230: Get the Hell Out Of Dodge

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Amusingly, I feel exactly the opposite to the article author; Midgar is my favourite part of Final Fantasy VII. I like the oppressive atmosphere, the dystopian theme, and in fact, I've been trying to find another game with that sort of theme ever since. In terms of actual gameplay, the linearity is bothersome and the battle system tedious, but I much prefer the atmosphere inside Midgar, with that very apathy and slowness that you criticise, to the chase for Sephiroth that takes place during the rest of the game.

Yeah, I actually agree. To everyone I talk to about this game I say that I'd rather the entire game had taken place inside Midgar. This article rather neatly highlights the depth and atmosphere of the game's opening act; so much more powerful compared with the rest of the game, in my eyes.

Brendan Main:
But... if I burnt my "Square Forever" t-shirt, what would I wear when my thirty black turtlenecks are in the wash? Up in Canada, if we don't dress in layers, it gets chilly.

You could always wear that Cait Sith costume you had at the last Cosplay convention ;)

Midgar is a bit depressing and is one of my least favourite parts of the game... But the first time I played it through the atmosphere helped set up the rest of the game, but when you already know what else awaits you in the game it can get a little tedious.

But it's still one of my favourite games and I finished playing through it again a few weeks ago.

Considering the first thing that comes up in a FF7 conversation is "how long did it take you to get out of Midgar?" I'm going to go with no.

But obviously this is a shallow post to this article. More later.

My god, I remember thinking the exact same thing. I couldn't wait for any opportunity to get out of that accursed city, and when I did, I shuddered to think I should ever return.

The whole thing is the embodiment of everything wrong with industrial societies: the mechanization and dehumanization of society; the perversion of the the system where the people who built the city become cogs in it's system; the cold, dark and uncaring feeling of metal in the entire city, and nothing but; the despair and depression... When I left Midgar the world outside felt like the best thing ever.

To a smaller degree, I was reminded of that experience in Fallout 3, leaving the Vault.

Midgar was my favorite part of the game. It always depressed me when I got to the part where we live the city. Just meant going through the rural towns and common cave/dungeon settings any other game has. Midgar was a visual symbol of the decay that Shinra and their greed had brought to the world. The destruction of sector 7 was probably one of the most epic scenes I've ever seen. I just wish we could have seen more of Midgar in the game.

Brendan Main:
Get the Hell Out Of Dodge

Final Fantasy VII is a game that people keep playing years after its release. But while it's earned a place among the most beloved games of all time, its starting area is a bit of a slog. Brendan Main explains why, even while he looks forward to replaying FFVII, he dreads going back to Midgar.

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Hmmm, I can see that perspective to an extent, I also vaguely remember a couple committing suicide near the entrance to the train station, and later a parallel scene that ends differantly.

However I think you have a couple of things wrong to an extent, though admittedly while implied in the story and something I think you were supposed to pick up, it took greater exposition in the prequel, sequel, and apparently second prequel about the Turks to really get into.

Simply put I think they were showing a PART of Midgar, mainly where the poor and the downtrodden live, the city is supposed to be massive. You get some impressions when you visit areas for the "Crossdressing" bit that there is at least supposed to be a differant class of people. I guess to an extent they are selling the idea of Barret's perspective at that point, and understand Barret is a guy who was born in a prison camp.

It should also be noted that for all the comments about them "sucking the life out of the planet" the majority of the world seems to be flourishing. Idellic small towns, rolling grasslands, blue oceans, most of these communities remaining safe from monsters.

The point I got from this is that Shinra might be greedy to some extent, but they are not really "evil" or even especially oppressive when you get down to it. What they are doing actually benefits the majority of humanity, and when the world is threatened as much as they remain your enemies as a group of terrorists, they very much try and do everything in their power to save the world.

