Being a completionist was something I already was long before Final Fantasy VII. The main reason why I've become a completionist was the fact that I didn't have much money to spend on videogames, like most kids around me those days. I would play the same game countless times until there was nothing left undone. On top of that, I had a mother that was also against kids playing videogames at an early age and she didn't support that hobby. My mother was and still is very concerned about health, so she is always well informed by reading news and themed magazines. She considered videogames as an unhealthy addiction to kids because it had many bad side effects. Her biggest concern was the decline of the eyesight by spending too many hours playing. I have to admit that she was kind of right, but I just wish she wasn't so prohibitive when I was younger. With time, she eventually softenen and when I was around 14 years old she was no longer so prohibitive anymore. She wasn't at home all the time to control how long I would play anyway ;). After buying Final Fantasy VII, I've spent the next summer break waking up early in the morning as soon as she left home in order to play. I would wait to hear her footsteps outside, meaning she was walking away to work, meaning it was fine to come off my bed and play :D.
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, but I could only buy around 4 to 7 games per year, which basically meant that a single game had to last at least two months. I was privileged to own a PlayStation, a Saturn and still have so many games per year. As a kid, that didn't seem be enough but now I understand that not having a massive amount of games was a pretty good thing. It helped me to value all the games I had. It's what made me the type of player I was and (later) the type of collector that I've become. Even at that young age, I've kept all my games in a very good condition. I wouldn't accept to lose a leaflet or an instructions booklet from the case, unlike the majority of the other kids I knew. I wouldn't accept a badly handled disc with scratches or marks, so I've kept all my games in a condition that even by my current standards they are still worthy of being part of my collection, not just by their sentimental value. I was always a careful kid with the things that I really cared about, especially if they were tough to get. I was also totally against piracy. I wasn't really bothered to pay so much for an original copy of the game simply because I thought it was worth it.
As a result, finishing a game just once was not an option - I had to finish it many times. After beating the game once, I would take the time to find secrets, unlock bonuses, try cheat codes, find all the items and collectibles, do things faster, whatever came to my mind as much as I was having fun. As a result, almost nothing was left undone in any of the games I owned.
Final Fantasy VII took the completionism to a whole different level. I liked the game so much that I played it 6 or 7 times and tried to achieve a near perfect save file. That took not months, but years. The second time I went through the game, I already had some magazines that revealed the majority of secrets, sidequests and collectibles. I did everything I possibly could but I still missed a few items. I spent a few hundreds of hours getting everything, but there was always something missing for some reason. Access to the internet was limited (not to mention non existent for me), so getting information about the hardest things to find in the game was not an easy task. On my 3rd near perfect file, I realized I missed one tricky item called Vagirysk Claw. That was basically the last thing I was missing. I restarted all over again just to get that item. That was troublesome. I'm pretty sure I did everything from scratch another time after that, and a few years later I replayed the game just for fun.
Final Fantasy VII was a great experience, but thankfully many others followed. Over the 5 years I owned a Playstation, my collection of games for that system alone grew up to almost 30 original titles. It's hard to tell one by one all the amazing experiences I had with all the games I bought.
I obviously suffered while waiting for the release of Final Fantasy VIII one year after its announcement, but I had many games to keep me busy. It's pretty hard to tell the order of purchase, but I bought Tekken 3, Dino Crisis, Ace Combat 3, Ridge Racer Type 4, Resident Evil 2, Gran Turismo 1 and 2, all the Tomb Raider games, Metal Gear Solid, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Hard Edge, Cool Boarders 4... I played all those games to exhaustion and did everything I possibly could. I even wrote some small walkthroughs/FAQs that still should be available in several websites.
There's a funny story behind Dino Crisis and Ace Combat 3. Those games were bought shortly after their release dates. In fact, at that time I was mostly buying brand new releases because I was well informed about the PS1 games thanks to a UK magazine called Playstation Power. I think I bought that magazine for nearly two years, even when it changed its name to just Power. Anyway, I asked my parents for Dino Crisis as a birthday gift. The game of course was not released on date so I had to check the same store over and over until it was finally available, on a particular Saturday. Next Monday, I had enough money to buy another game. Since I played Air Combat and Ace Combat 2 quite a lot in those PS Kiosks at the shopping mall, I've decided to pick Ace Combat 3. As my parents and I were driving home, I asked them to stop at one of my usual stores. I went in and came back with Ace Combat 3. This was a complete record for me, two games in just three days. My mother realized I was bringing home another game in such a short time and she nearly flipped. She was seriously upset, using arguments in an angry tone like: - "Go ahead, spend all your money on videogames, don't you dare to ask for anything else if you need!". I stood quiet and still on the backseat of the car, lowering my head between my shoulders...
I was also very lucky to buy two other JRPGs that I loved to play a lot. Unfortunately, the majority of the best Squaresoft RPGs never came out in Europe, so I missed theose. After the great experience I had with Final Fantasy VII, I wanted to try out other RPGs. Playstation Power made an article about this game called Vagrant Story, which was made by Square and was coming to Europe. I immediately wanted to get that game. When the release date finally arrived, history repeated itself and I had to go to the store several times and come back empty handed until they finally had the game available.
Some time later, I went to my friend Rui's home. He hated Final Fantasy and RPGs in general. Visiting his home was great. He had a Game Boy, a Game Gear and a Mega Drive. Later he also owned a PS1 console, chipped of course. Even though he hated RPGs, there was this game called The Legend of Dragoon that caught his attention. He was playing it and he was quite far already. He kept an older save file at a certain ghost ship and he loaded that file just to show me some FMV sequence about a Dragoon Campaign. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the quality of the animation. This was another game I had to hunt down. On a random visit to a store named Fnac, I saw the game and I instantly bought it. Another awesome decision was made!
As for Final Fantasy VIII and IX, well, those were easy purchases, to my surprise. The same story repeats with both. I could hardly wait for any of those two games, but at that point I was not paying much attention to the release dates anymore, since they were very inaccurate over here. I went to the usual shopping mall with my parents and they were visiting a large clothes store. I was bored, so I told them I was going to visit that music store named Strauss where I previously bought my Tomb Raider II copy. As I approached the store, I immediately noticed the big pyramid made of Final Fantasy VIII copies at the front display, including limited editions. At that time I didn't even care about the limited edition. I was lucky enough if I could afford the regular game but I had no money at that time. I rushed back to my parents, I almost begged my mother to get me that game, saying stupid things like "my life depends on this"... and she did buy the game! This was the first time something like this actually happened! Me asking my mother to buy a game and she saying "yes" at first attempt. Wow! Things were slowly changing. I'm guessing having good grades at school kinda helped as well. Getting Final Fantasy IX many months later was not much different from this story.