6 Thoughts On Trying to Recapture the Magic of an Old Final Fantasy Game
I finally beat Final Fantasy 9 last month after roughly 13 years. It was an unremarkable experience. Not 13 continuous years of trying, mind you. I borrowed the game from a friend way back in my college days, but the first disc was scratched and the game crashed only an hour or so into it. I didn’t try again until last summer when Final Fantasy 9 was released on Steam.
I played for a bit last summer, but gave up out of general boredom. Thankfully, the gaming spirit grabbed me again this winter and I powered through the rest of Final Fantasy 9, finally sending Zidane and company up against the evil Kuja to save…I wanna say Gaia? Was that the name of their planet? Anyway, I beat the game, recaptured my lost youth and now I’m gonna talk about it!
6. I loved me some Playstation-era Final Fantasy games
Like any red-blooded American boy with a Playstation back in the 1990s, I played the hell out of Final Fantasy 7 and 8. That was my introduction to the Final Fantasy series and long-term role-playing games in general. Those were great games! Rich characters, deep storytelling, hours upon hours of adventure; what more could a young lad want in a video game? The graphics were cutting edge at the time. There were animated cut scenes. These were truly the next level of video games.
Which is why I was so excited when Final Fantasy 9 showed up on Steam! Here was a gem from my childhood that I never got to play! Here I could recapture the magic of those old games and dive into another grand adventure, like the good old days!
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
5. Nostalgia is a bitch
What can I say? I wasn’t too impressed with Final Fantasy 9. And I think it’s entirely because of the rose-colored glasses I’m wearing when I look back at the earlier games. The nostalgia factor is off the chain. Final Fantasy 9 seemed too short, seemed too underdeveloped and had some crummy characters and plots. People tell me that it was probably the best Final Fantasy of its era, but playing it for the first real time in 2017, I just don’t see it. And it’s entirely not the game’s fault. It’s all on me. It’s the same way I remember the 1980s Ninja Turtles cartoon as a masterpiece, but there’s no possible way it holds up in this day and age. Such is the same, it appears, with Final Fantasy games.
4. You don’t now what you want until you’ve got it
For years now, I’ve been looking to recapture that early magic of Final Fantasys 7 and 8, but I guess I didn’t really know what I wanted. In my mind, I was picturing an epic, story-based role-playing game with rich weapon and magic upgrades, awesome characters and a real sense of progression. Final Fantasy 9 had all of that…but not nearly to the extent I still had in my memory. All the other such games I’ve tried, like the Warcraft or Diablo games, didn’t seem to live up to my memories of those earlier RPGs, but clearly they were more of what I was picturing. There are tons of really good, deep RPGs out there, I just needed to keep an open mind and stop clinging to the faded memories of youth.
3. Not all games are classics
We will be playing the first Super Mario Bros. game as long as video games are a thing. I will download Tetris on any new phone I ever get. And I’m sure some of those early Sonic the Hedgehog games still have some magic in them. But suffice to say, playing Final Fantasy 9 all these years later was a stark reminder that sometimes the past has to stay in the past. Sometimes technology and game design have moved too far forward. Sometimes graphics don’t hold up. Sometimes…we just have to learn to let go. Do any of us really think the Final Fantasy 7 remake is going to be all that great?
2. Voice acting has changed games significantly
The lack of voice acting was probably the most notable ‘problem’ with getting into Final Fantasy 9. Almost all top tier video games have full voice acting these days, even RPGs like Fallout and Mass Effect. And since progress came slowly, we didn’t even really notice as voice acting became the norm. But let me tell you, jumping back into a game where every line of dialogue is emoted through reading and crude sprite animation is jarring. I just couldn’t connect with the characters.
Take Zidane, the main character of Final Fantasy 9. He’s supposed to be this charming rogue who everyone keeps saying is a ladies man, and who is constantly trying to flirt with the female lead. That’s a fine character (minus the weird, frilly shirt), but reading Zidane’s charming flirtations is a whole heck of a lot weirder than if we’d had them acted out. The dialogue, when you’ve got to read it, is wincingly painful, and Zidane comes off as a socially awkward doofus.
Or maybe that was the point of his character. Again, that frilly shirt…
1. Are Final Fantasy games really all that great?
What did we love about Final Fantasy games in the first place? Weird stories, insane twists that just add to the weirdness, overinflated sense of nostalgia; I mean, Vincent Valentine was a total badass, but were these games really the best games ever? Or are our memories clouded? Maybe they were great at the time, but I barely remember anything about Final Fantasys 10 and 12. We all remember the travesty that was 13…or was that 14? Whatever. Now Final Fantasy 15 is out and I won’t get to play it until (or if) it comes to Steam. But do I care?
Some franchises will live in our hearts forever. Some heroes and adventures will always be our favorites, no matter what. But sometimes magic isn’t real. Not always, but sometimes.
Maybe I just have to learn to let go…I mean, FF9 was an alright game. I had fun. And it was only, like, a couple bucks on Steam. Definitely got my money’s worth. So what if it wasn’t the second coming of everything I’d ever wanted in life?
At least I can giggle about that stupid frilly shirt. What were they thinking designing a main character like that?!