The Turks, the quintessential "shadowy men in black" who are your enemies for most of the game are honorable, they indeed protected Aeris and raised her well, and their leader is one of the guys Sepiroth (the real bad guy) winds up designating as a priority target. The point about the honor and "spirit" of the Turks is a big deal in the final scenes of the game, which clashes with their earliest portrayal. In the movie intended to wrap up the loose eneds they sort of expand on this where you have The Turks, once a group of BadA$$es fighting opponents MASSIVELY more powerful than they are in futile attempts to save the world and protect people.

In FF VII Rufus, the original "bad guy" is seen pretty much sacrificing himself to try and save the world, giving up pretty much everything he had built. Something that would seem out of character at the beginning of the game, but if you think about it never was. Oh surely he hates the heroes, and isn't exactly a nice guy, but even in the movie he's being a B@stard but acting entirely for the right reasons, and almost ends the entire problem through sheer cunning.

Crisis Core sort of starts out showing SOLDIER at it's best, and how they produced people like Angeal, Zack, and even Genesis for all his flaws. Sepiroth before certain revelations was actually a bona fide hero, despite the fact that you know what is going to happen with him as he spirals into nihlistic insanity.

I think one of the reasons why Final Fantasy VII endures for so many is that even without the exposition, it subtly paints a world where everyone has a fairly sensible motivation and there really aren't any kackling "Kefka" type bad guys, even Sepiroth who is off his rocker has some fairly understandable logic behind his insanity. Surely the protaganists are truely the good guys even at the beginning, but even they are not always right about everything.

Part of the point is that at the beginning you get to see Rufus and Shinra at it's worst. But that is what makes it such a powerful scene later when you see them at their best when he pretty much sacrifices himself, his corperation, and what he built in a last ditch attempt to stop a WEAPON. You also get to see a differant face of Shinra in Crisis Core with some of the missions SOLDIER performs (off the console) acting as warriors who protect the people, hunt monsters, and otherwise keep the world safe where nobody else can. Shinra is never exactly nice, but arguably the world is better off with them.

The impression I get is that judging things from the beginning of Final Fantasy VII is supposed to be like judging LA totally by The Barrio, showing those areas leads you to a specific impression, but that impression exists to make a counterpoint later and part of what made some of the "oh, wow" moments stand out.

Snork Maiden:
I like the midgar bit (especially Wall Mart onwards). Nowhere near as bad as Baldurs gate II's first dungeon, which is dire.

The memories! They burn! ...of course I've only just gotten into BG 2, but still, by god...I hate that dungeon....going through it feels like my bones make a small dagger and stab me from the inside...that place is just too damn creepy (or not, but points for the rather obvious reference)

Oh for sure, I mean even when I was younger the scenes of Midgar really got to me as a kind of... demoralized, and threatening environment. Litter everywhere in the slums... the big Shinra building like a fortress above the plates.

Reeally wasn't pleasent. But then I always thought too deeply into these kinda things. So I knew Midgar was meant to draw that kind of latent disgust from you. Even if you weren't really sure 'why' you didn't like the Midgar bit, most people just didn't.

...Yeah okay and the pacing was a little tiresome. But still, its fun to think in a more subconcious level ain't it?

Midgar was really depressing. An "upper city" that was less filthy but still soaked in corruption and blood and a "lower city" which was a perpetually horribly polluted slum? What's not depressing like that? It's like Gotham City if it went on a steampunk diet and its only form of entertainment was reading Watchmen for twenty years.

Very well said, though i personally don't mind the midgar experience but truer were never typed about this game

Great job

I love Midgar! It's so stale and dirty and full of evil, which only makes Aeris, her flowers, and the outside world shine so brightly! FFVII would never have been anywhere near as good without its very depressing first chapter amidst the slums of a once magnificent city.

I've had this game for a few years, I got a little bit past the Golden Saucer but stopped playing for a bit, and eventually I forgot what was even going on as far as the plot was concerned. I started again during the summer and got out of Midgar, but haven't had a chance to play it since then. I need to finish this game before it drives me insane, I feel guilty for ignoring it.

