Remembering Our First Final Fantasy Experiences
The Final Fantasy VII Remake is finally out after more than a decade of anticipation, ever since that neat little proof of concept showcased by Square Enix back when the PS3 was first unveiled. Fans never lost hope for the remake to be finally released and that goes to show how iconic the Final Fantasy franchise is as a whole, with countless games, spinoffs, books, movies and animations comprising its gigantic universe ever since the original was first released for the Famicom in 1987.
With a franchise so big, it’s no surprise that people have played different games and have had different experiences with it throughout the years. We’ve decided to talk about the first game we each played from the franchise, what they mean to us, and our own personal introduction to the juggernaut created by Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Leo – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
If we’re not counting Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy, and we shouldn’t considering it’s actually a game from the Mana series, Crystal Chronicles was the first Final Fantasy game I ever played and beat. I was that typical 90’s kid who didn’t grow up on Sony consoles. I was Nintendo all the day, meaning that my access to Final Fantasy games, and JRPGs as a whole, was pretty limited.
Crystal Chronicles was the only Final Fantasy released for the Gamecube and I loved every second of it. Granted, it’s not exactly a mainline Final Fantasy game and it’s not even an RPG per se, being closer to Monster Hunter in terms of gameplay than anything Square had put out by then. But I loved its simple story, its gameplay, and in a controversial turn of events, its multiplayer. I actually had the Gamecube-GBA cable back in the day and so did my friends, so I remember countless summer holiday nights being spent in multiplayer games with this kind of functionality, namely The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and, of course, Crystal Chronicles.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles might not exactly have been the best Final Fantasy Square Enix has ever developed, but I cannot deny it ended up being a damn good introduction to the franchise to me. Once I got my hands on a PSP, I started playing ever single other Final Fantasy I could get my hands on: Crisis Core, the remakes of I and II, War of the Lions, and so on. It was all thanks to Crystal Chronicles.
Heidi – Final Fantasy VI
Technically, the first Final Fantasy game I ever played was Final Fantasy VIII, but I never actually finished the game because my cousin broke one of the discs for it. So instead I’m going to count Final Fantasy VI as my true first complete Final Fantasy experience. I can’t even be that mad since it made me addicted to JRPGs from then on.
Final Fantasy VI is considered to be the best entry in the franchise by many and there’s good reason for it. It had fourteen different permanently playable characters (more than any other title) and each had their own strengths and standout personalities. It also has one of the best stories ever delivered in a video game.
Not only that, it might be the first video game in history to have the villain win. I was blown away by those turn of events and couldn’t stop playing for the second half of the game. The main antagonist, the crazed jester Kefka, is arguably one of the most interesting villains of the franchise. Add to that, the great soundtrack and iconic Opera House scene and you’ve got a game that has cemented itself as a timeless classic. Now I want to play it again…
Kyle – Final Fantasy XIII
My first Final Fantasy game is one of the most controversial entries in the entire series. Final Fantasy XIII was one that was a really long time coming for fans and released with a massive amount of hype. Even today the fan base is divided on this entry and for good reason.
The storyline was incoherent garbage, with some paper thin characters and overly long, yet beautiful to look at cutscenes that didn’t explain anything. Then we’ve got thirty straight hours of hand holding, insanely linear level design, and combat that at its best can be described as passable and at its worst mind numbingly boring. Things do pick up in the game’s second half, but at that point it’s just too late.
However, this did introduce me to the world of Final Fantasy and the JRPG genre as a whole. So to me, XIII is alright, and at the very least, the sequels were much more enjoyable. Even if the story kept on being convoluted and the characters dull and unlikable.
Jason – Final Fantasy IX
My exposure to the Final Fantasy franchise was a scattered one for sure. When I was a kid my parents were incredibly protective of what I was “exposed to”, especially as the oldest child. For that reason my house was pretty strictly a Nintendo-only-home because of their family friendly approach. But that never stopped me from playing what I wanted to.
Every time I’d go over to my friend’s house we would sink hours upon hours into 007: GoldenEye or some OG DOOM. But one day, I found out that he had a Final Fantasy IX demo disc and thought that it might be a fun to try out. Having never played a JRPG before, I fumbled around through menus for awhile trying to understand how it worked and managed to completely miss the fact that there was a list of changeable equipment. Nonetheless, I had fallen in love.
