The Return to Midgar

February 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

I have recently had the opportunity to go back to playing Final Fantasy VII again – not difficult considering my currently unemployed status. There were two things I noticed in the first couple hours of play or so. The number one thing I noticed – and which I had forgotten about – was how hideously intrusive and disruptive random encounters are. It’s a real shame because Square Soft obviously went to some lengths to create atmosphere in the game through the music, the artwork and the dialogue. All these efforts are severely undermined by the random encounters, which throw you from the game world to the battle screen with a deafening, ‘whoooshing’ noise. It’s very distracting and makes being immersed in the game difficult.

The second thing, and this came as a bit of a surprise, was that the plot and the dialogue wasn’t half as amatuerish as I had expected it to be. There are some quite mature themes embedded within the story: terrorism, and its effect on a society, being one of them. Obviously, the game is no great treatise on this subject, but it does at least approach it. In the beginning, a question is raised regarding your actions as having taken part in terrorist attacks; the game, after all, does inform you that civilians have been killed as a result of the attacks. There is a question of justification: of whether these acts can be forgiven as long as they are for some greater good. Avalanche – the terrorist group behind the attacks – believes that Shinra is destroying the planet, and that if nobody does stop them, everyone will perish. Ultimately, the game does side with Avalanche, and places you and several members of the organisation under the moral banner of the good guys. While there is little moral ambiguity over who is good and who is evil, I still think it was rather bold of Sqaure Soft to add this shade of gray to their game.

The thing is, don’t all terrorist organisations consider their goals and ideals to be supreme and above all others? Don’t all terrorist organisations believe that their actions are justifiable, as long as they are for some perceived greater good? Like many terrorists, Avalanche see their hand as being forced by some corrupt authority. They are therefore not to be held responsible for their own actions, no matter how appalling the outcome may be. Parallel to this, one of the game’s main characters blames Shinra for forcing him, and his terrorist organisation, to go to such extreme measures in the first place – because remember, it’s not him who’s responsible, noooo, he was forced to do it; it was all Shinra’s fault, don’t you see?

One could perceive Avalanche as a group of violent eco-zealots, willing to sacrifice human life for some very vague notion of saving the planet. They only happen to be the good guys because they end up being right.

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