Long Play is our semi-regular segment on the games that have consumed people’s lives. This week, on the day it’s released on Nintendo Switch, we asked Tom why he has poured quite so much time into Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII is a big RPG. Great choice. How long would you say you’ve spent on it?
All told, I reckon over 500 hours at the very least. It might be a lot more than that.
Sorry, 500? You know it’s only about 30-50 hours long, right?
Yes, I know.
Did you, er, did you get lost? Or stuck? Are you a little slow?
No no, it’s not like that. I did the same thing as everyone else: I raced to the North Crater in around 30 hours – and went in, full of enthusiasm, and got my ass handed to me – then spent another 10-20 hours levelling up so I was actually in a position to beat it.
So your first playthrough was around the 50-hour mark, then? How do you explain the other 450 or more hours?
Well, first of all, there’s all of the extra stuff. Once I’d beaten the game, I then reloaded my save and proceeded to do all the other – entirely optional – bits and pieces the game has to offer. I bred chocobos; I maxed out limit breaks; I beat most of the Weapons; I went back to Midgar; I bred a gold chocobo; I got the Knights of the Round materia; I beat Ultima Weapon. All in all, that completionist playthrough was probably around 100 hours.
Right, but that still doesn’t account for the other 400 plus hours?
Replays. Lots, and lots, and lots of replays.
How many times can you play the same linear story? And presumably, you didn’t do the 100-hour completionist thing each time? That would drive you crazy.
For a game I’ve replayed dozens of times, I’ve only actually completed it once or twice. In many respects, beating Final Fantasy VII is the least appealing thing about it. I’ve certainly not been compelled to breed a gold chocobo or tackle Ultima Weapon more than once!
There usually comes a point, when the world opens up, that I get distracted by something new and tail off. Sometimes that’s straight after leaving Midgar; sometimes that’s after the Village of the Ancients; sometimes it’s after the rocket launch. Then the next time I come back to playing it, I always find myself drawn to starting a new game. I just can’t seem to help myself. I love those opening few hours. Getting caught up in that opening bombing run, it sucks me in, every time.
You know there are lots of other games you could have been playing though, right?
To be fair, other than double-dipping on the PSP and PS4 versions, I haven’t actually replayed Final Fantasy VII in quite some time. I think I managed to break out of that loop, eventually, but I used to replay it all the time. It almost got to the point where I’d punctuate every new game with at least some length of run at Final Fantasy VII (or IX, if I wanted to mix things up a bit).
Wasn’t that a bit, er, repetitive?
Possibly, but I was a student, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on new consoles and games, so the classics saw plenty of use. Plus I was sick a lot of the time – what are you doing? You don’t have to move away from me! Cancer isn’t contagious – I was sick, so Final Fantasy VII was sort of like a comfort blanket for me.
Sorry to hear that. Sounds rough.
Don’t worry, I’m better now. But when you’re sick and you’re not able to go out as much as you’d like, out of necessity, you find ways to pass the time. It’s like a coping mechanism. In many ways, Final Fantasy VII probably stopped me losing my marbles.
And I spent some time in hospital in isolation, when I was highly radioactive following treatment – sadly, I didn’t come away with superpowers – with no internet access, so of course, I replayed Final Fantasy VII on my laptop on an emulator. I also read a bunch of books, too. Ploughing through Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy over and over again was probably my literary equivalent of Final Fantasy VII.
But Final Fantasy VII was the one thing you kept going back to?
I guess it was. Don’t you have that one movie you always want to watch, when you’re sick or you feel down? Star Wars or Back to the Future, something fanciful, that lets you forget your troubles for a few hours and live out an adventure? Final Fantasy VII was that escape for me.