Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My 10 Years of Final Fantasy

The wait is over. After 10 long years, Final Fantasy XV is now here. Originally announced back in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game quickly became somewhat of a legend among gamers. It was one of them games that we would hear about, but never actually see any evidence that it was "real." Year after year Square-Enix would show up at E3s, TGS, and other events just to say "more news coming soon," and then walk off the stage. At one point there was even a cancellation scare, where it was said that Versus XIII was no longer a thing. Of course Square denied these rumors not long after, but it wasn't until 2013 that we learned the truth. The original game had been canceled, and development had been shifted to the project's new form -- Final Fantasy XV.

Although Final Fantasy XV is technically a new game, a lot of Versus XIII was carried over to it. Most of the main cast is here, multiple story points remained, the battle system is still action based, and the modern day setting was not changed. Of course we don't actually know how Versus XIII would have been (as we rarely got information about it), but from what we do know, it seems it's heart is still here in FFXV. Yes other things have changed, including the character of Stella, but this is still very much the game we saw all them years ago in a new form.

Anyway, this actually isn't what today's post is about. Instead, I want all of you to look back to when you first heard about this game, and look where you are today. Ten years is a very long time to wait for a single game, and just like how Versus XIII changed, I'm sure you've changed as well. I know I have. It's also when I got my start with this series.

When Versus XIII was first announced, I really wasn't much of a fan. I was 14 going on 15, and at that time I was more focused on Kingdom Hearts 2 and the upcoming Nintendo Wii. Just a few months before E3 friends had gotten me interested in the Kingdom Hearts series, and I was doing all I could to catch up. I ran through the first one my friend let me barrow, I looked up everything I could over Chain of Memories, and I bought a copy of KH2 with money I had saved up. Needless to say, I was turning into a fan of the series, and because of that my interest in Final Fantasy went up slightly as well. Of course I knew what Final Fantasy was, but until that moment I never really had a chance to play anything related to it. I would see the games in the local movie rental place, but not once did it cross my mind to play. It took the cast of characters I liked in Kingdom Hearts to give me that push, and my friend recommending IV and VI before I actually picked it up and began playing.

After playing both games, the series faded from my view once again. The Nintendo Wii was getting closer to release, and that was the one thing I wanted more than anything else. When Versus XIII was shown off at E3, I was a bit interested, but it was something I never expected to own. The first time I actually saw it was a picture in some guy's avatar on the official SEGA forums, and when a friend began talking about it on MSN I quickly passed it off as a "I will never be able to get this" sort of thing. It was a PlayStation 3 exclusive, I was a 15 year old kid, I had no way to get money, and I knew my parents wouldn't get me a PS3 as well as a Wii. Versus XIII was completely out of the question, and no matter how cool it looked, I knew I would regret choosing a PS3 (or the Xbox 360 which also had games I wanted) over the Wii. Instead, I figured I'd just get Final Fantasy My Life as a King instead... Yeah...

One massive ice storm that trapped me at home for a week later, Christmas came and went, I got the Wii, and went back to school happy with my present. During the next few years Final Fantasy was completely off my radar. I didn't get My Life as a King, I didn't really follow the news of the new games (although Crisis Core had me interested), and I went about living my normal high school life. Going to school, doing homework, talking to friends, etc. The Nintendo Wii was the main system I stuck with, with my only non Nintendo purchase being Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, and a PSP with a few games after my 16th birthday. Then things changed.

When I was 17 my uncle opened the bakery, I began working, and my life started to change. For the first time I had a small taste of what the adult world was like, and I started to notice things about me changing. The way I acted, the things I liked, and other things just started to change. The video games I once loved? I didn't seem to care about them anymore. The shy me who would avoid people? While not completely gone, I became a lot more talkative thanks to dealing with customers day after day (maybe a bit too talkative looking at this post?). I guess it's all just a part of growing up, but I can still remember that year and how different things were for me. When it came to games, I finally had money of my own to spend, and I had bought an Xbox 360. This opened a whole new world to me. Thanks to this I made quite a few new friends, I began my life as an online gamer, and I discovered many new series that I still love to this day. It's also why I went back to Final Fantasy.

