Final Fantasy VII challenge Hour 10-12: Hitting the wall

In which I find an arch nemesis. No, not Sephiroth. Something far more sinister.

So, when last I wrote about my sojourn through Square’s classic Final Fantasy VII, I had just made my way through the Midgar Marshes, past the Zolom (RIP, Zolom. Gone too soon) and into the mines.

That was a fortnight ago, though, and then, last week, a couple of problems hit me. Partially I was strapped for time for purely personal reasons, which made putting the time aside extremely difficult. FF7 isn’t a game that you can or should play in five minute bursts. It needs solid time to both have an impact on you and simply to make enough progress to make it worthwhile.

More than that, though, I also hit something of a creativity wall. One part of the challenge was to actually play the game, and the other was to write about it.

I like playing Final Fantasy VII. I like writing.

So no problem, right?

It turns out that the muses don’t quite work that way, and every time I’d sit down ostensibly to play some FF7, the weight of time to both play and then write it up to a standard that I’d find acceptable felt like a weight around my neck. Not fun stuff, but a chore that I’d have to grind my way through. I’m already well enough aware that there are areas in this game that will in and of themselves be a grind just to advance in levels without making it even more of a chore.

So I put it off, and didn’t play at all for a week.

This was bad news for the challenge, because it’s not like I was going to get less busy all of a sudden. The last time such things happened was for my previous retro games challenge, which I rather resolutely failed.

I didn’t want to fail this particular challenge, but at the same time this is very much a casual leisure activity for me. Readership and advertising isn’t so high that I’m likely to quit my day job just to play FF7, so it has to be fun.

The week off gave me pause for thought, and I did seriously consider packing it in. Then I thought about why I was playing in the first place. It was because I wanted to, both to play it again and see how its experiences affected me at a much older point in my life than when I first encountered it.

So over the weekend, I broke the rules, and played a few hours through straight, only taking a few photos and enjoying the ride instead.

I found a condor on top of a reactor. Because of course that's a thing that you'd find.
A condor on top of a reactor. Because of course that’s a thing that you’d find.
It's an actual Condor on top of an actual reactor. 10/10 for literal thinking, then.
It’s an actual Condor on top of an actual reactor. 10/10 for literal thinking, then.
Yuffie joined the team, but not before nicking quite a lot of money every time I took my eyes off her.
Yuffie joined the team, but not before nicking quite a lot of money every time I took my eyes off her. Also, she’s quite the charmer.

I found a dolphin. Yay shipfish! Also a little girl who likes Shipfish! Yay!

And then she gets injured in battle protecting the dolphin.

Yep, she's dead.
Yep, she’s dead.

 

Oh. Cripes. I was just joking. She's really... dead?
Oh. Cripes. I was just joking. She’s really… dead?

OK, no, she’s not, and there’s an awkward mini-game to play. Still, this hit me much harder than I’m sure it did originally, given that I wasn’t a parent the first time I played this.

Shinra, Inc. rejects the accusation that it's compensating for something. Totally out of the question.
Shinra, Inc. rejects the accusation that it’s compensating for something. Totally out of the question.
Batman?
Batman? Oh, no, wait, you mean Sephiroth. Easy mistake to make.

I then snuck onto the Shinra base, and from there onto a boat over the seas.

Barret can no longer resist the urge to launch into a full chorus version of "The Good Ship Lollipop".
Barret can no longer resist the urge to launch into a full chorus version of “The Good Ship Lollipop”.

Barret looks so cute in his sailor suit.

It was nice being alive. You know, while it lasted.
It was nice being alive.
You know, while it lasted.

Oh yeah, and we totally found Sephiroth.

Somehow, we’re not dead. Well, not yet anyway.

"I just spent six months on a leaky boat..." (Free earworm. You're welcome.)
“I just spent six months in a leaky boat…”
(Free earworm. You’re welcome.)

And from there, I stopped. Total play time was probably around three hours, although I’m noticing something of a disconnect between its recorded play time and the amount of time on the play clock. I don’t know if it’s pausing for load screens or something, but it’s definitely slower than the real world. Unless that’s PAL optimisation at play?

Anyhow, playing a solid block of FF7 did get me back into the game, which was the entire point. However, it’s also refocused what I want to do with this challenge, which is enjoy myself.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Probably with fewer updates around more solid play sessions, rather than a fixed “one hour a week” death march approach.

As my ailing memory suggests to me (remember; I’m playing without the use of guides, which means I’m certain I’ve already missed LOADS of hidden goodies), I think I’m approaching the end of disc one.

I guess I’ll find out the next time I play, which will be when I feel like it, and not before. But soon.

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