Final Fantasy VII: How the Game and its Protagonist Changed My Life Forever

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May the delicious brew in your favourite mug give you +1 in both your wakefulness and energy stats!

Today’s topic is a very special one for me: 20 years ago, on September 7, 1997, Final Fantasy VII was released in North America. I don’t need to explain how much of an influence this game had on its release; from graphics, to story, to cinematics and gameplay, you can argue that this installment revolutionized and popularized the RPG genre for years to come.

For me though, my love affair with this game and the series started roughly two months after its release. November, in the year 1997 was when I rented and first played Final Fantasy VII. I still remember it like it was yesterday…

(Oh, by the way, MAJOR spoilers for the plot of Final Fantasy VII)


The neighbourhood where I grew up in was still in development in 1997, with the suburban sprawl ever creeping up northward into the farmlands. In the year before, a brand new strip mall opened up, which was a ten minute walk from my home. It had the usual stuff, like a grocery store, a dollar store, some fast food joints and other small retailers, but what made it different was an independent video rental store called “Ambassador Video,” where an enormous selection of movies, music and video games were available to rent. Now, this video store was replaced by a sports bar sometime in the early-2000’s, but at the time, it was THE place to be at for a kid.

On a cold Friday night in November 1997, my parents let my brother and I rent a video game as a reward for doing well in school that week. The two of us argued for a few minutes about which game we were going to take home, before settling on Final Fantasy VII. The moment we got home, we booted it up and were blown away at how amazing it looked.

The first thing about FFVII that differentiated it from games that I played previously was how it started. No tutorial level, no sitting down with the King and him explaining your quest and no cheerful, happy environment. I was instead thrust into the action in a dark, gritty metropolis, my character jumping off of a train and beating down soldiers armed with machine guns with his giant sword. Following a man with a gun for an arm up the stairs leading to the surface, the spiky-haired individual spoke to a group of three people, huddled in front of a large metal door. The one in the headband asked for his name. His response, in a cool, collected tone:

“…Cloud.”

And it was all it took for ten year old me to declare that he was the coolest dude in the universe.

Image result for cloud strife

Seriously, spiky hair, giant-ass sword AND badass demeanor? Triple threat right there, folks (Image from Final Fantasy Wiki)


Cloud was the kind of guy I wanted to grow up to be. He was strong, cool and calm under pressure. He was so confidant in himself, even when things were going downhill for him and the gang and he was also determined to find and defeat Sephiroth, his hero turned mortal enemy. There were days during the dark times I was being bullied and made fun of for being so different, that I thought, “Man, I wish I could be like Cloud… He wouldn’t have put up with this.” But my perception of the hero changed after I experienced, what I believed were, the two most pivotal points in the game.

Here’s a question to throw at you guys: Do you remember where you were when you played through Aerith’s death? I was sitting in the living room with my brother on a summer night, our parents were out at a party and he and I were going through the City of the Ancients, hunting down Aerith. When Cloud and the gang caught up with her, I thought “Yeah, this is good, everything is good!” I didn’t expect what happened next.

Suddenly, we saw Cloud draw his sword and I started to freak out a little bit. Here he was, spazzing out, slowly approaching the flower girl with sword in hand and no matter what I did with the controls, I couldn’t get Cloud to stop. The same thing happened at the Temple of the Ancients, but I thought it was a one-off (or two-off?) deal. It took a while to understand, but after Sephiroth murdered Aerith in cold blood, I realized the hero that I idolized wasn’t who I thought he was. He did nothing, couldn’t do anything because, like JENOVA said to him after the battle; he’s a puppet controlled by Sephiroth.

Fun fact: I died immediately at the hands of JENOVA: LIFE. I had the controller in my hand but couldn’t do a damn thing about anything; Aerith was gone, Cloud was no hero, Sephiroth was winning and I didn’t understand it. I actually stopped playing for a week until I mustered up the courage to redo that dreadful event, beat the boss, watch the impromptu funeral and continue on to the next bombshell: that Cloud really wasn’t “Cloud” after all; his memories of all of the defining moments of his past, including the incident five years ago and him being a SOLDIER, were are all screwed up.

Image result for cloud black materia

And after that reveal, he went and gave his mortal enemy the key to their destruction. Dick move, Cloud.

