06 July 2018

Love/hate #17 Final Fantasy 7 *some minor ancient spoilers*

I played this on the Playstation 1 sometime in the mid 2000's. I had played 8 a few times before it but I don't think I ever got into this one by myself. I watched my brother play it a good few times so somewhere around 2004-2006 I must have had a go at it. I definitely had it cleared well before 2009. Anyway, it wasn't my first FF title but I believe it may have been the first one I cleared all the way through. I had witnessed enough things to have a decent playthrough and not get stuck.

So anyway I've played through it all the way on the PS and got to the Northern Cave once on the PS and once on the PC (around 2014 according to Steam) and it was eating me a bit that I never just finished the damn thing on PC so in a fit of boredom (and waiting for FF12 to go on sale) I started up yet another file. I had done this a few times and quit by the first few scenes (screw grinding, I thought) but it was only when I reached the train graveyard after committing some terrorist acts with AVALANCHE that I decided feck it, I'm in. And I'll get the other few achievements (I had 55% of 36 done, or 19/20).


^ I had to.

Final Fantasy VII

Plot



Probably one of the best opening acts when it gets going. The entire Midgar sequence is well done. A ton of stuff happens and then you pretty much have to go with the exasperated, confused characters to a place called Kalm to get the backstory explained but there's nothing complicated, nice way of tying the past and present motivations. The planet is dying and some jerk is trying to accelerate the process to become a god or something.



The entire first disc, or Part 1 (PC) is superbly done. You tour pretty much the entire world map in it and the end of this long trek as far as the northern frozen continent perfectly complements the strong start. This all culminates in one of the most tragic moments in video game history, spoiled probably already everywhere else.



The main party is also probably one of the most memorable and has the greatest 'stamina'. 8 eventually revolves around the two leads, 9 has multiple party members fade into the background and 10 comes close to 7 in terms of strength but maybe for the wrong reasons (Wakka, who I kind of liked but I get the hate).



There are some pretty damn strong one-off characters in this and a very small but strong cast of recurring characters (mostly villains). I think it's the 'adult' sort of theme in this game that gets it over so strong. It's not trying to hard to do it it's just kind of a crapsack world and there's so much humour in the darkness it doesn't come off too depressing.



Disc 2/ Part 2 does a really good job of treading through the world again, introducing a few new places to the mix. The drama and urgency never really slacks I can't think of a sequence that makes me groan with pain (oh boy, looking forward to the Pharos in FF12). It's not my favourite FF world but it has it's own unique charm.



Part 3 is short and succinct, basically a few bits and bobs, a chance to do stuff that you missed and of course the final confrontation in the North.



The weakest thing is probably the ending itself, I was shocked at how abrupt it was and FMV heavy. Later on they would mix FMV and game cut scenes together, in this one they have the dialogue written into the FMVs and it never looked great. The quick ending almost, almost justified the Advent Children movie.



Also I NEVER got to use Omnislash before at the end and the same happened thing happened again this time. Sephiroth attacks, Cloud has counter attack materia so slashes him normally and the battle ends. Was delighted I got to use it on a host of normal enemies and some bosses but Sephiroth will have to wait.





Soundtrack

Brilliant for the fact that almost every track is unique. You got to love that. The rest of the games after this suffer deductions in my eyes for depending too much on remixing and whatnot of one or several themes.



Favourites? The overworld/Tifa's theme is probably on top, Aerith's theme is great too. The Turks have an awesome track that plays for them, pretty much any of the Shinra stuff. Rufus' celebratory theme comes to mind too. Wutai, the North Cave, Nibelheim, lots of good ones. Maybe they didn't grab me as much as some of the later titles and there is a dated-ness to the sound quality but good overall.



Oh I remember now - the boss track. *googles* Still More Fighting. Probably my fave boss theme. Also Jenova and of course SEPHIROTH.

Appearance

OK easily the most dated entry I've played bar 6 BUT I still like the look of it. Maybe it helps in that instead of doing a choppy job of creating realistic proportions they did a really good job with the super-deformed look they went with.



A remake would be interesting and now that that's confirmed I'm kind of excite.



They look really good in battles though I thought that was well done.



Less into the FMV craic.

