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Put a sizable group of Final Fantasy fans together and it’s bound to happen–in the midst of discussing various portions of virtually every game within the Final Fantasy main canon, someone will suggest a quick vote on what the best Final Fantasy game is. And before you can say "JENOVA," the cult of Final Fantasy VII (FFVII) comes out in full force, practically foaming at the mouth.
What is it about the game that makes it the go-to game for the scariest of Final Fantasy fanboyism? We’ll get to that in a minute. For right now, however, consider the following brief synopsis of what causes the battle lines to be drawn in the first place.
It is hard to deny the effect that FFVII had on the JRPG genre. For the most part, prior to it, JRPG fans were a relatively small niche within the American video game market. Sure, there were Final Fantasy II (FFIV in Japan) and Final Fantasy III (FFVI in Japan) for the SNES, which helped build the fanbase, but when FFVII came along on the Sony Playstation, the floodgates were opened and the market for JRPGs quite suddenly increased exponentially.
Was it the upgraded graphics? Was it the CG cinematics? Was it the blocky bunch of polygons awkwardly assembled to resemble a person? Whatever it was, it was big and before you knew it, nearly an entire generation of video game players had cut their JRPG teeth on FFVII. That is precisely from whence the rabid fanboyism comes–FFVII is their "baby," their first JRPG experience, and woe be unto you if you dare tread upon their fautly memories of a game which isn’t nearly as good as they thought it was.
Admittedly, FFVII does have two things going for it that cannot be denied. For one, there is Sephiroth, the ultimate baddie in the Final Fantasy universe whose awesomeness as a super-villain is unmatched. The other is (no spoiler alert since you should already know this by now) the death of Aeris, a moving event which brought many to tears and shocked every gamer who hadn’t already spoiled it via the Internet.
These two things alone, however, do not produce the greatest video game known to man, much less the best video game in the Final Fantasy series. If you ask any gamer who has played through all of the games in the main canon in order (not discovered the series later and gone back to play earlier games he missed), he almost always will tell you that Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III on the SNES) is the best (at least in my experience of asking). I wholeheartedly agree.
But whether FFVI is the best in the series is not the point. The point is that FFVII has reached an almost godlike status among later Final Fantasy fans and honestly, it’s undue. The plot is all over the place, the characters are one-dimensional, the polygons often look downright awful, and the battle system is severely cumbersome in some areas.
Try telling that to a FFVII fanboy, however, and get ready to watch his world unravel faster than the utterly ridiculous plot of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (the needless milking of the FFVII franchise is a discussion for another post). If he’s a cosplayer, you’re about to be on the receiving end of a blow from his almighty foam re-creation of Cloud’s buster sword.
Unfortunately, the FFVII radical fanboyism will not die out soon. Most of us older Final Fantasy fans have learned to live with it. Still, look at what happens every time "One-Winged Angel" is played at a Final Fantasy symphonic concert–the crowd goes absolutely ballistic. Is it because it’s an awesome song? That’s some of it, but is it also because it’s the song played during the final battle with Sephiroth in FFVII, a sort of theme song for everyone’s favorite silver-haired baddie? Indubitably.
Need more proof that FFVII fanboyism is here to stay? The producers of the current "Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy" concert tour recently put up a poll on the tour website, asking fans what battle theme they want to have added to the concert setlist. Guess what has the most votes. That’s right, "J-E-N-O-V-A." No big deal, right? Totally expected? After one week of voting, the song sat at 200-something votes. Twenty-four hours later it was at 700-something votes. Twenty-four hours later and at the time of this post? 1280 votes. Yes, some crazed fanboy is stacking the votes in favor of "J-E-N-O-V-A."
*Sigh* Let’s just hope he leaves his spiky hair and buster sword at home when he leaves his mother’s basement, comes to the next American concert, and screams "One-Winged Angel!" five million times. After all, we sensible fans prefer a little less frenzy with our Final Fantasy.