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Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII

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Space Raton:
-Introduction-

Alright, now that I have finished playing (and writing only briefly about) Undertale, it’s time to start a new Mia Plays. This time it’s another downright legendary PSX title, Final Fantasy VII.

As before, I’ll preface my playthrough by talking a bit about what I do and don't know about the game initially. Unlike the Metal Gear series, my experience with Final Fantasy games isn’t literally zero, but I’ve never exactly delved in to the series either. Most significantly, I can say that I’ve never finished a Final Fantasy game. I’ve played about half of the first one, which… sure was an early NES game; I’ve played about half of VI, which was good but I just never got around to finishing it; lastly, I played quite a bit of XIV, though that’s obviously a different kind of aminal entirely. Point is, I am familiar with a few of the concepts that are common throughout the whole series, like um… there’s chocobos, and crystals, and… magics… ok, well, that’s about all I’ve got really. It is pretty common knowledge that such elements are what tie the FF games together in lieu of a continuous storyline, with each new game in the series usually introducing a new setting and cast of characters. Thus, as far as I know, finishing VII first probably won't spoil much about previous games in the series. (Coming this summer: Mia Plays Four Job Fiesta, maybe!)

Anyway, what do I know about FFVII itself? Definitely some of the obvious stuff that you see or hear on the frequent occasions this game is talked about:
-The protagonist is a young man named Cloud Strife who… has a big sword. That’s about all I know on him.
-I know the names of most of the other characters that join your party: Aeris, Tifa, Barrett, Yuffie, uh… I think that “Cait Sith” thing was in this game? ...and- not Sora, he was in a different game, same for Squall.... anyway,
-The antagonist, or one of the antagonists anyway, is a dude named Sephiroth who also has a big sword, and of course….
- As the spoiler that practically defined the concept of spoilers for an entire generation of gamers, Sephiroth uses his big sword to kill Aeris, eventually, maybe near the end. I don’t know the context. I’ll try not to let my foreknowledge of Aeris' imminent doom affect my perception of her character!
-Lastly, I’ve seen that the setting of this game centers around a dark, gritty, techno-punk city environment, in a way extrapolating the concept of Magitek-driven industrialization that was introduced in FFVI. Can the guy with a sword beat the guys with guns?? We’ll find out soon… on Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII!

Soaprman:
Looking forward to this. I have actually played this game so I can read the thread and know What The Hay you're talking about! :(9):

Rick:
cloud killed dumpledor

Pancakes:
I'm excited to hear the play by play on this game. I have a suspicion that it has aged very strangely.

Space Raton:
-Part 1-

[A couple more notes. I’m using the default names for all the characters, to avoid any confusion on my end. Also, I’m playing the PC version of the game. I tried emulating the PSX version, but ran into some graphics glitches in the first couple minutes. Rather than y͞o͘͝͡u͟͟ ͝sḩ̛ou̡l̀d҉͠ ̢tr̕y ̡ad҉̵j̕u̷ş́t̡͝in̡g̴̀ ͝y̸̢͘ou͝͡r̵ ͟͢pl̴̴͞u͝g͝i̸ņ̀s, I decided to just use the PC version that I already had from a Steam sale anyway. It looks fine! I don’t think there are any major differences in the game, but if there are, feel free to give me a heads-up when it’s relevant.]

The opening cutscene of the game is quite simple: A young lady dressed in pink (hint: it’s Aeris!!) is looking at like a doorway or something that’s really sparkly, and then the camera zooms out to show that she’s in a dark alleyway, with bustling pedestrians and mid-20th-century-looking cars busying the nearby street. This makes it clear right away that we’re not in the series’ usual quasi-medieval fantasy setting anymore. The camera then zooms aaalllll the way out to show the entire city; a gigantic machine or factory of some sort sits in the center, looming tall above everything else, so whatever it is it’s sure to be important.

We focus in on a train pulling into a station, and then Pow! Blammo! Some people wearing headbands hop from the train and get into fights with the station guards. One of these people is our protagonist, Cloud, whose first battle does two things: gives you a heads-up that you are in fact playing a JRPG with an ATB battle system, and establishes Cloud as a real tough guy because he can one-hit-KO these guards after only taking like one or two points of damage from their machine gun attacks.

