I feel like Kingdom Hearts is a game of moments. Singular, emotional moments that carry its players through its story and then stick with them long after the game is over. For the most part, they’re happy or endearing events like Sora and Kairi’s heart to heart talk in the secret waterway. However, there are a select few that inspire nothing but sheer dread. The first appearance of Sephiroth is one such moment.
I didn’t really know who Sephiroth was when I first encountered him in Kingdom Hearts. I’d heard his name before, and I vaguely recognized that he was a villain, but I didn’t really understand just how BIG of a villain he was. All I knew at the time was that this guy was bad news. His fight isn’t even listed at first, it almost looks like a bug in the selection menu. When I saw “??????????????????????” listed for the first time, well I just had to choose it. My inner adventurer demanded it! What greeted me upon choosing it was not what I expected at all though. Instead of the usual sunny coliseum, it was dark and sinister. Withered trees encircled the ring and the normal background music. Some kind of magic gate breaks open the sky and drops some sort of black mass down with a loud “THUD.” It slowly rights itself only to reveal that it is, in fact, a man…with one wing? A single, raven-colored wing. The man doesn’t say a word, he just gets ready as the barriers spring up and bombastic beginnings of “One Winged Angel” begin to play. This was my very first introduction to Sephiroth, one of the hardest bosses I’ve ever fought.
After that intimidating introduction, I immediately got two-shotted and lost. I tried again and managed to last a little while, but something was wrong. His health bar wasn’t going down! This was still before the time of plentiful internet guides and I didn’t have a strategy guide for it, so I just resolved to what I always did when I met an RPG boss I couldn’t beat: level grind and get me some better gear! I’d heard from some of my school friends that you needed to be at least level 80 in order to beat him, so that’s what I resolved to do before trying him again. I was at level 40 or so at the time, so it was going to take a bit of time to get there. I wasn’t worried about it though. I was a kid practically made of time back then. Spending a couple afternoons level grinding was no big deal at all. So, after progressing though the story as far as I could, beating the Hades cup and spending a stupid amount of time killing heartless in the End of the World, I was finally ready. Keyblade in hand, I went to challenge Sephiroth again.
In that first fight and other since, I learned that to fight Sephiroth is to engage in a war of attrition. He has every advantage except mobility, so you have to use yours to its fullest. Glide around the arena. Dodge roll with everything you’ve got. Just make sure to stay far, far away from him until he finally gives you an opening. Through many lost health bars, I learned that the best time to strike is right after he summons his pillar of fire. Striking at any other time carries a massive risk of getting struck back in retaliation. I also happened to luck out and have the “Second Chance” skill equipped, because his “Sin Harvest” attack is a one-shot without it. It would take me at least three more tries to finally defeat Sephiroth after getting up to the required level, and that first victory came in the very nick of time. I was out of magic, out of elixers, and just one quick hit away from another defeat. At the last second though, I got him. I finally got him! I finally got him and got…nothing. The hardest boss in the game didn’t drop a keyblade?! Really?! That was disappointing, but the sheer joy of victory was enough to overcome it. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends that I too had finally joined the “I beat Sephiroth” club.
I wouldn’t learn until much later that the Japan-only “Final Mix” version of the game had an extra keyblade for defeating Sephiroth. It was disappointing at the time, but I finally got my hands on it in the PS3 re-release. All those years later, and it still felt great to finally get my sweet, sweet reward for victory! It’s not all that much of a feat anymore, but that first victory will always remain as one of my greatest video game triumphs.
What was one of your favorite gaming feats? If beating Sephiroth was one of them, how did winning for the first time feel to you?