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Critic Fantasy VII


“Critic Fantasy VII” is one of those self-indulgent things you end up doing when you have a lot of professional buddies on Twitter and too much vodka in your screwdriver. Everyone has gone through their favorite RPG naming party members after their friends, or at least a game of Oregon Trail or something, but as I didn’t have any friends as a child this seems to be literally the first time I’ve gotten to do this. So let’s charge right on in.

The whole thing started as a bit of misbegotten promise over Twitter in response to Kirk Hamilton and Leigh Alexander’s FF7 Letters Series. This was a pretty popular feature in 2011 which, though not the first of its kind, has sparked plenty of imitators since as a kind of combination retro review and series of public love letters. So it was that Kirk and Leigh became a games journalist power couple and all of Twitter was shipping Team Hamilxander for a while, and I joked that in my next playthrough of FF7 I’d rename Cloud and Tifa after the letter-exchanging duo.

This led to some pretty tragic aborted experiments trying to screencap the game (or, indeed, anything) from my PS1, PS3, PSP or a pirated version of the old buggy PC version. Then many months later after everyone had forgotten I’d mentioned anything about it, Square Enix rereleased the game for PC, and lo, but I could now load it into Steam and F12 to my heart’s delight. Thus #CriticFantasyVII was born.

Dramatis Personae:

Cloud Strife – Kirk Hamilton
Tifa Lockhart – Leigh Alexander
Barret Wallace – Ian Bogost
Aerith Gainsborough – Maggie Greene
Red XIII – Gus Mastrapa
Cait Sith – Denis Farr
Cid Highwind – Michael Abbott
Vincent Valentine – Ben Abraham
Yuffie Kisaragi – Patricia Hernandez

Some of these matches worked better than others. Unsurprisingly, Barret Wallace’s whole black caricature would be hi-larious(ly racist) no matter whom you named him after, but there was something in particular about naming him for the opinionated, funny yet always cerebral Ian Bogost which took that shit just right over the top. Observe:





Actually, pretty much everyone had a few gems in the ensuing dialogue.












Most Twitter buddies who didn’t get character parts wound up as chocobo. Lots and lots of chocobo. And mostly golds, you’ll notice. I kind of went a bit overkill on the whole chocobo husbandry thing.

Heck, even game critics I didn’t go out of my way to include somehow wound up in this game!


In all it turned out to be a pretty lopsided experiment, as at the end of the day a character like Barret (I have to remind myself his name isn’t actually Bogost now–that’s what 50 hours of gameplay does to you) will always be quotable and neglected characters like Cait Sith will have mostly serviceable lines that are only funny when they’re full of typos (not that this game is wanting for those).

Plus, as I might have anticipated, people have Certain Opinions about which characters receive their names when the character in question is part of some densely storied, cryptically translated thing and not just a plucky nondescript crewmember in FTL or your wife in Oregon Trail. For instance, Maggie Greene really seemed to not enjoy being killed off by the end of Disc 1, just before a snowboarding minigame, of all things. I tried to point out that being turned into this game’s version of Jesus was a pretty decent consolation prize, but I don’t think I quite convinced her.



…I’m pretty sure that’s working its way into my vocabulary from here on.

As for my original objective, which was to create as much shipping fuel for Team Hamilxander as possible, that fell by the wayside a bit. (Damn game journalists and their real lives not conforming to my fantasies.) It’s a shame because Leigh and Kirk are almost as romantic in this game as they were in their letter series.