A grown-ass man replays Final Fantasy VII
February 25, 2015 9:08 AM   Subscribe

A grown-ass man replays Final Fantasy VII. The unfortunate part about replaying Final Fantasy VII is realizing that it is terrible. I mean, not terrible terrible, but it’s bad the way, say, a very old sci-fi movie is bad. It is enjoyable exclusively with mountains of qualifiers, with context and air-quotes and, preferably, your own reminiscences filling it in, making its absurdities lovable.
posted by tybeet (194 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've wanted to revisit Final Fantasy VII and haven't for this very reason. I remember the epic battles as being hugely enjoyable, though.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2015


Yeah, I played the hell out of it when it came out (in my 20s) and it was so, so great, like the best RPG ever, and then I bought it on the Vita and it's really just unplayable. I think it's more that I don't have the patience for the terrible controls and endless running around. What's kind of funny is that the older FF games are still fun... I think because VII was pushing the envelope technologically they had to make some pretty harsh compromises with the gameplay.

I think also that games like Dark Cloud ruined the FF experience for me... they're just so linear, which translates to boring for me now.

I wish I could get into it, though, because I remember getting new gems and new summons was just so awesome the first time around... :-(
posted by Huck500 at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Absolutely. I love(d?) the game because it arrived in my life at just the right time, and because of how insanely ambitious it is, but even with polished-up 'HD-ized' versions, it's just... dated as hell. Yes, even that scene is kind of laughably bad to my modern eyes!

Doesn't really stop me loving it though. I'll always think Red XIII is sooooo cool ~
posted by Drexen at 9:27 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man the generation gap between FF VI and FFVII being your fromlative RPG experience is wide and narrow.

(The GBA. new translation version is okay)
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 AM on February 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I refuse to read this or believe the pull quote at all. Goodbye forever.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:28 AM on February 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


It was cool at the time, but I never really understood the adulation it receive(d/s). I will always sort of prefer the mawkishness and soap opera of VIII.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


People talk a lot about Aeris dying. My memory of this is arriving home to find my brother, five years younger and home three hours earlier from school, had played onward and saved over my game progress. He described his hours of adventure in breathless detail, adding—as apparent afterthought—"oh, and Aeris died. She's dead now". I've never seen the cutscene.
posted by distorte at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2015 [33 favorites]


I merely dabbled with FF VII, but it still evokes "summer of 1997" for me because I had a housemate who was always a) playing it and b) enveloped in a cloud of pot smoke while he did so.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been replaying it via the Steam/PC version. I just got to the world-map reveal. It is .... well... the STORY is awesome, and the character beats are compelling in hindsight. But yeah, it suffers from age, the random battles are annoying, the world map is clunky, and i'm sure someone can write about the more problematic elements in detail (and probably has).


There is a case to be made for Midgar being one of the most iconic VG settings of all time, though. For sure.
posted by softlord at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


OMG, there's a polished up HDized version? I absolutely must have it. Sigh, I hope it's not for a platform I don't already have, which would force me to buy said platform thereby making me spend a ton of money on something I absolutely don't need.

But that game was so incredibly meaningful to me, I would buy a new platform and a new version every five years or so for the rest of my life. Yeah, there's a lot pained sighing, especially about some of the awful gameplay mechanics.... jeez, jumping over the gaps in that stupid bridge... it was completely pointless and took so many fricking attempts.... but the game was really beautiful psychologically. I mean it was really, no need for qualifiers beautiful. "You can make it through being fucked up and alone" is a message that's always good.
posted by shiawase at 9:32 AM on February 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


(Chocobo tag needed.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


OMG, there's a polished up HDized version?

Sorry to get your hopes up -- I just mean that people have done a little to make the in-game character models a little less terrible, and let it run at modern resolutions -- AFAIK they've never gone back and actually updated the assets.
posted by Drexen at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cannot recommend this chocobo.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Whoa, on preview, apparently there are multiple hopped up HDized versions.... I'm so behind the times... which one should I play, folks?

oh, on preview preview, lol, okay, so nothing completely new then, just minor changes? Still, you kinda can't go wrong with Steam. No new console... so, maybe.
posted by shiawase at 9:35 AM on February 25, 2015


The Steam one is not, in any sense "HD-ized". They added a few polygons to the character models to make it playable. It's probably roughly equivalent to how you remember it in your head, filtered through the amount of graphical advances made in subsequent years.

If you were to put in the original PS1 disc and look at the character models, you'd probably cringe.
posted by softlord at 9:37 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


...I just got a cable to hook my Playstation (a classic one) up to our TV.

First game I popped in? Final Fantasy VII.

(Second? Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo.)
posted by mephron at 9:38 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't believe it either. Final Fantasy VII was the most perfect game ever and I refuse to believe it has any badness.

LIFESTREAMS. Do you remember the life streams??

Perfect game.
posted by xarnop at 9:42 AM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you were to put in the original PS1 disc and look at the character models, you'd probably cringe.

Well, yeah, since the version of Cloud in my head is approximately this one, but with less clothes, I'd definitely cringe. Maybe I should just wait for the PS12 version. Sigh.
posted by shiawase at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's pretty refreshing to hear someone actually say that ffvii is bad. As much as we're all here to now say "Oh yeah, I've always known that," it doesn't change the fact that the entire conversation about that game, for its entire history, has been as "greatest rpg ever."

Its impact was certainly massive and it was incredibly fun and cool and awesome at the time it came out. But that, I think, is because proper storytelling in video games simply did not exist on consoles before the ps came out. The advent of cd-roms and the architecture of a 32 bit console allowed it to be the first jrpg to have a scene be explained by character motion (a little bit) and dialog that extended beyond nonsense like "you spoony bard!" and other wide-eyed exhortations about crystals and the end of the world.

that doesn't make it good, just way better than we had seen on consoles before then. PCs, on the other hand, were making way better games than that for a long time before that.
posted by shmegegge at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


It was cool at the time, but I never really understood the adulation it receive(d/s). I will always sort of prefer the mawkishness and soap opera of VIII.

What? There was a VIII? No way, you're kidding right? I don't remember a VIII. I remember they came out with VII, and that was great. Then sort of around the time they made Tactics and that weird fighting game with the VII character (Ehgarz? Eigarz? something like that), there was yet another other awesome game also from Square called Triple Triad. Man, I spent like, months and months playing that!

Then when they finally put out IX, they just sort of skipped a number like what happened with XI actually being an MMO and all, but they put in an homage to Triple Triad, like all their non-FF games had FF references.

Seriously, there was an VIII?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:48 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aw jeez that sucks to hear. I never got to play FFVII because I never had a Play Station. I recently saw it on sale on Steam and bought it even though I am currently using a Mac and can't play it with my current equipment. Everyone always told me FFVII was amazing and I was sort of psyched to play it. I'm guessing I'm not going to enjoy this one.

I have bought a bunch of the re-done SNES FFs for iPhone and loved them just like I did the old ones. I enjoyed FFX, although it had its share of annoying moments. Too bad this one is the one that didn't age well. At least it was cheap!
posted by Hoopo at 9:50 AM on February 25, 2015


Final Fantasy VIII
posted by spaltavian at 9:50 AM on February 25, 2015


Everyone's right that the gameplay doesn't hold up to how amazing it was in 1997. But the atmosphere still is capable of taking me right back. The primitive MIDI soundtrack is so, so great. I have a playlist of just the calm, meditative tracks, and I often listen to it while I'm working on something. The little snippets of atmosphere mean more to me than any grand battle or Aeris dying. Running through lush green fields, wandering into a rural village where kids are chasing each other around. You and your childhood sweetheart gazing up at the stars together. It's a flawed game by all means, an embarrassing one even (Barrett...) but one I'm still very fond of.
posted by naju at 9:50 AM on February 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


I was never actually sad about Aeris dying. I was furious, instead. Back then, when I was a kid, I would usually spend inordinate amounts of time satisfying compulsive behavior, which JRPG-style video games would sate, in terms of just grinding/repetitive patterns. (This holds true today, too, where I derive not so much pleasure as I do contentment scratching that itch with better JRPGs like the Persona series, or MMOs.)

Anyway, back to Aeris/Aerith. I was furious at her death because I had spent so much time leveling up my characters (without knowing she was going to die), so much so that I'd managed to get her ultimate limit break. This ultimate limit break was probably game-breaking, as it immediately enabled all other party members' limit breaks, but the anger was from having that function taken away post-disc 1.

Is it a great game? I dunno. I have lots of fond memories of it, but they're inextricably linked with childhood--much as I don't want to even consider watching Neverending Story again, I do not want to play the Final Fantasy series anymore. FF7 was a product of an era, and it intersected with me at the right time. Sure, even then I'd quibble at how bad some of the CG was, or how some of the plot made me feel a little uncomfortable regarding my preferences, but.

Run around in circles. Wait for the battle music to kick in. Press circle. Extend combat until the limit break appears. Gain XP. Repeat.
posted by qcubed at 9:51 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


The visual design of VIII, Europe High Fantasy filtered through a Japense aesthetic and refencing early FF games and the whole 'city as huge machine ' thing was fun but man it was a draaaaag.
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh wait I'm thinking the bright and cartoony 9, yeah no 8 ... I don't think I actually finished that? Grim and bland. The Magasines all talked about that freaking waltz cut-scene tho.
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Too bad this one is the one that didn't age well. At least it was cheap!

It did, it aged fine. I played X first and loved it, so my first introduction to the series was one with pretty graphics, and then I played VII afterwards and loved it more. I last played it about 6 years ago and it was still fine. There are flaws, but if you can tolerate the redone SNES ones, the flaws probably won't bother you that much.

And I'd still say the story is miles ahead of say Mass Effect or any of the Elder Scrolls rpgs.
posted by shiawase at 9:55 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, it also had possibly my favourite piece of VG music ever. Link is to a nostalgia-friendly cover version, I don't intend to sully my memory with the relative flatness of the original MIDI... :P
posted by Drexen at 9:55 AM on February 25, 2015


I fall on the FFVI side of the fence, and was sort of pissed about FFVII for quite a while, because it was just so different from the Final Fantasy games I knew and loved, and I didn't want to buy a PlayStation. But some of it still managed to make its way into my memory, like, remember that part where Sephiroth summons a whole bunch of math and a comet shows up and blows a goddamn hole in Jupiter but you manage to survive the attack? And then you keep fighting and he does that attack again and you're all like, dude, when did you put all the planets back?
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Anyway, back to Aeris/Aerith. I was furious at her death because I had spent so much time leveling up my characters (without knowing she was going to die), so much so that I'd managed to get her ultimate limit break. This ultimate limit break was probably game-breaking, as it immediately enabled all other party members' limit breaks, but the anger was from having that function taken away post-disc 1.

Yes, this exactly. So enraging. Also the random battles got super annoying after a while. Like COME ON I just want to walk from POINT A to POINT B.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really liked (and still like) FFVIII and I don't really think its flaws are more/less pronounced than others in the series.

It is also, crucially, the only FF to my knowledge that lets the player turn off random encounters which is just wonderful.
posted by Tevin at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Somebody on the SA forums has been playing through FFVII as a screenshot Let's Play thread for a long time now, still not sure when they'll finish.

Some of it is really goofy, but the first time I saw video of a Summon in a game store, I knew I had to play that game. Plus, I would totally buy a package of just Final Fantasy minigames--I adored the sub hunting game and Chocobo racing, and I know that others would pay serious money for a Triple Triad game.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:00 AM on February 25, 2015


Man, I was a Final Fantasy fan when Final Fantasy VII came out. And I bought it and played it and thought it was mediocre, but the consensus on the AOL boards discussing RPGs was that it was the best RPG ever. Its gameplay had no depth, as the article indicates – it was extremely linear, wheras in prior games you at least had to do some serious level-building and dungeon exploration. And the character models when they weren't in cutscenes were awful - those huge forearms and the big chunky hands looked terrible, and you spent most of the game looking at them. The story was thin, and Disc 2 was an example of how bad Squaresoft was at "sandbox" type play. So I dig the article, but I also thought the same when I was 15 and playing the game.
posted by graymouser at 10:01 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man the generation gap between FF VI and FFVII being your fromlative RPG experience is wide and narrow.

I think I'm technically in the generation that played FF VII, but I've never played it. After we got a Super Nintendo, we got an N64 instead of a Playstation, so my big RPG experiences as a kid were FF VI, Chrono Trigger, and Lufia II's incredible bummer of an ending. I don't think I'd go back and play FF VII. Everything I've seen and heard of it suggests that it's Extremely Anime in a way that I'd be making fun of all throughout. But that's probably no less true of the other three games I mentioned.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:01 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm still mourning the death of Tellah. No, don't cast METEO! You're an old man!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:04 AM on February 25, 2015 [27 favorites]


I mean I could be jokey and say the FF series is basically press X till you win but all the Bioware games I like are basically dating sims with occasional fights sooo
posted by The Whelk at 10:05 AM on February 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


It is also, crucially, the only FF to my knowledge that lets the player turn off random encounters which is just wonderful.

Woah, I wasn't aware of this? Maybe I can actually go back and play it all the way through without throwing the controller through a window...

(Seriously though, after Chrono Trigger proved you didn't need random battles, how ANY game continued to have them is inexcusable.)
posted by naju at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2015


In all honestly though, it's not that hard to figure out why VII was so popular when you put it in context. The summons, man. The freaking summons.

When I was a young lass, VII but especially VIII/Triple Triad's Shiva was a big part of how I realized I'm like, hella gay.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Anyone else do that thing where they bred a specific chocobo to go dig something up in the ocean? I forget what the item was, but I spent way too many hours trying to find it.
posted by GrapeApiary at 10:07 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always felt that FF7's goodwill and the criticisms of FF8 really illustrated how story pacing could make or break your game.

