By danielkempster 2 Comments
Welcome to Compilation of Enduring Final Fantasy VII. For those who may not be aware of what this is all about, allow me to explain. Between February 2010 and December 2013, I wrote a series of blogs documenting a playthrough of Final Fantasy VII. As someone with a lot of love for the game, I wanted to determine whether or not it was still worth playing in this age of high-definition graphics and refined gameplay mechanics. I tried to keep my eye as objective as possible, aiming to judge it from the perspective of a video game enthusiast in the twenty-first century and not let nostalgia affect my writings too much. The core tenet of the series was to find out if the game had stood the test of time or not - if it had endured the last fifteen-or-so years, or if it was now something to be endured itself. Hence the series' title, Enduring Final Fantasy VII.
Given the series was written in fits and starts over a four-year period, the episodes are pretty spread out through Giant Bomb's history. As a result, navigating from one episode to the next isn't the most streamlined process. Speaking as the writer, I found re-visiting the older episodes for reference to be quite a chore at times. That's why I've decided to put this blog together. It's basically a glorified table of contents, a handy-dandy episode guide that provides links and descriptions for every one of the series' thirty-six entries in one smart, tidy, easy-to-navigate location. Just click on any of the titles below, and you'll be taken to the relevant episode. My hope is that it will make reading and navigating the series much simpler for any future readers.
This unofficial inaugural episode lays out my own personal history with Final Fantasy VII, as well as the foundations for all future episodes in the series.
Our journey begins in the city of Midgar, with ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife joining forces with Barret Wallace, the leader of the militant activist group AVALANCHE, and childhood friend Tifa Lockheart, as they take part in a series of terrorist attacks against the oppressive Shinra Electric Power Company.
After a botched terrorist attack on the Sector 5 Reactor, Cloud finds himself in the city's slums and in the company of flower girl and last surviving Ancient Aerith Gainsborough. His attempts to get back to his friends take him to Wall Market, and into the mansion of local dilettante Don Corneo.
Cloud is reunited with Barret and Tifa, but at a terrible cost - Aerith is abducted by Shinra's Turks operatives, and the Sector 7 slums are wiped out when Shinra destroy the pillar supporting the plate above. Keen to avenge the deaths of their comrades and free Aerith from imprisonment, the trio infiltrate Shinra Headquarters in a bid to rescue her and shut down Shinra once and for all.
After meeting and befriending the mysterious beast Red XIII, Cloud and company are caught and imprisoned by the Turks and Shinra. They manage to escape, but only with the help of a mystery assailant who has also broken into the Shinra HQ. Seizing the opportunity, the gang escape from the building in vehicles and follow the highway to the edge of Midgar, leaving the city far behind.
Having safely retreated to the nearby village of Kalm, Cloud and his friends re-group at the inn and try to make sense of what happened back at Shinra HQ. Cloud opens up about his past, explaining the events that unfolded at his hometown of Nibelheim five years ago, and how they could be tied to what happened back in Midgar.
After Cloud finishes his story the group resolves to pursue Sephiroth, the mysterious man in black, across the continent. En route they stumble upon the Chocobo Ranch, and end up catching a chocobo of their own to out-run the Midgar Zolom that lives in the nearby swamp. On the other side of the Mythril Mines they arrive at Fort Condor, where they offer to help its residents protect a nesting Condor from attacks co-ordinated by Shinra.
With new character Yuffie Kisaragi joining their ranks, the party finally arrive in Junon, still in pursuit of Sephiroth. Their arrival coincides with the inauguration of the new Shinra president, Rufus, also happening in the city at the time. Hearing their quarry is crossing the sea to the west, the gang manage to stow away on Rufus' ship, bound for Costa Del Sol and the Western Continent.
From the seaside resort of Costa Del Sol, the party head west into the mountains. Passing through Barret's hometown of Corel, they arrive at the Gold Saucer, a huge theme park built in the middle of a desert. In their hunt for Sephiroth they meet Cait Sith, a fortune-telling stuffed toy who joins the party, and an unfortunate series of events lead to the whole gang being incarcerated below the Gold Saucer in Corel Prison.
Barret's forced to face a familiar friend from his past in the vast deserts surrounding Corel Prison. When he and old acquaintance Dyne have made their peace, the prison guards offer Cloud and the gang their best chance of escape - winning one of the Gold Saucer's Chocobo races...
Free from the confines of Corel Prison and equipped with a fancy new buggy for crossing the desert, the party continue their search for Sephiroth. Their journey takes them south through the town of Gongaga, where several threads of the game's labyrinthine plot finally begin to converge.
When the buggy breaks down, Cloud and the team seek refuge in the nearby Cosmo Canyon, a village cut into the cliff face that also happens to be Red XIII's hometown. There they meet the wise old man Bugenhagen, who explains the inner workings of the Planet and teaches us a little more about Cloud's canine companion.
With the buggy fixed the party press on north to Nibelheim, Cloud and Tifa's hometown. Contrary to the stories Cloud told back in Kalm, nobody in the town can recall the horrific events of five years ago. After encountering Sephiroth once again and recruiting the enigmatic Vincent Valentine in the abandoned Shinra Mansion, the strengthened party press on across the twisting mountain pass that cuts through Mount Nibel.
On the other side of the mountain pass lies Rocket Town, a small village built up around the base of a Shinra rocket that failed to launch. Here the gang meet the final addition to their party, pilot Cid Highwind. When the Shinra show up trying to borrow Cid's plane, the team makes a pretty dramatic exit, at the cost of Cid's beloved Tiny Bronco.
