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Where We've Been, and Why We Are the Way We Are
by PCA long, long time ago, a bunch of nerds crooned over their TV, marvelling at this "cool game" Final Fantasy. There was nothing else like it! Who was the genius who invented this awesome, awesome game? And would they ever see another like it?
Fast forward: umpteen years later, the once "nerdy" series is now the mainstream. Glasses wearing geeks, [me], are now joined by leather clad punks and smiling jocks alike to marvel at Square's RPG's. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I never got to play the first FF. Nintendo-less as I was, I hadda wait for my Asian buddy to introduce me to FF2 on my spankin' new SNES. I marveled. How cool! That badass Cecil, that traitor Kain, that I just loved to hate, that cutie Rydia, that Spoony Bard Edward; and LET'S NOT FORGET YANG, A TRUE MAN AMONG LITTLE BOYS! I loved that game.
Then I moved on to FF3. As I got into the game, I began to wonder who the real main character was. Was it Terra, or really Celes? Or did it switch back and forth? How about the rest of the party? I mean, there were so many cool guys, but, why did there have to be SO many? What I'd always like about FF2 was that, you got plenty of characters to cycle through as the game progressed, but then you finally focused on a final party. With FF3, it was never like that. I always felt that Square took its try for nonlinear storytelling a little too far. And don't even start me on that Esper thing.
I spent the next few years playing Chronotrigger and doing my best to ignore the hype on FF7, [7?, I thought, what about all the ones in between? Of course, I know NOW!] When I finally played it, [no I didn't buy it, I borrowed from a buddy] It sickened me. Sure, the graphics were fine, and the FMV were mind-splitting, but what was it? The main character was a wack job! That Materia system! Sephiroth always scampering off! Half of your team either betraying you or coming to you from the other side! I felt Square had taken a nap on this one, favoring graphics for story. Of course, they COULD DO THAT NOW, so I didn't blame them. We'll get back to that.
Now, FF8. I was pretty keen, seeing how disappointed I was with its predecessor. A love story, you say? Sounds interesting; I know I'm ready for a little more adult tale, then just the USUAL destroy-the-world cliche. [can we ever escape it?] The graphics stunned me. No, really. Remember the first time you watched the Matrix and just went "Dah, that was cool!" It was just like that. Then I played... and played... and played. I couldn't get enough. Indeed, the game has it's flaws: the almost sickeningly difficult secret items, story glitches, etc, but on the whole a strong game. I love it.
What it comes down to is this: FF is mainstream now, it sets all the standards. Way back when, it was underground, no where near the mogul it is now. Back then, nerds played it because it was so damned cool, now, we play it because it's next in the FF line. Plus, with more powerful systems, graphics get a great boost and more attention, which is perfectly understandable. But that doesn't mean we have to be critics. Look back at the first Final Fantasy. Who among you could find the flaws rampant in that game? How about FF4? Love it as I do, that "ooops, there's one more crystal" and Kain's "I'm a good guy, I'm a bad guy, I'm a good guy, I'm a bad guy" got a little painful. What was wrong with FF6? Most of you won't touch it because you dug it so much, and you don't want to find flaws. Now that games can be sold on graphics, stories should be expected to suffer. For old school games, the gameplay and the story had to sell. I still think the best game of all time was River City Ransom. Action and RPG perfectly blended. Sorry, I'm straying. The point is, you kids spend too much time griping about what's wrong with the new games than just enjoying them. So what if the name Squall is girly and he acts like a jerk? The game lasts for 60 HOURS! There needs to be something wrong with our hero so we keep coming back to see if he changes.
I disagree with some of you. There was a lot of focus on the FF8 story. At some points, not during the FMV, it felt like a movie, the way the plot unfolded. Not as well as Metal Gear Solid, of course, nothing could touch that, but, in it's own way, Square became a storyteller with FF8.
In closing, let me just remind you all that, no matter how much we love to hate what may be becoming of Final Fantasy, THERE STILL AIN'T NO FF BETTER THAN MY CHRONOTRIGGER!
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