Here we take a look back at how it all unfolded and get the thoughts of the players.
At 14:00 (UK time) on Friday, both players pressed NEW GAME in Final Fantasy VII at exactly the same time. Viewers of the streams remarked on how closely synchronised the two opening FMVs were. Of course, it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Flintlock took the first lead of the race, gaining a little time in the first reactor and more on the train to the second.
My first game over was Midgar Zolom. He was at a really unfortunate position in the marshes, and caught me at the last possible moment before I pressed triangle. Had to reset because he killed Tifa before I could escape. Luckily I had just saved.
A slow Air Buster fight for Flintlock allowed Prince Lex to catch up, and he pulled ahead with a different strategy at Wall Market, getting the best items to make Cloud be chosen as Don Corneo’s date. Lex was able to keep his lead throughout the rest of Midgar, reaching Kalm just a couple of minutes ahead. When he accidentally got into a battle with Midgar Zolom and had to reset, Flintlock was able to close the gap. Lex could only manage 33% in the Junon marching task, giving him six potions, while Flintlock got the much better prize of 5000 gil after scoring 51%, which made things very interestingly poised as the two players headed for the second continent.
Both players then had the same strategy in Corel, which was to steal at least five Right Arms from Bomb enemies, to use in later boss fights. Lex, although unlucky with the number of battles he got overall, managed to steal quite a few of the items straight away, while Flintlock needed many more attempts. That put Lex into a lead he wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the race. His game nearly sabotaged him in the desert prison, as he got into a second battle with Dyne after already killing him once. The players had agreed before the race started to allow players to replay any parts of the game which they lost due to glitches, so Flintlock waited for him to beat Dyne again. He had his own trouble in the Desert Prison, as he tried to learn Laser but forgot to equip anybody with the Enemy Skill materia, meaning he had to do it a second time.
Materia Keeper was a brick wall for me. Although I got unlucky, Lex had a much better strategy which I hadn’t thought of. The lead he built there allowed him to level up later on, making the remaining challenges of the game much more straightforward.
Speaking of Enemy Skills, Lex got a Game Over when trying to learn Aqualung after leaving the prison, while Flintlock needed an unusually high number of battles to find a Touch Me enemy for the Frog Song ability. Despite that, there was still only a ten or fifteen minute gap between the players as they reached Mt. Nibel. Lex was ambushed by Sonic Speeds, who were able to kill his party in one hit per character, resulting in another visit to the title screen. Flintlock had no such bad luck, but he ran into a lot of trouble with Materia Keeper. Mostly through bad luck such as consecutive uses of Trine, it took six attempts before the boss was finally defeated. Lex had a much safer method, which was to use Bio and then wait for poison to take care of things. The gap stretched to about half an hour.
The players knew that the Temple of the Ancients would be a make-or-break part of the game. Although the maze, the rolling rocks and the clock room can sometimes prove difficult, they each knew how to make it through as quickly as possible. The bosses, on the other hand, were a different story. Both players had a tough time with Red Dragon but still managed to take him down on the first attempt. Demon’s Gate was another horrible part of the game for Flintlock, though. After three attempts, in which most had begun with either a one-hit KO or two consecutive attacks on the same character, he decided to level up in the Mural Room. Laser and Frog Song came in handy for dealing with the powerful enemies there. More attempts at the boss were followed by more levelling up until the battle was finally won at the twelfth attempt. Lex, on the other hand, had had a huge slice of fortune, winning the battle on the first attempt with Tifa left on 5 HP. That extended his lead to a whole hour.
Jenova-LIFE was an absolute nightmare and cost me loads of time. Luckily Cid had the water ring, but she killed Cloud and Tifa with Aqualung and other attacks – I think I used 7 Phoenix Downs – so ending the battle was difficult because Deathblow kept missing.
Lex struggled against Jenova LIFE, costing a lot of time, though it only took him one attempt. Flintlock managed to cast Death Sentence on Tifa, allowing her to do much more damage with the Powersoul and Deathblow, before Jenova killed the other two characters with Aqualung, but Tifa then missed five times in a row and the 60-second timer on her life expired. That meant having to go through the whole series of events preceding the battle again, which take a number of minutes.
A couple of pincer attacks gave Lex a close call on the way to Icicle Inn, but otherwise things went smoothly for the two players until the Great Glacier, when they took the same path, via the important Added Cut materia. They both needed to steal a Circlet from a Snow enemy and they both wasted a fair amount of time doing so. In fact, Lex had to go through the snowstorm three times as he accidentally made his way to Holzoff’s cabin before stealing one.
Schizo could have been a difficult fight, but it didn’t turn out to be. With enough ice- and fire-absorbing equipment, it is only really Quake and the final attack that can cause a problem. In Flintlock’s case, the ice head kept attacking the fire-absorbing character while the fire head went for the ice-absorbing character. That made him waste time healing and reviving, whereas Lex was able to just plough ahead with Deathblow. The extra levels he had picked up while ahead in the race helped there. Jenova DEATH was as easy as ever for both players.
When the timer disappeared for the FMV of the train stopping, it showed just 00:53, by far the worst time I have ever got there. The whole train sequence was my worst and most embarrassing moment of the whole race.
Once the Highwind was acquired, it was time to get some Huge Materia. The train battles at Corel were slower than they should have been for both players, but particularly for Flintlock. He only had the Magic Breath ability on one Enemy Skill materia, which proved important when its caster was silenced in the second battle. He came close to dying twice, while Lex’s only problem was a longer-than-usual battle against the Eagle Gun. Next up was Fort Condor. Both players had the same strategy of putting fighters as low as possible to kill the first enemy that appears on the screen, but neither managed to get it right. Lex ended up having to face five enemies, while Flintlock reset and tried again.