FF7 isn't perfect but it had story pacing down cold. The moment where the world map opens up was just magical because, up until that point, you plausibly would have thought that the 32-bit generational leap meant that the required detail made overworld exploration unfeasible and you'd resigned yourself at that point to a game that was probably going to mostly be set within Midgar (which was a pretty cool setting, at least).

Lots of story-related stuff which was awkward and arbitrary-seeming in FF8 would have gone down a lot better with re-engineered pacing. The fact that the two games came out back to back with each other made its shortcomings more obvious. I'm really fond of 8 (still Square-Enix's best opening FMV ever) but fully acknowledge that the reasons people dislike it are completely legitimate.
posted by whittaker at 10:08 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Tactics was indeed the best FF game.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:08 AM on February 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


My first job out of college was at a crappy video game company. The PS1 had been released the year before. I was making crappy PS1 games. It was not fun.

Someone at work bought the Japanese release of FFVII and popped it into one of the dev boxes we had floating around the office. I had grown up on the Ultima and Bard's Tale series. I was down with Zelda. All that, and FFVII was unlike anything I'd seen, and I couldn't read any of the text. When I quit that job later that year, I spent a bit of my last paycheck on a PS1 and FFVII.

I played it so much that my neighbors would yell at me "SHUT THAT TV UP! SHUT UP!" It was probably 1am, and I was going through the Fort Condor battle. I cranked the volume down and kept playing. I was unemployed, going back to school, so I didn't want to do anything but find out what happened next.

FFVII consumed me and my friends. We bought strategy guides, we made a point of jumping through all the hoops to get all the materia and the chocobo racing (oy, the chocobo racing). We would gather around the tv at parties and show each other the cool stuff we'd discovered or done. We cheered when we finally pummeled the Weapons.

When I got to the very end of the game, I was at my parents' house, waiting for class to start. I had brought my PS1 with me. They had gone out for the afternoon. I went through the final battle and won, and then the final cut scene started. I just put down the controller and just sat and stared. It was the same feeling after I'd read a long and powerful book.

Yes, it's a silly game, and I love the hell out of it. I also don't want to replay it.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:09 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Although I love FFVII, my heart belongs to Suikoden II.
posted by yaymukund at 10:13 AM on February 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


When I was a young lass, VII but especially VIII/Triple Triad's Shiva was a big part of how I realized I'm like, hella gay.

Heh. Actually, I gotta say, FFVII was a huge part of how I realized I'm non-binary.

Also, I just found out for the first time sometime last month that diamond dust is an actual thing. Curse you, Boston winter.
posted by shiawase at 10:15 AM on February 25, 2015


FFVII does get credit for having my favorite Cid. He was all surly and chain-smokey and over-the-top sweary and I thought it was great. You kinda got the feeling that Square had saved up all the bad words they couldn't use during their Nintendo years and Cid was all too happy to put them to good use.

For a while, my LiveJournal userpic was of Cid. I'm not completely sure what that says about me, but I'm sure it's something dorky.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:16 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


While we're all aboard the 90's RPG nostalgia train, anybody wanna give a choo-choo for some Grandia?

That moment when they first get over the wall and see the new world is still one of my favorite video game scenes.
posted by Tevin at 10:16 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The article doesn't mention the date, which for me is one of the cruxes of Final Fantasy VII.

See, when your party is staying in Gold Saucer, the casino-city, one of the other characters in the party comes to Cloud in the evening and suggests they go for a walk. They go and see a weird little play, and then take a ride in a cable-car through a fireworks display, and they talk about themselves and each other. It's touching and quite poignant. It doesn't affect the game-state at all but it does affect the player-state, the way that you (via Cloud who's basically your avatar) feel about another member of your group.

It's Aeris, or at least it's meant to be, but it turns out there's a hidden game mechanic that you've been altering with the way Cloud responds to the other characters, raising and lowering point values at 33 separate decisions earlier in the game. You get a date with the character with the highest point value. And it's meant to be Aeris, who starts with 50 points, so that you share a moment and then feel the impact of her death that much more sharply... but if you think Aeris is a bit wafty and ethereal and you prefer the down-to-earthness of Tifa then you may find yourself on a date with Tifa (30 points). Or you can work hard and go on a date with Yuffie, who starts on 10 points and who only gets introduced some hours after you've left Midgar. But if you really can't stand any of them you may find yourself on a date with Barret, who is basically Mr T with a gun for a hand, and who begins with 5 points.

Barret is very uncomfortable about the whole date thing.
posted by Hogshead at 10:17 AM on February 25, 2015 [38 favorites]


And because it's 2015, the date with Barrett is on youtube
posted by yaymukund at 10:18 AM on February 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Jeremy Parish recently did a Retronauts (podcast) about Xenogears and it really nailed home that FF7 was the height of Square's relevance but also basically their death knell. It was the beginning of a spiral of trying to make every game the most amazing, genre-defining visual and gameplay experience and leveraging every possible asset to make it work, instead of just trying to make good games. And of course the obsession with CG led to the whole Spirits Within thing, the financial crisis, the buyout from Enix and the departure of a lot of their old braintrust. So yeah, if it felt like Square was flying a little too close to the sun, it was because they were.
posted by selfnoise at 10:23 AM on February 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


The Whelk: "I mean I could be jokey and say the FF series is basically press X till you win but all the Bioware games I like are basically dating sims with occasional fights sooo"

You can just say "Dating sims"
posted by boo_radley at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I very much loved FFVI through FFVIII, though, even now, my favorite turn-based RPG is the first half of Xenogears. With all the remastering of Final Fantasy games, it would be incredible (possibly even the greatest thing) if some team went through and finished Xenogears.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


The people in FFVII looked ridiculous even when it came out, I mean no one had fingers c'mon. But it was also the craziest explosion of creativity I can think of in any genre. VI is great, arguably a much better game in many ways, but it's the crowning achievement of an era. VII represents the outrageous birth of a new era.

FF VIII was just... listless. Moving the plot forward felt like going to class.

Xenogears is by the far my favorite of the genre to this day.

(I really hope they don't remake it, Xenosaga was the worst.)
posted by ethansr at 10:32 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Spending hours sitting around with my stepson fighting and re-fighting and re-re-fighting Emerald and Ruby Weapon are some of my happiest memories of the 90s.

([Final Attack + Phoenix] equipped on your tank and hope the next turn goes to someone w/ Curaga is a sequence i remember being delighted to discover. And the way you could summon Tiamat and then go make a sandwich and be back before the blow landed.... Good times....)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:33 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ack! Now I'm all excited thinking about Xenogears. It added such a great level of complexity to the turn-based combat system with the button combos and, of course, the gears. And the rotatable 3d environments.

FF VIII was just... listless. Moving the plot forward felt like going to class.

To be fair, for a bit of the beginning, moving the plot forward was going to class.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:36 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


FFVII came out while I was working my first professional job, living in my first apartment by myself, in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

I spent so many Saturday nights playing that game. Lots of love for it, lots of nostalgia - it was so much more than Bard's Tale and Wizardry and all the other computer RPGs I had played to that point...but this article confirms what I have long thought: don't try to go back.

What I have shown you is reality. What you remember, that is the illusion.
posted by nubs at 10:38 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyone played Xenogears recently? I'm wondering if it holds up gameplay-wise. I think it's the most epic and complex JRPG story of all time, with twists around every corner, and it's worth playing for that alone. (Also, one of the greatest soundtracks ever. I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack.) I'm just worried about random battle tediousness etc.
posted by naju at 10:38 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure how to take the author's meaning. Does he dislike the game, or just dislike his nostalgia for the game when it doesn't hold up after a replay?

FFVII was a huge part of my childhood. I'm perfectly aware of how much the game doesn't stand up to the test of time, but I don't hold that against it. Most games from the mid-90's looked like what we now consider crap. In the end it made me care, really care, about all the characters, and remains to this day one of the few RPG's I've managed to slog all the way through.

I don't depend on just the game itself either, the many fan-inspired creations and later the commercial follow-up games and Advent Children movie helped keep the flame alive.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2015


Yeah Xenogears is just so good. I got it used, in maybe 2001, and it just blew my mind. Like Suikoden and Chronotrigger in the previous generation it was just a complete genre buster. I feel like there are a lot of design lessons in it that still aren't reflected in current games.
posted by ethansr at 10:45 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I remember being attracted to FF7 for the summons.

I also remember the feeling of "god DAMN it" whenever that swoosh sound would play, the battle music would start, and the screen would distort and it would take forever to even get to a battle that was so trivial.

Most notably, I remember my roommate playing it - At one point, I came home to find heavy objects propped on the controller as he was level grinding.

I also remember him doing "knights of the round" through some multiplier that ended up casting it like 8 times - He went and took a shower, came back with plenty of time to spare.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yah, I'm on the old side of the fence. FF IV and VI forever.

I mean, I played through most of VII, VIII, and IX, but none of them really grabbed me emotionally like those on the SNES. I think my tolerance for that particular kind of anime mysticism was kind of worn out by the time the playstation rolled around. Aeris was just kind of annoying. All the characters in VII were kind of annoying (except for that tiger dude).

I think that's just it... none of the characters in the later games stand out for me at all, whereas nearly all the characters in IV and VI do. I don't really know what that is. I'm going to have to go with, "because they're actually good and not annoying teenagers to the last".
posted by Alex404 at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


MysticMCJ: I also remember him doing "knights of the round" through some multiplier that ended up casting it like 8 times - He went and took a shower, came back with plenty of time to spare.

That exact same thing happened to me too. Buddy set up the multiplier on KotR and took a shower while I watched it play out umpteen times.
posted by whittaker at 10:50 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyone played Xenogears recently?

I replayed Xenogears 5 or 6 years ago, and it held up wonderfully then. Now I'm trying to find my copy again -- my sister may have it, as I seem to have her copy of Legend of Dragoon.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:50 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really feel like FF7 and MGS were two games that were considered iconic, but really started codifying games that you end up watching as opposed to games you end up playing... MGS at least had some really novel gameplay, but man - I've never played such a filibustering series in my life. FF7 seemed more like a tech demo that someone decided to add story to...

Of course, we could argue that the trend of games you watch started as early as Ninja Gaiden - the first game I remember to have ridiculously long cut scenes.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:52 AM on February 25, 2015


A bunch of these games are available digitally through the Playstation 3 store, FWIW. Decently priced too, around $10-20. That's how I've been playing them.
posted by naju at 10:53 AM on February 25, 2015


I also remember him doing "knights of the round" through some multiplier that ended up casting it like 8 times - He went and took a shower, came back with plenty of time to spare.

Ah, yes. Quad-cast knights of the round, then have the rest of the party mimic.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:53 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Did someone say Xenogears? I've found my people. When I was in Japan briefly in high school I made my host brother take me all around town until I was able to find a copy of the soundtrack (which I was successful in). Easily my favorite RPG ever.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yah, I'm on the old side of the fence. FF IV and VI forever.

These were the ones known s 2 and 3 in North America, right? Yeah I'm with you, those were the best. IV, VI, X, and I for me.
posted by Hoopo at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


None of the non-MMO FFs require grinding (running in a circle fighting extra battles), except the second one on the Famicom (the one with the emperor and the weird stat growth). Actually, the last dungeon in the third one (the one with three magicians and onion knights) has a pretty steep difficulty spike so maybe that too. But whatever. None of the games people think of when they say Final Fantasy -- the one with the light warriors, the one with Cecil, the one with the evil tree, the one with Kefka, etc. -- require any grinding whatsoever.

I don't get the random battle hate. I enjoy being surprised. Chrono Trigger's kind of boring to replay because the planned encounters feel like a to do list instead of an adventure.

naju, Xenogears has a worse battle system then you might remember, and the text scrolls too slowly, but the story and the atmosphere held up better than I would have expected. I've tried replaying most of Square's PS1 RPGs in the last couple years, and thought Xenogears was good enough to finish, unlike Chrono Cross, FFVII, and FFIX.
posted by OnSecondThought at 10:58 AM on February 25, 2015


FF VIII was just... listless. Moving the plot forward felt like going to class.

Not sure if that's where you were going with that but for the first few hours, that was the literal plot, IIRC.

I never did get all the shock of Aeris dying in FFVII. Plenty of characters had died or were, at least for a while, presumed dead in FFIV. I thought the biggest shock in any Final Fantasy game occurred in Final Fantasy VI (SNES FFIII) when you fail at beating the big boss and he actually succeeds in destroying the world.
posted by dances with hamsters at 11:07 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Some of my very favourite videogames writing ever was a series in Paste magazine. The framing device being a letter correspondence between Leigh Alexander (FFVII vet) and Kirk Hamilton (playing through it the first time) where they discuss mechanics, narrative, the ability for abstracted forms to effectively convey detail, how videogame compositions used instrumentation and timbre before having to accomodate room for spoken dialogue, Leigh's adolescent relationship to the game, and other musings.
Part 1
"Remember when "lots of FMV cutscenes" was a reason to buy a game?"

Part 2
The one-of-a-kind art in FFVII, why the game couldn't be made today, and that age-old question—who is hotter, Tifa or Aeris?

Part 3
Cloud and the new breed of JRPG hero, what exactly it IS about Sephiroth, and the gameplay of FFVII.

Part 4
The "camp" of FFVII, and the surprisingly communal way we play the game.

Part 5
Kirk deals with a tragic loss.

Part 6
the game gets deeper, stranger, and more sprawling than ever.

