FF7 vs FF8 – Clash of Titans
I got a request for this one two days ago, but couldn’t bring myself to do it until today. To analyze these two games is a real challenge for a man such as myself who considers himself a mad Shogun and a critic of the modern Japanese society in general – spiked hair, elongated swords, at least one betrayal, crazy Japanese ideas mixed with reality can really blow my mind. Especially the visual kei nonsense that is so rife in the world today. Everyone wants to be a lank-haired Japanese Victorian. Not me.
To kick things off, we’ll start with the setting of FF7. Cyberpunk anime style, not much to add to take, except some ecological propaganda and slave-driving Shinra company governing a totalitarian city. The opening scene shows Cloud riding on the surging train straight to his first mission of toppling one of the mako (planet energy) reactors of the Shinra company, employed by the eco-terrorist group called AVALANCHE. On the other hand, FF8 is a whole lot brighter, since FF7 puts you into intense, story-driven roller coaster while FF8 gives you some breathing space with a regular paced story unfolding and step by step instructions. One can argue that FF7 is far more linear than FF8 in more aspects than one – the sole items you collect on the way can alter your game experience, especially the GF (Guardian Force) system that replaces materia from FF7 in its successor. The whole idea is that you “bind” a specific creature to a single character increasing his stats and granting powers with some minuses, though. These abilities you unlock by growing your GF through battles and most of these characters are the “Summons” from FF7 like Ifrit, Sheeva etc.
Weapon upgrades…..hm. It is a weird system that is used in FF8, since all you do is collecting materials and formulas, depriving you of experimenting with combinations of materia that you put into your bangles and weapons in FF7. This lack is mitigated in some degree with the GF system, but somehow it leaves a noticeable void that all players used to FF7 can perceive. However, the sheer amount of additional content and experience allows FF8 to outshine FF7: the SEED exams through which you get increased wagers, the card game that you can play almost everywhere and the intricate GF system allows a deeper immersion into the world. This I found lacking in FF7, since some sporadic mini games are here to provide periodic breaks from the rush that the main story causes.
Don’t think for a moment that I underestimate the power of the FF7’s story and awe-inspiring qualities. Though Japan forgot to exit the biggest cesspit of uniformity and “copy/paste” approaches, the standard and cliche characters in FF7 appear to be larger than life: Cloud, Tifa, Red XIII and others simply radiate an aura of uniqueness that you cannot find anywhere else, but still, they are cast from the stereotypical anime mold. A lonely, troubled guy with a huge sword, girls who appear manlier than him, rowdy and muscular guys and the mysterious, jack out of the box characters. There are some variations here and there, but this principle is also followed in FF8. To summarize this, characters are not so much apart – FF8 is probably darker and more callous than FF7 whose only escapades into horror are several cut scenes with Sepiroth and in Nibelheim.
FF8 is my favorite here – the superbly narrated and depicted relationships between characters, additional content and the whole new system of GF are the elements which set this game apart in the entire franchise. Squall, a young, reclusive mercenary is at first a greenhorn, fighting all kinds of creeps and interacting with other interesting characters around him, though often terse and uninterested. In this whole world of “lonely Japanese heroes”, Squall captures all the characteristics and features of this group, adding sporadic sarcastic remarks and providing displays of scorns (The scene where he meets Renoa for the first time in the train made an impression on my friend that he is EMO) and even underestimations, but surprisingly enough, he manages to exhibit all the feats of a conscious and adroit commander. Wow.
What about the ace in FF7 ?
Cloud on the other hand, is not fully developed throughout the game, since most of the “Dictaphone recollections” of his past during the story outright kills any element of surprise and eliminates the possibility of finding out what has happened yourself. Furthermore, Cloud lacks strength of character unlike Squall, since most of the time in the beginning, Tifa was there to fill the gap, regulating his anger and enticing him to fit with everyone else. This is especially true for the movie, where she is practically “dragging” him to socialize and be more honest with others like Vincent, Berret and even himself for that matter. Unlike Squall, Cloud has a whole lot more “media exposure”, like the movie “Advent Children”, a small spin off series “Crisis Core” and now a (hopefully good) remake and to fail developing him is an achievement in my book. Yes, the game follows his fight against the corrupt and power-hungry Shinra Corp, Sephiroth and Jenova creations, but beyond that all information is scarce and in my opinion, difficult to follow: especially the difference between him and his mentor/slash/ friend Zack that only becomes clearer in the later parts of the game. Numerous advances by the ladies of FF7 also don’t help, since Cloud behaves around them like a total klutz or is simply being arrogant. Shame on you Cloud.
FF7 and FF8 are both great games to be sure, but they have their own differences. Though they have all the typical elements of JRPG, they are executed perfectly and the music, narration, animation and mechanics are a little revolution in their own right. The question of superiority between them is redundant: they are both legends.
Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer for PS4: