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Childhood, Nostalgia, My Damn Lawn


It seems there are a plethora of posts relating to Final Fantasy going up lately. I am sorry to add another one, though mine is more a journey of introspection. With the release of Theatrhythm it cannot really be helped. It finally reached a point where I resumed my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII on the PS3, and am considering going back to the likes of IV, V and VI as well.

You'll notice I do not mention the games after VII.

No, I'm not going to sit here and rant about how the games from VIII and on were worse and for what reasons. I'm not going to because the fact is I'm not really sure what quality the games are at this point. I'm caught somewhere between feeling apathetic towards the series and longing to love it again.

My first Final Fantasy game was the first in the series. None of the others had even been released yet (in the U.S.). I sat down with my brother, watched him played it, played it for myself (and sucked at it) and tried to recreate all the pretty pictures I saw in the Nintendo Power Strategy Guide.

What made the series truly special was the discovery of Final Fantasy II (U.S.). I was Eight years old? My older siblings and I discovered it sitting on the shelf of the video rental we frequented on occasion, and within seconds we had scooped it up. It was amazing! There was a sequel to Final Fantasy! We expected it to be like Super Mario World or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, where it basically just built off of its predecessor but kept all the basics. The first thing we figured would happen was the chance to choose your party, only maybe now there would be more class options.

Instead, we were treated to a musical tune that would mean as much to me as the Imperial March means to others. A silent string and percussion in darkness, with trumpets blaring to fade in to the Red Wings of Baron soaring above the world. Everything that followed would define what video games were to me. They stopped being mere "games" and joined the ranks of film, television and literature. To me, the only difference between watching the old Lord of the Rings animated film and playing Final Fantasy II (U.S.) was the interaction. Instead of simply watching Aragorn fend off the Ringwraiths I had the option to have Cecil and Edward parry whilst Rydia summoned her Chocobo to defeat the Ant Lion, avoiding rather brutal counter-attacks. Otherwise they were both epics to me, with dramatic conflict, tension and characters.

Final Fantasy solidified what gaming was to me. While I still loved other games such as Mega Man X and Donkey Kong Country 2 dearly, nothing compared to a Final Fantasy. Well, except maybe Chrono Trigger or EarthBound. Video games could not only tell a real story, but they allowed me to get involved. That made them much more interesting than any other medium to me.

This sort of mentality wasn't always shared, though. I grew up in a small town, the generic sort where sports meant everything, and on the rare occasion other kids were discussing video games it was always about how Mortal Kombat was "the best game ever". Few others knew about the Final Fantasy games, and those that didn't could care less. After all, where was the blood?

I moved to a larger school around 8th grade and found a lot more individuals that shared my interests. I got to borrow such titles as Breath of Fire III from people that looked like the sort that used to make fun of me for watching Animaniacs still. It was a very, very different atmosphere, and I got to revel in what made all of these games great.

Somehow, everything changed at Final Fantasy VIII. I looked forward to it, but even before I touched it there was something... off. To this day my biggest gripe is that the gameplay and story were utterly horrible, but I think there was more to it. It just never felt like a Final Fantasy to me. Was it the technology? Not really, because Final Fantasy VII had vehicles, motorcycles and giant cannons in it. Somehow that still managed to feel like a proper Final Fantasy.

It was the aesthetic, though. The characters in Final Fantasy VII still had that sprite-like appearance to them, tying them to have a similar visual style as the previous games. In addition, the technology looked like a natural evolution of what was present in Final Fantasy VI, which was steam-powered and rather dirty and clunky looking. It was not sleek, it was functional. This made sense to me in a world where magic was still ever present and characters were wielding blades still. Final Fantasy VII looked very dirty wherever the technology was present, an intentional aesthetic choice to illustrate how the Mako Reactors were killing the planet. The vehicles mostly had a very old-looking style to them. There was a sort of sleek style, but nothing looked quite modern. It could still be viewed as the past while still being an evolution of the technology seen in Final Fantasy VI.

It allowed for a level of consistency, or at least that is my best guess. In truth, I don't know why it never bugged me in Final Fantasy VII. Yet seeing Squall for the first time, looking very much like a professional GAP model in his leather jacket and perfectly fitting jeans, wielding a sword that had a gun trigger attached, it was just jarring. It didn't look anything at all like Final Fantasy to me.

So what about Final Fantasy IX? That game was specifically designed to appeal to the older aesthetics, yes? Well, sort of. While I enjoyed the sprite-like style, Squaresoft seemed to get the wrong idea with IX. It looked too much as if it were designed by Disney, which was not the aesthetic I was hoping for. Yet the game was at least enjoyable enough that I managed to beat it, which is more than I can say about VIII. Even so, I've never longed to go back, and I really don't remember much more than how stupid a name Dagger is.

By Final Fantasy X I had given up looking for the games of old. The story seemed interesting, yet I just couldn't get interested in the protagonist himself. The aesthetics were as far removed from Final Fantasy as you could get. The combat was fun, and pretty much the only reason I played that game to completion.

Ever since then, I haven't played a single new Final Fantasy game.

Now, this isn't the only franchise to really feel so different from where it began. I played the first Mega Man Zero on GameBoy Advance, and later Mega Man ZX on the DS. These games were fun, but there was always something missing. Or perhaps there was simply too much? Capcom made a desperate effort to evolve the Mega Man formula, and yet they ended up losing some of that simple fun that made the previous games so great. Yet I do not sit there in the same level of sadness that I feel for Final Fantasy.

I guess it is because Mega Man was never quite the same back-bone of gaming for me that Final Fantasy was. Now, I can sit here like an old man and just complain about how they changed everything, but the real question is whether that is fair or not.

The truth of the matter is that a lot of people never played a single Final Fantasy game before VII, VIII, IX or X. Now there are people most certainly playing XIII first. Once upon a time I used to angrily wave my bitter old man cane in the air screaming about how they weren't there at the beginning, how they simply don't know.

Now I'm old enough, I think, to know better. No, they weren't there at the beginning, but perhaps the only games they had played were poorly written pieces of machismo like Gears of War, or iPhone games like Peggle. In which case, wouldn't any iteration of Final Fantasy be doing the same thing it had for me?

I've already realized that I [url=]cannot irrationally hate Squenix any longer[/i]. They are simply too large a company making too many products to hate every little thing that they do. Yet in truth, I think it's also time I stop feeling such resentment towards them for changing my beloved Final Fantasy, the franchise that made me the gamer I am today.

Their job is done for me. They already introduced me to the big wide world of RPG's and what games can be as a story-telling medium. Just as Mark Wahlberg has to learn in the recently released Ted, I must learn to live without my teddy bear. My teddy bear being Final Fantasy.

Except for my hatred of VIII. I don't care what anyone says, that game is just horrible.
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About ccesaranoone of us since 1:39 PM on 07.08.2009

After a little over a year's hiatus I have returned to the Destructoid Blog fold. Despite how thinly-spread my writing efforts have become, I still sometimes feel the need for a canvas in which I can sloppily splash the paint of my thoughts upon in hopes to have something resembling a thing.

So who am I? Right now I'm a writer over at GamersWithJobs, a blogger, a YouTuber and a Podcaster. I specialize in games analysis and criticism, and would like to use the Destructoid blog to share in some of my experiences working on these projects.

Note that I will be linking things I've been working on, but I will do so with the intent of embellishing on thoughts unsaid or detailing some of the work for any interested in also being content providers. Perhaps some of my experiences can help you out along the way.
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PSN ID:ccesarano


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