In a week's time the FFX/FFX-2 HD collection will be released, and, if I'm being completely honest, I haven't been this excited for a game release in a long time. Now, I know that this particular game is one of those polarizing entries in the series—perhaps not nearly as much as FFVIII or FFXII—that manifests fond memories in some players, while causing others to face palm incessantly because of its voice acting or characters.
Beyond the story, the characters, and the art, there is another reason why I am as ecstatic for the release of this game: nostalgia.
Now, I know that nostalgia is one of those things, when it comes to any form of media, that can really come back to bite you. Watch an older version of a television show from your childhood, and you can feel those pangs of dissatisfaction seep into your stomach when the plot material just doesn't hold up. Games can be the same way. Some games that are remade and seemed pristine, when they were initially released, are revealed to be wrought with pitfalls that we chose to overlook when we were younger.
The nostalgia that I am talking about in this case is slightly different. I started college in 2001, and, in addition to my tried and true Dreamcast, I decided to take my shiny new Playstation 2 with me to school. At first it was used only to upscale some PSOne RPGs, which a few of my roommates from my fraternity house and I would play in our free time. My first semester flew by, and, before I knew it, I was back home for Christmas. MGS2 and GTA III were under the tree for me, as was a Best Buy gift card. On December 29, I swung into a Best Buy, and the FFX box immediately caught my eye.
I went home, popped the DVD into my PS2 and heard Tidus speak for the first time while those now familiar, melancholy piano chords of "To Zanarkand" played in the background. Being a huge fan of JRPGs, this was an almost cathartic moment for me. Sixteen hours later, I was knee deep in the game, and I knew that there was no looking back.
I wound up packing my bags and leaving for college a few days later. The university that I attended had an independent activities period during the month of January, so if you wanted, you could attend a number of courses and get that much closer to graduating, or you could just spend the time hanging out with friends and exploring the neighboring cities. I stepped off of my flight, hopped in a cab and was on the way to the house. The second I walked over the threshold to our room, my roommates turned to me, welcomed me back, and then asked:
"Did you get it?"
I knew exactly what "it" they were talking about. I plugged in my PS2, popped in the game, and, together, we all watched the same intro sequence that had captivated my interest only a few days earlier. As we sat there "listening to Tidus' story," other people from the house began to filter into our room. Previous instances where we were caught playing games had resulted in confused and haughty looks of derision being caster our way. After all, we were adult men "playing games," and some of the inhabitants of the had biases against video games. This time though, it was different. Everyone who came in was infatuated with the visual look of the game, its story and the characters.
I was probably about 80% done with my play through at this time, and I had a class that I had to attend each day, which meant that my progress was severely impeded. As I came home from class each day, I would find a different person playing the game in our room. First it was each of my roommates, then it was a guy from the next room over, then a guy at the back of the hall, then someone's girlfriend, and then people from other floors in the house. I think that I watched the first five hours of the game over ten times in a matter of days. Eventually one of my roommates instituted a moratorium on the game for those who didn't inhabit our room just so those of us that did liver there could make progress on it.
Final Fantasy X, for me was a landmark game in the series because it represented a refreshing set of firsts for the series: it was the first Final Fantasy with voice acting, it was the first Final Fantasy on the PS2, and it was the first Final Fantasy that I had played where the ending wasn't afraid to be bittersweet rather than having every character live "happily ever after." That having been said, I still can't express how magical it was for me to share this experience with other people, and to see the very same look of wonder and excitement in their eyes that I had in mine only days before them.
So, again I find myself with a Best Buy gift card, and the release of date the game only a week away. You can bet that I will be in a Best Buy store next Tuesday picking up a copy of the game. You can also be sure that, when I pop the game into my PS3 or my Vita, a familiar smile will crawl across my face as those first few notes of "To Zanarkand" play. Games have the amazing ability to connect us to our past, but in this case, it is also going to connect me to a past that I shared, not just with this game, but with others. I can't wait to journey back down memory lane.