Cloud redeemed himself in my eyes after Tifa, his childhood friend, dug up the truth of the events that occurred five years ago, while she and Cloud were both in the Lifestream. The reason why Cloud wanted to be in SOLDIER, was to be noticed by others, particularly by her. He was always alone, had no friends growing up and was always picked on for being different. He thought himself weak, that he could never belong because he never liked his fellow peers and was always looking to prove himself both to the villagers, who looked down on him, and to Tifa, whom he harboured a major crush for. In essence, the true Cloud was exactly like me; I was also alone, had very little friends growing up, was weak, disliked the people around me and was picked on for being so weird and different. Because of that, I felt that I related to him more than any other character in any story I’ve read or video game I’ve played.

In truth, Cloud never made it into SOLDIER – he was just an infantryman, a weakling, in his own words. But that same “weakling” took on and fought off the greatest and most powerful swordsman the world had ever seen, was subjected to brutal experiments that included having alien matter injected into his body, suffered a major identity crisis thanks to said alien matter, was poisoned twice (the first during the experiments, the second after giving Sephiroth the Black Materia) AND through all of that, he regained his sanity, defeated his nemesis (for the second time, I might add) and saved the world with his companions. I realized then that Cloud Strife wasn’t cool because he was strong and tough, he was cool because he survived the ordeals of his past and rose above it. It showed that I could do the same; that I could rise above the teasing about how odd I was and my own weakness and be better.


When I first rented the game, consoles like the Playstation never had those fancy, internal hard drive storage to save our games on; we had to rely on old-school storage devices called “Memory Cards,” which were bought separately from the console. My parents wouldn’t have known that a Memory Card was required to save the games; they thought it would be saved directly on the console itself. So, during the course of the seven day rental period, I played the beginning part of Final Fantasy VII over and over again. When I died and got Game Over, I didn’t mind because I got to experience the awesomeness of Cloud and the gang once more from the very start. The farthest I ever got without a Memory Card was rescuing Aerith (Aeris?) and seeing the horror of a headless Jenova in the Shinra Building and it took me a whole day to get to that point, after dying and restarting several times.

Image result for headless jenova

This headless thing, along with the spooky “Who Are You?” theme playing during this sequence, freaked me right the hell out as a kid. It still does to this day… Scary… (Image from Final Fantasy Wiki)

My dad finally asked me on the last day before the rental period was up why I kept starting from the beginning after noticing the “Continue” option on the title screen and I told him I can’t save the game because I had no Memory Card!

And so my mom went to the store that very same day and bought me my very first Memory Card.

After several months of on and off renting, we finally got a copy of the game for ourselves, which we picked up at a flea market. Too bad though that we bought a lemon of a game; the third disc was so heavily scratched that the game would end up being unplayable at some points. To top it all off, my little brother was kind of an idiot and sold off our “Chocobo Lure” Materia by accident late in our adventure and saved the game, meaning no Gold Chocobo to pick up Knights of the Round and no easy way to defeat the Ruby and Emerald Weapons. I still pick on him to this day about it.

In fact, the music of Final Fantasy, particularly VII, was one of the main reasons my brother and I became close to one another. Back then, we were always at each other’s throats; he was the favourite and I was the oddball, so we didn’t get along well. Over time though, thanks to a growing love of RPG’s, the music behind them and both of us being exposed to band class (we’re both kind of musically inclined), we bonded. About five or six years ago, I took him to the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert in downtown Toronto and it’s one of the my most cherished memories.

If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I’m writing a fanfic using the FF VII plot as its backbone, which I’ve been working on for the last ten plus years. It’s an ongoing love letter to the game, to be honest. On top of that, I picked up two collectible figures: one of Cloud with the hardy-Daytona bike, before he modified it to the Fenrir, and another of Cloud in his Advent Children outfit.

20 years later, the story of Final Fantasy VII, its complex cast of characters, its themes of life and overcoming your past and its music are still a reflection of who I am as a person. Despite playing the other games in the Final Fantasy series over the years, VII was still the game that had the most impact. I can count on both hands the number of times my wife has rolled her eyes at me whenever I talk about Cloud or Final Fantasy in general – she knows all too well about my obsession with the series. I definitely think that this game has been an incredibly positive influence on me, and with the upcoming remake being released soon, I can’t wait to dive back in and experience it all over again.


