Nov 14th, 2012, 10:36 PM
Yeah, for some reason everyone seems to confuse "angsty beyond reason" with "fucking batshit bonkers." Cloud's freakout scenes and his connection to Jenova were some of the creepiest shit when I was a kid.
Sperg post incoming, also spoilers.
Cloud is awesome because he's basically a weakling pretending to be something far greater than himself, trying really hard to come across as some aloof cocky badass to everyone else, and basically living out a power fantasy. Not unlike oh say for example YOU, you with your skinny ass sitting on that couch stuffing cheetos into your face and going "huh-huh, look at me, I'm totally this spikey-haired badass anime guy, I'm so fuckin' cool." The game likes to play with the connection between player and player character, and assumes that you'll take it for granted that Cloud's your perfect manly avatar; they use this to start fucking with you early on, which aside from incredibly classy humor is the point of the whole cross-dressing segment.
Then ages later the Zack bomb gets dropped and you're like "holy shit I really am like this guy, I'm so fucking lame." Or, you would do if this was MGS2, but unlike Raiden Cloud is still a suitably heroic figure, and not a fucking moron, so it's not really that big of a middle finger; rather than pissing me off and calling me garbage like Kojima did, FF7 uses the same kind of weird meta devices to make the protagonist that much more endearing. Cloud's a dude any escapist-fantasy types can identify with; he even says something about being "master of my own illusionary world." That sounds like a video game to me. Another thing that helps is that they don't shove all this in your face with shit like "YOUR NAME IS ON RAIDEN'S DOGTAGS HOOOOOOOLY FUUUUUCK" when you probably just entered in "Boners McGee" anyway; FF7 treats its player-grilling more like a series of brief meta shoulder-nudges; it's subtle, subdued, something that isn't spelled out for you and that you can sit reflecting on after you turn the game off, if you're so inclined.
That there is another reason the game is great: it knows how to be subtle, which is something we'll pretty much never see in a video game ever again. You can joke all you want about Cloud and Sephiroth compensating for something and how their anime hair is overblown and ridiculous, but apart from that (Nomura's fault, natch) the game's full of world-building visual cues and optional lines of dialogue that you can finish the whole game without ever seeing, but if you take the time to seek them out they make it a much more robust experience. Rather than shoving all the info about this universe into the player's face while they're strapped in and forced to watch Clockwork Orange style, they just sorta let you loose and expect your curiosity to motivate you. A lot of information about the state of the world is merely implied; ex. there are cars in this world, but no roads outside Midgar. Why? If you look at the state of most towns you visit, the answer is because pretty much everyone outside is just too dirt fucking poor to afford one, and it'd be a waste of money to lay highways that nobody will ever use all over the place. Shit like that. I think that's what pretentious people mean when they talk about "interactive storytelling," along with using interactivity to get a point across. One moment that comes to mind is during the Nibelheim flashback, after Sephiroth's lost his shit and is lecturing Cloud about the ancients and how he was produced; at the end of this scene, which has a soundtrack consisting of a looping bell and bass-drum styled after a heartbeat, Sephiroth goes "I'm going to see my mother." As soon as he starts walking away and the player gains control again, the music blasts full-on into Sephiroth's theme and shocks the shit out of you; you instinctively know something really, really bad is about to happen and desperately sprint out of the room after him. It's a very frantic and terrifying moment even though Cloud has guaranteed plot armor to the end of the flashback, but it wouldn't be if the game just cut to the next scene with no input from you. Mind, it's still a very cutscene-heavy game to be sure, and it's far from the best example of an interactive story, but it makes up for that by having a really great, fast-moving, character-driven plot that just kicks ass.
FF7 is a fucking awesome game no matter what anyone says about it. Unironically my favorite game ever.
Did you also know Final Fantasy 8 is infinitely more enjoyable if you assume Squall is killed at the end of Disc 1? Everything else is a three-disc-long dying dream where tons of retarded silly nonsensical Alice-in-Wonderland bullshit happens, Squall becomes the most important person on the planet and effortlessly steals the love interest of his rival despite the fact that she thought he was a prick before, and all the while everyone's all like "Oh man Squall you're so fucking cool, swoon" because his subconscious is trying to give him the satisfaction and catharsis he never found in his lifetime. And since Squall's a raging egotistical jackass the whole thing turns into his magical adventures through mary-sue land where everything is perfect for him and he is super-awesome. I bet that's why the combat in that game is so broken; it's too easy on purpose because why would Squall want to dream about getting his ass kicked at any point?
I want to hope that's what the FF8 creative team intended, because otherwise they're a bunch of fucking idiots who write with their asses.