Gameplay

Close to its roots yet separated by the materia 'system'. All characters have their HP, MP, various other stats (Strength, Vitality as physical defence and so on) but other than their limit breaks (power moves unlocked by being hit a lot in battle and a limit meter charging that way) they are relatively interchangeable. OK Cloud has better overall stats while Barret has a little more Strength and HP and Tifa has more of a Dexterity lean to her. Materia helps separate them and are pretty much vital in any playthrough.



Characters level up through battle with experience. Materia levels up if equipped with AP, also rewarded via battles. Materia must be equipped to level up and every character has a weapon and an armour equipped to them, with many of them having various slots for materia. Some have none, while others offer double and even triple growth via AP, or no growth but loads of slots. Materia can be 'mastered' when fully levelled and a new one is 'born', leaving you with one mastered materia and one baby one which you can level up again allowing you to have multiple materia particularly useful with the strong ones.



Magic materia is one of the first you'll get - Fire, Ice, Lightning, Restore all the way up to the mighty Ultima. There are some support/buff ones too like Barrier and Time.



Command materia is yellow and allows access to commands usable in battle - stuff like Steal, Throw and Mime among others. One of the most powerful and useful throughout the game is Enemy Skill, the classic Blue Magic style allowing you to learn enemy moves which are by and large more powerful that the magic materia.



Red summon materia offers the usual suspects, Ifrit, Shiva and so on. Though not a focus of this game, at all, there are some useful ones but often its not worth sitting through the animations. It IS worth it to equip some to get added effects from other materia (Hades protects you from status effects, Phoenix can bring you back to life) and Knights of the Round though it takes a while to get was really useful in defeating the superbosses, essential really.



Also there are purple Support materia offering stuff like increasing levels of health, MP and speed boosts while independent white materia includes 'All' in it which is very useful, allowing you to target multiple enemies or your entire party with spells.



For me it boiled down to getting everyone's limit breaks maxed out, which I accomplished mostly around the point I had access to the Tiny Bronco, even Aerith's for the first time ever. This involved a lot of getting hit by enemies, charging the limits, killing enemies and sometimes just needing to use the limits a certain number of times before I could get the next level of limits.




My favourite place to level up materia is Mideel Island. Those little green bastards gave really decent AP and EXP for little effort at any stage, helping to level me to 99 eventually and I maxed out most of my materia there. There are better places but they are awkward or involve more complicated, potentially deadly combats - Gelnika and Northern Crater. It was much, much easier if a bit more tedious to level in Mideel as I always do. Some materia I had to level via beating the superbosses because they required simply too much AP otherwise.



Side-quests/minigames

There are a surprisingly large number of mini games. The snowboarding one-off game became a popular mobile game I believe. Chocobo racing is OK if a bit samey after a while. There's also the one-off motorcycle game in Midgar. Battle Square is also quite fun and some of the rewards are amazing, including Cloud's Omnislash limit.



There are more crammed in here and there, some only last for seconds and involve button mashing (falling off the bridge in Corel), others a little longer depending (trains, submarines come to mind).



From a purely achievement hunter perspective there is less to do in this game than others, which I welcomed. There are plenty of little missables and one big missable sidequest (Wutai can be bypassed completely) so there's still plenty to keep you busy. I clocked in at over 60 hours for this playthrough and a good chunk of that was grinding materia.



In conclusion

Resoundingly good throughout. It's just so solid it deserves to be praised to the moon and back and I get that there's hatred of it (probably somewhat abated by now) as overrated and so on. It deserves every accolade and more.

Bonus:



^ Knights of the Round beating Emerald for me. The sequence was: Emerald attacked, W Summon KOTR (Cloud), Mime Yuffie, Mime Cid, Omnislash, Doom of the Living, Highwind, Emerald attacked, W Sum KOTR (only one as Cloud on 249 MP) Yuffie Mime, Cid Mime - he died! Took about three or four tries to get the sequence right. And yes, I didn't bother with an Underwater Materia, hence the timer. Got it after for the Materia Overlord achievement.




^ This guy was even EASIER. This was the first attempt. Only needed to use the Dazers 2 or 3 times (I only had 5 from drops earlier in the game) to paralyze him and KOTR did the rest. Not sure if he got an attack in. I did the recommended have two people dead at the start and waited for him to bury his limbs in the sand and then revived and attacked.










