Mentally, Final Fantasy VII Remake helped me out of a bit of a dark place

We as human beings struggle to agree on many things, but one thing we can all definitely agree on is that the year 2020 is a dumpster fire. Many of us had plans and expectations for the year, but things turned out very differently indeed.

I would be lying if I said that everything happening didn’t start getting to me and affecting my mental health, with which I will admit I have been very fortunate not to struggle with normally. But with the added stress of trying to balance working from home, trying to relax and being essentially under house arrest, it started getting tough for me, as I am sure for many other people as well. It started getting worse and anxiety started taking a hold of me as infection numbers in South Africa shot through the roof, winter got cold and miserable and it felt like the entire world was burning. I like taking charge of a situation and trying to resolve problems myself, but being in a situation where I can’t do anything really did a number on my mind.

The only real solace I found was with video games, as it is the only way I felt I could escape to another world for a few hours and forget about the world’s problems, but even then my mind still couldn’t help but wonder. It was during this time I started playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and for me, that experience has been life-changing and helped me overcome my anxiety in the strangest way.

Give me some Cleansing Materia

I will admit that I never played the original Final Fantasy VII. In fact, I didn’t dabble in the series until FFXIII, which a lot of people might say was the weakest in the entire series, but I still enjoyed it. I haven’t been a massive fan since though and since then, I only played a few more, including FFXV and the most recent Final Fantasy VII Remake. So to say I’m a bit green on the series is a bit of an understatement, but that doesn’t take away any of my enjoyment of them.

So, as I mentioned, it was during the height of the pandemic that I started playing the FFVII Remake and I immediately fell in love with it. Sure it’s not perfect and there I quite a few things I can point out as shortcomings, but for some reason, it just hit the right notes for me. I fell in love with the cheesy voice acting, the over the top action, wonderful visuals, beautiful world and incredible combat that is part of this game. Not to mention the incredible soundtrack which is probably one of the best of the generation.

But what really resonated with me was the story and the characters and what they represent. The story is a bit confusing for somebody like me who has a basic beats and plot points thanks to my exposure to the internet and it being over 20 years old, and I’m sure things will make more sense as the next chapters are released, but for me, it wasn’t about the plot and story itself but rather the message being conveyed. This same message is delivered through the main cast of characters who, no matter the amount of adversity and hardship they might endure, continue to be optimistic and fight on. It is a message to never give up, and continue to keep fighting.

It was like a shot of Cleansing Materia from Aerith and having all the negative status effects removed from my life. Yes, I know it is a fantasy story, with over the top, unrealistic characters, but it made me feel good playing a game and experiencing a story and characters that made me feel better about my life and the situation I am in. It was the eternal optimism of the characters, despite their hardship is what made me realise that as long as I don’t give up, everything will be alright in the end. It was something I really needed while being at my lowest.

A golden shiny wire of hope

As I write this, things are starting to look up, winter is almost over, the rate of infection is coming down and we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, we are not done with this mess for some time, but at least there is a bit of golden lining to see. There’s a lot of factors involved with my generally positive mood, but I contribute a lot of it to the Final Fantasy VII Remake, which I couldn’t have played at a better time of my life. The impact it had on me was enormous, and while I still have some issues and dread to deal with, I stopped cowering in the corner, but rather face my fears head-on. Something that the wonderful cast from Midgar taught me.

Also, Tifa is bae! Just saying…

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