Despite having played a few games like Pokémon before, it took a long while to establish the notion of an "RPG" into my mind. Before I finally managed this, the majority of my gaming came under what has remained my other great video gaming love: sports games. Eventually, a year into the new millenium, a friend finally managed to work the idea into my brain, helped greatly by Final Fantasy IX.
During this period the two of us would often go to each other's homes after school and spend a lot of the time playing games, usually racing and strategy games against each other, or having one of us using the console and another on the PC. This particular time we were undertaking the second option, with my friend having just got a copy of Final Fantasy IX (incidentally one of the first games I can actually remember seeing a TV ad for) and myself having managed to fish out one of my old football management games in its glorious floppy disc format. Eventually the lure of the excellent story managed to win out over dominating the league with my mighty Stockport County team and I found myself glued to the TV, occasionally sneaking in a click while waiting for the battles to finish.
Even though watching was keeping my interest perfectly well, the yearning to be involved in the game kept increasing. Fortunately, we discovered the option that allowed the second controller to take control of some of the characters during battle. Naturally as the second player I got stuck with the characters deemed by my friend to be less awesome, and hence ended up stuck playing as Garnet and Freya. Despite this it was still very enjoyable, and playing the battles in co-op proved to work surprisingly well, with the slower pace helping provide time for arguments on what spell I should be using. There was always the option to threaten not to heal my friend in certain circumstances, which proved rather useful when he wasn't sharing the snacks.
One downshot of this arrangement was that my friend also insisted on having his characters become as powerful as possible, at the expense of those being controlled by a certain other person. Of course being unable to issue commands outside of the battle system, there was little that could be done. There were a number of suspicious occurences where the targeting cursor would somehow "slip" and some characters on our team would be mysteriously taken out just before victory was confirmed. No prizes for guessing which, and unfortunately now the threat of not healing had been rendered rather moot.
Finally I had realised there was this whole group of games I had neglected, and after I got hold of Golden Sun and been hooked by its excellent start, I was well and truly entrenched in the RPG camp. To this day Final Fantasy IX remains one of my all-time favourite games. It may have been a bit of time afterwards before I actually got to play it fully by myself but it remained every bit as fun as I remembered. Since then RPGs have been more than welcome to share the gaming time with the mass of sports games (I'm afraid my love for those will never be fully displaced.)
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