Mark opens up in this article, offering a piece of his past self as he examines how Final Fantasy VII earns new meaning with the passage of time.
I was 12 years old in 1997, a perfect time to be introduced to Final Fantasy VII because I was going through puberty, which we all know is a strange experience. I was young with little confidence; it’s no wonder that I attached so easily to the characters of FFVII. But what about 16 years later? Does the game still hold the same meaning now that I’m a grown man? After all these years, it’s the same game, and it’s still important to me but for different reasons.
Cloud is a mysterious and powerful — something my 12-year-old self instantly attached to. It was Cloud’s rivalry with Sephiroth that interested me most. The spiky-haired protagonist was a strong fighter but not much compared to the almighty Sephiroth. I wanted Cloud to beat Sephiroth and show his true strength — much like how I wanted to show all those around me how strong I could be.
At that time in my life, I was vicariously living through Cloud Strife. I was an awkward kid who wasn’t good at talking with others, and because of this, I had no confidence around the girls I liked. This is why when I got home from school, I would play FFVII. Cloud and his friends didn’t have to worry about girls. They had a world to save. It was a great escape from the typical-yet-trivial problems of becoming a teenager. Cloud, Barret, Red XIII, Tifa and all the others helped me through this strange period of my life, making FFVII a special experience for me.
Sixteen years later, many things have changed, but the characters of FFVII still mean a lot to me. Nowadays, however, I attach to the game for different reasons.
Personally, I’m in a time of major shift. I’m not sure what my future holds, and I’m trying to find my place in the world. At first, I decided to replay FFVII just to see if the game had aged well. The answer to that question is simple: The gameplay holds up, but the graphics are horrible. But something deep inside me moved while playing the game.
I realized I was once again escaping into its world. And once again, I was attaching myself to the character of Cloud Strife — this time for his struggle to find his identity. Cloud is a clone of Sephiroth, a failed clone, actually. The knowledge of this tears his psyche apart. Cloud goes into a deep coma while his mind battles to find his true identity. That search for identity is something that 27-year-old me can relate to.
Cloud eventually comes back to reality by finding the truth. The thing is, he didn’t find it by himself. He had friends who helped him along the way. Cloud realized that it isn’t his origin that defines him but his love for his friends, a lesson I am starting to learn myself. It’s not my career that defines me but those who are close to me.
FFVII is great at what makes video games so special. It allows us to escape from our lives for a few hours. My never-ending job search feels petty when the world needs to be saved from a giant meteor. The game itself is still great in my mind, but that isn’t why I love it. I love FFVII because it’s timeless. Maybe in another 16 years, the game will again teach me new lesson.