You should feel guilty, the poor thing is probably crying right now.

Don't worry about the plot, it seems like Cloud is just having tons of "emo spasms" until you get pretty far into the game, then it starts to make sense...kind of.

I love Midgar! It's so stale and dirty and full of evil, which only makes Aeris, her flowers, and the outside world shine so brightly! FFVII would never have been anywhere near as good without its very depressing first chapter amidst the slums of a once magnificent city.

You realize that's exactly what this article said right? Did you read the end?

Nicely written! And in some ways I agree but.. laughably, it's right /after/ Midgar that I tend to put down the controller.

Midgar is a struggle, definitely, but its a struggle full of little touches of characterisation and humorous situations, and while stepping outside the city throws you into the far, far more amazing setting.. having played it through previously something else hits me - Midgar was also the character setup. From here on in, things are set. Revelations happen and characters go through their plots, but I don't get to explore them and I don't get to grow any more attached to them from here on. I'm not saying there aren't fun little moments later but compared to Midgar, which made me attached to secondary characters and one-off NPC's, and as a single location for several hours HAD to be enthralingly detailed..

At the edge of Midgar FFVII trades character development for scope, and sure it becomes epic, but it also gets empty. For me at least, because I play RPG's primarily for the characters (why Grandia and Suikoden II/V are some of my favourite RPG's Ever), leaving Midgar and knowing I've seen all there is to see at the closest level, the level of the game I really care about..

Maybe it's me, but it always feels like there is something wrong with FF character writing, because it's the only game series where I never get any more enjoyment from the characters once each game's proverbial 'Midgar' is over - and up until that point I've always been Really enjoying watching them.

I'm gonna get shouted at for that >.>

i like the starting area. it only takes me a few hours to get through it, there is that awesome bike part and it does a good job setting the scene, of course there are lots of parts that most people would rather play but i think it sets the game up well


I love Midgar! It's so stale and dirty and full of evil, which only makes Aeris, her flowers, and the outside world shine so brightly! FFVII would never have been anywhere near as good without its very depressing first chapter amidst the slums of a once magnificent city.

You realize that's exactly what this article said right? Did you read the end?

Actually I was responding to this article without clicking on the link. I'm surprised that both this and the issue 230 article share the same thread but now I know and I will not make an ass of myself again.

Some excellent points have been made here, and I agree with many of them. My personal experience with Midgar began a scant couple of years after I had finished Final Fantasy II (IV) on the SNES for the first time. After the vibrant green fields of the Blue Planet, Midgar certainly felt like a step back, and for the longest time, I couldn't stand to continue playing past the Wall Market segment.

For me, this is the point when you first encounter the bottom rung of Midgar's society. The people of Wall Market are the foulest of the foul, rats dressed up in people costumes, human slime that subsists on a steady diet of pornography and junk pilfered from scrapheaps. If you look hard enough, you could get the impression that they're drowning themselves in depravity because it's really the only currency they have a lot of. Then again, it's tough to pity people who'd spend enough gil to put someone like Don Corneo in a mansion while the rest of the citizenry live in squalor.

I could never stomach it. There was just something too disturbing about the entire situation for me to endure. The main character's childhood friend, kidnapped and held against her will; this is a concept I wasn't entirely unfamiliar with. It's like "save the princess" in a modern setting, right? But a rescue operation that involved crossdressing to gain entrance into a scuzzy sex mansion? This was where I usually turned the game off and went back to Crash Bandicoot. It was too weird, too depressing. It made me feel dirty, and it really bummed me out that good people had to stoop to such measures just to survive.

That was years and years ago. These days, when I look at Midgar and Wall Market in particular, I tend to filter them through my greater understanding of Cloud himself and what he's gone through to end up there.

