This Train We On

13 Apr

The Final Fantasy VII Letters continue over at Paste with Part Six last week and just today, Part Seven. That’s right, Leigh and I have officially written as many letters about FFVII as there had been games in the series up to that point. Maybe we’ll stop at fourteen. Or better, we’ll do what Square-Enix should’ve done and stop at ten.


Part Six dealt with the ever-opening world map, and how exploration in this game feels so markedly different than in western open-world games. Here’s Leigh:

The constraints of your travel were always really clearly delineated, and you’d see all these “what’s that over there?”-type intriguing zones that you would really patiently aim to ensure there was actually no way you could reach, enduring enemies and battles as, rather than move on to the next town or whatnot, you traced circles around some unreachable platform or walked a sprawling line you hoped would allow you to defy the bounds of nature and reach an inaccessible cave.

And in Part Seven, we talk a bit about the way we have come to know these characters gradually over the course of the story, and I delve a bit into my thoughts on the music:

My theory is that a strong melody occupies the same mental/conceptual space as spoken words do, and that it is therefore difficult to listen to both at once. You’ll notice that in most games these days (and films, for that matter), the big melodic themes only move to the foreground during action scenes; when it comes time for the characters to do some talking, big single-line motifs are replaced with wider, less intrusive chords and textures.

Therefore the composer for any text-only game has the luxury of space—with no words getting in the way, Uematsu was free to write whatever music he wanted. He really went for it, and the resultant themes and melodies do more talking than those iconic little blue dialogue boxes could hope to.

For any of you who have yet to start, Part One is here (oh how long ago that feels!) and an index of all letters is here.

Thanks again to everyone for reading and for your incredible enthusiasm and support. We’ve both been overwhelmed by the response, and are having a blast.

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