04 July 2018

July update 2018

All is well.

Working away still in Medtronic will remain there for some time yet.

Hoping to wrap up online history course in UCC and either do short informal courses in GTI or somewhere or nothing at all. I'm done with formal education for some time but I leave on a good note.

Theo is very well he finished Junior Infants and will soon be in Senior Infants! He is also getting his big boy teeth. We're just trying to keep him busy over the summer he is full of beans as ever.

Got to go to Amsterdam at the end of April and went to Slovakia-Hungary-Austria in June for a week was fabulous. No more holidays planned bar a brief sojourn to Westport later in July and possibly some sort of weekend break at the end of the year with Roycey. Prague is high on the list.

No other stories, mainly playing vidya where possible (FF7 blog post to follow shortly) and occasionally getting out of the house. Waiting until the weather goes to shit to get back on the bike and running in the rain. Can't stand all this sun and heat, too humid in this country for that craic.

06 June 2018

Cold War 1 vs 1 PBEM (CSH vs south) tired edit

While I have been playing AoW on and off for a long time I decided to return to the world of play by emails for the third or fourth time. I first started in maybe 2006-7, was bold, returned, was bold again in 2009, returned sporadically to the Heaven forum until 2012 when I went inactive and subsequently played a few games on the Facebook group until 2014. I was probably at my best in the latter phases but I think I've still got it. Years of experience!

 ^ Created a neat little firing line against these grey halfling defenders, I'm the blue human players in yellow uniforms. A bunch of Halfling riders tried to go out the gates on the left and centre while the battering ram works the right hand side of the wall. Likewise two pikes have stopped a rider on the right hand side - first strike really does help versus cavalry who have 'charge' which makes their first hit extra powerful.

Classic bonus. Started to rebuild a town underground and as soon as your flag appears you can double click on the city and access it. You can actually build units until it is rebuilt, except these are Undead which would not be ideal for me.


^ Scouted out a Crypt. Was trying to get my orange Azrac hero more new items. The Wraith is deadly as it has Physical Immunity and I had no magic items to hit it with, or so I thought.


^ Judging from this screenshot, I had Lightning Bolts from another item tthe whole time. I can't remember what these two item bags had in them but I realised I could hit the wraith the whole time with lightning.
 ^ Starting to injure it. I eventually got him; they are quite weak once you get past the Physical Immunity but are capable of slaughtering entire armies who don't have magic.
 ^ Preservation. My units at the bottom were injured after finishing their fights so I pulled them back. This works well as The Dwarf Archer on the extreme left by the gate came out from behind the wall to get a shot on my weak guys, or at least to get back in range. Silly AI. My other dudes finished them off.
 ^ My opponent. The faces are how his leader relates to each race. All the standard situations here. This is about 30+ turns in out of 41.
 ^ My race relations. Funny that my leader's name was similar to mine! Note how I have improved relations with many races by building walls here and there in conquered cities as well as upgrading them. Wooden and then Stone walls give +5 relations, for a total of +10. The default relation between my human leader and for example the bearded Dwarves is 50, neutral. +10 makes it 60, polite, which allows you to buy independent Dwarf cities outright. Take one, build walls, buy more, rinse and repeat.

 ^ I had a suspicion the game was mine when I was sending Human Air Galleys (so powerful) across the neutral sea between us without a response. I wasn't sure if he started in the caverns below or the surface like me, turns out we were both on the surface (I was in the bottom-right corner, he the top-left).
^ My map control just before the last turn. We were already starting to skirmish all along the upper-middle and some cities changed hands but I was getting the better of the battles. He had a lot of Frost Queens for some reason, possibly to assist crossing the sea. I was looking forward to fighting a decisive battle on the right hand side until he conceded the game. I had bought a ton of units there and was in the process of crossing with the Air Galley, while you can see a solitary light blue dot in the centre right of the map here which was his hero and main force from what I can see.





^ The postgame screen. He said he expanded much slower but which I suspected but I was also thinking maybe he had started in the caverns and had a parallel huge empire, I felt I was doing well but only time would tell.

Love/hate #17 Final Fantasy 7 *some minor ancient spoilers*

I played this on the Playstation 1 sometime in the mid 2000's. I had played 8 a few times before it but I don't think I ever got int...