Part 7
our authors are swept away by the lifestream. Does this train they're on make any stops? Tune in to find out.

Part 8
our writers dig deeper into the music of FFVII and list their favorite pieces.

Part 9
our writers near the end of their journey.

Part 10
it all comes to an end.

posted by whittaker at 11:10 AM on February 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


I fall on the Final Fantasy VI side of the divide as well, and I've always been fascinated by the people who have VII as their defining game. (For me, my formative games are definitely FFVI and Chrono Trigger.) It's a pretty huge crowd, judging from the sheer volume of spinoff media that it's spawned and the constant crowing about a remake. I played through FFVII exactly once, when I first bought it. In a fit of compulsion I ended up going back to it a few years later and maxing out that particular save (doing all the annoying mini-games to get particular items, limit breaks, etc.) but have never once replayed it from start to finish. I played it, I enjoyed it, I remember how big an event it was in the gaming world (I, like many people, got a PS1 specifically for it), but the game overall doesn't have that same level of emotional resonance for me, so it's cool to read people's reminiscences of it here and understand what it meant for them.

That said, there is one thing. I wasn't a big fan of Aerith's character (Team Tifa all the way), and if you watch the death scene now, it's hard to take it seriously... the simplistic CG models, the bloodless stabbing, the dumb boss fight against yet another Jenova iteration that serves no purpose other than to waste time. Aerith's theme, though, has always been the song that cues up in my head whenever I'm dealing with anything related to death and funerals. My grandmother died right around the time of FFVII's North American release and I just lost my grandfather a few weeks ago, and that motif is still where my mind goes. I find it comforting.
posted by Kosh at 11:13 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing to note -- I don't know how much this applies to others -- is that I never played any other FF games before VII -- in fact I'd never heard of them. Maybe that's a UK thing? So at least for me, VII was my first introduction to the intensities of JRPG storytelling, as well as my first experience with such a vast, vivid, imaginative world in a videogame, as well as being the most visually splendid game I'd ever seen, by a long shot. So it had a lot of ways to blow my mind.
posted by Drexen at 11:21 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Team Tifa all the way)

Ditto, I actually think she's a great character who was overshadowed narratively and in the cultural conversation by Aerith and dismissed a little due to her body type gimmick (which they thankfully revised and toned down a little by the time of Advent Children.)

Too many FFVII spin-offs with sad-sacks Cloud and Vincent, not nearly enough featuring cool, complex martial arts brawler Tifa.
posted by whittaker at 11:23 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


To be fair, for a bit of the beginning, moving the plot forward was going to class.

Not sure if that's where you were going with that but for the first few hours, that was the literal plot, IIRC.


;)

I think it's also true in the sense that plot and mechanics are so much less developed than the visual style of the game.

Running through a hallway in magic high school/Hogwarts/whatever with light streaming in from the outside is such an overwhelmingly beautiful moment that alludes to the possibility of such great experiences; nothing the game asks you to do can compare.

In that sense its the perfect teenage FF game where you are forced to pay homage to sacred jrpg traditions which aren't relevant to your life. If only you could just go outside and sit on the grass basking in the sun.
posted by ethansr at 11:30 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here for the FFVI love (it's the reason the main character in starglass is named Terra). I think it's the writing. The writing in ffvii and viii have a chewed up, nonsensical quality to me, way over reliant on amnesia. Which is a plot point in vi but present from the outset.

Pretty cut scenes, nice atmosphere, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:32 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've often felt that FF7 is badly overrated. The gameplay is terrible. It's not the style that's the problem; FF1 is still fun, and it's the archetype for that style. The problem is that its far, far too easy, there's no meaningful differences between characters in combat, three isn't enough for any strategy, and it takes far too long. FF8 was the nadir, though.

The story is ok. It has some good ideas but is confusing. You can miss critical information if you aren't following a guide. The first time I played it, I managed to miss the bit about Zack and finished the game not knowing if cloud was a clone, or what.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:36 AM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I replayed VII recently when it came out on Steam and it was a little better than I remembered, the whole revolutionaries fighting again an evil corporate power company had a nice little Occupy Midgar feel to it...

...and then it all goes off the rails towards the end of Disc One and doesn't really get it back together until almost the end of the game.

VI is sheer brilliance, VIII will always be a personal fave. VII, meh.
posted by davros42 at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think also it just broke so many things. Like the obliquely referenced sex slavery part - where you have Cloud having to run around to win enough minigames to get chosen to be the villain's sex slave - it was just way more adult than I was in any way used to seeing in any kind of game and I remember being astonished.
posted by corb at 11:40 AM on February 25, 2015


Final Fantasy VII was the last video game I ever played. All the tedious hours of leveling up, the random battles, and completing what amounted to chores to obtain various items. It just felt like such a pointless waste of time. I don't remember if I ever finished it. I think I got close to the end and just got tired of it. I put down the controller and never picked it up again. Just gave up video games completely.

A few months ago, on a whim, I found myself listening to old Final Fantasy soundtracks. I decided I needed to play them again, if for no reason other than nostalgia, so I downloaded some emulators and got rolling. It's still basically a time suck, but at this point in my life that doesn't seem like such a tragedy. Sometimes I need to turn my brain off and just occupy time, ideally in a manner that requires minimum effort. But I don't have the attention span for passive consumption anymore, so I suppose it helps if I have to press some buttons.

The aesthetics of FFVII are still pretty amazing, as is much of the music. The story has some problematic elements--the tacit support for terrorism, moments of sexism, etc. The characters are mostly vapid and awful. The battle mechanics would be fun if there wasn't a random battle every 30 seconds.

I felt nothing when Aeris died. But I can remember playing FFIV as a kid, and being close to tears when Tellah died.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:41 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've hated FF7 since the first time I played it as a 13 year old. I was a huge FF6 fan, and the first big disappointment was (even at the time) the ugly graphics. The combination of 3D super-deformed character models, slightly higher def combat models, CGI cinematics at still another level of resolution, a 3D map that's super-low poly terrain, city scenes that are parallax mapped painted scenes.. it's just a train wreck, in my opinion. The pixel-art worlds of the 16 bit Final Fantasies were very attractive in their own way, and I could just never get into FF7's mish-mash.

I hated the summons. They broke up combat. Impressive, for the time, but it made me impatient to see the same animations over and over again. I hated the combat. They reduced the number of equipment slots, locked different characters into singular weapon-types, and materia never really grabbed me.

I hated the characters. Whine, whine, whine. Cloud especially. FF6 had a pretty good mix of doers, thinkers, and whiners. FF7 felt like Cloud's story, and Cloud is a fucking weiner.

I've gone back to both FF6 and Chrono Trigger, and enjoyed both. They're both adolescent stories, but the gameplay and the graphics are charming enough to carry them. FF7 just never got to a point in either department to bypass its story. I think the furthest I've gotten is Aeris dying (maybe not even that), before I became bored and disenchanted with the game. I've considered going back to it to try to understand why everyone loves it, but (as the article mentions) I can't see myself sinking 60 hours into a grind-a-thon.

So I'm actually a little wistful reading this, since I feel like I missed out on FF7 and will never capture its apparent magic. I actually replay two of my favorite PS1 titles (Symphony of Night and Final Fantasy Tactics) once every five years or so, and those games hold up... I don't know, the only game I can really think of that hits the same emotional notes is Morrowind, where I have really fond memories of playing it, but because I've worn the game down to its treads I can't revisit it, especially since the combat is NOT the compelling part of the game, and knowing even a little bit about certain exploits makes it really hard to play straight. Morrowind is probably always going to have to be a game that sits in a certain point of my life, and something I'll never come back to.

Its impact was certainly massive and it was incredibly fun and cool and awesome at the time it came out. But that, I think, is because proper storytelling in video games simply did not exist on consoles before the ps came out. The advent of cd-roms and the architecture of a 32 bit console allowed it to be the first jrpg to have a scene be explained by character motion (a little bit) and dialog that extended beyond nonsense like "you spoony bard!" and other wide-eyed exhortations about crystals and the end of the world.

I disagree. Cinematic storytelling, perhaps, but sprites and 16 bit architecture were doing all of that work in the original Final Fantasy games, the Metroid series (which is a direct analog to Alien, and has a pretty firm story), the Zelda series, and quite a bit more.
posted by codacorolla at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you want to know some details about why FF7 is the way it is, a fellow over on YouTube did a couple videos on the guts of FF7, why it's important to the PS1 platform and history, and uses the game to explain some of the interesting wrinkles about the PS1 hardware: part 1 and part 2. (I think that part 2 is more interesting than part 1, but I'm also a hardware and embedded software engineer.)
posted by introp at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Re: FFVI. The GBA version has a much more coherent translation, suddently a lot more story points ...made sense? People spoke like people? But it was missing some of the bonkers word choice and ....very individual expressions the SNES translation had.

I only beat the Extra dungeon they put in cause I was stuck on an airport layover for four hours and did the "walk around dinosaur island until everyone is at level 99" thing to the point where I didn't even need to look at the game, I could grind while reading a magazine.
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


See, to me, the non-random battles of Chrono Trigger almost improve replay. They feel like scenes from my favorite show, and they all have a bit of personality to them, almost. You can play them slightly differently and experiment with patterns. Compared to random encounters, where each area tends to have four or five different enemy patterns at most and you just play them over and over during the same game instead of having them be a clear time-progression pattern... I dunno.

But then, Chrono Trigger has always been the apex of the form for me. FFVI is close behind, but FFVI does not have Marle and Lucca, Magus, or Lavos and its terrible phlegm problem.
posted by Scattercat at 11:45 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


FF IX was the game of my childhood. In all rights it should have been X but we never got a ps2. After FFIX all the previous games were so dark I couldn't get along with the characters. VI was pretty good though, and I'll happily say that I enjoyed XII.

I think VII was genre changing, but I was born late enough that by the time I played these games the genre had changed, and it's flaws were more obvious.

I'll also sing the praises of the Breath of Fire series and Grandia.
posted by Braeburn at 11:47 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Final Fantasy VI and I honestly think it’s a better game than VII (and, well, I’ve been known to use the pseudonym operafloozy from time to time). But I think I’m still more fannish about VII. I think it’s the imperfections, the way that the characters and stetting are sketched out. I want to know more about what happened in the Final Fantasy VII universe thirty years ago, or a millennia ago. I want to know where Nananki found other Nanankis to have little Nananki cubs, and what his childhood was like. And what was that like – did there used to be other sentient non-monster non-humans around?

I’m a hell of a lot less interested in Vincent now, though. He’s the worst.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:50 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I played the hell out of FFVII in middle school, doing all the optional everything. I had nearly finished doing All The Things when a friend from down the street desperately wanted to replay the scene early on where Cloud has to go cross-dressing, for some reason.

"Sure, go ahead, just don't save over my game."

She saved over my game.

All these years later and I'm still not over it.
posted by pemberkins at 12:03 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now that I'm thinking about old RPGs that I've loved, while Xenogears is my favorite RPG, it's neither the one that got me into the genre nor has it really had the most personal impact.

I started with Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System. I still play it every once in a while (thank you, Nintendo Virtual Console!), though I find having to refer to the manual as to what the spells do and make actual maps of the dungeons just as tedious as I did as a kid. Moreso, in fact, since, as a child, the whole experience was at least new to me. On the positive side, I still think the multiple planets, overall art style, and first-person dungeon design were fantastic, though that might be the nostalgia talking. Also, I think it was the first game I played where the main character was a woman. I've honestly still never completed the game, however.

It's difficult to choose the RPG with the most personal impact, though I can narrow it down to two: Secret of Mana and Phantasy Star IV. Secret of Mana's combat system, while not turn-based, was wonderful -- the trigger button menu systems made for nice, fluid combat that still gave one many menu options. And everything was cute, which is always a plus for me. The flammie drum opened up the world in a wonderful way and it felt like a well-timed advancement. I have played through Secret of Mana more times than any other RPG, and it really never gets old.

With Phantasy Star IV, the combat and overall art style had the same feel as the first Phantasy Star. The same sorts of weapons worked in generally the same sorts of ways, though there was now a greater variety of weapons, armors, and spells. It still had multiple planets, which was great. I found the plot more engaging than other RPGs of the time, and the death of Alys affected me much more than the death of Aeris. Alys was the most powerful fighter in the game at that point, the only character who could use boomerangs (where the normal attack hits all enemies -- a bit later you eventually find another character who can use them, but it takes a while), and Alys' death was slow. Mortally wounded by one of the main baddies, she's left in the care of some NPCs while you have to go and continue trying to save the solar system. Later you return to her with a powerful wizard (I think Rune was some kind of wizard), find that her condition is much worse, and plead with him to save her life. And she dies. And you're left without the most powerful fighter you've had since the beginning. And it's devastating, much worse than the death of Aeris. And her grave is a place on the map.

So, maybe Phantasy Star IV did have the most impact on me after all.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


FF6 FTW. I don't know how anyone had any tears left after the Celes Opera House scene.
posted by triage_lazarus at 12:06 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


My family skipped the PSX generation of consoles, so I never played VII, VIII, or IX. The first time I played VII was when when I got my PS3; even then, I don't think I've played more than 15 hours. The controls are awkward, the graphics annoying, and everything takes forever. It didn't help that it is the only video game that has ever given me a headache just from playing it -- although, it's possible that it was a weird effect with the then newly-prescribed seizure medication.