The headband crew continues toward their destination, and the ongoing dialog between Cloud and the group’s apparent leader, Barret, provides the basics on what’s going on in the setting here. There are three major factions at play:
-Our group, "AVALANCHE" (which I am not going to fully capitalize in the future) is a ragtag resistance group that’s currently trying to blow up one of the city’s Mako Reactors, which Barret explains are machines siphoning the planet’s “Mako Energy” to generate usable power. He’s concerned about how, y’know, the planet’s dyin’, implying that some sort of ecological crisis is at hand as a result of this energy being drained.
-"Shinra Corporation" is the company who owns and operates the Mako Reactors, and by extension, basically controls the whole economy of this city - Midgar.
-"SOLDIER" (if these are acronyms I haven’t been told yet) is a military organization cooperating with Shinra. Cloud is a former member of Soldier, but defected for as-yet-unspecified reasons. His dialog with the other Avalanche members suggests that Soldier only employs very powerful fighters, so they’re not to be taken lightly.

As Avalanche (which includes our regularly-scheduled dose of Biggs and Wedge) progresses deeper into the reactor, it becomes clear that Cloud isn’t exactly “one of the gang”. This is his first mission with Avalanche; his dialog is consistently terse and unfriendly, and while the other members are reverent of his combat skills, they’re apprehensive about Cloud’s reasons for being here. Cloud does little to reassure them when he explicitly states that he doesn’t care about the planet or whatever, he’s “just in it for the money”. To be fair, this is more information than I myself expected to get from Cloud - honestly, I didn’t even know that he wasn’t a silent protagonist! Still, he’s gonna have to explain that ‘tude of his sooner or later, if he expects me to play as him for the whole game.

Once Cloud and Barret reach a sufficiently deep level of the reactor’s structure, they plant a time bomb. This summons the game’s first boss, a scorpion mech, which… well, it’s the first boss, so it ain’t exactly tough. It just has a “don’t attack it under X condition” mechanic, pretty straightforward stuff for an ATB system, but it works as a refresher on the concept that the timing of attacks can sometimes be important. At this point I'm also getting familiar with the Limit Break system, something I haven't had in my previous JRPG experience. For the time being, all it seems to do is give you a slightly stronger basic attack when the bar is full, but I'll keep an eye out for it to become more complex later.

The Avalanche crew escapes from the reactor just as the bomb goes off. There’s a wide shot of the city, showing that while the destruction of this Mako Reactor is impressive, there’s seven more of them left around the outer edges of the city. If Barret’s wanting to blow up all of them, that may very well take the equivalent of three PSX CDs. Avalanche splits up as they escape to a train, and Cloud briefly runs into Aeris, though they don’t seem to know each other yet and no real dialog takes place between them. After running from some more guards, Cloud meets up with the others on the train. There’s then some dialog that explains a bit more about Midgar itself. The city has two levels; the wealthier residents live on a huge, floating metal disk, which blocks all sunlight to the slums below. That’s about as on the nose as you can get when establishing that your story’s setting is highly classist, but the sci-fi aspect of the disk thing is kinda interesting. Maybe Barret’s just blowing stuff up so he can get that dang disk out of the way??

We end up at a run-down bar in the middle of the slums. There we meet Barret’s daughter, Marlene, as well as Cloud’s childhood friend, Tifa. The two of them run the day-to-day operations of the bar, which is a front for Avalanche HQ in the basement. The group has a meeting to follow-up on their successful bombing operation, though most of the conversation consists of Cloud saying “gimme my money” and Barret saying “Are you going to stay on with us?” and Cloud saying “gimme my money”. Afterward, Tifa shares some heartfelt (for her, at least) reminiscences with Cloud. When they were young, Cloud expressed a desire to leave the slums and join Soldier (mentioning their most famous member, Sephiroth). In response, Tifa had Cloud promise that he'd always protect her. It’s questionable whether that promise was intended to include aiding her when she joins an industrial sabotage group, but this convinces Cloud to stay anyway - provided that his fee be doubled for the next mission.
“It’s- it’s not like I’m helping you because I want to or anything!!” ~Cloud

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