Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nothing ends, Cid. Nothing ever ends.

Leigh Alexander has an interesting post at Kotaku about her problems with finishing games that she likes: the more she enjoys a game gets attached to its world and characters, the more she'll try to extend the experience as long as possible and the less likely she is to actually finish it.

I can relate to this. Unlike Alexander, I do always finish a game if I like it, but I've definitely had the experience of trying to put that off as long as possible. The most memorable time this has happened in the past few years has been with Persona 3 and Persona  4. I loved both of those games, both for their gameplay and for their characters and story, and I didn't want to leave either behind. I've also put a ridiculous amount of time into Just Cause 2 and have yet to complete the final mission, though my hand will probably be forced in the near future by sheer lack of anything left to destroy.

My earliest recollection of doing something like this, however, is my fanatical Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction-esque attachment to Final Fantasy III /VI on the Super NES. It wasn't the game that introduced me to RPGs and made me a fan of them- that was Dragon Warrior- or the game that made them my favorite genre- Final Fantasy II/IV-  but that game enthralled me like nothing had before. I loved everything-  the gameplay, the story, the characters, the absolutely incredible music- and just didn't want it to end. It helped that my excitement for the game had been raised to a fever pitch by the fact that I wasn't able to play it for several months after it first came out. I didn't have the money to buy it, and the sole rental copy at my local video store (kids, ask your parents) was always checked out. And I mean always; I know because I walked or rode my bike up there every day for months to see if it was in. I was eagerly looking forward to it after being amazed by its predecessor and tantalized by playing a few precious minutes of it at the local FuncoLand (kids, ask your grandparents),  so once I actually got hold of the game I held on to it like grim death.

November, 1994: A young John Markley traverses the Chicago metropolitan area in search of Final Fantasy III. While Markley would ultimately find an available rental copy in a now-defunct independent video store, many were not so lucky; between October of 1994 and the release of Chrono Trigger in August of 1995, thousands of gamers who left home in the '94 Chicagoland JRPG Rush would lose their lives to frostbite, starvation, avalanches, and the dearth of console RPGs on the American market during the 16-bit era. 

Still, I couldn't leave it unfinished- I had to see what would happen. More importantly, not killing  my archnemesis Kefka would've set a dangerous precedent. You let one insane, magically augmented jester get away with becoming a god by tapping into the power of three ancient imprisoned goddesses, unleash a storm of cataclysmic destruction that scours the planet with fire and rearranges the very continents, slaughter uncounted millions of innocent people, leave human civilization in ruins, and turn the entire world into a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic hellscape with the most depressing overworld music in the history of RPGs, and the next thing you know they're all going to be doing it. You've got to nip this sort of thing in the bud.

The result of my dallying was that when I finally, reluctantly, decided to finish things, my character's levels were so absurdly high that my final encounter with Kefka lasted all of about half a turn. Attacks in Final Fantasy games back then had an absolute, unbreakable limit of 9999 damage per hit, but when the toughest character in your ludicrously over-leveled party is equipped with both the item that lets them hold a sword in each hand and hit twice with each attack and the item that lets them do a quadruple attack every turn, it doesn't really matter that much.

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