Thursday, June 11, 2009

AdVantage Point: Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Give an idiot a scanner and a comic book and let him to pick out all the advertisements for video games.
This is AdVantage Point -- a chance to document the winding timeline of comics/gaming history as it was canonized by the adverts. Musings, rantings, observations, stream of consciousness.

If, by chance, you've read a a slice of my previous meandering blog rants, you've probably observed enough to know I'm far from any kind of RPG expert, or fan. About the closest I've come to seriously playing an RPG is Wonder Boy or X-Men Legends. That said, in 1997, even I had to stand up and take notice of this hot little game setting the entire world aflame with awesome.

I say "little"...

The thing that amazes me the most about Final Fantasy VII isn't any of it's technological feats or qualities of storytelling and gameplay, but rather, the longevity of excitement it's maintained. I'm largely ignorant to most of the sequels it's spawned, but have been educated enough by Final Fantasy fanboys to know that there are diverging canons, as opposed to sequential instalments. Actually, as a storyteller myself, I find that aspect of Final Fantasy very refreshing and exciting. More companies could do with investing in the regular creation of characters, rather than grinding some of their icons into the ground. My point, however, is the awe I feel for a game that's had so many pseudo-sequels but maintained such strong dedication.

Back in 1997, the overwhelming fandom, though alien, was easier to anticipate.

The PlayStation, as I so regularly and romantically note, was already a cultural phenomenon by this time. Actually, at least where I was at the time, 1997 was becoming the turning point for the console. It was the upward movement on the parabola of it's success and that excitement was rubbing off on any release worthy of some note. The mounting anime craze in Western mainstream culture worked in tandem to give FFVII an immediate pointy-haired hook to at least the sponge-bathed of the unwashed of the masses.

A lifetime of comics and video games in healthy doses meant I was just washed enough to be included in that bunch despite a lack of funds, or any precedent of RPG interest. Rather than blindly purchase, it was the Blockbuster rental that would provide me my only experience with FFVII. Oh, what a mythological moment it was, indeed.

After sitting through an FMV sequence ending with an Abe-esque locomotive transition into the real-time action, I was ready to dive into the most talked about game of the month. Dive I did, indeed, running from the trainstation into an abrupt instruction to insert the second disc.

Yes, you might notice something wrong with that scenario.
I admit, I was a little surprised, but so unfamiliar with the prospect of multi-disc console games that I was happy to go along. At least, until the second disc loaded and I got my arse kicked by whatever spider-legged mecha-monster I happened upon that toppled my chibi-bobble heads one by one. Or at least, that's the faint memory of the event. I never played FFVII again, or really gave any other Final Fantasy a shot, after that. I'm a little bit ashamed of my ignorance, but take solace in the fact that it was much less an issue of one bad experience, as much as it was relative disinterest.

If I'd known someone at the time more inclined to playthrough a Japanese RPG, I probably would've been content to contribute as co-pilot, but as that wasn't the case, it was the end of my experience. Considering that Croc featured prominently as one of the much-hyped alternatives that I actually did find myself owning, I'm not so sure my shame is entirely misplaced. Hey, like I said, at the time, anything of note was benefitting from the association of PSX hype.

Despite my.. "Negative" isn't the right word..
Despite my obtuse experience with Final Fantasy VII, even I can appreciate the nostalgia pop of it's distinct polished grime and giant sword-gun iconography. The E3 announcement of FFVII's release for PSN download did very little for me personally, but seemed like a great opportunity to reminisce, and add a very striking image to our catalogue of advertisements.

Of final note is the bold inclusion of "Only On PlayStation" in the ad.
Just another footnote to the success Sony haven't found with the PlayStation 3 when compared to it's former glory. FFVII might not have meant a huge amount to me personally, but alongside other games prominent in '97, like; Abe's Oddysee, PaRappa the Rapper, Wipeout 2097, and Twisted Metal: World Tour; it was part of a variety of exclusive options that made the console very attractive. Attractive in ways the PS3 has struggled to replicate.

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