Finishing my favorite game and moving on to anything else is a little bittersweet, but I’m happy to have made such speedy progress. I have found flaws I never saw before, caught innuendo that passed me by for many years, and above all come to love Final Fantasy VII more than I did before. On top of that, its completion signals the halfway point in my marathon. Seven games down, seven to go.
I finished the story of Final Fantasy VII on Day 159: June 8, 2015.
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This week I stopped a train from destroying an already decrepit town, I took down an enemy submarine and earned my own, I watched as President Rufus allegedly got killed by Diamond Weapon, and I put an end to Sephiroth and all his evil deeds (that is, of course, until he re-appears in Advent Children; and Kingdom Hearts; and Kingdom Hearts II). Then with the help of Holy and a deceased flower girl, we all saved the Planet from Meteor. Bless.
It was certainly a new experience, to rush through the story of Final Fantasy VII for the first time. I’ve beat the game numerous times in the past, but I always spent lots of time with the extra bits. I raced and bred chocobos until I’d got Mime, Quadra Magic, HP<->MP, and Knights of the Round in my hand. I scoured the globe to retrieve every Enemy Skill there is. I tracked down every character’s ultimate weapon and Level 4 Limit Break, then grinded until they could use them. In fact, I almost always grinded to level 99, and one time I even spent dozens (no joke) of hours holed up in the sunken Gelnika airplane, morphing the enemies within into sources of all types in an attempt to max out everyone’s stats at 255. I never achieved all that, but on that same file I grinded my materia enough so that every one of my eight playable characters was perpetually equipped with a Master Magic, Master Summon, and Master Command materia.
That is to say, I can and have spent many, many hours with Final Fantasy VII in the past, and sticking to the plot and skipping all the extras has given me some much-needed perspective on Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy VI.
I did my best to play straight through each of those games as well, of course wanting to wrap them up in a timely manner so I could continue with my marathon. I have not maxed out any of my characters’ levels, and I have only attempted side quests when I thought they were part of the main game. I would only grind when I needed to in order to progress. Once I reached that threshold I would continue, marching ever forward toward the climax of whichever adventure I happened to be on. That means I’ve been missing out on much of the heart and soul of these games. Perhaps not all of them, as the first two titles were much more straightforward and had little to do other than progress the story, but certainly there’s much more I could have done in FFIII, FFIV, FFV, and FFVI that would have enriched my experiences with each of them further.
This realization leaves me desperately wanting to replay all six of them, dedicating more time and effort to them without any time constraints, and with a guide to tell me about all the juicy hidden tidbits. Of course being a busy adult with many important things to do, I know that fewer and fewer opportunities to enjoy the games so thoroughly will be available to me in the future, especially with a baby on the way (due before the end of the marathon!). Still, I’m happy to have played Final Fantasy VII in this new way so I can appreciate the older games even more. I can more fully understand why others love IV and VI the way I love VII; they can likely tell me similar stories of their achievements in said games, like those I listed above during my history with VII.
As for the game itself, I really enjoyed it (like I always do), but I found that rushing through left me almost wondering what really happened. I know because I’m familiar enough with the story from so many replays over the years, but thinking back to games I completed mere months ago such as FFIV and FFII, there are some pretty substantial gaps in my memory. It’s similar to marathoning a television show, I think. When you watch something week to week, you’ve got time to reflect on what’s going on and speculate on what will happen next, leaving a more lasting impression in your mind. Meanwhile when you watch an entire series over the course of a week on Netflix, you might recall key moments or favorite episodes, but you’ll likely forget all the fluff in between. This is what’s happening to me with the Final Fantasy games. I’m enjoying them (for the most part), but at the end of the year I doubt I’d be able to recount most of the plots without referring to my write-ups because I haven’t left any time for them to sink in. It’s a fun marathon, but I now feel like I’m not giving the stories the time they truly deserve.
Now that I’ve spewed all that (quite unexpected) word vomit and wrapped up my tangent, I think I’ll wrap this up with my closing thoughts on FFVII before briefly touching on FFVIII’s beginning.
