The blog post you may or may not be about to read is by no means to be read as an objective breakdown or analysis of the Final Fantasy series. I am merely attempting to document my own personal experiences with a videogame franchise that has meant a lot to me over the years. I suppose the first thing I should discuss is a little bit of backstory as to why I associate so closely to the franchise. Or at least, why I did.
Like many who grew up in the 90's, I had a strong association with videogames as a primary staple of my upbringing. When I was naught but a young lad, my old man brought home an NES one day with Super Mario Bros, and Mega Man 3. I was glued to that thing, for a good deal of time. As my life went on, I had a pretty strong allegiance towards Nintendo. Not out of some inane hatred for the Sega (For those of you who didn't grow up in the Sega vs Nintendo days, thank your lucky stars), but because I think the games of the Nintendo were not only more appealing to me, but...they were more mainstream, and easy to find information regarding.
Let me preface this by saying this was before the internet. Yes, this time did exist, there was once a time before commercial internet in the household. As I got into my teenage years, 56k became a staple of contemporary households, but I'm probably diverging to far, despite the fact it plays such an important part later on.
So, the years went by, and games like Super Mario World, Chaos Engine, Buster Busts Loose and Street Fighter 2 were my bread and butter. I'd play them a lot. Well, probably not a lot in comparison to modern times. I was allowed to play videogames for 30 minutes a day. It kinda blew, but I got over it.
Now, when I was 13, my friend got this game called "Final Fantasy 7". I thought the idea of it sounded kinda fruity, at least up front. "So it's this game where you like, play as this dude, and you're exploring this world. There's great music, and like, it's just really good man, you gotta come and see it". This was the phone call I had with my buddy (Because at the time, the phone was how you got in touch with people. Or the playground), and it piqued my interest enough. I went over, and he had me play the first section. I was gobsmacked. How could I have not noticed something like this? Full 3D graphics on a CONSOLE? Massive amounts of text on screen, and engaging combat in a role playing game? I couldn't wrap my head around it. Bear in mind I was still playing things like Might and Magic 7 and Wizardry 8 on my home computer (800Mhz, 4mb ram, 2mb onboard graphics processor. The brand was TINY, if you still remember them?)
This was where it all began for me. What follows is a chronological analysis of each of the Final Fantasy games, in the order that I played them- The thoughts they evoked in me, and where I suppose the series just became unappealing to me.
Final Fantasy 7
You knew it would start here. How could it not? Like a lot of kids who grew up in that era, Final Fantasy 7 was a landmark for me, in terms of how I came to view videogames as new media. I was still so used to arcadey style games that could be beaten, start to finish, in a few hours. My mind couldn't wrap around the idea that a game could span 3CDs (Wait, aren't they that thing that plays music somehow- This was still the era where tapes were standard) and last over 50 hours? I had to see this shit for myself. So, that was when it began. Every saturday, we would go over to his house, and from 1-3pm every week, we would play Final Fantasy 7. A few bits stick out to me more than any other I suppose.
This thing was crazy. How are you meant to beat something that just uses Trine over and over again, AND uses Cure 2 on itself when it gets low? After a lot of hard work, we took him down. I'm pretty sure this took an entire Saturday to beat.
-Temple of the Ancients.
The reason I remember this so vividly is because I slept over to get through it. It was clear that we'd never beat it in a few hours, so we arranged that I'd stay over instead. We took the PS1 into the backroom at night, turned the sound on the TV real quiet, and tried to get through it. It took a long time, especially when we hit the Demon Wall. "It's kinda like this weird dragon thing that drops giant nuts on your head" was the rumor from a friend of ours at school
Well, we did it in the end, after a bunch of times. I remember beating it by using Climhazzard on it, which struck me as weird as the camera angle would pan out when you did it, and it'd stick right through him, and it showed him not as a wall, but as some weird, Han Solo in Kryptonite looking thing, where you could see the entire model. It was pretty wack, even at the time.
-Aeris Death Scene
Yeah, I cried.
-Red XIII finding out the truth about his dad.