With Cid's plane now useful for nothing but a boat, Yuffie suggests the party head west to her hometown of Wutai. On the way there she steals everyone's Materia and turns tail, forcing Cloud and co. into an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse through the streets of Wutai.
In search of the elusive Keystone, the gang wind up once again at the Gold Saucer. Their overnight stay prompts a touching date between Cloud and Aerith, and the revelation that for some time, a Shinra spy has been in their midst...
Hot on the heels of the Turks and their stolen Keystone, the party arrives at the Temple of the Ancients. It's here that Sephiroth plans to acquire the Black Materia, which he can use to summon the powerful destructive magic Meteor. Ready to face their adversaries, the team must first navigate the dark chambers of the Temple.
After the Black Materia falls into Sephiroth's hands, Aerith leaves the party believing she knows a way to counter Meteor. The party pursue her far north to the Forgotten City of the Ancients, but Aerith is not the only one waiting to greet them within its abandoned walls.
Following the death of Aerith, the grieving party members move further north in pursuit of Sephiroth, arriving at Icicle Inn. The route ahead is a snowy slope, so in order to continue their journey toward the Great Glacier, Cloud and the gang are going have a little creative with their method of transportation...
Having reached the Great Glacier, the crew face two final obstacles before they reach the North Crater - they must cross the snow fields, and then climb the frozen Cliffs of Gaea. With the temperature falling fast, it's going to be a lot easier said than done.
The party finally catch up to Sephiroth at the North Crater, and they're not the only ones - his black-cloaked followers from Nibelheim and the Shinra have made it here too. As all three groups converge at this enormous wound in the surface of the Planet, some long-hidden truths are about to be revealed.
Tifa and Barret awaken in Junon to find themselves imprisoned by Shinra and Sephiroth's Meteor hanging ominously over the Planet. To top it all off, Cloud is nowhere to be seen, and they're about to be publicly executed to appease the frightened masses. It's going to take a minor miracle to get out of this jam.
Tifa's frantic searching for Cloud, with the new airship Highwind at her disposal, eventually brings the party to the small town of Mideel. Reports of a man being washed up nearby lead her and the rest of the party to the town's infirmary. Sure enough, Cloud is there, but the trauma he's been through has left him in a shocking state.
When Tifa decides to stay behind in Mideel, Cid agrees to take the party by the reins while Cloud is out of commission. The first order of the day is to track down the Huge Materia, incredibly powerful Materia that the Shinra are planning to use to create a super-weapon to use against Sephiroth. One piece of this Huge Materia is bound for Corel on a train, and that means a train robbery will very soon be underway.
The continued search for Huge Materia brings the party back to Fort Condor, where Shinra's attacking forces are mounting a final assault. One last battle will decide the fate of this old abandoned Mako Reactor, as well as the bird that nests upon it.
With two pieces of Huge Materia in their position, the party decides to return to Mideel and check on Cloud and Tifa. During their visit, Ultimate WEAPON attacks the town, causing a violent earthquake that tears the town apart. Cloud and Tifa fall deep into the Lifestream, and Cloud is finally forced to confront his contradictory memories.
With Cloud back in command and better than ever, the crew head back to Junon in search of a third piece of Huge Materia. Housed in an underwater Mako Reactor, Shinra are preparing to move it by submarine, but they haven't counted on our heroes coming to crash the party.
With three pieces of Huge Materia safely in the bag, the gang take a little time out from adventuring to explore the world in the Highwind. The Shinra Mansion at Nibelheim, the crashed Gelnika airship, and Lucrecia's hidden grotto are all covered in this globe-trotting episode.
The gang try their hand at breeding an elusive Gold Chocobo. Then they decide it's largely a waste of time and not at all fun, and decide to pack it in.
Back on track, the party have learned that a fourth and final piece of Huge Materia has arrived in Rocket Town and is due to be sent into space in an attempt to destroy Meteor. With Cid in tow, Cloud stows away on the rocket before launch and sets about recovering the Huge Materia before it is lost forever.
The Huge Materia may be safely in their possession, but the party are at a loss as to how to proceed from here. At Cosmo Canyon, Bugenhagen suggests visiting the City of the Ancients for a second time, to see if they can discover what Aerith was planning before Sephiroth put a stop to it.
Back in Midgar, Shinra are putting the finishing touches to their Sister Ray - a souped-up cannon intended to break through Sephiroth's barrier at the North Crater. With Diamond WEAPON marching on the city, Cloud and co. race back in the Highwind to try and put an end to any disaster before it can unfold.
Professor Hojo has locked down control of the Sister Ray and is preparing to fire it into the North Crater again before its cooldown period is over - a move that could potentially destroy the whole of Midgar. The party make their return to the city from above, and head straight for the Sister Ray's platform to put an end to the crazed scientist's dastardly plan.
The barrier on the North Crater has dropped, and Sephiroth lies in wait within. This seems like the perfect time to go gallivanting all over the Planet in search of Ultimate Weapons, Final Limit Breaks and other completely optional gubbins!
Our band of heroes finally make their way back to the North Crater and prepare to descend into its dark depths. A long, complex path lies between them and the villain they seek.
At the very bottom of the North Crater, Sephiroth lies in wait for the party, smothering Holy and preventing it from reaching the Meteor which now hangs perilously above Midgar. Steeling themselves, Cloud and the others engage their twisted nemesis in battle to determine the fate of not just their own lives, but that of the Planet itself.
I've had a lot of fun putting this series together, and I'm more than a little emotional about the fact it's finally over. Hopefully this compilation blog will make it easier for the series to survive for posterity (or at the very least, a bit easier to link to). Thanks once again to everybody who's supported the series these last four years, and to everyone who may yet read it in the future. Take care, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Final Fantasy VII (PS3)