Square Enix and the No Good, Very Bad, Achievements

by Mike Worby
Published: Last Updated on

Ever since the introduction of achievements by Microsoft back in 2005, this system of allowing gamers successes and triumphs to be shown off and shared across an entire platform has taken the gaming world by storm.

Achievements not only motivate gamers to spend more time playing games than they normally would but also create a social and competitive aspect for gaming, one in which friends and colleagues can aspire to reach or surpass the achievements of their fellow gamers.

However, for all the good it’s done, and for all the fun its invented, the system has been bastardized to a certain extent, most notably in updated versions of older titles. Outside of Nintendo, who, for some reason, still has yet to adopt the system, many publishers have seen fit to add ridiculous goals to the games from their back catalog, in hopes of making more of a “challenge” for games that fans have already mastered.

Chief among the perpetrators of this crime against reason is Japanese giant, Square-Enix. With its mammoth Final Fantasy series being gradually upgraded and adapted to Steam and the PSN, the granddaddy of JRPGs has seen fit to bestow achievements to classics like the venerable Final Fantasy VII.

FFIX

Really? 1,000 perfectly timed button presses? If anyone has this achievement, they’re either a prototype AI or some kind of sociopath savant.

Here’s the rub, though: when a challenge is simply being invented for its own sake, rather than being an original and integral part of the experience, it doesn’t actually enhance the game for anyone.

Many of Square-Enix’s achievements are, for want of a more eloquent term, “total fucking bullshit”. You might think you’ve mastered Final Fantasy IX with your 80 hour playthrough, but unless you took the time to play a jump rope mini game for 20 minutes straight without making a single mistake, or, ya know, possibly blinking at the wrong time, or maybe getting an itch on the back of your elbow that is becoming more and more difficult not to scratch, or maybe that bead of sweat on your brow is slowly trickling down your face and you kind of just need to wipe it away right now…

Anyway, you get the idea. An achievement that requires a player to hit the X button to a changing time scheme 1,000 times in a row without missing a beat should be widely acknowledged as total absurdist nonsense. This is not some international feat of technical muscle mastery, or a Guinness event for dexterity, it’s a bloody video game, and any achievement within it should be a reasonable possibility for players that have put in the time to master its mechanics.

And it’s not just the recent re-release of Final Fantasy IX that is boasting these kinds of asinine achievements, even the port of Final Fantasy VIII from a few years back has problems like these. Imagine, for example, trying to play through an entire 40 hour RPG without leveling up your main character once? Sound like fun? Good, because the game also requires you to push your main character to level 99 in order to gain 100% of achievements! Enjoy!

FFVIII

Final Fantasy VIII? More like I Final Fantasy hate myself!

Neither is this issue restrained to only the flagship Final Fantasy series either, take the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 collection released a couple of years back. If you want to get every trophy in the Final Mix addition of Kingdom Hearts included on the disc, you have to play through the game on Easy, Normal and Proud (hard) mode. Now, one would think that it’s self-evident that if you can beat a game on Hard, then you can beat it on Easy. This is why achievements and trophies of this nature generally stack. Alas, though, Square-Enix needs to be sure you can beat it on all three difficulty modes, individually, before giving you their respective nods for each.

This isn’t a challenge. A challenge pushes you to be a better, faster, more accurate, player. This is simply a waste of time, and asking players to waste their time in order to prove their allegiance to a game they’ve most likely already completed, is a legitimate insult to a their time, money, and intelligence.

Look Square-Enix, we get it: we’re suckers. That’s why we buy Chrono Trigger on the SNES, PSX, and Nintendo DS, or Final Fantasy VII on the PSX, PC, and PS4. But please, at least patronize us enough to let us know that you value our time a little bit, even if our money is in a wind tunnel pointed in your general direction.

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11 comments

John Cal McCormick July 25, 2016 - 1:22 pm

If they bring FFIX to PS4 with trophies and they’re the same as the PC version, I’m going to platinum it. Mark my words.

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Mike Worby July 26, 2016 - 12:53 am

You’ll be an incredible hero if you do.

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Rowan July 26, 2016 - 4:06 am

Sorry Mike, I have to disagree, at least partially! Your premise seems to be built around this:

“Here’s the rub, though: when a challenge is simply being invented for its own sake, rather than being an original and integral part of the experience, it doesn’t actually enhance the game for anyone.”

But I think that’s the opposite of the truth. Aren’t achievements – or rather, shouldn’t they be – built entirely around the idea of challenge for its own sake? If you could earn every achievement through normal (or almost normal) play, wouldn’t that make them pointless?

I get the idea, but ultimately achievements only exist as a means to provide more challenge in a game. They have literally no form of value otherwise, other than perhaps a small dopamine hit. I understand having a problem with the 1000 jumps achievement – it sounds awful – but what’s the harm in it existing? Surely somebody out there enjoyed getting it, and nobody loses out for the achievement’s existence, other than those with self-imposed issues or perhaps the unlucky few with a specific form of OCD.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 not having stacking trophies is a genuine issue, because you’ve already proved capable of beating the game on any difficulty if you can handle Proud. So, the other two are just time wasters, since those capable of beating Proud are just doing the same exact thing on an easier difficulty. Fun? Depends, I guess, but I don’t see any merit to it not stacking.

Other than that, I do have one small problem with the FF8 example. Enemies in the game scale to Squall’s level, which makes a level 1 playthrough actually incredibly easy, rather than especially difficult. The max level achievement also doesn’t specify that it has to be Squall that hits it, though I’m not sure exactly how that one works. If this was the case, hitting both achievements in a playthrough which actually be easier than a normal run, and not even all that time consuming.

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Mike Worby August 14, 2016 - 10:24 pm

My problem isn’t with difficult trophies or achievements, just ones that seem to be asinine in their design. The jump rope example is a ridiculous trophy that seems to be begging completionists to waste their time, as do the KH ones. My problem with the FFVIII example is that it makes the game not at all fun as you would have to play through the game avoiding random battles pretty much altogether in order to avoid leveling up.

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Rowan August 15, 2016 - 12:01 am

Fair enough!

I guess it comes down to the nature of achievements, which is a whole other bag, but I think they have no value unless they’re challenges that exist separate from the main game. There’s literally no value in an achievement for finishing a game, in my mind, whereas one that requires alternate play styles is much more worthwhile.

The jump rope one is a mixed bag, at least for me – while I think it’s great that an achievement exists for excelling at a minigame, the actual amount of jumps is pretty ridiculous.

The FF8 example is actually something I think is a great achievement. It rewards players for trying a completely new form of play for a game they likely know and love, and those that aren’t interested don’t miss out on any kind of content.

It’s all subjective, I guess, but I’m personally a fan of achievements for doing unusual and challenging things. Would you consider doing a piece on what you consider to be the best achievements?

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Mike Worby August 16, 2016 - 11:24 pm

I think you make some good points. I’d consider doing a piece on my favorite achievements for sure, though I would have to look through my achievement collection and really dig deep to suss them out.

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