Final Fantasy VII is like riding a bike: I know the beginning like the back of my hand. In some cases I even know what lines are coming up next as I’ve been through this three times previously. Nevertheless, the game still has the ability to grab me. I noticed it right from the beginning cinematic as the music started and Aeris’ face peered out at me.

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One thing Final Fantasy has always done right is music and FF7’s score ranks up there near the top. The shot of Midgar starting with Aeris walking then zooming out to show the whole city with Shinra tower looming over it then zooming back in on the train as Cloud disembarks is iconic. The music, starting off soft and low then building to a fanfare can still send chills down my spine. As a cinematic it doesn’t necessarily advance the story but it does set the game in a very specific place: an industrialized world where trains and motorcycles coexist with giant swords and magical spells. I remembered watching the opening for the very first time years ago and thinking that this was going to be a fun playground for the game.

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So our story starts off with an assault on Mako Reactor No. 1. We learn that the evil Shinra corporation is to blame for much of the world’s ills and that our protagonist Cloud belongs to a terrorist group called Avalanche. They blow up the reactor because it is damaging the planet and they escape the scene.

We then meet Tifa, one of Cloud’s childhood friends. Long ago, he promised her that he would come to her rescue if she needed it. She calls in that favor, encouraging Cloud to stick with Avalanche and help free the city and the planet from the control of Shinra.

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He reluctantly agrees and the group then moves on to attack the Sector 5 Reactor under the leadership of the intermittently explosive Barret. He’s an interesting character who has a daughter named Marlene, apparently has no day job at all other than blowing up reactors, has a machine gun in place of his left arm, and is plagued with a speech impediment.

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What’s not to like about Barret? I always picture him being played by Mr. T. if they ever make a movie version of FF7.

After the assault on No. 5, we meet Shinra’s president who unleashes the first major boss of the game on us: Airbuster. I know all his tricks and he posed no real threat to us at all. After the fight, Cloud is separated from the group, falls hundreds of feet through the air and then through the roof of a church to land safely in a flower bed. Huh?

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He agrees to be Aeris’ bodyguard and assists her in escaping from the Turks, a Shinra security force that refers to her as The Ancient and is trying to capture her.

And that’s about two hours into the game. More to come later.

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