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Hi, this is Two Minute Game Crit and I am Stephen Beirne.
Final Fantasy VII was a masterclass in storytelling. We’ve no shortage of dramatic, epic, expensive games these days, so the fact that a game might have Themes isn’t so unusual now as it was in 1997.
But what makes Final Fantasy VII so impressive, even by today’s standards, is how it related the drama through its broader composition, such as: its recurring motifs of a combined heaven and earth; the use of space and geometry to differentiate wealth from poverty; and the precariously attuned relationship of nature and technology.
One of my favourite things about it, though, is how it ties in themes of identity and existentialism.
There’s tons of scenes we could use to sample this but the best is probably this one here, during Cloud’s flashback to the Nibelheim Incident. Sephiroth‘s having a crisis of identity, and he locks himself in the library of the Shinra mansion while he researches his origins.
The way this scene is shot tells us that the farther he goes through the corridor, the deeper he delves into his past, and the more it affects his perception of his identity. Even though he’s kept centred on-screen, his stature diminishes, and he’s obscured by all the books piling after him.
When Cloud returns to check on Sephiroth, his whole demeanour has changed. The shot of the library’s corridor is repeated but now with reversed connotations. He strides right up to the camera, and takes a dominant position in the foreground, making good use of the Futch angle. There’s nothing this time to clutter him from view, and his trajectory brings him out from the diminished place of his existential crisis to this point here, large and emboldened.
The symmetry tells us a lot about his dramatic change in character, so this shot serves as a nice reference for when Sephiroth became a villain.
This is also matched in other structural ways on either side of the scene, like changes in his speech patterns and combat behaviour. Whereas before he used to revive people, after leaving the Shinra mansion…
There’s no doubt he’s a villain at this point.
So the next time you come across a story-focused game, have a think about its composition and how it reflects its drama.