And that’s it for today’s edition! Any fond memories of Final Fantasy VII or any other installments of the series? Let me know in the comments below! Stay tuned for the next edition, where I’m back to Path of Exile, along with hardware and gaming reviews, just in time for the holidays!

With that, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

“The Quest:” Practicing Writing Through Fanfiction and Using NaNoWriMo as Motivation to Write!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” How is everyone today?

As you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): the annual event where writers from all over write a minimum 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a pretty big deal, since it motivates people to get off of their butts and start writing, instead of thinking about writing something, but not doing anything about it.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, one of my goals in my Quest to be a better person this year was to improve my writing with the determination to fulfill one of my biggest life goals; to write and publish my own original story. While I’ve made a lot of progress on it this year by building a world, a loose timeline of events, some character development and a plot structure, I’m probably a year or two away from starting to put it all together. A lot of my progress was possible thanks to all the practice I’ve done writing fanfiction, which (as I may have mentioned this once or twice in previous posts) I’ve been doing ever since I was a kid. The biggest problem I have, however, is the fact that I’ve been unable to properly finish a story that I’ve started, whether it was an original story or fanfiction. Most times, I’d start, only to give up after the first few sentences and scrap the story. Other times though, I got pretty far into it, but my endings were terrible. However, there’s one story right now that I’m determined on finishing: a fanfic that crosses the universes of Final Fantasy VII and Sonic the Hedgehog, which I’m using mostly as a practice board for the real thing when I get to it.

Now, the operative thought you may have here may be; “A crossover fanfic!? What in hell’s name are you talking about?!” But seriously, here me out for a second; it may not be as far-fetched as you think!


Ten years ago, I got bored with studying advanced mechanical dynamics for my engineering degree, so I started writing character comparisons between the personalities of Sonic the Hedgehog and Zack Fair and Miles “Tails” Prower and Cloud Strife (from the Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII games respectively) after noticing similarities between them. As I delved deeper, I noticed a lot of things in both games/series somewhat coincided with one another. Examples include:

  • FF VII’s ‘Materia’ system consists of the five common types of Materia (Green, Red, Blue, Purple and Yellow), along with the rare White and Black Materia, which makes seven. Know seven other multicolored gems that fit that profile? Chaos Emeralds.
  • Robotnik’s (Eggman’s) desire for world conquest is analogous to Shinra’s naked ambition for world domination. Both achieve this through scientific means; genetic, robotic or otherwise.
  • In the Sonic comic series published by Archie Comics, several issues speak of a gold-silver substance called “The Source of All,” which is a form of spirit energy used to create life in the Sonic universe and which also has a link to the Chaos Emeralds and Power Rings in that canon. A similar link exists between the Lifestream, Mako and Materia in FF VII.
  • Finally, in the Sonic Archie Comic canon, prior to the start of the war between the Freedom Fighters and Robotnik, the Power Rings, created by an object called a “Ring Forge,” allowed the Mobian race to rapidly move from a primitive, medieval age to a hyper-advanced golden age. The same can be said about the Shinra Company’s discovery of Mako and the subsequent construction of Midgar leading to an age of advancement and prosperity thanks to cheap energy.

Using what I’ve found, I expanded on the initial comparison and eventually created an alternate Sonic universe, combining the story elements from the games and the Archie Sonic comic book universe canon with Final Fantasy VII’s plot as its backbone. I published portions of the first installment (out of six or seven!) on the Fanfiction.net website (My pen name’s Zonic Warrior-STH) – one of the largest sources of online fanfiction.

