Everyone has that one game growing up that did something in just the right way to evolve one’s perception of what gaming could really be. If you’re around the ripe old age of 30 like yours truly then chances are that the game that did such a thing for you was something from the regular or Super Nintendo. For me, however, the game that transformed my understanding of what a game was, and could be, was none other than Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy games tend to be interestingly and deservedly decisive for those who have ever played any of the 15 Final Fantasy games currently in existence. Some will defend 6, 8 or 9 to the death, citing many reasons why their Final Fantasy title was leagues better than the others. The truth is that it really is largely subjective, as a lot of what gamers remember liking about these games is how good they felt while playing. When you’re young and impressionable, a Final Fantasy title has a good chance of winning you over with its story, characters, setting and iconic role-playing gameplay. That was indeed the case for me.
By the time I was introduced to Final Fantasy 7, I had already been playing video games for a couple of years on my Super Nintendo. Mario, Kirby, Yoshi, and the rest of the Nintendo crew filled my free time in a way I’ll never not be fond of. My Mother and I went to visit her friend who also had a son that just happened to have Final Fantasy 7 on the newly released PlayStation One. It was my first time seeing a near-fully 3D game like that. The darker and more desolate backgrounds, the music, the edgy characters and writing, the violence during combat; I found it all very enthralling. There was something more to this game than all the other games I had played at the time. As an adult, I now know what that “something” is.
Final Fantasy 7 didn’t treat me like the child that I was. It was a game that didn’t hold my hand in a lot of the same ways that a game like Super Mario World or Kirby Superstar did. I don’t mean mechanically either. To my 7-year-old mind, Final Fantasy 7 was much more believable than anything I’d played from Nintendo at the time. Everything about it bled a certain mature cohesion that had me completely immersed in every aspect of its visual and auditory craft. To this day even, there’s nothing more iconic to me than the various fighting and boss-battle themes, of which I know I’ll never forget. Even though I was quite young at the time, the deeper themes built into the story resonated with me. Love, loss, joy, rage, death, life and rebirth; it was a wild ride for someone in 1st grade.
I’m not sure if I’ll be introducing my future children to such concepts at that age, but I don’t regret experiencing them at that age myself. Final Fantasy 7 helped shape my understanding of what a game could be and could make me feel. I came away from Final Fantasy 7 with a greater appreciation for gaming and for that, I’ll always be grateful. Movies, music, board games, after-school activities, sports and homework all took a backseat to my first and last biggest addiction.
Even now in my early 30’s, new avenues of gaming like virtual reality continue to reshape my understanding of what games are and could be. This is the power of video games as a medium, and like my 7-year-old self, I can’t wait to see and experience what’s around the corner.