Cloud's complete origin story is a bit too long to get into here, but the short version is that he was a broken man, in every sense of the word, long before he ever set foot in Sector 7. Though he developed a psychosis that allowed him to believe otherwise, Cloud was always just another victim, and in this way, I believe Midgar sort of reflects him. It's a broken city full of broken people that lie to themselves just to get through the day. The difference, though, is that the people of the city are happy to live the lie. Cloud isn't satisfied. He doesn't know it, but subconsciously, he's fighting back.

I still find Midgar kind of depressing, but when you consider all that Cloud's been through and what it means to stand against authority in a city like Midgar, it sort of becomes a symbol for triumphing over adversity. That city is just another obstacle standing in the way of Cloud's reconciliation with himself and the world at large, and he'll be damned if he's gonna let it drag him down.

FF7's a great game with an absurdly weak opening. To be fair, once you've played any game through to completion, never mind doing all the side-quests and defeating the psychotically overpowered enemies they put in the american release (apparently as punishment for hiroshima), the starting areas always seem a but unecessary and tedious.

As far as starting areas go, however, Midgar ranks just behind Peragus in my book as the most boring, drawn-out, and overall tedious opening tutorial. I suppose that makes the rest of the world seem beautiful by comparisson, but there must be better way to do that than trapping the player in a junkyard for the first seven hours.

And as a tangent, I wish they would stop releasing other FF7-based games which royally suck ass (And god help me, Advent Children is non-canon.) and just do a remake like essentially everyone was hoping for when they showed that trailer a few years back.

Brendan Main:

"A boot stamping endlessly on a human face"
Am I the first to pick up the George Orwell reference?

Nice article, and I agree with you, even though I played this as a kid.

There's something so liberating about making it out of Midgar every time I play FFVII through again. It's not that I don't enjoy that bit, but you realise after spending a couple of hours there the game is only just beginning when you leave.

I also know the second the world music kicks in I know I'm a short walk from the excellent Kalm story flashbacks.

And I loved exploring Midgar further in Crisis Core, even if it isn't all pretty and sunshine and flowers.

What i wouldn't give for a modern remake of FF7 ....

I was disappointed when the story took you OUT of Midgar. I've never been reight into FF, but was lured in by the concept of a far more dystopian version and, upon experiencing Midgar for the first time, thought WOAH!! This is MINT!! I greatly looked forward to many hours spent walking the seedy, depressing streets of the oppressive metropolis. But no. You leave and it's all green fields and Chocobas. Bah, I say, BAH!

Good article, mind, and an opinion well expressed.

Final Fantasy 7 is the best game ever made in my opinion; now that is out of the way I agree with this cat, Midgar is the low point of the game, it improves significantly once you emerge, the thing that keeps me going through Midgar is the knowledge of what is to come. Now my main bone of contention with this is the manner in which it is written, everyone seems to like it but don't you think it is HATEFULLY pretentious, the reference to 'Dark City' and the efficiency of Dante's Hell, Jesus H, seriously. You read a lot into the game, it is not poetry, it is not subtle as you strive to make it seem, it is as understated as a punch in the face. "The greys and browns represent how dirty it is", it's is a damned fine game, the best, but you can't over intellectualise it, it is a great piece of terrible piece of art, it doesn't make you think, you get swept up in it, it is like a Stephen King book or a Roland Emmerich film, it isn't a thing to be pontificated over but to embraced. Forgive me for my rambling.

I loved Midgar. For me, it was part of the whole feel.

Immedaitly it let you know where you were, and what was going on. Above, a corporation ruled whilst below the people suffered. For me, it was a defining moment, it made the line clear of where you would stand.

Midgar, could in itself be used to really show the essense of the game.

I haven't finished the game, in fact, the longest I've lasted was something like 10 hours. Almost all of which were spent in Midgar. I remember some flash back scene soon after that which I thought was way too long, and I think I stopped playing right after that. This article almost made me pick it up again... almost.

Maybe I will during my Christmas break, that is, if I don't drown in other games.