Six years later, I started rewriting the story, partially due to some harsh, yet constructive criticism, partially due to paying attention to how other author’s structure their stories and mostly because I hated how the original sounded. I mean, I read it out loud once and I cringed at how terrible it sounded…

So, for the rewrite, I decided to change my approach to writing. I started taking notes on what to write in terms of narrative and character dialogue relative to the backbone of the plot. I did even more research into FF VII’s plot and the world encompassing both the Sonic games and comics and continued to note things that sort of matched between the two and things that would need to be modified to fit the narrative that I wanted to portray. I studied both action and dramatic scenes in movies, TV shows and other games and wrote what it would look like in a book. And finally, using those same mediums, I tried to interpret how the dialogue and narrative would play out in scenes and how to describe in detail the present setting and character’s body language to better form an image in a reader’s mind. These strategies proved valuable both for developing the fanfic and eventually my original writing; in fact, just this June, I finished all the rough notes for the fanfic, which would make finishing this thing much easier, while I use note-taking apps like Google Keep, on a day-to-day basis to jot down and organize my plot, dialogue and action scenes for my own personal work.


I’m determined to finish this thing, more as a way to prove to myself that I can actually and properly finish a story. That’s why I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to finishing it. By scheduling time every day in November to write a few hundred, even a thousand words, I’ll be much more closer to finishing this thing than any other point before.

So far, as of writing… I haven’t gotten too much done, sadly; I barely hit 20% of the goal. But there’s still just under half a month left – I got time and resources (Thanks Google Docs!) on my side! And even if I don’t make 50,000, I would have done more now than I have in the past, which is something I can be proud of.

If you want to take a peek at my writing style or get a better idea of what the story’s about, check it out here. Bear in mind that I’ll be revising the hell out whatever you’ll be reading when I finish writing the whole thing, but still, let me know what you think. I’m always open to constructive criticism.

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m not done with November just yet! This month will mark twenty years that I first played Final Fantasy VII, the game that made a HUGE influence in my life. That will likely show up at the end of the month. Also coming up soon, I’m going to talk about some hardware I picked up a while ago, how to use a gaming mouse for work purposes and two more Espresso Shot Reviews!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, getting back to work on writing this beast of a story and always reminding you, dear reader, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

A Quick List of Great, Halloween-inspired Video Game Tunes!

Good morning boils and ghouls and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Happy Halloween!

Whether you’re going to a costume party, handing out candy or trick-or-treating yourself, it always helps to have some tunes prepared to get you into the right mood. With that, I thought I’d share a quick list of Halloween inspired video game tunes to set your day off right! Let’s get into it!


Silent Hill – Main Theme

I’ll be honest – I’ve never played Silent Hill. (Don’t judge me!). Horror games aren’t really my thing, but I love playing the main theme for the game come Halloween time. It hits all the right notes; it’s creepy and eerie and makes me think “Oh man, I’m gonna wet myself if I enter this town, aren’t I?” … Not that I do, I’m a lot more braver than that, but still…

Final Fantasy VII – The Nightmare’s Beginning (Vincent’s Theme)

Ah, Vincent, you morbid, tortured immortal. What I like about this theme for Halloween is that it makes me think of ghost stories. After all, Vincent’s backstory is something out of an urban legend itself – He falls in love with a woman named Lucrecia, a scientist who was part of a team studying a recently discovered ancient life form. However, when he professes his love for her, he is ultimately spurned when she says she has feelings for her colleague, Hojo, a twisted mad scientist with delusions of grandeur. Hojo injects the woman’s fetus with the life form’s cells, mutating her child into the terror known later as Sephiroth, greatly angering Vincent. When he tries to stop the madness, Hojo shoots and modifies him, granting him immortality and the ability to transform into hideous monsters. Now, to this day, he haunts the Shinra Manor in Nibelheim, agonized at the fact that he could not save the one he loves and yearning for a chance at revenge.

You gotta admit, it does make for a great campfire story? As an added bonus to make things excessively creepy, check out this highly experimental, guitar-driven remix of the theme:

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Dracula’s Castle

Literally anything from Castlevania will work to get into the Halloween spirit! I chose this one because it’s one of my favourite themes from one of my favourite games in the series. If you’re looking for something more retro inspired, how about the original “Vampire Killer” theme from the original Castlevania?

If that doesn’t get you into the mood to prepare for little undead monsters asking for treats, I dunno what will?

Kingdom Hearts – This is Halloween

You can’t have Halloween without the Halloween Town theme from the Kingdom Hearts series (originally from The Nightmare Before Christmas)! This is my go-to to get into the Halloween spirit; it’s the perfect, spooky track to put on as the kiddies go door-to-door for candy!


So that’s it, what do you think? Got anymore scary scores, twisted tunes or fearful features to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you that whatever you’re doing this Halloween, stay safe, carry a stake or two and some garlic, don’t OD too much on candy and, as always, Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

Video Game Music: Why It’s My Personal Soundtrack To Life

Good morning everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Grab your favourite mug and a pair of headphones, because I’m going to talk to you about a subject that’s dear to my heart: Video Game Music!

Video game music (which I’ll abbreviate to VGM) has evolved far beyond its origins back in the 70’s and 80’s, when gaming was extremely niche. What started with electronically synthesized sounds, bleeps, bloops, trills and clicks eventually gave way to epic, cinematic orchestrations, groovy EDM tracks, soft, emotive pieces and god and beast-slaying rock and heavy metal. These are but a few of the sprawling musical genres used in VGM.

I can’t remember when exactly I got into game music… I suspect it was from a very young age because I can remember back to my days in elementary school when I’d be humming tunes from games like Mega Man X, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Star Fox, Dragon Quest, Zelda II, Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII, among others. My music options improved when I gained four things at the start of high school: A Sony Discman, a refurbished PC with a CD-R burner installed, the Internet and file sharing programs like Napster, KaZaa and LimeWire.

7e6499c2613d459905398d21f3831fdccd28ffd98c8682044d4fbde617e5a297_1

Truer words were never spoken (Image by Ponyhead)

So the cycle went like this: People would rip audio directly from the game itself (a difficult, but doable task in those times) and upload it. I, along with millions of other closet VGM lovers, would download those songs, burn them to a CD and sit back and enjoy the tunes (In my case, I listened while studying since I was in high school at that time.). Over time, CD’s gave way to MP3 players, like the iPod, and to places like Youtube, Spotify and Internet Radio, where an enormous archive of video game music can be found at your fingertips for your listening pleasure.

Some articles and blogs have speculated that listening to video game music is a great aid to help concentrate and be productive. I tend to agree; I credit game music a lot for helping me focus on my studies. I wasn’t exactly a model A+ student, but with the music just being in the background, I found that doing school work (or any kind of work nowadays) was almost like playing a game. I’d go around solving math and physics equations or writing essays in the same way I would’ve fought bosses in Final Fantasy or solved complicated puzzles in Legend of Zelda. (Pro tip: If you’re looking for a GREAT online VGM playlist to listen to while you’re working, click here.)

Something else to consider: game music and exercise are a match made in heaven. Whether it’s battle or boss fight music from games like Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda, or tunes from great action, adventure or fighting games, like God of War, Metroid, Mega Man and Tekken, I find that they give me the extra push I need to lift more weights, do more reps or hold that pose longer. Game music is also perfect if you’re into kickboxing, karate or any other form of martial arts that require training. Some examples of training music I like to listen to include this, this, oh and this too. And whether you’re on a treadmill or outdoors, NOTHING beats running to the music from Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic_The_Hedgehog_SSB4_(11)

Just… try not to run like this. You will be made fun of. I speak from experience. (Image from Smashpedia)

Like to get around by car, bike, train or on foot and need some travelling music? Once again, VGM to the rescue! I personally like to listen to the World Map/Overworld music from Final Fantasy or one of the many versions of the Hyrule Field theme from Legend of Zelda, although, the choice is yours if you care to look. Sometimes, if I’m in a rush to get somewhere or I’m just feeling the need for speed, I fall back to a reliable game music staple: Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now, let’s say you’re working on a major project for work or school and you need something to psyche yourself up because that deadline’s coming up and you haven’t even started yet, may I present Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit CExhibit D and Exhibit E. Trust me, these’ll get you pumped!

And finally, some examples of music to chill to: Hi-Tone Fandango and Mr. Frustration Man from Grim Fandango, Sea Breeze from Metal Gear Solid 3, Galdin Quay from Final Fantasy XV and Lazy Afternoons (Twilight Town) from Kingdom Hearts II are among some of my favourites.

So, that’s today’s post. Do you listen to video game music? Don’t be embarrassed; share your thoughts below on the comments! And stay tuned for the next edition, where I discuss an interesting topic: how to live with a non-gamer. This’ll be a good post, so look out for it!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to keep gaming and keep brewing. Enjoy your Sunday!