IV and VI are still favorites, but I have to hold up V as a wonderful hidden gem (thanks FJF!).
posted by bonje at 12:12 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, I forgot about X. I liked the setting for that one the most, I think. I see it has been remastered. Might have to turn the clock back and pretend to be an unemployed n'ere-do-well again (employed now). Maybe I will finish it this time.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:24 PM on February 25, 2015


I often think of Phantasy Star IV as something of a lost classic. It seems like most people simply never played it. I only finally played it on an emulator in 2004, and consider it as great as any of the classic SNES Final Fantasies.
posted by naju at 12:25 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, this, re: Phantasy Star: "It feels so important to me that Phantasy Star is just a girl in a headband and her cat going and defeating all evil"
posted by naju at 12:30 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I only beat the Extra dungeon they put in cause I was stuck on an airport layover for four hours and did the "walk around dinosaur island until everyone is at level 99" thing to the point where I didn't even need to look at the game, I could grind while reading a magazine.

The Auto-Battle feature they've added to the remakes (at least in the mobile ports) brings the games even closer to parodies like Progress Quest. Confusingly, the feature seems to be implemented differently in each port (sometimes it allows you to specify which command is the auto-battle command, and sometimes it just uses the last-issued command), but the effect is the same... go to an area where battles are sufficiently rewarding but not so challenging that your characters run risk of death, turn auto-battle on and randomly walk around the area, watch the exp and gil roll in while you do something else. (I remember when originally playing FFVI I took advantage of the Lete River loop and the controller memory command and just left the game running all day once with a rock pressing the A button on the controller to grind through hours of battles while Banon's Health ability kept the rest of the party alive. Effectively the same thing.) It's pretty easy to do this even in the Dino Forest; the only thing that throws a curveball is the brachiosaur, and even that becomes a non-issue once your characters get high enough.

I started that bonus dungeon but rapidly lost patience with it when it became clear it was another Phoenix Cave deal. Wasn't a fan of the latency all the party-switching introduced.
posted by Kosh at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's pretty refreshing to hear someone actually say that ffvii is bad.

What? No. It's tiresome. Every week dozens of nerds "realize" that FFVII is "actually really bad" and write things just like this. We were almost just starting to get to a place where we can recognize that, yeah, FFVII, like most of Squaresoft's library, is pretty good and well made and does a lot of good things that modern games should maybe remember or take inspiration from, but no, it's not perfect, it's maybe a bit messier than a lot of its cousins and it's definitely a PlayStation RPG from 1997 with all that that entails. This is leaving aside all the other issues with talking about JRPGs in 2015 (like, when is gamer culture just going to admit that it's really super attracted to Tidus and that that's totally okay and doesn't automatically take away your cishet masculinity card because my god just google "final fantasy" and look at forum threads it is so cringingly obvious).

Now we have to start all over. Thanks a lot, guys.
posted by byanyothername at 12:40 PM on February 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


None of the games people think of when they say Final Fantasy -- the one with the light warriors, the one with Cecil, the one with the evil tree, the one with Kefka, etc. -- require any grinding whatsoever.

But you can't get through without fighting a bunch of pretty repetitive random encounters, which for many of us is tantamount to grinding. And I think most people feel compelled to put in extra work to build up their characters/get the top tier items etc. on a first playthrough because they don't know what's actually going to be sufficient to win - but to be fair that happens in lots of games.
posted by atoxyl at 12:44 PM on February 25, 2015


My thought on VII has always been that it so revered for two reasons: novelty and nostalgia. The jump to 3D was huge at the time, making it very impressive from a novelty perspective. This ties in to nostalgia because I believe many people were drawn to the franchise because of this novelty, making VII their first FF. The memory of this singular experience sticks in people's minds.

My first FF was VIII. To this day, I love that game (nostalgia). But I went back to VII after I beat IX and X. I couldn't have been more disappointed with VII. The graphics and storytelling were much improved in later FF iterations imo. But novelty and nostalgia keeps that FF7 train rolling for most people.
posted by ChipT at 12:59 PM on February 25, 2015


Do... Re.... Mi... Ti... La...
Do... Re... Mi... So... Fa.... Do... Re.... Do...


I had the PC version, and at the time, for some reason, decided in the middle of playing CD1 to watch the video files on the CD-ROM outside the game, in Windows. Saw what was going to happen to Aeris before I got to that point in the story. Spoiled that for myself, so it's not nearly as special to me as it is for other people.

Instead it's Marlene's "Papa!". The scene at the end with the airship — the quiet, except for the wind. Everyone going off, just Tifa staying with Cloud. Gold Saucer. All the mini-games. The sub-hunting game as mentioned above, and of course the Chocobo breeding and racing. I didn't like the article very much, but this bit made me laugh:
The greatest connection I felt in that original playthrough was not to Aeris or Cloud or the third corner of our love triangle, a sportswear enthusiast named Tifa; it was to my golden chocobo, a majestic ostrich that I gallivanted across the globe atop and who cost me only a few dozen hours of meticulously researched effort.

Mideel. Do you remember when Tifa ran into the clinic, and found Cloud in the next room, in the wheelchair? The music in that scene?

The little girl you had to give CPR to, with the lung meter. The dolphin jump.

The parade! Having to blend into the parade, making the moves at just the right time.

The basketball game in Gold Saucer.

Yuffie stealing all your materia.

Jessie wiping the dirt off Cloud's face at the beginning.

When they were all gathered outside the gates of Midgar. That scene was just so fucking beautiful. (Nobuo Uematsu's music.)

Driving the little buggy to Junon.

Why Cloud knew what happened to Tifa, but Tifa did not remember him there.

The Fort Kondor battle. (The FFVII world was so full of all these fun mini-games of incredible variety. The snowboarding game with the balloons!)

The lovely, muted ending. Meteor breaking through Holy, and then, Aeris's face from the beginning, and the Lifestream. Marlene.

Aeris being there right at the start of the game. The foreshadowing. Camera pulls up and out to show Midgar, the title, and then the train, and we're right into the action.

Flowers Blooming In The Church. Meeting Aeris in the flowerbed.

Being with Aeris in the abandoned playground, talking about Zack.

Tifa leaning her head on Cloud's shoulder, the airship scene near the end. (Did it happen? Or did I imagine it?)

Cait Sith.

The date! I never did get to see the date with Tifa, Yuffie or Barrett, because even though I knew how to, I could never bear to be horrible to Aeris.

Playing the piano. You could just go there and play. You had chords! You could play I IV and V, if I remember right.

A hundred other moments like that. You know how when you're in love with someone, and people point out what's bad about them, and you don't even care. It just doesn't matter.

I'm too old for misunderstood Cloud now. Barrett was a stereotype, though the story cared about him the same way it cared about everyone else. Him and Marlene. (And him and Dyne).

What the article called (half-jokingly, I think) its "pro-terrorist agenda", that only occurred to me after 9/11. (The story did, if I remember correctly, confront Barrett briefly on this at some point (was it Reeve?), but not enough. It's not Metal Gear Solid with Snake and the Sorrow.)

There are various things about it I'm too old to love without reservation now, the way I did when I was a teenager.

But for many people like myself who love FFVII, it's the warmth. That warmth that is also there for me in parts of FFVIII (and interestingly enough, the Youtube series "Video Game High School", which feels very FFVIII to me), FFX (To Zanarkand is such a fucking beautiful piece of music), and parts of FFVI (Celes and Terra), even though these other games did not move me nearly to the same extent. But FFVII was the one where I cared about the characters enough that random encounters were not even a chore. I liked watching Aeris in my party, doing her thing. Especially as I knew what was going to happen to her. But it was the same with everyone. I cared about the characters. I would happily spend any amount of time now, doing random battles in FFVII, if I had the time. If my Playstation weren't broken, if my PC version of FFVII would work on even Windows XP (I'm too wary of malware to download the patches). It just makes me feel at peace.

A large part of it is Nobuo Uematsu's music, which I still listen to, sometimes when I'm doing work and need something to help me concentrate, sometimes when I am in the pits of depression and need terribly to remember what that warmth felt like. It calms me like nothing else, makes me feel the world is a place where they are kind people in it. Which is what it did for me, when I was a teenager. I felt like if there were people in the world who made this, there were still good people in it. One of my major things I want to do with my life is still to reproduce that feeling that I got with FFVII, and give it to other people. It doesn't look like I'm going to be a game designer now, but maybe someday I can do it in another field in some small way. Many people have a book or film or album that in some way saved their life or was formative for them. FFVII was mine.
posted by catchingsignals at 1:02 PM on February 25, 2015 [36 favorites]


I was a PCRPG guy from when I was (very) little and didn't have any console for a long time. But I did have access to NES and SNES emulators, so I managed to acquire formative memories of FFVI and Chrono Trigger six or seven years after most people were doing that. Secret of Mana too for sure - I remember I had almost won when our hard drive died and I was devastated. I was always kind of fascinated with the soap epic stories of FFVII - or even more so Metal Gear Solid - as related by my peers, though. And I have one vivid memory of PSX-era Final Fantasy, which is when my friend got a CD with that FFVIII demo - I've definitely talked to other people who remember this - with the invasion sequence and the amazing theme music which I don't believe made it into the final game. So I totally get why these blew people away at the time - even though I know the real version of VIII was considered a disappointment at the time.
posted by atoxyl at 1:02 PM on February 25, 2015


> And I think most people feel compelled to put in extra work to build up their characters/get the top tier items etc. on a first playthrough because they don't know what's actually going to be sufficient to win

This. The balance of so many of these games has been way off... if there was one thing you forgot to level up or acquire or whatever, you would be absolutely PUNISHED for it - or you would be cast into battle with something that was only vulnerable to one specific thing. Sometimes, you would have to backtrack a ridiculous amount or load a much earlier save to resolve it - so you were effectively punished for not knowing the very specific thing you needed.

The approach that worked consistently was to level up and get all the things so you could just crush everything. FF7 encouraged this - if i'm remembering correctly, literally every item was equippable or usable mid-combat, with the exception of shifting materia around... The only penalty for being ill-equipped for that particular battle - if you had the correct equipment in storage - was a turn.

(I have to admit that I really did love the materia system and the way things interacted there, though)

There were some battles that came down to what strategy you should use for the team you have, but there were certainly others that required you to prepare items and a team specific to the battle that would come without a great way of knowing in advance. These were often punishing in ways that made things "not fun."

I'm convinced that this was, in part, to sell the "Official Strategy Guides" as well.

I've found myself drawn towards procedural generation in games -- I like that it is generally impossible to make a "A-Z" walkthrough for them... the strategy guides and FAQs are actually focused on strategies, not just "here's the widget you need to get now so you won't want to punch someone 15 hours later" or "here's the hidden game breaking thing"
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:03 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is also, crucially, the only FF to my knowledge that lets the player turn off random encounters which is just wonderful.

X does as well, but it makes you wait until near the end. VIII is so...flexible. I liked that a lot, as well as Yusuke Naora's clean, shiny post-postapocalyptic Techno Europe aesthetic. It does a lot of interesting things well, and is so undemanding, but I think that went largely unnoticed because it tries to scare you off with convoluted-sounding mechanics that actually boil down to, "Don't forget to feed your pets. If you want. Like, whenever you feel it, no rush."

filtered through a Japense aesthetic

And Hawaiian! IX was the only game in the series to be co-developed with Square's US branch. Here's an enormous collection of prerendered backgrounds and concept art from the American artists; it's interesting how a lot of these are more detailed than the PlayStation could really render. Most of those are on the more mundane side, though; I really prefer Christian Lorenz Scheurer's much more whimsical and colorful artwork.

This and this are still my favorite writeups on Final Fantasy VII. It's interesting how wrongly everyone remembers it; there's some of that in this thread. Most people remember Cloud as a Smiths-listening gloomball moper, but that's Fanbase Cloud. In-game Cloud is a goofy weirdo who says, "Let's mosey," mourns his not-girlfriend by snowboarding and gets super into crossdressing on a whim.

As long as I'm rambling, there's something else I've always liked which seems to have been totally overlooked. Tifa and Aeris. I'm not super huge on either design, but they do something interesting that I've thought of as a kind of feminist experiment for a while. Tifa more or less looks like a stripper, but her character in the script is shy, withdrawn, nursing an honestly pathetic crush on Cloud from afar. We're never really told about any past relationships she might have, and Cloud never really reciprocates no matter what you do. It's easy to imagine her life as lonely. By contrast, Aeris looks like a Sunday school girl, but her character is a lot more extroverted. She's impulsive, loud and open about past relationships. She's way super forward about being attracted to Cloud, and you have the sense that he's more into her than she is into him.

Now. How does everyone remember these characters: as they're written, or as they look?
posted by byanyothername at 1:03 PM on February 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


FFVI for me. Oh, Kefka. Oh, ghost train.

I didn't play FFVII until way after its release (2002) and it just had nothing for me. I tore through the game just to say I'd finished it, but because I hadn't levelled enough, I had to use someone else's save to beat it. Meh.
posted by minsies at 1:08 PM on February 25, 2015


Just wanted to say XENOGEARS 4 LIFE

Mechanics aside, what a crazy fucking mishmash of religion, scifi, gnosticism, and philosophy, the plot and setting was. The Platonic ideal of "Eastern and Western ideas in a blender" 90s JRPG stories.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:15 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


True story: I start playing Xenogears because someone told me it was a short game. Ten-fifteen hours, tops. I didn't realize he was joking.

I don’t think I ever finished it – I got to the chair sequence where everything just because cut scenes and boss battles, and loss a boss battle after a ridiculously long onslaught of cut scenes. I just couldn’t get myself to repeat it.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


You were almost there! Just a few more hours! Honest!

I'm taking down the names of everyone expressing love for poor much-maligned Xenogears. Some day your people will need you.

That moment when they first get over the wall and see the new world is still one of my favorite video game scenes.