I don't know if it's depressing. It's certainly a good microchosim for all of the corruption and decadence of the people on top of the plate but the fact is, Slums exist all over the world. It certainly serves as an insentive for the game. You leave Midgar and see this vibrant beautiful world and of course you want to keep it from the same fate as Midgar

Like many here, I played FFVII many times, and I have to say that I find it so humorous to see any complaint of Midgar being too depressing when compared to the copious parade of monotoned dystopian, suicide-inducing masterpieces that saturate the current mainstream gaming market. Midgar at least had some color variation to it, as I recall. Many of the games that I've seen nowadays have about as much color as a dog's eyesight. At any given moment, you have your choice of one of three colors and all its various shades, butt-shit brown, suicide gray, and puke-snot green.

While the environment and life of Midgar was bleak, there was at least a small element of hope and heroism contained within it. This came from the main characters themselves who were striving to change the world in which they found themselves. They wanted to make life better for themselves and those around them. Compare this to today's mainstream AAA games which often feature uncaring, apathetic badasses who have about as much personality and heroism as a falling brick. The main character(s) in some of today's mainstream AAA games only care about how much money they can get, how much crap they can blow up, and how many people they can kill. Their goals are completely selfish and self-centered, caring nothing for the world around them. If their actions in any way benefit another, it is purely by accident and not as a result of any attempt at heroism.

While starting with a dark and tragic past often makes for a good, heart-warming story of the protagonist(s) overcoming their past and their limitations to find a brighter hope and future. One can easily empathize and care about the characters in such a situation, and one may even find himself cheering for the character when he does overcome obstacles. One may even become driven to aid the characters in some way to overcome the hand that fate has currently dealt them.

In many of the dystopian games today, there doesn't seem to be much to empathize with the main character. Half the time, you don't even know anything about the character to feel any connection at all with him/her. When the main character dies, the player is often more annoyed at having to start a level again then feeling any kind of shock or remorse that his actions led to the death of the character. There's just no emotional connection and no reason to have such connections because the main character is just an ass who is only in it for personal gain.

In the end, in my opinion, Midgar has no where near the level of depressive-anger inducing potential of some of today's mainstream AAA games. I just seems laughable to me to be complaining about Midgar being too depressing in the face of much bleaker(and more bleached of color) games that permeate the gaming market today.

Come one Squeenix, remake it already!

I honestly don't want them to anymore. VII was magnificent. Every bit of it, even its horrible translation errors, add up to a glorious gaming experience. So why then, do I not want it remade? Because everything since (Advent Children, Dirge of Cerberus, Crisis Core, Last Order, all of it) has been more and more terrible.
Last Order, while it did have spectacular animation and action, ruined all of the elements of the story it touched.
Advent Children was also very pretty and had cool fights, but the story itself doesn't quite mesh with the game.
Then came Dirge of Cerberus. An average-to-mediocre game. A terrible crime against FFVII. First of, there's Vincent. Vincent, who STOPPED BEING DEPRESSIVE AND GUILT-RIDDEN by the end of FFVII. Then he overcame his antisocial adversities yet again in AC (symbolized by his appearance and request for a phone). Now he's doing it AGAIN. Then we find out that, actually, Vincent is the most powerful thing on the planet, and he could have totally wiped the floor with Sephiroth if he had been properly motivated. So... no. Stupid.
And then we find out Sephiroth wasn't the first Sephiroth, in a bold bit of retcon. And then there's this point where it tells us we missed the point, and Hojo was the main villain of VII (and how pathetic is it that hojo's big evil guy plan is a carbon copy of Sephiroth's?).
Then to reconcile Gackt -excuse me, I mean Genesis- appearing in the now well-raped mythos, we get Crisis core. A game about Zack. There's its first problem. But that's simply my own character prejudice, and really I have to admit that outside his jockstrap personality there is no real problem with Zack. I do, however have a problem with the muddled clusterfuck that his game turns VII into. I don't even have words, which, I know, invalidates my opinion with most of the few of you who haven't already dismissed me for my admittedly rather fanboyish rant.
Still, what made VII were the literary aspects, not the gameplay. The realistic sense of Barret's personal hatred turned to semi-righteous purpose. The ability to sympathize with Sephiroth (his circumstances, not his aims) and the philosophical questions his and Cloud's actions put forth. It was just damn GOOD.
Then everything that has been added lacks any of the first games' intellect and power. And I don't want to see a remake ruin the first game as well, with the nuances of the environment changed, and the dialogue shifted. A good example would be Twin Snakes, the MGS remake. It took a dark, very human game and made it into a cartoon. I'm worried something like that would happen with and FFVII remake. Still, I suppose there is always that golden shiny wire of hope...