After I finished high school, I went onto college and began working to become a draftsmen. I had taken a drafting class my last year of high school and loved it, so I figured it would be the best thing for me. While I didn't talk to my friends from high school as much (due to us being apart), I would still see them online from time to time and send them messages. That's when one day a guy I had known all throughout school showed up on my Xbox Live friends list playing the newly released Final Fantasy XIII. The year before when we both had the same drafting class we would often talk about the different games on Xbox, and a lot of the time he would recommend me some really good games. So when I asked him if FFXIII was any good, and he said yes, I went out and bought it. And no, I don't regret it.

Sadly the first night I had XIII a bad storm came through and I was unable to play for more than a half an hour, but the good news was I was home the entire next day and free to play. So, I did just that. Although XIII was vastly different from the previous two games I had played (and linear), I fell in love with it. I liked the characters, the story kept me going, I liked the battle system, I liked the setting, and I didn't want to stop playing. That game became my life for quite awhile after it came out, and I continued playing even after I finished. Around that time things were also changing at the bakery, I got to meet new coworkers, and my college life was getting better as well. I was finishing the semester, the next semester looked like it was going to be great, and I was getting much more free time during the week to do what I wanted. So, what did I do? Well, when the next semester started, and Easter came around, I finally went out and got the game I had been wanting to play since Kingdom Hearts 1 -- Final Fantasy VII.

Rather than starting with VII, I actually picked up Crisis Core on my way home from college. It was getting closer to Easter break, and I wanted something to play... But that didn't work out. In less than two days I had finished the game and was wanting more. Then, on Easter Day, I went to Walmart with my dad, spent 60 bucks on a PSP memory card, then went back to my Grandpa's to use his router to download FFVII to my PSP. It was a long few hour wait, but when it was all said and done I set out on the FF adventure of a lifetime.

I could go on and on about how much I love FFVII, but I won't. Instead I'll talk about what happened next. I went full on FF crazy... I bought Dissidia, I got FFIV and FFVI's GBA version and played through them during my breaks in college (even car pooled with someone the day before winter break, despite having only one class to go to, just so I could sit there and play VI), and I bought every spin off I could get my hands on. From that point on I had become a full Final Fantasy fan, and I couldn't wait for more. Then Versus XIII reentered the picture.

Using tip money I had saved from the bakery, I finally bought myself a PS3 with hopes of using it to play Versus XIII. It had been a long time since I first heard about it, but I was finally at a point where it could be mine. After that I kept track of all of the game's news, I watched every event hoping to find out more about it, and I would often talk about it with other fans. It was the one game I really wanted, and the wait was getting harder and harder. When it was finally shown off in 2013 as FFXV, it was just even more of a reason for me to buy a PS4. Of course by this point I had just finished college, I was in the middle of looking for a full time job, and I had already played most of the other games. Going by my plan, I would save up for a PS4, get it on launch, and buy the game as soon as possible. Sadly, it didn't all go according to plan.

In 2013 I did manage to find my dream job, but what I wasn't counting on was losing my uncle and the bakery with him. So many people were cut out of my life, and since then things have never been the same. Although it's been three years it can still be hard to accept what happened, and to see how my life has completely changed. Now here we are in 2016, and although ten years was a long wait, I also can't help but think about how fast it went by and how so much changed. I'm no longer the 15 year old sitting there playing Kingdom Hearts 2, and the world I now live in is vastly different from where I used to be. The game I had waited for all this time is finally here, but I guess a part of me is a bit sad about that. The wait is one thing that has remained the same all this time, and now that has come to an end. Of course I'm glad to finally have it, but that doesn't mean I don't miss the past. If I could do it all over again, would I? Maybe, but that's not how life works. Instead here I am now looking forward to the future instead. The Final Fantasy series has become a big part of my life during these past ten years, and I still can't wait to see what's to come.