a JRPG. I had a Playstation and I was all about the Crash Bandicoot, Loaded, Spawn and Battle Arena Toshinden. If someone would have told me to play Suikoden or Wild Arms I would have laughed in their faces and said “if I wanted to read, I’d read a book!” Oh how ignorant I was…
I first noticed Final Fantasy VII in an issue of PSM Magazine. There was a two page spread of what I would soon learn to be Junon Harbor. I thought it looked cool and moved on, it didn’t really stick with me yet. Before this I never even heard of a Final Fantasy game! (GASP!) I continued on with other gaming magazines, as we all know were the big thing back then. EGM, OPM and Tips N Tricks continued to print various Final Fantasy VII adverts and shortly little reviews followed. I read them and really didn’t think anything of them other than “yeah, it seems to be loved and getting positive reviews”.
It was about this time I met a guy at school who would become a good friend for sadly only a couple of years. A move cut off the friendship and we have since lost contact, but on the weekends either AJ or myself would head to Blockbuster Video to rent a Playstation, or even a Genesis game or two. It just so happened to be my turn to rent a game and after reading and seeing so much about FF7, I decided to bite the bullet. To my amazement it was a whopping three discs! For some odd reason my mom decided to go home first before heading over to AJs house so I decided to pop in the game and see what the fuss was all about.
The opening scene was amazing! It blew my 14-year-old mind! When I was able to control Cloud and got in the first fight I was completely confused. JRPG menus were foreign to me and seeing the numbers pop up when you attacked confused me even more. I struggled on until I got to the first boss, and being the impatient teen I was I ignored the “Don’t attack while his tail is up” warning and I got the game over screen. At this time I wasn’t impressed at all but I packed the game up and headed over to AJs house.
Since I had already failed at the beginning I let him play. To my surprise he was familiar with the franchise and had played Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and Final Fantasy IV. He didn’t have any trouble with the game and soon enough he was further than me. During the first train scene the story started to get our attention. I recall telling him to slow down and quit skipping so fast so I could read the story. After awhile we decided to switch every hour so we could each get a fair chance at the game play. Being teenagers we named the characters names that at the time we thought were funny. The only characters who kept their original names were Cloud and Barret. Tifa got renamed to Slut, Aeris was Bitch, Cait Sith was PoopHead, Red XII was Fag Slut and Yuffie was ForestHo. Yes looking back these are really immature but again we were 14 and this was funny to us. Oh, and Vincent and Cid kept their names as well. By that time we started to become serious with the game.
We played all night and after every major story or boss we would always say “ok this has to be the end of disc one”. We weren’t even out of Midgar yet. Little did we know we had a ways to go. The whole Wall Market experience was both funny and shocking to us. Dressing Cloud up as a woman and the whole &^%* room was a real shocker that left us laughing for quiet some time. We continued playing until the wee hours of the morning and continued on until we finally passed out that afternoon. When I woke I quickly called my mom to see if I could stay the night again so we could continue. Sunday night quickly came and again we thought we were far as crap and nearing the end of disc 1, but yet we were still in Midgar. Then the game had to be returned to Blockbuster.
Neither of us had the money to buy the game. What average 14-year-old did at that time? We did everything in our power to make money to keep renting it. We mowed lawns, raked leaves, even cleaned his dads car all so we could keep playing. As soon as the game was due back, we’d just walk into the store, put the game on the counter and tell the cashier we were ready! Looking back that wasn’t very fair for others waiting on a copy but oh well, thems the breaks! I’ve also realized that if we would have saved the money we could have bought it. Eventually January rolled around and so did my birthday. I got both the game and the strategy guide. That strategy guide became our bible! It was always in my backpack and of course I’d let him borrow it throughout the day. I still have the same guide to this day and boy is it showing its age with all the wear and tear!
We eventually reached the end of disc 1 and I let him borrow the first disc as he wanted to start over. We still played our shared save together though. I recall countless times waking up in the middle of the night holding the controller and the game over screen on the tv. His dad even got tired of us playing all night so we would have to be sneaky. If we heard him coming we’d quickly turn off the tv and throw a sock over green light on the Playstation. Worked every time! As time went on we mastered the game. The save file (which I still have to this day) has all Master Materias all obtained without the help of a Gameshark. All characters were at level 99 and the all had their Ultimate Weapons. The games in-game timer stopped at 99:99:99.
I thank Final Fantasy VII for introducing me to JRPGs. I also thank it for these awesome memories I have of a friend who is long gone. There is much more I could share here but this has gone on for far too long. Another reason I love it is for the fact it filled an empty void in me. in 1997 my dad left us and this was a great way to escape reality. Thanks to this game I’ve played countless JRPGs both new and old and they became one of my favorite genres that dominated my playtime during the Playstation era!