I finally found a reason to pull myself away from Rock Band, and it's only peripherally related to two of my instruments breaking under the pressure of drunk New Year's celebrants.
Last week, my friend seiya made his semiannual visit to the states, and with him came my copies of Lost Odyssey for the 360 and various DS games. Under normal circumstances, this rant would be about Lost Odyssey, because it's gorgeous in high definition and it's more accessible to most readers, since the Japanese version is already in English and the US release is imminent.
I've only played Lost Odyssey for about 10 minutes, though. Among the DS games he brought back is the Nintendo DS remake of Final Fantasy IV, which immediately took over all of my gaming the moment it made its way to my grubby little hands. There were some initial hiccups due to losing my DS charger - I haven't played my DS since about a year ago, when the Final Fantasy VI remake for GBA came out - but as soon as I got all that out of the way, I fired up FFIV and I was a kid again.
Final Fantasy IV (or II, as it was known at the time) was the very first RPG I ever played. I went over to a friend's house way back in 1991 to hang out and play some Super Nintendo when he showed me his new game, this Final Fantasy thing. We sat down, started to play it, and when we looked up, it was somehow 8 hours later.
Final Fantasy was by far the most complicated game I'd ever played at that point, which wasn't hard because I was raised on a steady diet of side-scrollers like Alex Kidd, Shinobi, Streets of Rage, and miscellaneous leftover Atari games. Not only were there characters I had to level up, but there were pieces of equipment they could use and upgrade, these things called elements that actually mattered because some enemies were weak to elements.
And the story! Sure, it's not much when I look back at it ("I'm sacrificing myself nobly!" "Hey! I'm alive again, for no good reason! Sure, I jumped into an active volcano with a bomb, but I'm getting better!"), but it was the first game I'd ever played that had more story than a two-page introduction in the manual.
It was like a thousand lights went off in my 10-year-old mind. After that one day of playing FFII/IV, the future of video games played itself out in my mind, and I knew that I was a gamer for life. So, even though the only Final Fantasy games I've played all the way through are VI and X, I'm playing FFIV right now, and loving every minute of it. Sure, it's hard. Sure, it looks like a PlayStation 1 game, replacing the sprites I remember with primitive polygons and textures ("wtf! Rosa got boobs!"). But it has extra dialogue, voiced cut scenes, and enough minor improvements that I feel the same sense of wonder I did 16 years ago in my friend's room playing my very first RPG.