F = Final Fantasy (A-Z Challenge)

I have pretty much always been a geek. I have expressed this through movies, books, and video games. Video games when I was very young were pretty much limited. You had Mario, this blocky green-ish thing called Link, and (of course) Pac-Man. (I was Pac-Man obsessed when I was a kid. I watched the cartoon and played the hell out of the Pac-World game. I was never very good, damn it, but I loved it.)

As I have discussed previously, I was obsessed with Narnia, Oz, etc. They set my imagination on fire. One day I went to my aunt’s house and my step-uncle practically dragged me in the house. He and my aunt were glued to the NES watching some blue blocky thing with odd scenery fighting a slime. Said slime was red, I think, and it was kicking my uncle’s ass. I told him to dodge — the stupid slime was gonna kill him! He said he couldn’t dodge on purpose, but he had to sit there and take it. I thought that was incredibly stupid. An hour later I, like my aunt and uncle, was obsessed with Dragon Warrior.

Dragon Warrior 1

Dragon Warrior 1

It was like playing a book to me. A bunch of the stuff in my head was out on the screen. Then Dragon Warrior 2 came out. Sweet mother of god! You have three people?! You get yourself, a mage-fighter, and a mage? Holy shit! I loved the mage. I loved the randomly assigned names they gave her. I loved everything about it.

Dragon Warrior 2

Dragon Warrior 2

I was extolling the virtues of Dragon Warrior to my best friend and he looked at me like, “Mufuka, please.” He said, “Have you ever tried Final Fantasy?” Ugh. I wouldn’t be swayed. Then he said you could choose four people. I did a double take. Wait. FOUR people? And they could ALL be mages if I wanted them to be? I informed him that he was fucking with me and I thought he was despicable for doing so. We went to the video store with his mother and rented Final Fantasy for the NES. I was blown away. I still loved Dragon Warrior, but Final Fantasy became my go to for RPG entertainment.

Final Fantasy 1

Final Fantasy 1

Time progressed and the NES gave way to SNES. We were introduced to Final Fantasy 2 (Final Fantasy 4 in Japan). Again, it was my best friend who was playing it, but we weren’t hanging out as much anymore. If one wanted to make some shitty and stupid analogy, one could say that friendships faded, but Final Fantasy stayed…but that sounds too lame for words, so let’s remove that from our brains. My uncle (different uncle) was playing Final Fantasy II and I watched him. Little did I know that I was witnessing what would be my favorite and most-played video game ever.

Final Fantasy 2 SNES (4 in Japan)

Final Fantasy 2 SNES (4 in Japan)

I played the hell out of Final Fantasy 2 for the SNES. Then Final Fantasy 3 was released (6 in Japan). The story was better, the cast was larger, there were some elements that I never expected to see, it had the best soundtrack EVER, and it was almost overwhelming.

Final Fantasy 3 (6 in Japan)

Final Fantasy 3 (6 in Japan)

Well, that was nothing compared to the jump from 6 to 7. That was some serious shit there. I went from feeling the limitations to something that felt like it was nearly limitless. It was pretty overwhelming, actually. For those who grew up in the age of the PlayStation and beyond, you can’t really know what it was like to see that change. And Final Fantasy Tactics? I can’t even talk about it. We would be here all night. Strategy RPGs…Disgaea…I can’t. Seriously…my love is unchained…

Final Fantasy 7

Final Fantasy 7

I eventually got over that overwhelming feeling, but sometimes I am still awed by games like Skyrim and Dragon Age, whose worlds are so open and almost daunting that it feels like everything is possible. I have not played Final Fantasy 13. It just feels and looks like it is a flashy, overrated spectacle for the ADD generation. I loved 12, and the screen shots I see for the new one look amazing.

Meh. Pretty but soulless? I'm sure I'll try it someday.

Meh. Pretty but soulless? I’m sure I’ll try it someday.

I’ve been around for a while, and was gaming from a very young age. Dragon Warrior/Quest was my first and will always have a place in my heart. Sometimes I like that series’ non-evolution as it feels like coming home. Final Fantasy, though, has helped define me as a gamer and a geek. What I couldn’t find in the game, I made up in my head. Sometimes I wonder, were I a product of the PlayStation 2 generation, if my imagination would be as strong as it is now. Since I loved the games but filled in all the details for myself, my imagination grew strong. It helped me become a writer (in need of leveling up, mind you. If publications are levels, then I am at a whopping level 2).

Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have seen the gaming industry explode and go from blocky squares to fully realized things that actually look like people. I’m glad I started gaming when I did and I’m glad my imagination developed in a way where every video game I play enhances my imagination instead of replacing it. I know that many people of the current era have flourishing imaginations which are only enhanced by the gorgeous games out there, but I think as a wide-eyed kid reading stories and wanting them to come to life, if I had sat down and played Final Fantasy 12 or Skyrim as my first RPG, my imagination would have been satiated. There would be no gaps for it to fill in. My brain wouldn’t be the realm of insanity it is now. So, here’s to Final Fantasy and all the irreparable assistance it has given me.

Alternate letter considerations: Fear, Fairy Tales (this one was hard to avoid, considering my recent release of the retelling of The Snow Queen, but I felt that my connection to Final Fantasy and gaming in general hadn’t been explored quite yet. Forgive me).

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~ by Darren Endymion on May 7, 2014.

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