This is a column by Kat Bailey dedicated to the analysis of the once beloved Japanese RPG sub-genre. Tune in every Wednesday for thoughts on white-haired villains, giant robots, Infinity+1 swords, and everything else the wonderful world of JRPGs has to offer.
First things first about my history with Final Fantasy 7: I was spoiled on the death of Aeris before it even came out. Before I even really knew what Final Fantasy 7 was, honestly. My friend, who had been obsessively following its development on the fledgling internet, described the scene in all its gory detail for me. I'm still kind of mad at him for that, even if at the time I didn't really care. Of course, as I eventually discovered, I was hardly alone in being spoiled on the event that helped signal the beginning of gaming's modern era.
The death of Aeris is but the greatest example of the lore that has been built up around Final Fantasy VII over the years. There are countless others that have circulated around the proverbial playground over the years: the fact that it's possible to go on a date with Barret, for example. Or all the persistent rumors that Aeris can be resurrected without a hack. This stuff is legend at this point – the result of outsized popularity and a somewhat ambiguous story.
When word hit last week that Square Enix may be reviving the PC version of Final Fantasy VII with a smattering of extras, my first thought was how fertile the ground is for achievements.
Here are some potential achievements that came to mind:
Am I Seeing Things? (Find Aeris's ghost in the church): This moment was an integral part of many of the various Aeris revival schemes. Basically, you walk into her church after she dies, and you get a glimpse of her ghost. From what I've been able to tell, the developers intended the ghost as a kind of tribute (others argue that it's a glitch). Mostly, it just gave people some hope to cling to. People really seemed to love Aeris, whether because of her heroic sacrifice or because she was just ... nice. I can't claim to understand – I've always preferred Yuffie myself. Actually, speaking of Yuffie, here's another achievement idea.
The Far Side of the World (Complete the Wutai Quests with Yuffie): Wutai was pretty remarkable in its day – a completely optional island with a full quest line for a secret character. It's an extension of the feeling you get the first time you leave Midgar – that feeling that Final Fantasy 7's world is absolutely gigantic. The quest itself is quite enjoyable, featuring appearances by King Pervert Don Cornero and the Turks. It does a lot to flesh out the world at large as well as the backstory (it's in Wutai that we learn of their war and subsequent defeat at the hands of Shinra). But it's mostly just cool because it's a whole subquest dedicated to a secret character, which made Final Fantasy 7 feel even bigger and more substantial than it already was.
So those are my contributions. In a fit of inspiration, I decided to put the question to my followers on Twitter, and they had several good ideas of their own. Here are a few of my favorites, with my own comments.
On the Job (Talk to all of the Turks at the Junon ceremony) – @wtbjared: The Turks were little more than tertiary characters in Final Fantasy 7 – and rather easy to defeat at that – but they still managed to be interesting in their own right. Each one has a distinct personality, and there's a definite group dynamic at work, which is most apparent in their reactions to rookie agent Elena. They aren't evil per se--just professional. That you can choose not to fight them after completing the Wutai quest is quietly a very satisfying conclusion to their arc. Naturally, it makes sense that you should be encouraged to get to know them in Junon.
Son of a Submariner (Complete the submarine chase in under 30 seconds) – @corvak: The earlier Final Fantasy releases are well-known for their rather... interesting translations. 'Son of a Submariner' is a line from FF6, but it makes for an amusing addition to Final Fantasy 7, which has a rather infamous localization of its own. I should also mention that I was a fan of the submarine game, as well as the snowboarding. As minigames go, they weren't what I would call great, but I was so hooked on Final Fantasy 7 that I would play them for hours on end anyway.
Why So Serious? (Get wiped out by the slots limit break) – @feitclub: I rarely used Cait Sith for a reason – his limit break was infuriatingly difficult to pull off. But I'm amused by the image of a completionist cursing under their breath while filling up the limit gauge over and over again in search of that elusive total party kill. Admittedly, this is one reason that I never go out of my way to actually unlock achievements (even if I like the challenge they provide).
Your Friend is Cute Too (Get Don Corneo to choose Cloud) – @wtbjared: One of the most perverse (yet funny) sequences in RPG history. As it turns out, Cloud can pass pretty well as a girl. Apparently there was even more to the Honeybee Inn sequence than was ultimately shown, as one intrepid fan discovered while plumbing the code of the original Japanese printing of Final Fantasy 7 (that's how much people love this game). It features Shinra employee Palmer in the midst of some "market research" with a hostess, complete with a special Nobuo Uematsu tune that doesn't appear anywhere else in the game. As with the rest of the Honeybee Inn sequence, the scene was the product of the mind of event planner Motomu Toriyama, who apparently had far too much fun with this sort of thing.
Clown College (Use Cait Sith for 75 Percent of the Game) – @atweetingtwit: Poor Cait Sith. At least three of the suggested achievements took a shot at the remote-controlled doll. Maybe it's the fact that Cait Sith doesn't look all that powerful? Or the fact that he has a heroic sacrifice... then comes back good as new almost immediately? Regardless, Cait Sith is one character that I never had in my party. It seems as if I wasn't alone in that regard.
Where's the Phoenix Down? (Prevent Aeris from dying in combat until...) – @mogknight: I wonder how many people have tried this, only to be disappointed?
Anyway, that's just a taster of Final Fantasy 7's potential achievements. I'm sure that all of you have even better ideas to share, all of which play on the lore that has grown up around this game to one extent or another. If a revamped PC release does indeed become a reality, Square Enix will have plenty of material to work with, to say the least. If there's any reason to be worried, it's that the Final Fantasy 7 PC release was notoriously subpar, with numerous bugs and a thoroughly butchered soundtrack (it was reproduced in midi – yikes). However, a substantial modding community has grown up around the PC version since it was first released, which is still more proof that the passion surrounding this game is boundless. Aeris may be long gone, but whether through lore, mods, or simple playground rumors, it seems that Final Fantasy 7 will live on.
Kat Bailey is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets, including GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, gamesTM, and GameSpot. You can follow her on Twitter at @the_katbot.