This is going to be the first in a short series of posts about Final Fantasy, the upcoming Final Fantasy 15 and where I see the franchise heading. Be prepared for long reads and deep dives into a game that has shaped my mind these past 30 years.
Back in the late 80’s I was a young man in love with video games. In particular the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. My love began with the game Metroid (still one of my favorite franchises) but also extended to another game, Dragon Warrior, by Enix. A pretty base Role Playing Game (or, RPG), it was much different from the hectic Super Mario Bros. and the deep, dark world of Metroid. It was my first real introduction to computer based RPGs, and I loved it!
Obtaining my own NES had been a struggle. At the time I was probably ten or eleven years old, so I didn’t have an income, and my dad had made it clear that he didn’t mind video games, but didn’t want a game system in our house. My brother and I had received an NES from my grandpa for Christmas one year, but we opted to trade it in for some other toys to please our parents. Later, however, my dad would buy us our own NES.
Back in those days, much like today, games were expensive. A good game would run 40-60 dollars, and that was back in the 80’s! To make up for lack of cash, however, a young kid could always turn to the video rental store. For those youngsters out there who don’t remember, there used to be stores (bigger than a red box) that you could go to and rent VHS movies and, at some stores, games, for a 2-3 days at the cost of only a few bucks. Perfect for kids like me, with little pocket money.
I vividly remember the day I rented Final Fantasy. My parents were browsing the movies and I had been given permission to rent a game. Doing some browsing of my own I saw it. The crossed weapons: a sword and axe. A castle seemingly trapped in a glass orb. The bold red letters: “Final Fantasy”. I selected the title and never looked back.
I played the game as much as I could during the next three days. It was similar to Dragon Warrior, but this game allowed you to select four characters to DW’s one, AND you could pick the TYPE of character each one was! Warrior! Monk! Thief! Red mage! Black mage! White mage! The Warriors of Light, they were called! Each had a mysterious dark crystal! During combat you could see your characters as each one took their turn during the fight. You could see their weapons when they attacked, and the weapon graphics would change depending on their current equipment! YOU DIDNT GET TO SEE THE GAMES INTRO UNTIL AFTER YOU HAD DEFEATED THE FIRST BOSS! It was incredible – like a movie!
I wouldn’t beat that game until years and years later, as I was unable to afford purchasing it (or continually renting it) as a young kid, but it affected me in a distinct way. I had always been a big fan of fantasy books, with the old ‘choose your own adventure’ being one of my favorite. This game was like a video game book! I was hooked, and this one game set off a long chain reaction of events in my life that persist to this day.
Years later I was on my way out of high school and working a small job at a local drug store. The NES was long gone and had been replaced by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).
At the same rental store I had gotten the original Final Fantasy I found and rented Final Fantasy 2. Unbeknownst to me Final Fantasy 2 in the U.S. was actually Final Fantasy 4 in Japan, so the states had missed out on two entries in the series and a lot had changed that I didn’t know about. I would, over the next few years, find out a lot about the series that I didn’t know. The internet was starting to become a big thing and I had upgraded from CompuServe to America Online, which meant a whole new world of information was now available!
Final Fantasy 2 (I’ll refer to it as ‘2’ during this post, since that’s what I knew it as at the time) was a story about the kingdom of Baron and a dark knight named Cecil, sent to do the kings bidding. Accompanied by his friend and dragoon, Kain, the two deliver a package to the town of Mist. Unbeknownst to them the package contains Bombs (monsters) that proceed to burn the town to the ground. What follows is an incredible tale of honor, order and redemption that ends with a great cast of characters, tons of unique situations, incredible music and space!
I took the game home for a three day rental (I didn’t finish it during the rental), but after playing it for a short time I just had to buy it! Unfortunately no store in town had the game in stock, so I was stuck! I still remember the day I headed over to my friends apartment complex and saw, there in the hallway where all the mailboxes were, a sign on the wall: “For Sale: Final Fantasy 2, SNES, 30$, Apt XX”. I ran right up to the guys door and bought the game!
My best friend and I had so much fun with that game it’s ridiculous! I remember I had a little TV cart set up in the garage of my parents house with my TV, SNES and games on it and we would stay out there for hours on the weekend and play. The game had a semi-multiplayer option that would let two people control half of the four character party and it was a riot! Sometimes we would play the game, sometimes we would make our characters beat each other up, but we always had fun. Not only that, but the game had some authentic, jaw-hit-the-floor, what in the world moments in it, and I remember watching the scenes play out, then looking over at him, both of us with flabbergasted looks on our faces over what had just taken place on more than one occasion! I don’t know if modern gamers can really understand the gravity of this, as, back then you didn’t really find spoilers and stuff online, and there certainly weren’t things like pre-production videos and stuff floating around online. You went into the game raw, not knowing anything, and mentally unprepared for twists, turns and betrayals!
Up next: The greatest Final Fantasy game ever, Square leaves Nintendo and more.