Final Fantasy VII will always hold a soft spot in my heart. It was my first Final Fantasy, and honestly my first true RPG experience. I’ve got more than a few mixed feelings on the expanded universe, and will always be bitter at how Square Enix morphed Cloud into a ridiculous emo kid in all subsequent media, when he had such spunk and personality in the original game. Still, that old classic will always be a favorite of mine, and I am happy that this latest playthrough has given me new perspective and appreciation for the solo game, and the Final Fantasy series as a whole. Thank you, Final Fantasy VII. Truly.
Time to complete: 33 hours, 16 minutes before final battles; ~34 hours total
Modes of transportation: Walking/running, Hardy-Daytona Motorcycle, Chocobos, Cargo Ship (ferry), Buggy, Tiny Bronco (airplane used as a boat), Snowboard, Highwind (airship), Submarine
Chocobos: Present! Primarily used for racing at the Gold Saucer and breeding, different colors can travel in different ways; Yellow – Ground (standard); Green – Mountain; Blue – Rivers; Black – Mountain & River; Gold – Sea). Also present as a summon in the Choco/Mog materia. Other colors are seen (White, Purple, Red, Pink) but not available to the player.
Mogs/Moogles: Present! Present in the Choco/Mog summon and a Gold Saucer mini-game. Cait Sith rides atop a giant, mechanical mog.
Summons: Present! 16 red summon materia are available throughout the game.
Cid: Present! Cid Highwind is a main playable character, and dreams of being the first man in space. He adores the air and has a temper.
Biggs & Wedge: Present! Members of the anti-Shinra group AVALANCHE, alongside Barret and Tifa.
Notable series firsts: First game not on a Nintendo console; first game with polygons instead of pixels; first game with three-member party maximum
1) Final Fantasy VII
2) Final Fantasy V
3) Final Fantasy VI
4) Final Fantasy IV
5) Final Fantasy III
6) Final Fantasy
7) Final Fantasy II
— Final Fantasy Zak (@zacharyplyons) June 8, 2015
FINAL FANTASY VIII
There’s honestly not much to say about Final Fantasy VIII yet. I only started it yesterday and due to technical difficulties, only reached the first save point a mere 30 minutes into the game before I turned it off for the night. What I can say, however, is that the jump in graphical prowess from FFVII to FFVIII is pretty outstanding. The character models are a proper height, and everything’s a lot less blocky. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but compared to other games on the original PlayStation it looks really solid.
That goes double for the cinematics. I love that each main character gets their own introductory video to show what they are meant to look like, no matter how short they are. Plus, the opening video with accompanying music Liberi Fatali is just as awesome as it was the first time I saw it (even if it does come off a bit “2edgy4me”). Liberi Fatali is one of my top favorite Final Fantasy tracks out of them all, and hearing it as Squall and Seifer battle each other just gets you so pumped up to dive into the game. Of course then you wake up in the infirmary and have to go through some slow tutorial rubbish that throws the pacing all out of whack, but that’s not a big deal.
— Final Fantasy Zak (@zacharyplyons) June 9, 2015
Anyway, like I said, I’m only half an hour into it so far. It’s also worth noting that 10 of those minutes were spent playing Triple Triad. That addictive card game will be my kryptonite as I play through Final Fantasy VIII, and I am going to do my best to limit the time I playing the mini-game in an effort to get through the main story rapidly. There’s just one month left before I take a 4-week long break for my holiday, and I can’t afford to fall behind now.
Oh, by the way – I’m super pumped to say that someone else has adopted the #RoadtoXVin15 hashtag! My buddy Travis, who you may remember from the short-lived Marathon Men podcast and the #BlueBombingRun, told me from the beginning of my journey that once I reached Final Fantasy VIII he would be playing the game alongside me. It is his favorite Final Fantasy, even though his multiple attempts to complete it in the past have ended is failure. He always got stuck in the final castle, but he is determined to make this playthrough count and finally finish it, at long last. So for one game and one game only, you can follow the progress of TWO random people on the internet playing Final Fantasy VIII on Twitter by watching the #RoadtoXVin15. I’ll be back next week, with probably a lot more to say about the gameplay and mechanics of FFVIII. See you then!