The Edge of the World
posted by byanyothername at 1:23 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Am I going to be the only one to come out in favor of ... FFII, as it was numbered in the States? Surely not?
posted by kenko at 1:26 PM on February 25, 2015


I'm still mourning the death of Tellah. No, don't cast METEO! You're an old man!

GRANDPA GET DOWN FROM THERE YOU HAVE A CONDITION
posted by clockzero at 1:26 PM on February 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


… apparently not.
posted by kenko at 1:27 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


byanyothername : Now. How does everyone remember these characters: as they're written, or as they look?

Great post. I do take your point on fan interpretations but also have to say Square-Enix did plenty on its own in post-game spin-offs to mould these characters into how we conceive them today. Aerith is really interesting in the original game: she's older than Cloud and especially when they first meet she basically toys with him. In subsequent interpretations she lapses into that boring "mystical girl who died who's so darned nice and reserved and speaks inspirationally". I'm looking at you Advent Children and Kingdom Hearts.
posted by whittaker at 1:32 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


The story of Squaresoft/Square-Enix generally is a really great and frustrating example of how little control creators and artists have over their own work, or how it's perceived, in videogames. I always prefer to take works on their own terms, and ignore later cash-ins by subsequent rights-holders. It helps in this case that even excitable thirteen year old fangirl me would find most of the latter pretty dull.

In my own personal universe, Squaresoft just went bankrupt in 2000 and everyone moved on and did more interesting things. Which is what actually happened; but there's still a sharp division between the emotional investment in legacy brands of Squaresoft, and anybody who cares what Hironobu Sakaguchi, Kenichi Nishi and Yasumi Matsuno are up to now.
posted by byanyothername at 1:47 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Final Fantasy VII was my first Final Fantasy game, and Tifa! Oh, Tifa.

I loved how different she was--she she was overly fanservice-y, but she was shy, quiet, and kind of a homebody, which 15-year old me found very refreshing as I was playing the game. I always manipulated it so I could get a date with her. She was my favorite.

I loved Yuffie, too, I loved how bratty she was. She was exactly as she should be. I never really warmed to Aerith, I knew what was going to happen to her and was afraid to get attached. Now, I like how brash she is (and how much of a DORK Cloud is), and I try to forget the fandom/sequel, etc. characterizations, because they take all that lovely novelty and innovation and squash it into boring blandville.

Still, IX holds my heart and all of my video game feels, wrapped up into a neat little bow. It's my favorite game by a landslide, and just gives me so many feelings, all of them mostly wonderful and adorable. Then X, and probably V, to round out my top three.

The music's probably a part of the reason why I still have a soft spot for the series. I got to see the Distant Worlds Concert Series for my birthday a couple of years ago. That was magnificent. Twice, actually, since I was nerdy enough to go both nights.
posted by PearlRose at 1:51 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I loved Xenogears at the time (and simultaneously went through a huge Dark Sun phase...man I wanted to combine those two so badly), but you would have to pay me to play it again now.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:53 PM on February 25, 2015


I have a long comment in the works about Final Fantasy (FF) and its relation to the history of early JRPGs, but it's kind of a text block, so in order to not get in the way of people's happy reminiscing I'm going to wait until the thread dies down before I post it. In the meantime....

He described his hours of adventure in breathless detail, adding—as apparent afterthought—"oh, and Aeris died. She's dead now". I've never seen the cutscene.

Heh, your brother neatly encapsulated the spirit of game trolling at the time. #AERISDIES

Its impact was certainly massive and it was incredibly fun and cool and awesome at the time it came out. But that, I think, is because proper storytelling in video games simply did not exist on consoles before the ps came out.

This is not true. There is EARTHBOUND, of course, and the Dragon Quest games are pretty good. Estopolis/Lufia and its sequel have their faults (esp the first), but in the end, to use the vernacular, they get you right in the feels. Those aren't the only ones.

I don't think VII really has that substantively different storytelling than earlier Final Fantasy games, especially compared to VI, which I think really marks the change in the series narrative ambition. What VII added to that was spectacle. Of course if you're going to compare these games to Serious Literature they're going to come up short (with the possible exception of Earthbound), but so do most comics, or TV shows, or movies.

I was never actually sad about Aeris dying. I was furious, instead.

This is the thing that inspired me to start writing the long comment I mentioned above. Because this is a problem in JRPG design: when the player is expected to spend time grinding up characters, it becomes less fair to take a character away from him for story purposes. What if he's spent most of his resources in increasing this character's stats? What if he's relying on this character for his battle strategy? The Grandia games, I find, have a good solution for this: if a character leaves your party forever, the game gives you items representing the sum of that character's development. You can apply them on a different character to permanently transfer that experience to that other character. The drawback to this, from a story perspective, is, if you get a character's experience items, you know he's not coming back. (Although Grandia also uses that to mask a huge surprise regarding one of its most beloved characters later on....)

I really liked (and still like) FFVIII and I don't really think its flaws are more/less pronounced than others in the series.

FF VIII engaged in encounter monster level scaling, which is a huge sin of RPG design. If you're going to do that, you should instead consider just not having an experience system at all.

Lufia II's incredible bummer of an ending

Hooo yeah. Although to be fair, since it's a prequel, anyone who played the first game knows how it ends....

Everything I've seen and heard of it suggests that it's Extremely Anime in a way that I'd be making fun of all throughout.

This, ultimately, is my biggest complaint with Final Fantasy storytelling in general. Of course anime being a huge industry in Japan this is an aspect of most JRPGs, but it's particularly strong with the FF series.

Tactics was indeed the best FF game.

I dunno, I found it oppressively dour, like nothing happy ever happens in that world, and sometimes incredibly frustrating. (I'm thinking of YOU, Chocobo Flock Random Encounter.)

While we're all aboard the 90's RPG nostalgia train, anybody wanna give a choo-choo for some Grandia?

I certainly will. It's very anime too, of course, but it also managed to capture that spirit of kids out on an adventure very well, you could believe that Justin and Feena were 14 and Sue was 9 because they damn well acted like it every second. And they managed to do great things because of it, not despite it. It's just a lot of fun, and more people need to play it. (And the Dreamcast Grandia 2 as well, although it certainly has its faults, and is in a completely different world.)

I also remember the feeling of "god DAMN it" whenever that swoosh sound would play, the battle music would start, and the screen would distort and it would take forever to even get to a battle that was so trivial.

THIS. THIS. THIS. Twice I tried playing through VII, and twice I gave up shortly after leaving Midgar, because the random encounters on the map just got too annoying with those disk accesses.

Ah, yes. Quad-cast knights of the round, then have the rest of the party mimic.

My roommates would have turned off the TV if I had tried that.

None of the games people think of when they say Final Fantasy -- the one with the light warriors, the one with Cecil, the one with the evil tree, the one with Kefka, etc. -- require any grinding whatsoever.

Well they don't if you fight through your combats like a good little player and don't run away from them. Because that will leave you underleveled.

Also, later Final Fantasy games definitely have grind in places. Like getting that damn Golden Chocobo, or getting the Pink Tail in IV. You might argue that's something the player does to himself, but still, it's making him pay time to get something good.

I never did get all the shock of Aeris dying in FFVII. Plenty of characters had died or were, at least for a while, presumed dead in FFIV.

Yeah, but they all get better, all of them, some multiple times, all except for one (Tellah, who's an old guy anyway). It's really laughable.

(And THIS turned out to be a really long comment.)
posted by JHarris at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I dunno, I found it oppressively dour, like nothing happy ever happens in that world, and sometimes incredibly frustrating. (I'm thinking of YOU, Chocobo Flock Random Encounter.)

Well, war sucks. At the time, I thought the politicking (and I may be remembering more than there actually was...that was a long time ago) was super interesting compared to the genero-world-saving plot of basically every other (console) RPG ever (though of course some world saving did enter into it towards the end), and I loved the unsung hero/secret history aspect, too.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:17 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tellah dying was a bummer but did any of you guys shed a tear when Palom and Porom "died"?

the one with the light warriors, the one with Cecil, the one with the evil tree, the one with Kefka, etc. -- require any grinding whatsoever

It totes does though because there's times where you can lose track of what quest you're on and wind up in places you're nowhere near strong enough for (especially with airships) and then you decide you're gonna grind until you can take on whatever character. I did tons of grinding on the old SNES Final Fantasy games
posted by Hoopo at 2:17 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always thought the...summons? summonses? summonseses?...in FFVII were hilariously awesome, but by the time that game came out, I'd already had my experience of a JRPG blowing my mind, several years earlier. Let me talk a bit here about Dragon Warrior IV, if it's not too much of a derail.

So Dragon Warrior IV starts out with a bog standard JRPG quest in which you are a brave warrior charged by the King with a quest to rescue some missing children. And it's fun enough. But then the warrior saves the children and returns them to the starting town in a startlingly short period of time. There's a plot thread dangling, which he sets out to resolve...but THEN! The whole narrative shifts over to an entirely different couple of characters. Two princesses, in a totally different place.

Interesting!

Now, both the first chapter, and the second chapter (as well as the third) feature your standard JRPG generic "shops", in which you can buy healing herbs and armor and weapons, and sell whatever loot you gather up during fights that you're not actually going to use. And the shops are run by generic little shop keeper npcs.

AND THEN IN CHAPTER FOUR YOU PLAY A LITTLE SHOP KEEPER PERSON. And his chapter begins with a long (seeming) period in which you get up each morning, go to the shop, and strike up bargains with the customers coming in. And then go home to your wife. It's established that his goal is to raise enough money to actually buy his own building, or something like that. And then he does. And then there's some commerce related quest that sends him into a dungeon himself. And then he needs to raise enough money to fund the building of bridge to the next door continent. And having done that, he tells his wife that he's setting off on an exploratory journey into that continent to try and establish new trade routes. And he does! And there's a fade to black as his chapter ends. It was sad to be parting ways with him.

I had no idea, when I rented that game at the video store, that games could do stuff like that.

Aeris dying didn't phase me much, is what I'm saying, I guess.
posted by Ipsifendus at 2:31 PM on February 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


Speaking of! Dragon Quest V has you play through the main character's complete life from childhood to adulthood and finally parenthood, leading to a final chapter where you fight to save the world side-by-side with your own adolescent-hero kids, and it would be goddamn amazing and groundbreaking especially for a game released on the SNES in the early 90s except Enix decided not to give the main character any lines at all, not even ones you can choose, so you're experiencing the "evolution" of a cardboard cutout.

Damnit, Enix.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:42 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ah, yes. Quad-cast knights of the round, then have the rest of the party mimic.

My roommates would have turned off the TV if I had tried that.


In some ways, I think that kind of balanced out the brokenness of such an attack -- making the player pay for it in time. Yes, you could use the most overpowered attack in the game immediately 12 times in a row, but, at about a minute and a half per summon, it's gonna take something like 18 minutes.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:44 PM on February 25, 2015


Tellah dying was a bummer but did any of you guys shed a tear when Palom and Porom "died"?

Nine year old me freaked the fuck out when they and Rydia returned at the end of the game.
posted by flaterik at 2:59 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Great Big Mulp:
In some ways, I think that kind of balanced out the brokenness of such an attack -- making the player pay for it in time. Yes, you could use the most overpowered attack in the game immediately 12 times in a row, but, at about a minute and a half per summon, it's gonna take something like 18 minutes.
Yes. That was always something I couldn't understand in criticism of FFVIII: That in the same breath somebody would criticise that there was no cost to summons and that you could usually spam them endlessly and then complain about the summon animations taking too long. I was all "hello? part two is your answer to part one".

Then, years later on Wired's Game|Life podcast, Chris Kohler was talking about the Destiny loot cave and mentioned that he had a theory about game design: players will automatically gravitate to the most efficient strategy no matter how esoteric (in this case, cheesing monsters as they infinitely spawned inside a cave) and if the most efficient strategy is boring then they will blame the game design itself. And suddenly it clicked.

That is to say, the solution to "this is boring" wasn't "I will instead go play the game as-intended because that's actually engaging even if I get less loot" it became "the developer needs to fix this".
posted by whittaker at 3:05 PM on February 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you, thread, for reminding me that I have the Final Fantasy and Suikoden soundtracks on my iPod. They are making this day go by a lot faster. (Suikoden and Suikoden II are so much fun. 108 Stars of Destiny! Gotta catch 'em all!)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:06 PM on February 25, 2015


My first square RPG was Super Mario RPG, which holds up pretty well, since it's too early for bad 3D graphics, and not really trying to tell too much of a story beyond the usual Mario business. I've replayed it a few times. It's too bad the Mallow or Geno never made an appearance in later games, I assume because square took the IP with them when Nintendo and Square split ways.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I played FF1 when it came out and have played every game, spinoff, MMO, etc. To me 7, is middle-of-the-road. It's not bad, but it's far from the best. It was a nice change at the time from the flat 2D stuff, and I certainly enjoyed playing through it, but I was already deep into the RPG genre so the graphics were the only truly "new" thing to me.

(I do have somewhat esoteric tastes for a FF fan though, as I'm quite fond of the 13 trilogy, like X-2, etc. And I spent wayyyyyyy too much time playing FFXI, I'm being more restrained on FFXIV which thankfully is like 2 orders of magnitude less grindy).
posted by thefoxgod at 3:25 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I played FFVII when I was really really young, and I occasionally find myself having flashbacks, particularly to this scene which I merely stumbled upon, not really expecting it. While I enjoyed a lot of the happier moments and certainly the happier music in the game, there were some fantastically dark details in the story that leave me thinking what exactly did I pick up when I was... 10?

Fast forward to high school, I pick up FF I, II, and IV for the GBA: thoroughly enjoyed those... :)
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:26 PM on February 25, 2015


Oh yeah, before I do dishes, I have to mention that I still find it hilarious that the Don from Sector 6 of Midgar is nearly a spitting image of Rob Ford
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:31 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


thefoxgod: It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only person who liked X-2. Also, dresspheres were an interesting take on the job system.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:50 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Turks, and the music that always precedes their entrance, were incredibly inspired. I fell obligated to mention that for some reason.
posted by ethansr at 3:56 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I used to play these games with something of a scarcity mindset, holding onto all my elixirs, over leveling to make sure I was never in any remote danger of running out of resources. I think the games are more fun if you let go of that, and are okay with dying and retrying. If you'd rather grind than be unsure of your victory, more power to you, and my fun is not your fun and that's cool. It's just not necessary to grind, any more than grinding 99 1-ups in stage 1-2 of Mario 3 is necessary.

fight through your combats like a good little player

I can't fathom playing a game that's like 70% fighting monsters if you don't love the monster fighting, but yeah, point taken. Any game with levels makes it possible to be under leveled.

Setting aside grinding: every FF game is kind of a mess except maybe IV, but even my least favorites have something I love. I would hate II, but the music's beautiful. I would hate IX, but Vivi's so charming. I can't imagine I'll ever play VII to completion again, but materia combos still make me happy, and I will admit I got teary when Red XIII learned the truth about his dad. These games are so sprawling it's easy to find a comfy spot and just nest.
posted by OnSecondThought at 4:01 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I played FFVII when I was really really young, and I occasionally find myself having flashbacks, particularly to this scene which I merely stumbled upon, not really expecting it.

Oh god, what a great scene. The re-use of the familiar, happy music, Zack being so damn friendly and caring and optimistic, and the dropping out of the soundtrack. There's so much I love about how FFVII told its story.
posted by catchingsignals at 4:12 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I put the Life Materia on Aerith before we went into The Final Dungeon and everyone laughed at me...

FF7 was my first Final Fantasy (we never had consoles at home, just computers) and what really got me into Video Games, but FFX and FFX-2 were MY Final Fantasy, and Yuna was my self-id character. I wanted to be Aerith, but I'm just not that mellow and sweet. I'm much more "I wanna be sweet but OMG I WILL KICK YOUR ASS", which is totally Yuna's thing.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:24 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


JHarris: FF VIII engaged in encounter monster level scaling, which is a huge sin of RPG design. If you're going to do that, you should instead consider just not having an experience system at all.

Not only that, but it did it badly. If anyone here is planning to play FF8, make absolutely sure you play a low level game. Seriously, it fixes most of what is wrong with the combat (except that it is boring and unchallenging, but there's no solution for that). Not raising levels will prevent monsters from having a billion HP, so you won't have to dig out those summons over and over, which takes forever (the summons won't level either, so they'll be weak besides). Instead, you'll be winning fights with your nice speedy weapons, which will get pretty powerful by the end of the game (everyone's levels stay low, but your equipment powers up a lot, so you feel much more powerful). It makes fighting vastly less tedious, even if you do have to carefully make sure to watch enemy HP so you can hit them with card to take them out (which converts them to a card and doesn't give you any exp, so you don't gain levels).
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:40 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wanted to be Aerith, but I'm just not that mellow and sweet.

I didn't get the impression that Aerith was mellow and sweet! :)
posted by catchingsignals at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2015


Yeah, but they all get better, all of them, some multiple times, all except for one (Tellah, who's an old guy anyway). It's really laughable.

Yeah, FFIV was a little silly in this respect (among others--how many times is Kain going to be mind controlled?). This is admittedly somewhat of a replay of Tellah vs. Golbez, but I found Galuf's death in FFV genuinely moving (in a game that's otherwise sort of lacking in narrative compared to both its predecessor and its sequel). You spend much more time with Galuf in your party since the playable characters in FFV never change (up until this point, and then the game compensates you by giving you a character with his stats and job abilities), so it hits harder, and the scene where he dies is a good one.

AND THEN IN CHAPTER FOUR YOU PLAY A LITTLE SHOP KEEPER PERSON.

Taloon/Torneko's chapter in DQIV is the best. I remember being a kid, renting the NES version from Blockbuster, and having so much fun with that that I would've been fine if it had been the whole game. He was such an endearing character.

I would hate II, but the music's beautiful.

If the only reason for Final Fantasy II's existence (and I actually enjoyed it, even though it's probably the most flawed game in the series by a longshot--I appreciated seeing the early genesis of the series' more story-oriented entries there) was to allow for Scene VII of the Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite, I'd be okay with that.
posted by Kosh at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is this where I admit that XII is my favorite because there's no doofy romance and there isn't any going to another damn screen to fight?
BASCH LIVES
posted by Lemmy Caution at 4:43 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Staying low level is the power gaming technique in FFVIII, especially in conjunction with Triple Triad. That's definitely one way to go if you want to break the game over your knee. Mod Ifrit's card and sell the Elem Atk-Js for cash to buy Tents and convert those into Curaga for your HP junction, mod the Quistis card for Triple for your STR junction, mod the Zell card and mod the resulting Hyper Wrists to put STR+60% on your GFs. Then Squall, Zell, and Irvine can all do eleventy million damage every turn by spamming limit breaks.

You can also just play normally, though. Like, VIII is probably the easiest game in the series -- VI and Mystic Quest are the other contenders -- and there are so many ways to break it. Don't limit yourself to just a LLG!
posted by OnSecondThought at 5:02 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


(RE Final Fantasy Tactics): Well, war sucks.

No, let's be accurate here. Flocks of rampaging random Chocobos suck. The story combats weren't bad, but those damn fluffy idgits made me throw down my controller in disgust. They healed all their fluffy birdie hit points back to maximum every damn turn. Chocobos are basically immortal, I'm convinced.

AND THEN IN CHAPTER FOUR YOU PLAY A LITTLE SHOP KEEPER PERSON.
Ah, everyone loves the Taloon/Torkeno part of the game.
1. He returns in the last chapter as one of your normal party characters.
2. If you liked that part, you should look up a fan translation of a Super Famicom game called Torneko's Mystery Dungeon. I wrote an @Play about it some time ago.

(RE: FF IV): Nine year old me freaked the fuck out when they and Rydia returned at the end of the game.

The US got the short end of the stick here, the version of the scenario we got was based (mostly) on that of a version of the game called Final Fantasy IV EasyType in Japan, which had major subquests dummied out. In the original version, you could actually revive Palom and Porom yourself before the Moon with a special item. (The code that checks for that item is still in US FF II, which is why when you go to their statues the use item window opens up, but there's nothing you can find that will work.)

I can't fathom playing a game that's like 70% fighting monsters if you don't love the monster fighting, but yeah, point taken. Any game with levels makes it possible to be under leveled.

The thing is, most monster fights are foregone conclusions. There's no challenge. It's...

...it's something I'll be saving for the long comment I'll post here later.

It's too bad the Mallow or Geno never made an appearance in later games, I assume because square took the IP with them when Nintendo and Square split ways.

If memory serves, Geno has a cameo in the first Mario & Luigi RPG game, the one that introduced Fawful to an unsuspecting world.
posted by JHarris at 5:05 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was just about to start a replay of FF7 — I've been waiting for lousy weather to give me a good excuse to stay inside, but it's been so darn sunny and nice lately — based mostly on fond memories from when it first came out. But this thread is making me think that maybe I'd rather finally finish FF6 instead.

This also seems like a good time to mention Jeremy Parish's excellent-as-usual explication of FF6.
posted by Banknote of the year at 5:21 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the first JRPG I played that allowed you to avoid random encounters was Chrono Cross - and I remember it being so thankful for it at the time. You'd see the encounter, but you also had the ability to just try to dodge it - sometimes it would be easier than others. But avoiding the encounters was part of the gameplay.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:41 PM on February 25, 2015


After reading this thread, maybe I will stop playing now that I've finished the Midgar portion.
posted by softlord at 5:59 PM on February 25, 2015


The US got the short end of the stick here, the version of the scenario we got was based (mostly) on that of a version of the game called Final Fantasy IV EasyType in Japan, which had major subquests dummied out. In the original version, you could actually revive Palom and Porom yourself before the Moon with a special item. (The code that checks for that item is still in US FF II, which is why when you go to their statues the use item window opens up, but there's nothing you can find that will work.)

These are persistent but false rumors. There were no sidequests removed. Palom & Porom cannot be restored in the original Japanese release either. The Japanese "easy type" release came after the U.S. release, and the U.S. version is more streamlined than it is easy, removing various mostly useless consumables and character abilities. The actual "easy type" went so far as replace weapons with stronger versions and the last boss was even replaced. The U.S. version is definitely easier than the first Japanese release (mostly because of some spells learned at lower levels), but not by much, because the quite useful consumables casting Berserk, Stop, and Reflect were also removed. Having played the U.S. and "hard type" versions, I'm not sure the U.S. got the short end of the stick. It's nice to have the less cluttered inventory, and most of the removed abilities kinda sucked.
posted by OnSecondThought at 6:19 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's an interesting question about how you make JRPG combat truly engaging. Costume Quest sort of does it, but at the end of the first one I was pretty firmly disenchanted with the encounters. Chrono Trigger manages to do pretty well, even though many times combat is something I'd rather not be doing. Final Fantasy Tactics does it, but the main draw for that game is combat as opposed to exploration or story. I think that one of the main catches in general, if you're doing strict turn based combat, is to have compelling character building that lets the player mold their party's make-up while also giving the opportunity to break the system over their knee.

The most fun I've had with combat in that style are the Mario RPG games - specifically Thousand Year Door, which I think is probably the best time I've had in the JRPG genre. The active-time events really spice things up, and the light hearted aesthetic relieve the tedium of what is essentially choosing items out of a menu for 60 hours at a time.
posted by codacorolla at 6:21 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the original version, you could actually revive Palom and Porom yourself before the Moon with a special item. (The code that checks for that item is still in US FF II, which is why when you go to their statues the use item window opens up, but there's nothing you can find that will work.)

Huh. I always heard healing items in the Japanese edition were more diverse, rare and/or incredibly expensive and that Palom and Porom were just a trap for wasting them.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:22 PM on February 25, 2015


We're still talking about Final Fantasy 4-10 in a way we're just not talking about other video games from that era, or maybe any era. That does say something.

(For various reasons, FF12 and FF13 aren't really included in the conversation.)

FF7 needs to be understood as the first attempt at *really* creating a 3D universe you could dive into. We're a lot better at that now, as we should be, but the jump from FF6 to FF7 is bigger than anything else.

FF8 is an amazingly interesting universe, and Squall's Dead is such a cool theory as to retroactively make the game better.

FF9 is basically a love letter to Final Fantasies of old, complete with Guguru Volcano of FF1. And it's the one game of the entire series to truly capture how utterly terrifying summoned monsters would be.

FF10's switch from the inevitable death of Yuna to the inevitable death of you was actually super brave and they actually followed through. For what it's worth, this had way more impact that the death of Aerith.
posted by effugas at 6:37 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ah, everyone loves the Taloon/Torkeno part of the game.

Not me! It was my least favorite chapter, and my brothers and I used to laugh at that dude. I was surprised to find out that he had his own game. I guess I'm in the minority.

I was more into the princess who ran away because she wanted to go fight. If you equipped her with the special weapon earrings, she hit twice! I always imagined her swinging her head at monsters.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:40 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metroid Baby,

Swinging your own head at enemies is actually a game mechanic of Ms. Fortune in Skullgirls. SERIOUSLY.
posted by effugas at 6:44 PM on February 25, 2015


Don't forget the massive leap in the genre that Final Fantasy I represented. Dragon Quest was released in May 1986 (1989 in US as Dragon Warrior), and Final Fantasy was released in December 1987 (1990 in US). Most of us console gamers were introduced to the JRPG through Dragon Quest/Warrior, and then we received Final Fantasy a mere year and a half later. It was a mind-blowing progression. DQ was a great game, but it was pretty clunky and primitive. With Final Fantasy we suddenly had a huge, sprawling, varied world, themed dungeons, multiple party members, a story-of-sorts, and complex mechanics. There was a ship, and an airship! And you could explore the entire overworld with it, and find secrets! I would say FF1 represented a much bigger leap for the JRPG genre than FF7 did.
posted by naju at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is this where I admit that XII is my favorite because there's no doofy romance and there isn't any going to another damn screen to fight?

Yes. I thought the plot and characters of the game were boring, but I loved the gameplay. Building crazy automation sequences so that you can just run through an area without any menuing? Yes please. X-2 is also one I liked for the gameplay as well; the developers did some tuning on the battle system such that you could have these crazy fast encounters if you had everything set up right.
posted by bonje at 6:58 PM on February 25, 2015


I have to admit, the romance of Yuna/Tidus was a big part of FFX - if only because it was so natural and nuanced. I could see why Yuna really liked Tidus - yes, a bit of an emo main character, but the whole thing about teaching her to whistle not only is a sweet scene building her love for him, but also has follow through into FFX-2 (which I also loved - dress spheres rule, the combat is fun except for the endless dungeons of lantern monster death traps, and I've played it three and a half times...). It's also one of the FInal Fantasies where I loved every single character in my party - in both games.

I have FF13 ready to go once I get some down time.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:32 PM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Whether it was objectively crappy or not, Square switching to PlayStation from Nintendo is pretty much the only reason Sony got their console off the ground, at least if my group of friends at the time were to be believed. It was, at least for them, the #1 system seller for the OG PlayStation. That's quite an accomplishment, no matter how we feel about it looking back.

