I am, admittedly, new to the world of Final Fantasy VII. I have vague memories of seeing a TV commercial for the original PlayStation game when I was young and remember playing the game’s first few hours in a friend’s attic between Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX sessions. It wasn’t until much later, when I found an inexpensive green label copy at a Circuit City, that I gave it another shot, but, again, I only made it through the first few hours. When Square Enix released it in such a way that I could play it on my PlayStation 3 and move it over to my PSP, I made it the furthest. I left Midgar, saved my game, and turned off my PSP, fully lying to myself that I would pick it back up again soon. That was more than 10 years ago.
All of that is to say my understanding of the world of Final Fantasy VII is limited. I know most of the main characters, I know what Midgar is, and I am aware of the Lifestream and the purpose of Mako. Thankfully, to my benefit and the benefit of those who love the original, Square Enix is spending an incredible amount of time and money to remake Final Fantasy VII. I played Remake in full when it was released, I look forward to its sequels, and I reviewed Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion earlier this year. I am starting to understand the world of Final Fantasy VII, even if I don’t understand how human flight is possible with one wing.
I have dozens of questions about Final Fantasy VII I am sure could be answered by playing the original game or texting former Game Informer editor Joe Juba, but there is one basic question I still don’t understand about the world of Final Fantasy VII that I fear does not have a meaningful answer: what are guns in the universe of Final Fantasy VII?
Guns are used to attack and threaten in Final Fantasy VII, but I don’t understand how lethal they are. Most soldiers carry guns, but the most powerful carry swords. It seems in the world of Final Fantasy VII, swords are more powerful, but they are hard to use?
That’s the conclusion I drew after playing through most of Final Fantasy VII Remake, but then, near the end, President Shinra threw my hypothesis into the trash. I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers, but President Shinra has his back against the wall at one point. He’s scared and trying to negotiate for his life with Barret, who I will remind you has a gun for a right hand. And then suddenly, after running to his desk, his confidence inexplicably returns. He is no longer negotiating for his life, but instead insulting Barret’s noble cause because… surprise! He has a gun. And he’s pointing it right at Barret.
Final Fantasy VII arguably established the video game tradition of cutscene fatalities from an otherwise innocuous attack, but I was, but I was especially confused by this scene. Earlier in the game, there is a cutscene between characters Leslie and Corneo where they point guns at each other threateningly, which confused me then, but I accepted it because those two were not party members. They seemed like ordinary, untrained people. But Barrett? Barrett was shot at least 100,000 times on the walk to President Shinra’s office. The whole party, including main sword guy, Cloud, is all taken aback by this threat, which only makes it more confusing.
I haven’t even brought up the fact that temporary party member, Wedge, took a near-fatal bullet to the butt earlier in the game, despite taking plenty of bullets during combat. I don’t know why the butt shot did more damage than the average bullet.
I hoped playing Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion would finally explain the guns versus swords enigma, but it only confused me more. The game’s ending proves that guns are, in fact, fatal, even if you’re a sword guy.
Ultimately, I am happy to chalk it up to video game logic and try not to worry about how guns work in the universe of Final Fantasy VII. Sometimes guns are fatal; most of the time they knock a few points off your HP. Let’s move on. But I do think we’ve moved past ignoring these kinds of story issues in video games, and I can’t help but get hung up on something the developers are probably not thinking much about. I am sure they have much bigger game development issues more worthy of their time.
My hope for the next chapter in the Final Fantasy VII remake saga, Rebirth, is that it takes a little time to explain it to me. If room can be made for eating pizza at Jessie’s parent’s house to give her a little more context, surely Tifa can take a few minutes to explain what guns are in her world, right?
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