I thought this was actually a really great and powerful moment that's not very well appreciated in the mythos of the game. The relationship between him and his father seemed incredibly strained throughout the game. As someone who had an unusual upbringing and relationship with my own father, this was pretty special to me. Especially when he found out how he died. I'm a sap for last stands and self sacrifice. Go figure.
-Not playing as Cloud.
Yeah this bit kinda sucked huge dong. Seeing Cloud become catatonic because he fell into the lifestream was totally lame. Don't get me wrong, playing as Cid was pretty rad-For a while. But after some time, we were just completely stuck. Being an era where the internet wasn't really a thing so much, you just kinda had to figure this out for yourself. And bear in mind that we'd never actually experienced a game quite like this before, we had no idea what to do. In a game which the world is incredibly static and non linear, it was hard to figure out what we had to do. Infact, I still don't quite remember what you do. When I think about that part of the game, the only thing that comes to mind is going underwater in that submarine, looking for the GROSS looking key that you have to put into the city of the ancients plinth, or the first time we encountered Emerald Weapon and I almost LITERALLY shit my pants. Needless to say, upon seeing him, I promptly pressed the X button, made it to Junon harbor above water, saved the game, and turned it off. I hate Emerald Weapon.
-The Fort Condor minigame
I remember spending a lot of time with this, mainly because it was such an interesting diversion to the rest of the game. We used a lot of rolling rock traps, and gunners. Probably the best FF minigame to date.
-Climbing the tower to fight Hojo and getting Barret's "Catastrophe".
It's weird what sticks with you, isn't it? I don't even know why I cling to this memory, it was just memorable. Plus when I used Catastrophe on Hojos final form and it completely nailed him. That was neat. Suck it Ungermax.
-We never actually beat the game
I guess this is the most shocking thing to admit. We could never finish it. It took us about 3 weeks to descend Sephiroths cave thing, and even then, it was hard work. This was with everyone on their final weapon, all summons, Gold Chocobos, the works. We didnt have KOTR though. We didn't even know it existed, ironically. Although by this time, I do remember going to my local library so I could use their computer terminal, dial into the internet, and painstakingly print out a Gold Chocobo Guide. Good times.
One time we made it to the actual Sephiroth fight. I think his "Real form" was "Safer Sephiroth". The one where he's an angel and shit. We thought we were doing okay, then he used Supernova twice in a row and killed us. At that point, we said "Fuck it" (Infact we probably didn't even know that phrase back then), and went back to playing Destrega and Crash Team Racing.
In my more mature years after I got a PS1 for myself, I went back and beat him. It was cathartic, even if the one on one climactic fight between just Cloud and Sephiroth ended by me leaving my controller on the floor because I was eating dinner, and the fight being resolved by "Counter" materia, not Omnislash. Still, I beat him, and saw the end movie. With that FMV where Tifas boobs totally go all over the place. You know which one I'm talking about.
In a way, I suppose I was always chasing the dragon, as it were, when it came to FF7. It was the first game to truly capture me, and made me have a desire to not only play more, but learn more about how the game was made. In my later years, I came to revere the game as a nostalgia piece, and valued the time I spent with it as a surrogate teacher, learning about a lot of concepts I struggled with myself, including-
-Disassociation with my peers
-Lack of self perception
It was a game I don't think I could forget. No, really, I mean that. Phone me up and ask me about any part of the game and I could probably tell you exactly what you need to do, and where you need to go to a tee. Just...if it's about the bit where you don't play as Cloud...go to GameFaqs.
Well, if you've made it this far, I should thank you for reading. I hope to continue writing this short series of blogs in the coming weeks, now that I've finished work at my local school that I volunteer at. Next up, I'll be tackling the themes and issues that came up in playing Final Fantasy 8 and 9, and maybe X, depending on how I feel that night. I appreciate you taking the time for reading this, and I'd love to hear anything you have to say. Whether it's about your experiences with the game, if you related to any of my experiences, heck, even if you feel like you need advice in general day to day things in your life, give it a go, I've seen quite a lot.