In the end, I'm glad for it, since we probably wouldn't have had the MGS series if Sony had pulled the plug after one round. Sega might have kept on trucking, though, for which there would have been something to be said. Not that I would have admitted it at the time, I was pretty mad at the relatively poor N64 library, which turned me into a PC gamer for half a decade or more. I only got back into consoles because a friend of mine sold me an OG Xbox for stupid cheap and I put XBMC on it, so I ended up playing a few games that weren't available on PC.
posted by wierdo at 7:44 PM on February 25, 2015


These are persistent but false rumors. There were no sidequests removed. Palom & Porom cannot be restored in the original Japanese release either.

Wait a second. I am familiar with those rumors too, including the changed final boss. Maybe I got my facts mixed up between them. The resource of choice for these things is The Cutting Room Floor and I don't see it there. It's possible I'm wrong on this one. (Hey, I have approximately ten thousand random video game facts in my head, it stands to reason I'd get a few of them mixed up from time to time.)
posted by JHarris at 7:50 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter, I'ma let you finish, but Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
posted by rifflesby at 7:50 PM on February 25, 2015


As of 6:30 last night Xenogears is still awesome and Citan is still utterly broken.
posted by pan at 7:56 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I started with Final Fantasy with I on the NES, and kept at it on-and-off through X on the PS2. For me, none of them ever quite topped FFIV, although FFVI came close. (I've written about my love for the score.) I was in college by the time I had a machine that could play FFVII, and although the graphics were impressive, I didn't enjoy it enough to finish. Finally returned to it just last year, mostly to try to understand why it looms so large in the hearts of so many. I even completed it, but I didn't (and don't) really understand the love.

But so many of the memories people mention on this thread just take me back: The shopkeeping chapter in Dragon Warrior IV (I rented that game so many times) really was such an unexpected delight. The summer my cousin stayed with my family and we beat Secret of Mana together – full days of not leaving my bedroom except to get food and use the bathroom.

These days, I love Dragon Age: Inquisition. I do. But despite the professional voice acting and the 3D motion-captured cutscenes, today's RPGs are at something of a disadvantage to yesterday's 16-bit fantasies when it comes to conveying emotion. After the dark knight Cecil realizes that the mist dragon he's just slain is the mother of a now-orphaned child named Rydia, a small cluster of pixels move to indicate he's hanging his head. Nothing in Dragon Age so effectively suggests regret and shame as the movie that plays in my own imagination when those pixels shift.

And it clearly takes only 16 bits to really portray nostalgia.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:06 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


If memory serves, Geno has a cameo in the first Mario & Luigi RPG game, the one that introduced Fawful to an unsuspecting world

As well as in Kenishi Nishi's post-Mario RPG game, Moon, as a punny deliberate inversion (Geno >> Noji). And we got Paper Mario out of Square's taking their toys home with them, so: best of all possible worlds there, at least.

I'm quite fond of the 13 trilogy, like X-2

Masashi Hamauzu is one of my favorite musicians, so I really enjoy the soundtracks of these, even though I know little else about the games themselves. Hamauzu's tenure as Square-Enix's sound head is probably the reason why that's seemingly the one creative department that didn't slump in the buyout transition. He did a good job promoting lesser known but incredibly talented people like Mitsuto Suzuki, whose plinky plonky electro aesthetic is just what videogame music should sound like. Noriko Matsueda also did a beautiful job with the X-2 piano album, which is probably my favorite in the series.

I dunno, I found it oppressively dour, like nothing happy ever happens in that world

I loved Tactics at the time, but on reflection this is sort of true. It's still a wonderful game, but has like zero levity and a significantly greater amount of darkness than I think a Final Fantasy should probably have. Also a bit needlessly tedious to be honest.



Okay, so! Here's how you play FFVIII: collect spells, but don't go crazy with this. Don't waste hours siphoning spells from random enemies, just remember which spells can be found at which draw points and return to them occasionally to build up your stock. Feed your GFs points. Read the descriptions of skills and focus on what sounds useful to you. Pass exams, raise your SeeD rank and never worry about money again. Don't level up. Don't play Triple Triad. Ultima, Haste, Aura and the specific skills you get from GFs are your friends. Equip all the best spells to Squall; the other characters don't matter. It's a lot easier to play than most RPGs; it's just very different.

FFVIII is so easy and so flexible. It's the only one I've done all the end-game superbossy stuff in.

Now teach me how to play XII please. I tried and I just don't even.
posted by byanyothername at 9:12 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


FF Tactics basically went from very, very difficult at first, to very, very easy (once you get a calculator).
posted by kenko at 9:18 PM on February 25, 2015


a few dozen hours of meticulously researched effort.

I never got the damn Golden Chocobo, and it still makes me mad.

"The goal we're aiming for is to breed a Gold chocobo, able to travel on any surface, even water. Before that, we will have to breed a Blue chocobo (able to cross rivers), a Green chocobo (able to cross mountains) and a Black chocobo (able to cross both rivers and mountains). How are we going to do that? By following some (simple) steps."

I SEE, YES, SIMPLE.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now I want to know if Vagrant Story holds up.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:40 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Final Fantasy VII was a favorite at my friend's place--which later turned out to be my place when they needed a roommate. I had never played FF before and had never even played a turned-based fighting game, so it was a real milestone for me.

I can't claim to be the world's biggest fan, though. I'd watch my roommate spend hours and hours on FF7, for weeks and months , and then in the menu it'd show that he was...oh, about 7% finished with the game. It always seemed too much investment of time.
posted by zardoz at 9:50 PM on February 25, 2015


It's an interesting question about how you make JRPG combat truly engaging. Costume Quest sort of does it, but at the end of the first one I was pretty firmly disenchanted with the encounters. Chrono Trigger manages to do pretty well, even though many times combat is something I'd rather not be doing.

Chrono Cross does this interestingly, while not adding too much complication, with mechanics that serve its having a few dozen characters as well as not making grindy combat the focus of the game.

You have a spell grid, where you place magic/special attacks that you have bought or acquired. Attacking moves you further up the spell grid, casting a spell moves you down again. So to cast a level 6 spell, the character will have to go through two rounds of combat, at 3 attacks/round.

Rather than having mana or another fixed resource, spells are usable once per battle, and every character has a different spell grid as well as several spells specific to them.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that both spells and the battlefield have an elemental affinity. So, if the battlefield is 100% blue, blue spells will do more damage, and red little/none. Every spell that you or the monsters cast shifts this affinity, as well as there being spells which directly manipulate it. This makes many of the later boss fights into puzzles where you are trying to keep them from using this to overwhelm you.

Furthermore, leveling up is an incredibly minor aspect of the game: after battles, you get small bonuses to your stats, but actual progression in character levels is via advancing through the (branching, convoluted, Chrono Trigger crackfic) story. This means that the characters who you aren't actively playing with still advance, more or less in parallel with your main group.

Enemies appear on the map, and you can, if you're annoyed by the potential of yet another minor fight, often avoid them, with little to no penalty due to progression being via storyline rather than experience from random encounters. Furthermore, once defeated, they are usually gone from that map unless you leave/re-enter, so a given fight only needs to be done at most once, if you're running back and forth through an area.
posted by frimble at 11:22 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now teach me how to play XII please. I tried and I just don't even.

XII is a Matsuno game so "I just don't even" is about right, honestly, just like Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story and Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre. The game likes hiding things from the player (the bazaar mechanics, the interaction between weather and elementals, etc.). For me, XII's best elements were (1) the atmosphere, with great music and your long treks uninterrupted by abrupt battle transitions; (2) taking down tough marks (the wanted poster challenges) and espers; and (3) going places you clearly were not meant to go, especially Nabudis, and barely surviving. Struggling felt good to me in XII, and I wouldn't recommend it to somebody who doesn't want to struggle with tough, delicately managed, barely winnable fights of attrition. <3
posted by OnSecondThought at 11:25 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have just realized from reading the rest of this thread that I was more like 12 or 13 during the climatic return of my favorite characters in what was to me Final Fantasy 2 (why that is what I looked up to find a release date and got the wrong one), which makes a lot more sense with my memory of it.

I'm sorry to have mislead you all so terribly.
posted by flaterik at 11:29 PM on February 25, 2015


Oh my goodness, this talk of Chrono Cross.

I can't think of a single other RPG I played through so explicitly despite the story. Gameplay mechanics? Brilliantly unique (ITEMS DO NOT EXIST AS A CONCEPT). Soundtrack? Phenomenal (with the exception of the screeching violins of the battle music). Visual design? Lush and gorgeous (hand-drawn backgrounds instead of pre-rendered? I just can't even).

Story? OH my GOODNESS what a train wreck.

It honestly could have actually worked reasonably well on its own, had Square not decided to go the Pokémon route with the playable characters and removed all of the vestigial Chrono Trigger ties. Much like Child of Eden or Metroid: Other M, it would have been a perfectly serviceable, if ultimately forgettable, game had it not been saddled with the incredibly high expectations laid on an explicit sequel to a masterpiece.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:52 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The story even works, though, up until the point where you start getting answers. A lot of crazy stuff happens, opening up even more questions, and then the answers you eventually end up with aren't satisfactory within either the world that had been built until that point, or within a larger Chrono context. I would say that everything up to Miguel/The Dead Sea builds up a coherent story, and what comes after undoes all of that.

As to it having too many characters, also true, but mostly because, even with their sidequests, only a small handful are fleshed out beyond a sketch. I'd have preferred it if there had explicitly been a core cast, with the broader supporting cast accompanying you for parts of the game relevant to their interests, rather than permanently.

In other words, I fully agree, and now I'm wondering where I'll find the time to play Chrono Cross a second time.
posted by frimble at 1:25 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're right that the story works, in a way, right on roughly to where the game basically just goes "fuck it, we got nothing" and just throws up a bunch of paragraphs of exposition and then tells you to have fun storming the last boss. If anything, the relatively high quality of everything up to that point, much like the uncharacteristically good climax of Oz the Dull and Terrible, served only to more dramatically underscore just how the lows were.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


catchingsignals really nailed it with their explanation of the emotions that I felt when playing FFVII. I remember being all hunched over in Midgar, and then leaving, and then... BOOM: light, green grass, everything. It was amazing.

FFTactics remains my all time fav, but FFVII is close behind. Some day soon I'll replay FFVI and finish FFV. Oh and let's not forget Suikoden (Ugh EU Playstation store come on!). I liked Secret of Mana too. (No love for its soundtrack?)
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:28 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now I want to know if Vagrant Story holds up.

Vagrant Story's fight mechanics pissed me off even in 2000 (it was a lot of fiddling to have the exact right weapon to kill each boss, and I found the penalties for chaining ridiculously high). I couldn't imagine going back to it for that reason alone. The puzzle aspects were fun, though.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:41 AM on February 26, 2015


Chrono Cross does this interestingly, while not adding too much complication, with mechanics that serve its having a few dozen characters as well as not making grindy combat the focus of the game.

That sounds like a lot of fun. Having a number of things to balance to get your characters in place to make use of powerful abilities seems like a good way to keep the player involved.

On a similar line, I've thought that introducing a euro-game element would be interest - have a deckbuilding element for the characters, for example, where they have a persistent randomized deck of cards that all do different things, and then each turn they get a new hand from their deck to work from. That would make the player have to count cards, manage their deck between battles, and play important cards strategically.
posted by codacorolla at 6:17 AM on February 26, 2015


FFVII has burned a hole in my head that other games almost fit but never quite do. I've played it at 4 different periods of my life and it's lustre hasn't faded yet.

I did notice some aspects of the game were aging a little the last time i played through, but it was taken with the caveat that it is almost 20 years old; what was i expecting?

The world map feels a lot less vast than it did the first time round.

The blocky character models are jarring when compared to the prerendered backdrops (in a way that VIII, with it's other flaws, manages to avoid).

The random battles could get annoying, but usually only when i was getting towards the end of a session and i was eager to finish the evening on a memorable plot point.

catchingsignals said it very well. There were so many different, amazing, experiences that completely immersed the player.

It wasn't the best ever example of each of the things it did, but it was almost unequalled in it's ability to draw so many very good things together. It was an almost complete package in my mind. One of the things that hasn't been touched upon so much is it's grittiness compared to most other JRPGs. It felt dystopian in many ways, as well as just plain apocalyptic.
posted by trif at 7:31 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, I loved Vagrant Story, but the chaining mechanic was a little wooly and a weak point for me.
posted by trif at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2015


softlord: After reading this thread, maybe I will stop playing now that I've finished the Midgar portion.

Well the Nibelheim flashback in Kalm is right after that part and that's where plotting really starts to cook with charcoal. (The mechanics of revisiting the Nibelheim flashback from multiple perspectives was one of the clever bits in that game)

Re: FFX and X-2 - I recently replayed through the HD remasters while my fiancée watched on the couch. She was super skeptical at first but by the end adored every single one of the party members so much that she's begged me to consider a replay just to spend more time with them.
posted by whittaker at 8:03 AM on February 26, 2015


have a deckbuilding element for the characters, for example, where they have a persistent randomized deck of cards that all do different things, and then each turn they get a new hand from their deck to work from.

Etherlords 2 plays heavily with this: it's a deckbuilding RPG with four flavours of cards that you play through. For better or worse, though, it has very strong similarities to Magic: The Gathering, to the point of almost being a clone with the serial numbers filed off.
posted by frimble at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2015


On FFX/X-2: I think Wakka is about my favorite Final Fantasy character. Well, at least from FFVII on. And the Wakka/Lulu relationship was perfect.

