Sunday, January 18, 2009

Playing Catch Up - Final Fantasy VII

I've stated before that I have a bit of an insecurity about the games I never got around to playing. Like I stated in that post, I had a Sega Genesis and played the Sonic games obsessively, then stuck to playing Star Wars games on the PC until I bought an Xbox 360 in 2005.

The latest effort to shorten my list of gaming classics never played has been a playthrough of Final Fantasy VII. I managed to snag a copy relatively cheap compared to the astronomical prices found on Ebay and am currently working my way through the first disc.

It's hard to know how you're "supposed" to react to these older games. I've been hearing people rave about FF7 for years now. Everyone wants a remake on the PS3. Everyone's heard about how the game made players cry. So how is someone like me supposed to react? I suppose it's like reading a classic novel, or watching a classic movie. Even if it may not be the greatest thing ever anymore, you can still appreciate what it did at the time. Having said that, here are some quick initial thoughts on the game:
  • I miss the sphere grid. FFX's leveling system was much more interesting and fun to me than FF7's old fashioned passive advancement system. The Materia system is an interesting attempt to go beyond just earning levels, but so far the Materia I have grow so slowly that I don't think about it much. It's obviously harder to go from a more refined version of a game to an older one.
  • Similar to that last note, the graphics are rough. I don't mean that as a knock against the game, but it's amusing to go from the extreme amount of detail in Fallout 3 and then look at the "state of the art" graphics from the PS1 days. It's amazing how far we've come, and how far we still have to go in terms of realistic graphics. It also makes me wonder about the number of "all time great" games like Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy VII. These are undeniably excellent games, but I wonder if seeing these already long running franchises in three glorious dimensions had a larger part in imprinting these games in people's memories than they give it credit for.
  • The tone of the story and characters seems a bit schizophrenic. It's like the game can't decide if it wants to be a goofy lighthearted adventure, or a more serious and dark adventure about a tormented superhuman and the people he's hurt in the past. Barrett annoys me every time he opens his goofy text-based mouth. I think this, along with a somewhat boring leveling system, has contributed the most to my somewhat "meh" feelings toward the game.
  • Why does the game wait several hours to tell you what the various statuses in combat mean? Why is that explanation in an optional area of the game that some players could easily miss? Not even the strategy guide I acquired explains everything. Not everyone has been playing these types of games since birth.
  • The moment Sephiroth discovered who he was and destroyed Nibelheim WAS cool. Dark and dramatic, with the perfect soundtrack to go along with it. I can see why that character in particular has stayed in gamers' collective memory this long.
I'm not really sure how far I am in the game. I've been doing a lot of preemptive grinding in order to try and avoid the frustrations I had in FFX where I moved through the game at what I thought was the pace determined by the developers, only to be stopped short by an annoyingly hard boss. I guess grinding on my own terms is more acceptable than being forced to by the game.

In all, my feelings so far are that it's an enjoyable game, but I'm not finding myself blown away! ( drawn into it like I was with FFX. I do plan to keep playing it though. Hopefully it won't end up feeling like an obligation. My OCD already hates me for not having finished FFX yet.

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