Games I’ll Never Play Again: Final Fantasy VII

GINPA is a recurring column in which the author discusses a single-player game he views favorably, but has no desire to ever re-play after finishing it.

In November of 2012, I saw the storyline of Final Fantasy VII from beginning to end for the very first time. That will also assuredly be the very last time I do so.

Despite the inaugural edition of GINPA dealing with Chrono Trigger, and this second edition dealing with perhaps the most revolutionary console RPG (at least in some respects) out there, I don’t hate popular Squaresoft RPG’s–I swear!

I’m finding it difficult to pin down the underlying reasons why I have the feeling that I will never play Final Fantasy VII ever again. Unlike what I experienced with Chrono Trigger, I didn’t 100% this game. I never bred a golden chocobo, I think I only Mastered one or two materia in total (one of them was Fire; the other must have been Restore), and I certainly didn’t come close to scratching any of the Weapons. So it certainly isn’t Final Fantasy VII Fatigue.

Or is it? I know I didn’t 100% the game because *I didn’t want to*. Not because I was in a hurry to finish the game, or because the main story was so gripping that I just _had_ to see what happened next instead of going on a sidequest, or because the rewards didn’t seem worth it (for the most part I know that the rewards are pretty sweet).

The more I think about it, the closer my radar is pointing towards the grind. I know that RPG’s in general are a grind. There’s something about Final Fantasy VII that seems grindier than other RPG’s that I’ve loved and would readily revisit, though. When I found myself at several points in the game too poor to afford new weaponry or materia, I had to grind for gil. When I saw how many AP I’d need just to level up a materia by one star, but felt that I needed the additional spell to proceed past some part of the game, I had to grind for AP. (Oddly enough, I never felt like I had to grind to defeat a particularly powerful boss, but perhaps that was because the gil- and AP-grinding conveniently resulted in EXP-grinding.)

When I found out what it took to breed a golden chocobo? Hoo, boy–I said, “No thank you” to that grinding.

In an odd way, even the mini-games felt like a grind. Probably because I ended up severely disliking them, but I had to sit through them in order to proceed. Learning the button prompts to march in the ceremony at Junon; doing squats; snowboarding; sitting through a chocobo race; taking control of the slap-fest between Tifa and Scarlet (and come on, really?)… these are all things that felt mechanically sub-par, were mandatory, that I had no desire to do, and that completely destroyed any forward momentum I felt from exploring the game world or experiencing the story.

Kind of like grinding, except at least with traditional grinding, you get something out of it. I suppose.

But let’s take this objectively. Is the grinding sensation of Final Fantasy VII really any different from any other game in the series, or RPG’s in general? Probably not. Final Fantasy VI had its own AP grinding. Final Fantasy VIII had the Draw system, which completely redefined what it is to grind. If you wanted to manipulate the Sphere grid the way you wanted to in Final Fantasy X, that could be a grind. Merriam-Webster’s alternate dictionary definition for “Dragon Quest” is “level grind”. (As fate would have it, Dragon Quest IV is most certainly a prime candidate for a GINPA.) And in all fairness to Final Fantasy VII, you could probably beat the main story with no more grinding than it would take to beat any of the other Final Fantasy games–that is to say, more or less a decent amount that never becomes unreasonable.

Perhaps the lack of desire to ever touch, or even smell, Final Fantasy VII again is because while it is a good game, and one I’m glad I finally experienced all the way through (instead of stopping near the end of Disc 2), I waited too long to do so. During the delay, I experienced games which I feel are superior, both within the series and outside of the series; both within the genre and outside of the genre. That the game has aged horribly aesthetically doesn’t particularly help it, but nor does this harm it, so I’m not considering that aspect of it.

But there are other aspects that don’t seem to age well, where older games in the series–and even other games which intentionally bill themselves as “old-school”–hold up just fine. The mishmash of minigames is part of that. They destroy the focus and tightness of the game, but I feel that if they were designed more carefully such that they held up better today, I might not mind them so much. The botched translation is another–it hindered my understanding of certain objectives, or at least, my enjoyment of some of the plot threads. And some of the dungeon design seems uninteresting today–from a structural standpoint, not so much an artistic one.

Meanwhile I find that its direct predecessor, Final Fantasy VI, somehow stays better-playing, better-sounding, better-designed and even better-looking–imagine that. (Some will argue that it’s because VI is one of my favorite games all-time, but I’ll argue that it’s my favorite because of those exact reasons.)And Final Fantasy VIII–for all of its detractors and the heinous nature of the Draw mechanic–still feels like a more tightly-focused, more tactical experience that remains more interesting and forward-thinking. In my eyes, these two titles have aged much better.

I did enjoy my time Final Fantasy VII. I liked enough of the sights, I really enjoyed Midgar, and AP-grinding aside, I did get a kick out of customizing my characters with Materia as a foreshadowing of things to come with VIII’s Junction system. Some part of me really wants to be able to commiserate with my fellow Final Fantasy veterans about the trials and tribulations of beating Emerald and Ruby weapon. Unfortunately, a much bigger part of me doesn’t ever want to do the work that gets me there, nor does it want to re-experience Cloud’s tale ever again.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Editorials

Leave a Reply