Late to the Game — Journal (WIP)

Before I begin to go into how bad of a Final Fantasy fan I am, I feel like a run-down of my history with the Final Fantasy series is necessary. To be short, my timing was awful. Timing seems to be everything to these games. I did not experience a full Final Fantasy game until around 2003 after finishing Kingdom Hearts for the Playstation 2, a full year after that game’s release. Kingdom Hearts was my first full RPG experience, and I fell in love. With that new kindled love, came curiosity.

But this was 2003, nearing 2004. Final Fantasy has been around and wildly swinging, succeeding without me well over a decade. Fortunately, VII, VIII, IX, and X were readily available to purchase at the local Best Buy. But I still had an issue: Continuing to be at the mercy at what my father deems “cool.”

I wanted to play them chronologically, at the very least start with VII and go from there. But VII was “old,” he said. You want something “new and good looking.”

So I got X. At the time, I was blown away, and now, yeah it’s alright.

It wasn’t until after I started to finish X that I was able to get my grubby pre-teen hands on VII, VIII, and IX. I poured my time into them, suffered in school, and from my experience, at the time, they were good. I questioned nothing at this point in my life. I think there’s a point in everyone’s lives where they don’t question something that’s published. It’s obviously good enough to be produced, and a big name like Final Fantasy can do no wrong in the eyes of a naïve little girl.

I played the PS1 trilogy, and it went down as this:

VII: Got stuck after getting Vincent on the first disc.

VIII: Got stuck in a glitch finding the White Ship or whatever you’re supposed to do towards the end of the third disc.

IX: Got stuck in the anti-magic user fight on the third disc because apparently I couldn’t read.

I was bad at video games, apparently, but regardless…

I will save my anger about VIII for another post, but why didn’t VII catch me enough to just go back? I for some reason just cut my losses and had absolutely no motivation to start over and make sure to level properly. IX, now my favorite game in the series and as a whole, has been started over countless times and was eventually beaten fully in 2009. Why didn’t VII grab me like this? At the very least, keep me playing long enough like VIII seemed to be able to do, despite my frustration and confusion, and eventually, hatred.

I feel it’s a mix of things, but mainly the timing of when I approached it. I was active on forums, I talked with fans, I read about the series, devouring any ounce of knowledge about them that I could, and of course, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children came out.

In short: I was spoiled, not only by fans, but by myself.

Kingdom Hearts, Advent Children, Newgrounds flash videos, and everything that followed were great for fans of the game, but for someone entering the realm of Final Fantasy and its series, especially one of its hardest hitters that came out when I was just six years old… It falls flat to me because nothing surprised me. I tried starting over as an adult, but I just couldn’t get into it for some reason, and I think it’s purely due to being spoiled, so I just didn’t care enough.

The visuals are beyond dated, the story telling has now fallen from its inspirational status to what every trope in JRPGs follow to a formulaic pattern, the characters are either likable or hateful with little room for caring about the few that fall between, but I still have only gotten through most of the first disc and no farther. Aeris hasn’t even [spoiler alert] died yet, which is something I knew that happened far before I had even purchased the game. The only thing that still stands out to me is Nobuo Uematsu’s passion for the soundtrack. You could tell he put his soul into this project, and anything where you can see that shine through is great in my book.

The game is applauded still to this day for how iconic and important it is, but I missed out on all of that. I wasn’t able to witness those iconic moments for what they were and what it meant to the series at that time. I could only look back.

When the video was released of the Final Fantasy VII “Remake” a decade ago, I didn’t really care at the time, because Square was beginning to let my heart break, and I was realizing I didn’t care much about VII as a game. I was in the crowd of people that were essentially saying, “Have fun if it happens, but it really won’t, I don’t care.” Passive and neutral. Square-Enix said that it isn’t going to happen, something along the lines that it was just to show the Playstation 3 off, that it would be too difficult, and the passive crowd I was in gave an “I told you so.” We moved on.

My initial reaction to the actually happening remake of Final Fantasy VII being announced at E3 was confusing. I checked the calendar to see if it was April first or anywhere near it, despite being in the middle of June. I was under the impression that it would be near impossible to do with the resources they have, working on Final Fantasy XIV: Reborn, Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III, and whatever else they have hidden away… They had even said they weren’t ever going to do it, so why now?

Because they actually kind of have to.

From my understanding, console sales in Japan are staggeringly low, and video games aren’t doing as well anymore as they used to. Japan isn’t the bringer of greatness anymore outside of Japan, and Japan doesn’t even care about what they produce.

But something that has sold over 11 million units worldwide over the steady course of 18 years may be the savior they need. VII is so critically important to the video game industry, and made Sony what it is today. Fans clamored when Cloud made his way into Smash, the side games sold well and most did well with critics, despite Dirge of Cerberus being… Whatever it wanted to be. I’m still not sure. But it was not good… at all. That time period was strange for video games.

But I think this is also incredibly important to Square-Enix because of how many fans they’ve lost. Final Fantasy X-2 came out and made a lot of them scratch their heads and shrug because the battle system was fun enough, but where was the glorious and wonderful storytelling? Final Fantasy XII was gorgeous, and brought the system into a new light, but the characters outside of a handful weren’t even interesting. Final Fantasy XIII came out and we were given female Cloud Jesus and forced down the most linear of paths a Final Fantasy game has been graced with. Final Fantasy XIV dug itself into a hole, being a failure of a game and as an MMO, which these days, just copying World of Warcraft at least gets you some invested, but it apparently couldn’t even do that right. I can’t think of another game that did so amazingly bad that the company, three years later, offers an apology and literally builds the game from the ground up, while still maintaining the story of the last game.

Regardless, the fans need Square-Enix to be great again, we need video games to be great again, and maybe, just maybe, this remake will help all of us. I was apprehensive at first, but now I think as a Final Fantasy fan, I am not only curious, but I almost feel obligated to experience this. I may have been late to the first party, but I have a good feeling about this reunion.