My first memory of Final Fantasy, the long running video game series, is seeing the FF7 PlayStation 1 case at my local video rental store in Atlanta in 1997. I was enthralled by the graphics shown, by this mysterious box. (I don’t recall seeing all of the commercials, but perhaps I did and I can’t remember now as I was only 9 at the time.) I also never played any previous FF. I spent my SNES days with Mario and Donkey Kong, and the only RPG I had played was A Link to the Past. I rented FF7, but I didn’t quite know how to manage the game or “how” to play it. I never got out of Midgar. My parents bought the game for me on PC the next year (mostly because I wanted the cool trapezoidal box), but I still never got that far. 10 year old me couldn’t handle it. I can’t tell you how many times I played the opening sequence. So. Many. Times.
Then came Final Fantasy 8. I was a year older and a year wiser, and I was just the right age (11) to appreciate Squall. The cut scenes were magical, the story of a military school pulled me in and the mystical Guardian Forces intimidated and excited me all at the same time. I remember loving all of the characters, and getting pulled into the alternate reality world of Laguna Loire. I even bought the cards in real life and a few action figures. I was obsessed. But, once again, I didn’t beat the game. I at least got to the final disc though. I don’t remember why I gave up, maybe I just didn’t want it to end. I thought about the game often, about how I’d come back to it someday.
Fast forward through Final Fantasy 9, 10, and 12. Same story. I played them all, but never beat them. I got to the final disc in 9 also, somewhere near the end of 10, and only 15 or so hours total in 12. (I completely skipped the MMO 11.)
I put down 12 my Freshman year of college, and boxed up my PS2. This was actually one of the last games I played before I went on a three year break from games. I was busy studying, going to concerts, and hanging out with new friends. Games didn’t have a place in my life during those few years, but looking back, I am a much better person with games in my life than without. They provide a sense of inspiration that I just can’t get from other forms of entertainment.
When I came back to gaming in 2010, I promptly bought a PS3. I perused through the shelves of GameStop and saw Final Fantasy 13. The years of of my childhood came back to me. This would be my return. It was unfortunate that this entry aligned with my return to games, but honestly, it’s my story. It did something for me. I remember playing 13 thinking “What the heck happened in the past three years?!” First, the graphics were beautiful. For someone who just jumped into the PS3 after three years off, the graphics were breathtaking. I remember just looking at the environments and being shocked that games had come this far. At the same time, I was confused. I remember thinking “Is this what FF is now?” I was confused by the battle system and I missed the days of selecting attacks and magic like in FF7-10. I also could not understand the story at all. There was no magic sucking city to conquer, no military school, no knights in armor…Just nonsense. But alas, I was a different person. I now complete the things I start. I saw that entire game through, and due to some unfortunate timing in my personal life, FF13 was the first game in the series that I ever beat. But you know what? I wasn’t deep in listening to games media at the time. I was confused by the battle system and the story, but I wasn’t aware of how much others hated the game. For me, I was just proud that I finally beat a Final Fantasy game. I actually cried during the credits, not because I loved the game, but because I had finally finished one of these games that takes 50+ hours to finish. I did it. I played FF13-2 when it came out, and beat it too. I liked this entry much more with the time traveling and the Pokemon-like monster capturing, but it still didn’t feel like the FF’s that I remembered as a kid…
…So I began my mission. I would go back and beat all of the Final Fantasy’s that I never finished as a kid. This would be my redemption. This process has taken me many more years than I had anticipated, as I have fell in love with all other games on my return to gaming. I’m okay with this, as games have become such a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t trade playing Mass Effect 1 and Uncharted 1 for the first time, but my FF backlog was always in the back of my mind.
In 2012 -2013, I plugged in my PS2 (which was backwards compatible unlike newer consoles) and put in FF8. I beat it. (I really would like to write about FF8 and why it’s my favorite because a lot of people don’t like it, but that’s a story for another time.) Right after I finished FF8, I went straight to 10. I’m not sure why I moved to that one next, but I did. I beat it.
I went to PSX in 2015, and was excited to hear that FF7 was being released on PS4 with full trophy support. Glorious! Square and Sony were both on board with my redemption story. Over the next year I worked my way through FF7 in between other game releases, and guess what? I beat it. In 2017, Square gave me another gift: Final Fantasy 12: Zodiac Age. This game, like FF7, had a function to speed up walking around and grinding battles. Thank you devs!! FF12:ZA had a number of other updates, including the new class system from the International version. I loved this game. I beat it. I also beat FF15 when it came out to keep my backlog clear. It wasn’t from my childhood, but it is FF. I liked it much more than 13, and it felt more true to FF, but I still was confused by the story and the battle system. The world was great though. (I liked it enough that I got the Platinum, but it also wasn’t as hard to get as some others.)
(If you’re wondering, “What about FF13-3 Lightning Returns?” No. Just no. This is not on my list. I bought it when it came out, and played it for a few hours, but I couldn’t. I remember the graphics not looking as pretty and this was one of my good points for FF13-1. Or maybe it was just my mind tricking me so I wouldn’t have to sit through a nonsensical story again. Or maybe it was the fact that now I was listening to more games media and I had learned how much everyone hated FF13 and that trilogy had become even more tainted in my mind. Reviews were okay with 13-2, but Lightning Returns wasn’t doing it for anyone. This game is off my list. Not doing it. No.)
(Also, what about FF6? The FF darling according too all game experts? Well, I never played it as a kid, so I haven’t prioritized it in my backlog. I have played through the first few hours on Vita and then started a playthrough on PC. This will be next on the list after the one below…)
There is one last game on my list of non-completions. Final Fantasy 9. I got to the final disc on PS1 as a kid, and I have played the opening few hours countless times since then. Literally I cannot count how many times I have played the beginning of this game. That might sound like a bad thing, but I don’t attribute it to me not liking it. I think the game is extremely charming and I just love the opening sequence with Vivi – my favorite character in that game and in perhaps all of FF. (I still remember the first time playing this game going to Vivi’s home village, and that was a magical moment.) Earlier this year (2017), I decided to get started on my last FF redemption backlog item. I bought the game on steam and have been casually playing through it in between other game releases. Again, remember that as much as I love FF, I still really love other games, too. I have been getting a bit more distracted during this playthrough than I’d like. Maybe I don’t want my redemption story to end? I’m not sure…
…Or maybe I was waiting for a sign. Some inspiration. And here it is. FINAL FANTASY 9 IS OUT ON PS4 TODAY. AH. Thank you Square Enix. You have done it again. Not only is there full trophy support, but there is high speed (something I loved in FF7 and FF12 re-releases), no battles (I usually avoid this but might use it once in a while), autosaves, and more. THANK YOU. This couldn’t be more perfect.
Vivi, I’m coming back. And we’re going to get through it this time. Redemption time!