About 12 years ago I had a roommate who was in charge of getting FFX ultimate weapons because he liked the tedious tasks, like hunting down cactuars (not too bad) and dodging 200 lightening strikes (the worst). He was also the dedicated Blitzball player, since he enjoyed it more than playing the actual game.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:20 AM on February 26, 2015


FF9 is basically a love letter to Final Fantasies of old, complete with Guguru Volcano of FF1. And it's the one game of the entire series to truly capture how utterly terrifying summoned monsters would be.

I really love IX the most partially because of the love letter aspect to previous games, partially because the music is incredible, and partially because I really loved Garnet/Dagger as a character and her arc with (and without) Zidane.

Mostly though, I love the play aspects, the skill building, and the whole entire amazingly wonderful cast. There's really so much to love about the game.

(I still hate Chocobo Hot and Cold, though. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaate. But I love that I'm still able to beat the game handily without playing it.) I also wish some of that amazing cast had not gotten the short end of the story stick--*cough*Freya*cough*--but alas.

I have to admit, the romance of Yuna/Tidus was a big part of FFX - if only because it was so natural and nuanced.

Definitely one of the better Final Fantasy love stories. It was a big selling point of the game for me.

This thread is making me want to dust off X-2 again, which I've never actually beaten... because it's reminding me why I liked X so much. I always thought Tidus was a breath of fresh air as a character. He was kind of emotional, but I liked that! I found it very easy to relate to that.

On FFX/X-2: I think Wakka is about my favorite Final Fantasy character. Well, at least from FFVII on. And the Wakka/Lulu relationship was perfect.

I was really impressed with their character arcs as a whole. Especially Wakka's.
posted by PearlRose at 8:22 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Re: FFX and X-2 - I recently replayed through the HD remasters while my fiancée watched on the couch. She was super skeptical at first but by the end adored every single one of the party members so much that she's begged me to consider a replay just to spend more time with them.

That's funny. I thought the playable characters in X were lame (except Auron, and that rhino guy, I guess) but I really liked the setting. I guess I just appreciated playing The Reformation: RPG.
posted by spaltavian at 8:24 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Great Big Mulp:
About 12 years ago I had a roommate who was in charge of getting FFX ultimate weapons because he liked the tedious tasks, like hunting down cactuars (not too bad) and dodging 200 lightening strikes (the worst). He was also the dedicated Blitzball player, since he enjoyed it more than playing the actual game.
Once you got the trick to lightning dodges it wasn't bad. On the other hand, I spent hours screaming at my television during my unsuccessful attempts at Chocobo Racing in the HD Remaster and have no idea how I managed to do it back on my PS2.

Seriously, it's the most infuriating combination of obtuse, hostile controls and random events (birdstrikes AND chocobo turning) and you can't restart when it becomes clear you're going to lose.
posted by whittaker at 8:39 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


FFX and X-2 - I recently replayed through the HD remasters while my fiancée watched on the couch.

I spent FAR, FAR more time watching my roommate play FFX than I did playing it myself.

We also hooked up a TV and playstation in the back seat of my truck so he could play on a multi-day road trip, so I probably listened to it more than I played it, too.

That was somewhat less interesting.
posted by flaterik at 11:42 AM on February 26, 2015


FFX had the best cast of characters of any Final Fantasy game. I mean that sincerely. Even when they were being ridiculous. The main character is kind of a whiny dork, but he's meant to be while he undergoes his character arc. Look at the rest of the cast. Yuna is such a complex, detailed character! Auron. Wakka. Lulu. The writers put their heart and soul into fleshing out each character. It's also by far the most detailed world building of the entire series. The lore of the universe is just so completely interesting.

Not sure why the game gets hate from certain circles. Outside of FF IV and VI, it's my favorite.
posted by naju at 12:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


codacorrola: On a similar line, I've thought that introducing a euro-game element would be interest - have a deckbuilding element for the characters, for example, where they have a persistent randomized deck of cards that all do different things, and then each turn they get a new hand from their deck to work from.

You might want to look into the two Baiten Kaitos games on Gamecube.
posted by JHarris at 1:18 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm glad to see all the love for FFX and Wakka in particular. I really like Wakka, but I always kind of got the sense that people thought he sucked. Ahh, validation.

I do find it hilariously odd that such a well-crafted game has a blitzball team called the "Goers." That name sounds kind of a-winner-is-you to my ears.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


GO GOERS!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


So is FF12 really the brutal-hard masterpiece I found it to be (until I coudn't pass a boss), or am I just not as smart as I thought?
posted by GreyboxHero at 2:58 PM on February 26, 2015


Not sure why [FFX] gets hate from certain circles.

I like the game, but:
- Chocobo racing, lightning dodging, butterfly catching and blitzball mini games gating ultimate weapons. I don't mind the butterflies or lightning but these are all pretty obnoxious, and the same sickness that makes people powerless to resist grinding makes them feel like they have to get Caladbolg and World Champion
- speaking of strange compulsions, feeling like you have to switch everyone into every battle so they all get EXP
- no world map
- puzzle temples (I loved them, but not everyone did)
- voice acting, which is mostly good (or at least good for the time), but the two leads kinda aren't. I remember my college roommate and I played this, and he just could not stop making fun of Yuna's voice, especially the "I'm here!" And "I'm sorry" clips (used when she swaps into battle and kills a monster, respectively)
posted by OnSecondThought at 3:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


naju:
The main character is kind of a whiny dork, but he's meant to be while he undergoes his character arc. Look at the rest of the cast. Yuna is such a complex, detailed character! Auron. Wakka. Lulu. The writers put their heart and soul into fleshing out each character. It's also by far the most detailed world building of the entire series. The lore of the universe is just so completely interesting.
(if we can keep derailing this thread away from FF7)

Agreed. I was really impressed on my recent playthrough. Yuna's really well executed and the game really benefited from the genius decision of splitting the story's protagonist (Yuna) from the story's viewpoint character (Tidus).

The PS2 really was the beginning of requiring devs to maintain large and expensive staffs. There were hyper-detailed art assets and the expectation of full voice acting. Both which constrained FFX into a fairly linear experience. But here's another brilliant choice: narratively, they took advantage of the limitations of the medium and its linearity by building the game's narrative arc around a pre-determined religious pilgrimage. Ludonarrative harmony. It feels like a well worn rut path with NPCs lined up along the sides because that's what heavily travelled pilgrimages are.

Contrast that to FFXIII which had an even more drastically constraining path due to the hideous expense of HD asset generation and level design. But the narrative didn't support and compliment the feeling of running down a series of corridors so it stands out awkwardly.
posted by whittaker at 3:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me, FF X was a bunch of interruptions to the awesomeness that was Blitzball, particularly if you unlocked Jecht Shot (which you can do on at least two characters). Wakka's ultimate weapon was the only one I grabbed.

I just remembered one of the other great things about FFVII--the guidebook from Versus Books. One of the best-written guides ever made, equaled only by the Metal Gear Solid guide (which I think was by the same guy!) Crap, now I wonder where mine went, I know they've been well-thumbed-through.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:10 PM on February 26, 2015


puzzle temples (I loved them, but not everyone did)
I would have liked them more if they weren't accompanied with the most irritating, repetitive cue in the entire soundtrack on endless loop.
voice acting, which is mostly good (or at least good for the time), but the two leads kinda aren't. I remember my college roommate and I played this, and he just could not stop making fun of Yuna's voice, especially the "I'm here!" And "I'm sorry" clips (used when she swaps into battle and kills a monster, respectively)
I feel kind of bad for James Arnold Taylor and Hedy Buress. They're not bad actors—Taylor's a vet and voice acting is a competitive business where you have to be good. From what I can tell they were somewhat failed by technology. Reading interviews with the translation team, it seems not only did they have to script and record to match the Japanese mouth phoneme animations but the technical system also meant they had to match the exact allotted length of the Japanese sound files for each line of dialogue. Sometimes they had to use digital tools to make it fit and it's very obvious sometimes ("WithYunabymyside").

One thing I like to point out is that Buress really shines in FFX-2 and I think a large chunk of that is that they spent the money to reengineer the sound file system and also to create separate phoneme mouth animations for the English language version.
posted by whittaker at 3:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then, years later on Wired's Game|Life podcast, Chris Kohler was talking about the Destiny loot cave and mentioned that he had a theory about game design: players will automatically gravitate to the most efficient strategy no matter how esoteric (in this case, cheesing monsters as they infinitely spawned inside a cave) and if the most efficient strategy is boring then they will blame the game design itself. And suddenly it clicked.

This is an interesting issue. In a previous thread I talked about why I like the roguelike Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup and had a little debate with JHarris about how it compares to NetHack. I don't really want to rehash that argument but I'll say a major thing that impresses me personally about DCSS is the minimal but well-chosen list of design principles laid out in the manual, and the deeper philosophy the developer community has built on that foundation. And one of the major DCSS design principles is that the mere inclusion of "efficient but boring" strategies is a design flaw because players will pursue those strategies if they want to win. I think a hardline position toward excising repetitive strategies even if they only give a modest edge might only make sense in a genre like the roguelike, where death is final, difficulty is high and players really will do anything to eke out a chance at victory. But there are other cases where the optional strategy is a legitimate problem, particularly cases where it's not clear what is required to play the game "as intended" as I suggested about some bits of FF games earlier.

There's also a slightly different case that comes up in complex strategy games, RPGs with strategic combat, open world games, etc. where an approach might be overpowered and boring to execute, but also non-obvious, something a player will devise by puzzling out mechanics. In games like this figuring out the system - "theorycrafting" - is a big part of the meat of the game and coming up with a good strategy is the reward for playing that part. So if there's a complex exploit is it a flaw or not? I'm reminded of my experience with Morrowind, a game in which I spent hours stealing stuff and breaking the enchantment system and trying to figure out how to sneak into places I wasn't supposed to go and never actually got around to playing through the storyline, ever.
posted by atoxyl at 3:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Citan Uzuki is my spirit animal.
posted by cthuljew at 12:37 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I spent a considerable amount of time of my internet time when younger as a mod then admin on the UFF9 boards (I was Regentcid, on the weird off chance you also spent time there) so have been well versed in the series.

I was introduced to the series with 7, or, more accurately, watching my cousin play 7 (I learnt a lot of games by watching my cousin playing them. To this day I really don't know which parts of Sonic 2 I learnt on my own and which I learnt by watching my cousin play), so I have a big soft spot for it. I think describing it as bad is.. odd, frankly. Sure, it's not the greatest thing ever, but it, like most FF games (other than 13, which is so goddamn lazy) has such ambition and scope behind it. Those weird little mini games, the subplots in Midgar, taking the time to introduce Jesse (poor Jesse).

I think my favourite is probably 10, partially because of the plot, which I think is generally pretty great, and partially because it's the first and only FF where I actively avoided grinding. I followed the plot pretty much in a straight line, which actually made the game entertainingly difficult at points. I know a lot of people think the final boss is laughable, but for me he was damn hard, because I was simply too low level to hurt him. I actually ended up, after hours of trying, having to gain a couple more levels to learn an ability I needed to win, but it still felt amazing when I finally did it.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:03 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would have liked them more if they weren't accompanied with the most irritating, repetitive cue in the entire soundtrack on endless loop.

I know this is sacrilege to some players, but I spent most of the time playing muting the TV and listening to my own music on the CD player. Unless there were important sound cues, I just wouldn't bother outside of cut scenes. And to this day, I associate Final Fantasy X with All Hands on The Bad One more than the gameplay music.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm sorry, but I have to say this:

I'm not sure I want to know what a grown ass-man thinks about anything, let alone Final Fantasy VII.
posted by JHarris at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2015


Oh hey, this just came out today on Killscreen Daily totally going to bat for FF8:

"Final Fantasy VIII and Awkwardness
"It’s the Playstation’s great cringe comedy."

[…]

"But what makes the game original—even charming—is the juxtaposition of its elaborate setpieces (still among the best in the series) with scenes of social disaster."

[…]

"There’s the part where he rescues love interest Rinoa from the void of space. In a long, dreamy sequence, her space suit rises from the bottom of the screen and tumbles toward the camera, framed against a curtain of stars that looks like a graveyard for every ellipsis wasted in the game’s dialogue. When Squall jumps out to catch her, the game makes its own creative leap, switching to first-person controls for the first and only time. It’s an unabashedly sentimental, enormous moment, backed by lavishly produced music and cinematics, the work of a studio at the height of its powers. And at the end of this triumphant episode, Squall and Rinoa find themselves safe in another ship, and she asks him to hug her: “I need to know that I’m alive!” And he flat-out refuses. He will not budge on the hug issue. It is, somehow, the most unbelievable thing in their entire space adventure."

[…]

It dangles the perfect resolution in front of us, then pushes it away again and again. It is, in the end, about a shitty person becoming less shitty. But that story doesn’t take the shape you expect at all."
posted by whittaker at 12:32 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Aw, man, that article ended just when it was getting good! What a tease.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2015


I also don't remember Zell wearing the Steve Urkel jams from hell. Are those shots from the PC rerelease?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:37 PM on February 27, 2015


Squall's my favorite FF protagonist for being exactly the awkward doof described in that article, but almost everyone in that game is a disaster. Quistis, Zell, Laguna, Irvine, Seifer -- it's reassuring to know that heroes and villains are just as useless and insecure as the rest of us.

Thanks for sharing that, whittaker.
posted by OnSecondThought at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Worth a read for its sheer WTF level. (TW for just about everything.) The Final Fantasy 7 House and the Sarah Saga
posted by josher71 at 7:42 AM on March 3, 2015


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