Calm Before the Final Fantasy XIII Storm
My gaming career began at the age of four, when my parents purchased for me a Sega Genesis. Included were two controllers, the bundled Sonic the Hedgehog, and a copy of Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing (my father is a boxing nut). For the longest time, all I knew were those two games, and I’m glad that was the case as each game offered an important lesson.
Sonic introduced me to platforming and all that comes with it: navigation in an imaginary space, prioritizing, and most importantly, judging distances. Evander schooled me with lessons of timing, defense, and interacting with a dynamic opponent. What I did not know at the time was that those seemingly simple lessons are truly the foundation on which all gaming skills are based.
It wasn’t until I was twelve that I found the genre that would ultimately prove to be my calling. After scoring my first goal ever in recreational league soccer, my father offered me a game rental. I quickly accepted and picked up The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I played it. I played it again. I played it some more. I had never been so hooked on anything in my life. And after the week was out and I had to return the game to the store, I knew that, even though I already triumphed and defeated Ganondorf, I needed to own Ocarina for myself; I needed to experience that exaltation just one more time. From that moment on, RPG was my genre of choice.
My hunger was insatiable. I would rent any RPG I could get my hands on, spend hours on end flipping through the pages of Gamepro magazine to read about the new adventures that were available just around the corner. Unfortunately, I only had a N64; RPG’s were few and far between. In junior high school, however, my mother surprised me one afternoon with a Playstation that she found at a garage sale. Salvation. So began my infatuation with the Final Fantasy series.
Like many, my first Final Fantasy was number 7. Right from the start, I was immediately sucked into the world; I wasn’t a spectator playing the game, I was a citizen of Midgar, I was Cloud, confident, but trying to piece together my past. When I should have been playing outside, I was snowboarding down the mountain in disc 2. When I should have been studying, I was crunching the numbers attempting to figure out the best materia combinations. When I was sleeping, I was dreaming about how good it would feel to finally take down Sephiroth. As I played my way through 8, 9, 10, and 6¸ I knew that I could never get enough; I had to branch out into other series. Tales, Star Ocean, Zelda, Rogue Galaxy, and recently Elder Scrolls and Fallout, RPG’s took over my life.
While my love for RPG’s spread all across the board, nothing quite touched my life like Final Fantasy. However, for the last decade, Final Fantasy has been nothing but a disappointment. FFX was merely “meh” inducing. FFXI could not come close to the high that Everquest provided me. I could barely stomach little more than an hour of FFXII before shutting the game off for good. Don’t get me started on the Advent Children/Dirge of Cerberus/etc. fiasco. In short, Final Fantasy has been left behind in my mind.
This is all about to change. In one week’s time, FFXIII with come out, and for the first time in ten years, I’m excited for the series. Gorgeous graphics, voice acting that is closer to good than it is to tolerable, a revamped battle system: all I needed to hear to become interested again.
I’m not sure what effect the hype will have on FFXIII. I’ve built it up in my mind quite a bit, and, as a connoisseur of RPG’s (especially J), I think I might be setting myself up for disappointment. But right now, I don’t care; it’s the calm before the storm that for me has been a lifetime in the making. I will need all the skills that I’ve acquired from Sonic and Evander up until now, I will need to put in the countless hours and sleepless nights, I will need dedication to succeed. All I know now is that I want to win, and I think I know why:
I’m hooked, again.