One item that gained extra importance in this race, compared to a normal playthrough, was the Cursed Ring. In case you’re not familiar with it, it gives +35 to strength and magic, +15 to vitality, spirit, and dexterity, and +10 to luck, but inflicts its wearer with Death Sentence. When combined with Tifa’s Powersoul weapon, it makes her an unstoppable fighting force. It’s a pretty rare item, though, as there are only two in the game. One is held by Ultima Weapon during the forced battle against him in Mideel. He flees after three turns, though, so that’s all the time available to try and steal it. It’s quite a difficult steal, but Lex got it in his first battle, which he had only a 26% chance of doing. Flintlock could not get it inside his first eight battles, even though he had a 79% chance of doing so. If the outcome of the race wasn’t decided already, it was after that. He had to resort to levelling up outside Mideel before eventually stealing it.
Amazingly, I won first time against Carry Armour. He was down within around 1 minute or so, if memory serves. Most definitely the biggest stroke of luck I had in the entire run, and I was grateful because I was totally dreading it.
With Cloud back in the party, it was time to head for the Underwater Reactor, home to one of the most dangerous bosses in the whole game, Carry Armour. Whether it was through luck or his extra levels, Lex managed it first time, while it took Flintlock about four tries. In fact, it was while Flintlock fought Carry Armour that Lex managed to complete the game – a complete thrashing. Still, he carried on to the end of the game. Things didn’t get any better, though: the submarine mini-game took him two attempts and a fair bit of time, despite it being possible to win in a matter of seconds. Lex had got it first time. The same also applied to Diamond Weapon some time later, after all the scenes at Cosmo Canyon and the Forgotten Capital. The return to Midgar went smoothly all around, with both players using a glitch in the game to avoid facing the Turks in the railway tunnel. The three-stage fight with Hojo was one of the only ones in the race which went better for Flintlock than Lex, but neither player died.
Onto the North Crater. Lex got into a bit of trouble with a pair of consecutive Ahriman pincer attacks, but was able to survive. Flintlock had no such trouble, instead finding a set of Movers in the same area, which were easily defeated for their AP and Turbo Ethers. One particularly luck-dependent part of the game is the area with rocks leading down to the final string of bosses. There is a 25% chance of getting into a battle after each jump, and there are thirteen jumps. Lex got through the whole first screen of five jumps without a single battle, incredibly, and then had only a few in the next screen. Flintlock, meanwhile, got into battles more often than not, including about six in eight jumps in the second screen.
It was quite unlikely that Tifa would get confusion again on my second try, but she did, along with Cloud. The battle seemed lost, but the only things that happened during the confusion were an attempted physical attack from Cloud and a Phoenix Down on Sephiroth!
Jenova SYNTHESIS and Bizarro Sephiroth are very easy with the combinations of Deathblow+Added Cut and W-Magic+Ultima, but both players’ parties were reduced to 1 HP right before Bizarro hit the bucket. Lex than had a long fight with Safer Sephiroth, as he had forgotten to equip Destruct materia and thus had to put up with the boss’s Wall. Flintlock had a shorter fight, but not for a good reason: Tifa got confused by Supernova and ended up killing herself when she was the last character standing. That meant going back through all the pre-Jenova fights, Jenova herself, and the two Sephiroths. When it came to Supernova the second time, both Cloud and Tifa got confused, but luckily his follow-up attack of Heartless Angel brought them out of it before they could hurt themselves. One Megalixir and a couple of attacks later, Sephiroth’s second form was finally dead.
The game doesn’t quite end there, though, as anyone who has completed it once will know. The last player input comes in the third and final fight against Sephiroth. It is impossible to lose the battle, but there are two choices of action: use Omnislash, or wait and use a counter-attack. Either way, a single move is enough. Only when the last damage number appears on the screen can the game be considered complete, so that was the point at which we took our final times. Lex used Omnislash, knowing he had won, while Flintlock used the faster counter-attack.
It’s been so much fun. Incredibly stressful at some points and frustrating at others. When I completed the game I was genuinely sad that it was over. I’d definitely do it again, but far far far away into the future.
I’m glad I did it. It would have been nice to have had a closer race, but it wasn’t to be. It was a great community event, and there has already been talk of other races, which I think I will really enjoy – as a spectator!
It wasn’t a close race at all, as the margin of victory was some two and a half hours. In truth, it was always going to be difficult for Flintlock to catch up after being half an hour behind on the first day, but it just got worse after that as luck really went against him. That’s not to say Lex didn’t have his fair share of bad luck either, but it seemed to come at less critical moments.
Here are the official times, taken at the moment when the third form of Sephiroth was defeated. Prince Lex completed the game in 10:25:34 of real time, with an in-game time of 10:18:06. Flintlock’s in-game time was 10:48:41, only half an hour behind, but it took him 12:55:06 in real time, which shows how much more time he lost to resetting and reloading.
Both players commented on how exhausting and stressful it had been, but also how much fun it all was. It was pleasing to see the viewers enjoying it as well. All that’s left to say now is congratulations to Prince Lex, commiserations to Flintlock, and just as importantly, thanks to everyone who contributed by chatting in our IRC channel. See you at the next race! If you’re not already a member of our forums, why not sign up to find out exactly when that is going to be?