The politics of Final Fantasy

Many fans (myself included) continue to hope for an updated re-release of Final Fantasy VII that would include enhanced graphics and voice recording. The original game didn’t age well graphically, with its blocky Lego-style character models, and voice acting is a must have for any game genre nowadays.  Perhaps there is a deeper reason why FFVII hasn’t yet seen a re-release.

It may seem preposterous to state that a video game made back in 1997 could have such powerful political statements within it, and yet, FFVII does. In short, FFVII is host to a cadre of political and social commentary on modernity.

My major focus of inquiry is with the beginning of the story. As the story progresses, itspirals into one concerning the fate of the world; however, in the beginning, the main plot concerns the ragtag environmental group AVALANCHE and the enigmatic Shinra Corporation. Both of these groups frame the story politically and socially.

An HD re-release of Final Fantasy VII is coming soon.
An HD re-release of Final Fantasy VII is coming soon. Graphic from Dual Shockers

For starters, Shinra is about as evil as a major corporation could be written.  They have engaged in genetic reengineering and experimentation on an unborn fetus,draining the land dry of its resources, poisoning the environment with the equivalent of chemical runoff, and tracking its citizens,to name a few.

Final Fantasy VII does a great job of showing a world where big corporations are  evil and vindictive entities only out profits.

On the other hand, the protagonists are part of  AVALANCHE. Problems exist within their organization as well.They’re home grown terrorists who casually blow up the equivalent of nuclear reactors to suit their own agenda.

They are explicitly anti-government (albeit, against a corrupt government) and anti-capitalist. As the story begins, AVALANCHE are framed as, and live up to, their reputations as extremists. Their extremist agenda results in the death of an entire sector as well as half of their members.

The game paints neither party as innocent. Likewise, several scenes concerning diversity are handled  tactlessly (as expected of 90’s popular culture). The only African American party member, Barrett, is a filthy-mouthed, shooting substitute for gangster culture and a racially insensitive allusion to Mr. T. Likewise, several scenes deal with hookers, sexual innuendo and crossdressers, often associating all of these things (especially crossdressers and homosexuals) with humor and shock.

Did I mention this entire game was rated Teen (for 13-year-olds and up) by the ESRB?

At the end of the day, FFVII resonates  with its powerful symbolism, which is far more complex than I can detail in this analysis. These are but some of the polarizing and glaring sociopolitical issues raised by Final Fantasy VII– and perhaps one of the reasons why Square Enix was so hesitant to remake the game.