Anyway, on topic, this is a cool article, the writer did well, and while I actually enjoyed Midgar outright, I completely understand what he means

Wow that went on long. Good thing I cut my DoC rant short, my record on that rant is about 3 hours of talking

Fuck Aeris

I think diffrently... I first played this game when i was young and i never made it far in the game, so midgar ended up being where most of the game was played for me. The disk frozed up once i got to cosmo canyon... but i have beaten the game a couple of times once it came out on psn, but midgar never stoped appealing to me. I think it is because the nostalgia.

Now, as a foreword, i have to say i don't agree with this article, though i definitely agree it's very well written.

I've played FFVII since i was about the same age and have a lot of nostalgic memories towards it, particularly because it took me so long to get out of the reactor at the beginning.
I've played that game enough times since then to pretty much be able to quote it off hand, it has and always will be my favourite game.

Being released from that reactor onto Midgar was amazing to begin with, but remembering what it was like the first time i got through the Shinra building, not knowing what the game was going to throw at you next, having an actual sense of fear about what the hell was going on with Sephiroth and Jenova and what was going to happen to my guys. The fight with Rufus seems to be the epitome of tension in that area, with the elevator fight at the same time needing some getting used to and organization. And finally the escape and defense of the others while on the motorbike and the boss fight.

The point is, that first time you play it through and you don't know what's coming next, and then finding out you're leaving Midgar for what may be forever, that stirs in you. You've got no idea about the outside world and what else you could possibly need to do, you can piece together it'll be nothing like what the plot of being in Midgar unfolded as, but there's no way of predicting the development, particularly at that age. So, progressively, VII works to slowly uncover the tunnel vision you have and open up a new world which you really had no idea was actually the point.

The definitive flaw with this strategy is it's a very delicate build-up and is impossible to achieve twice with one person, making the game a tad drawn out the next times it's played if you're not a die hard fan of EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.

P.S. Yes i did just make a profile to reply to this topic, but i PROBABLY will use it from now on!

I actually liked Midgar, and did'nt find it al too depressing.
Kinda liked the doom and gloom industrial feel.

Now forrests, those were depressing.

Personally I like the decaying urban blight of Midgar. I get a sort of sick satisfaction seeing that all of man's creations begin to crumble and rot under the force of nature.

I love FF7, and love Midgar. I would have to say that I am biased in this respect because I prefer futuristic/technological environments as opposed to the fantasy/medieval ones that are so prevalent in jrpgs. But I do have to agree somewhat with the author on the over-abundance of dark settings in many futuristic games, and in many movies and TV shows. Sure, it is great to play in the dark futurism of Doom 3, but I don't want to be constantly bombarded with dark dystopianism everytime I play a futuristic game. I like to see brighter, more utopian settings also. I would like to see more livable cities. While it makes for good eye candy and good imaginative mind candy, Midgar is not a place people would want to actually live. FF8 does better than FF7 in this regard. I would much rather live in Esthar than in Midgar. Opoona is a game which showcases a future that someone wouldn't mind living in. Xenosaga did pretty good in this regard. So while I love Midgar, sometimes, I want to play through a bright and luminous technological utopia.

I know i am very late reading this article. This article has reminded me of what hope looks like. I really needed it. The writing was superb and it reminds me how much i need to get back to work on my writing.

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