First off, this post is not as much about the game as it is my own personal experience with the franchise. It’s not even just about Final Fantasy, but about a deep and meaningful sense of purpose that was given to me at a young age.
Twenty-six years ago my dad brought home Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I was ten years old, and had already watched my dad play through the Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and the like. I had joined him on the journey in those games, as well as others, and I remember well joining him on what would become a life long affair with a game series that the producers of the game saw as their last gasp. Final Fantasy, the original, was everything a lover of role playing games could ask for at the time on a home console, and eventually would become one of the largest names in the genre.
My dad loved it – and subsequently, loved every Final Fantasy, or Final Fantasyesqe game that came out – think Chrono Trigger, etc. Dutifully, would watch my dad play for hours and hours, into the wee hours of the morning, especially on the weekends. When we moved and my brother and I had our own floor (a former attic), the gaming TV and the game systems followed with us, and so did my dad – at least on Friday nights. We would sit there on the floor, as he sat on a dusty and lumpy old love seat, mesmerized as he defeated enemies and leveled up. We followed along in the strategy guide, telling him where treasure was. He patiently would move back and forth, in what we now call grinding, in the same spot for hours, leveling up.
It’s one of the most pleasant memories of my childhood, and even into my adulthood, I would follow him along as he journeyed in the lands created by Square Soft, and later, Square Enix. My dad wasn’t the greatest JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) player, but his attention to detail insured he left no stone unturned. His desire for perfection is what ultimately led to him never completing Final Fantasy XII – he missed the Zephyr Spear because he unfortunately opened a chest in the beginning hours of the game. He, of course, as a “completionist”, restarted. I don’t remember how far he got in his second play through before he had his stroke that left him physically incapable of playing, but I know he was probably close to the end again. I also don’t remember if he actually got the spear – I would like to think he did, but again, that was nine years ago, and unfortunately we had more important things on our minds. I, of course, was playing as well – but likewise, I never finished the game due to the upheaval. This led to one of my biggest regrets – we, as a family, left a Final Fantasy game unfinished – a first.
Eventually over the next couple of years, I became a family man myself. Marrying my beautiful wife, and at the time of this writing, having five beautiful and wondrous children to call my own. I played Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 – not enjoying them as much as previous titles, but playing and beating them nonetheless. Lightning Returns, not so much. I begane playing Final Fantasy XIV and my three oldest children loved it. With exclamations like, “its a chocobo!” the would sit and watch me play for hours – like a lot of games. However, beyond their random comments, the interaction was minimal.
With Final Fantasy XV, this has begun to change. My oldest son, who is six years old, has dutifully watched me play a couple of hours over the past couple of nights. He has anxiously waited on me to complete my other “gaming duties” – I run a successful Star Trek Online fleet (think guild) on Playstation 4, and the moment I click on the FF15 icon, he grabs his blanket, runs to the couch, sits down and smiles. The interactions are priceless – “daddy, those guys look like robots,” (Imperial magitek soldiers), “Daddy, your car is awesome and gold,” (it has the chocobo skin from the pre-order), to, “daddy, its getting dark, you don’t want the real bad guys to get you.” I have been trying to connect with video games with my children – at least one of them – like my dad did with me, and it seems, just like it did with me, Final Fantasy has brought that to pass. Last night he asked me if he could stay up and watch me play tonight, I told him I didn’t know if I would be able to – again, gaming obligations with Star Trek Online, but since it is Friday (I get off early), we can play tomorrow afternoon. There, I said it, “we.”
Final Fantasy XV is a single player game – but for my family, Final Fantasy has always been more then that. An experience shared between father and son, and now that tradition, it seems, is going to continue. Part of me thinks it was a way for my dad to get us to calm down and sit in one place, yet I also understand that my dad felt joy when we did sit next to him, reading him the maps and telling him where to go. I can remember him explaining what he was doing and why he was doing it the way he was – sharing his strategy, sharing his wisdom of trial and error. Much like the way he did with everything in his life – as a clergyman, as a father, as a husband – he learned from his mistakes and triumphs, and passed that knowledge on to his sons and daughter. I’m not banking on my oldest son, or any of my sons and my daughter in fully appreciating Final Fantasy – and in this case, Final Fantasy 15, as much as I ultimately did right away. For one, they are still a lot younger then I was when I began the journey twenty-six years ago. I am, however, thrilled at the prospect of at least one of my children wantonly desiring to share in this game’s journey.
As I was going to bed last night, my wife rolled over and told me that as she was putting my oldest son to bed, he could barely contain his excitement. “Daddy said we are going to play Final Fantasy all afternoon, and he is going to teach me how to use the strategy guide (or something to that effect)!” It hit me, my son is excited – not just for a video game, but because it is something that we have been doing together. I rolled over in bed and realized that so was I.
I still have my dad’s copy of Final Fantasy XII, he, of course, got the collectors edition. I still have his strategy guide, again, the collectors edition. I still have all of his notes, and his marks and checks are still visible in the guide. I don’t have a Playstation 2 – otherwise I would have completed it. I do hold out hope that one day they will “remaster” it for PS4, if only so I can lay that one beast to rest, for both myself and my dad. If that day comes, I know I will have at least one son of my on by my side, and I have a feeling I will have at least four others being just as dutiful to me as I was with my dad.
*Note: My dad passed away in 2014 – I know a lot of people wont get it, my wife sometimes included, but Final Fantasy, at least to me, was and is a very important part of my life and time with him. There are obviously a myriad of other things, many things far more important, but FF has always been the one thing that has stuck out in my mind. I am honored that I have the chance to share that same type of experience with my children that he did with his. I am sure he would have loved this game as well.