20. Final Fantasy VII (Switch)
Was the story this much of a convoluted, incoherent mess 22 years ago? I don't remember it being so, but then I was seven years old at the time so I doubt I'd have noticed. But yeah, this game makes no sense whatsoever, and the translation really is terrible, full of typos, non sequiturs and strange idioms that simply don't work (like the one in the screenshot above - surely Bugenhagen has never even heard of Greece?). It's a shame that I'll probably never bother with that fan translation for the PC version. Hopefully the remake will do a better job, although I'll probably be in my fifties by the time they get to the Sephiroth and Cloud cloning stuff.
Thankfully, the game beneath all the story bluster is the same as it ever was, which is to say it's mostly good fun with some brilliantly-realised locations and excellent cutscenes (Cloud coming down the stairs on the bike in the Shinra building still gives me chills), but also with some horribly tedious sections that haven't aged well at all (Fort Condor comes to mind). As such, the option to speed the game up and prevent random battles was very welcome; I certainly don't think I'd have finished it without it.
In terms of the fighting, the materia system is still the best of the PS1-era FFs, allowing for experimentation and creativity. In fact, of the 28 hours this took me to finish, I'd say that I had the most fun just grinding in speed mode, levelling up my characters and materia and decimating everything I came across. Doing so meant that from about the middle of Disc 2 onwards I was hugely over-levelled and didn't really have to do anything apart from attack and heal (I killed the final boss in less than a minute), but I still found it quietly satisfying nonetheless. Initially I had plans to take on Ruby and Emerald weapon, as I did when I first completed the game all those years ago; however, in the end I couldn't face the prospect of spending hours grinding for the gold chocobo to get KotR, and the lack of trophy/achievement support in the Switch version didn't give me much incentive to bother, either. Plus, some fucking enemy in the Northern Cave stole Cloud's Ultima Weapon, which I couldn't get back, so I took that as my signal to just go on and complete the game.
Overall, if you've not played this before then the shoddy translation and frequent quirks make it difficult to recommend, and you'd perhaps be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about. For players who did enjoy it back in the 90s, however, the speed mode and no random encounters options means that the game is still very playable, even if you do wince at some of the writing or grow weary of the sections where it's not very clear where you have to go to proceed. Whether you're new to it or coming back to it, though, what cannot be denied is just how brilliant Nobuo Uematsu's score really is. There isn't one piece of music in the entire game which isn't memorable or emotionally resonant, from the soaring brass of the Highwind theme to the effortlessly cool bassline that accompanies your skulking around the Midgar slums. I first started playing videogames around the time when FF7 first came out, but in all that time no game's soundtrack has equalled this one's. It's just utterly stupendous. The best thing about the game by a country mile.
Playing next: I bought the second DLC to Dark Souls III, The Ringed City, months and months ago but never got round to it, so that's up next, although while I'm at it I might as well give the whole game another run through as I've only completed it the once. I'm hoping that having completed Sekiro in the interim I'll be able to just destroy everything with my master ninja skills.
Pile of Shame: