Marry Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, Fuck Costa del Sol, Kill Fort Condor

Because I believe in transparency, I want to begin with saying that there is no bigger mark for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth than I. I know the fans of Final Fantasy 7 are legion, and that each and every one of them believes they can lay claim to the title of Biggest FF7 Fan. They’re entitled to think that. They’re also wrong. I love Final Fantasy 7 the most, and I am enjoying Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth more than all of them, probably. However, there is one thing I am not enjoying: Fort Condor. Fuck that game.

A little recap: Fort Condor is a tower defense minigame that first appeared in Intermission, the bonus chapter added to the Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade re-release. Based on a segment from the original FF7, Fort Condor took the shape of a board game played by the characters in Intermission, where players customized a lineup of little troops (attackers, defenders, and long-range units) and sent them to destroy their opponent’s tower — as well as counter units their opponent has sent to do the same.

Intermission’s Fort Condor was bare-bones, but charming, fun. The sort of thing that can immediately stop you in your tracks to play as much as you can before being bothered with the so-called “main plot.” I was happy to see it come back in Rebirth — and then I actually played. Folks? I hate it.

New Fort Condor is not a little board game to tinker with but a series of goofy challenges with wildly escalating difficulty, and the difference between the two versions has me reeling. I do not think a single game has introduced this much additional challenge since professional football invented the forward pass.

Image: Square Enix

That said, I do understand why the new version of Fort Condor is much harder, and why it’s even a good idea. See, despite a bunch of superficial changes — replacing materia spells with hero units, or having players choose from set lineups over building out teams — a given Fort Condor match is always a puzzle, with one ideal solution. In the previous version featured in Intermission, that puzzle could be solved before you even started the match — all one had to do was look at the opposing lineup and slot in the requisite counters. Simple Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The new Fort Condor in Rebirth, however, limits you to a few possible configurations based on overall strategy: Do you think an offensive play or defensive one is best? Which of the three kinds of units will you build your match around? What combination of the two do you think will bring you success?

While you can figure out some of the puzzle in the setup, the actual solution is found while playing: Learning the lineup and cadence of your opponent’s team (which never changes) and optimizing your timing to exploit weaknesses. This makes Fort Condor more of a game you actually play, and not one you just spam through.

I just happen to think that game sucks. It’s a mostly trial-and-error process where the moment-to-moment decisions aren’t terribly interesting, and they’re largely made for you. (See defensive units coming your way? Better get your long-range units out.) In my experience, there is only one “Eureka!” moment per game, and it’s the one that finally brings you a win. This can come after a couple tries or a couple dozen tries — and neither feels satisfying, because I never feel like I figured something out.

Look, I am a smart person, usually. I do crossword puzzles without looking anything up, and I understood Inception the first time I saw it. I might even read Pynchon one day, on a beach, just to show how easy it can be. Challenging art is good, and I don’t think minigames have to be simple to be enjoyable. However, there is a difference between a game being difficult and being real fucking annoying, and if you want to know what that is, I suggest you play Fort Condor.

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