Final Fantasy VII as Metafiction

I already wrote a post about Final Fantasy VII, but there is another part of that narrative that demands treatment; its metafictional aspects.

One of the more interesting portions of the narrative is the revelation that the protagonist, Cloud, is not a member of an elite commando unit as he had claimed. It turns out that he is suffering from a form of self-delusion. In fact, he left his hometown hoping to join SOLDIER, but ended up failing to gain admittance. Too ashamed to return home, he becomes a common footsoldier, the weakest of various enemies inhabiting the world. Unable to reconcile his self-image with this reality, he creates a series of false memories. None of this, however, is apparent to the consumer at the outset.

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Emotional symbologies, realism and the next hardware generation

Recently I re-consumed Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997.One thing that threw me off at first was the gestures. The characters all use comically exaggerated gestures that always seem a little off: Cloud’s response to everything is shrugging, while shaking seems to denote almost anything from fear to laughter to anger. But I couldn’t recall being bothered by this during my first run-through fourteen years ago, and I realized that we used to have this whole symbolic gestural language for conveying emotion back in the ultra-low polygon count days. The gestures didn’t necessarily depict real-world body language, but had their own unique symbology that could be deciphered by consumers in order to understand character emotion. It’s impressive, actually; each of the characters has their own distinguishing gestures linked to their personalities, and the game is able to convey a fairly wide range of emotion even though the only facial movement available is blinking.

Final Fantasy VII and Genre Expectations

(Note: this post is adapted from material I wrote on another site)

Recently Final Fantasy VII became available on Steam. Originally released in 1997 for the first Playstation, FFVII is considered by many to be one of the best interactive narratives ever created (although, as with all narratives, it certainly has its vocal detractors). A cinematic followup, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was released in 2005, and the world and characters continue to be a popular subject for fan creations, reworkings and pastiche. I took the advantage of its new availability in order to play through it again and reexamine a narrative that captivated millions, and is still recalled fondly even now, sixteen years later.  

(Spoilers for Final Fantasy VII follow!)
One of the most striking features of Final Fantasy VII is it’s betrayal of genre expectations. Final Fantasy VII is a JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game), a genre with a problematic definition, but nonetheless describing a family of interactive narratives with recognizable common features in terms of both narrative and interactive mechanics.