Being too young to work, I had no money of my own to invest in it, so I managed to convince my parents for money for a new Nintendo game, that I promptly gave to my friend so he could buy himself Final Fantasy IX under the condition that I could borrow the game and his Playstation to play it first. It was the most roundabout way possible, but everyone accepted and for two glorious weeks, I was able to enjoy my first Final Fantasy.
Two weeks was nowhere near enough time to finish it though and I had to return the game and Playstation to my buddy. Eventually I was able to get a Playstation 2 and played through Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII as soon as they released, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I experienced Final Fantasy IX again. The amoral student I was went right for the emulators and got lost in the nostalgia of Final Fantasy IX while I finally had the chance to finish it. While I wish I had the chance to finish it earlier in my life, the beauty of moments like the Black Mage Village would have been lost on my younger self and I will forever treasure discovering Gaia for the first and second time.
Thomas – Final Fantasy I
As strange as it seems nowadays, my first Final Fantasy game was the first Final Fantasy game. Not even one of the myriad of remakes or revisions it’s received over the years, but the original western release on the NES. It wasn’t my first RPG, not even my first JRPG (that would be Dragon Quest), but there was something about it that set it apart from the others.
On the surface it looks like a fairly simple D&D conversion. The warrior class was even originally labeled fighter. Below that though, was a world far deeper than others of the time. It had all of the standard fantasy trappings. Elves, dungeons, mages, and even the classic D&D villain, Tiamat, but they were just used as stepping stones for something more. By modern standards the world building and characterization is paper thin to non-existent, but as a youngster it was exactly what I always wanted from an RPG. I’ve always seen the franchise’s evolution into more linear narrative experiences as a natural development of what the original was trying to be.
The game has not aged particularly well, no matter how hard Square has tried to keep it relevant. Even for the time, the level of difficulty was insane and the random wandering required to progress could be incredibly annoying. As a kid though, it was exhilarating and there’s so many moments that I still remember like it was yesterday. The experience of finally unlocking the airship and watching it rise out of the desert remains one of my greatest personal gaming achievements. Then there’s the way the fourth act descends into glorious nonsense, which has arguably become the series’s strongest tradition. Final Fantasy took the world by storm for good reason and as FF7R has shown, the fire’s not out of the franchise yet.
Jordan – Final Fantasy X
I was first introduced to Final Fantasy through a friend of mine that was a couple years older than me. He had already gone through quite a bit of the Final Fantasy games, but his favorite was X. I forget the exact circumstances, but his PS2 disc broke and I ended up buying him a new copy for his birthday. That next weekend we ended up playing through the entire game and the series hooked me from there.
I strongly remember the unique opening with the focus on Blitzball and how frustrating it was because of the controls, yet it was awesome the game still let you at least play it. It wasn’t something just left off screen or talked about. I also didn’t realize until much later in my life that one of my favorite voice actors, John DiMaggio, was the one who voiced Wakka. And speaking of voice acting, who can forget that iconic Tidus laugh! AHHH HA HA HA HA HA HAAA!
X also had an effect on me because I was raised as a fairly religious person, and X had an interesting take on how a religion was ruling Spira. Tidus’ struggle with understanding these new religious rules and how Fayth are intertwined within the world fed into my own feelings with religion. Being thrust in it and acting the part, but always skeptical of the teachings.
Aaron – Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
With Final Fantasy being such a long running and established franchise, it’s not surprising that so many people have different jumping in points. Personally, the first Final Fantasy game I ever touched was Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. Honestly, looking back on it today, it’s kind of funny that this is the closest I’ve come to ever playing Final Fantasy VII.
Dirge of Cerberus played a bit differently than your typical Final Fantasy game as well. It actually plays a lot more similarly to Devil May Cry than any Final Fantasy game. I remember as a kid thanking that Vincent looked like an absolute badass, putting him on the cover was definitely a strong selling point for me. Having mostly played PlayStation 2 at the time, the similarities between Dirge of Cerberus and Devil May Cry also made the game extremely enticing.
Long story short, young, outcast metalhead kid becomes obsessed with mysterious, brooding main character. I can’t think of any other reason I picked up Dirge of Cerberus way back then besides the depiction of the main character, but all these years later I’m glad I did. It led to me playing many other games in the series and enjoying a fair chunk of them. Who knows, maybe it’s time to tackle Final Fantasy VII with the new remake!
What about you? What was your introduction to the Final Fantasy franchise?