I miss being a young gamer. I really do, the days when I could just fucking LOSE myself in a game are long behind me. Sure, I still play games. I relish them, I dissect them, I obsess over them. I am a gamer, always will be. But there was a time when I could just submerge myself in a good game universe, and nowhere was this more possible than with a good RPG. Towns, side-quests the villains, the heroes. The emotional drama, the world-shattering struggles. For hours a day, my life faded away, and these people and their trials and tribulations were EVERYTHING to me. The effect of those gaming experiences are as indelibly etched on me as any aspect of my traditional academic education or psychological development.
And shit-howdy do I remember my time with Final Fantasy X. Now, in recent years, it’s become somewhat…I guess “fashionable” to rip on the PsOne/PS2 era FF games. And to be entirely honest, there is a lot to mock; over-convoluted story lines with moody, emotional cripple characters, art design prone to making everyone look less “Fantasy Hero” and more “GQ by way of David Bowie,” the constant soliloquizing and questionable hero designations. It’s all true. But damn if I’m going to say that, freed from my post-modern ironicism, those games were not, to a one, defining experiences in my gaming youth. These stories shook me, these worlds enraptured me and these characters became dear friends to me.
Final Fantasy X was, to me, a revelation of game-involvement. My 10 year old brain was ready to gulp up a good, possibly a little obtuse, storytelling and X came at just that time. Tidus and company talked, they showed emotion, they pondered shit, and to my young mind that was the most amazing thing ever. Combat challenged me but didn’t overwhelm me, and the struggle was rife with philosophy and emotional moments. In the years after, I would return to the other FF games with my newly multi-dimensional thinking purely because of the interest shaken loose by this game. No longer would I just play them because “Ohhh, pretty graphics and cool play!” but would look at them with a weathered eye. An eye weathered by a storm named Final Fantasy X.
And now, Square-Enix has announced an HD remake of the game for the PS3. Now, this isn’t the first time a company has done this. Hell, there was like five of them last year alone, collections of games with barely noticeable graphical improvements, more worth their value simply for being convenient due to having multiple entries in a given series. Devil May Cry, for instance: despite what Prota may tell you, there are in fact three games in the series, and putting them all in one box for a lower price is great for people who haven’t played them, and DMC is an old enough franchise, and was niche enough at the time of its release, that this number is appreciable. Packaged classic for the new generation.
But here, we’re talking about a different kind of animal. See, FFX is a wholly singular game, like most of the Final Fantasy series. Barring its pseudo-sequel (and fuck you, nothing that tonally different from an installment is a proper sequel, so DON’T start throwing X-2 complaints at me), it has absolutely no other content to be included. Not only that, it is also ball-shakingly popular; at the time of its release, and since, FFX was a huge seller. Hell, by the time I got the game that christmas, it was already well past the millions mark, a rare(ish) achievement for a game in 2001. So unlike some of the other HD releases, games that have achieved popularity NOW but may have been less exposed in their earlier days, the people who want to play the game HAVE played the game.
So the question now is…why? I mean, of course we KNOW why. Money, my dear boy. Good, ol’ fashioned guap. And do you know what the sad thing is? As much as this particular release confuses me from a historical standpoint, being pure fanbaiting free of the traditional logicians reason, I will likely buy it. And why is that? Is it because the story was so good I need to feel it again? Was the gameplay so addictive that I need to experience it again? The characters so revolutionary in their depth that I must re-associate myself with them?
No, no, and no. Or at least, if I wanted to do those things, I could just replay my original copy of the game. So again, why? I guess its because, as gamers, there are certain games that are like home to us. As ridiculous as they may seem from some angles (like Fagalicious Ted, up there), they remind us of why we play games. But we have so much bearing down on us in the now, that we can’t revisit them. And in a way, we’re too corrupted to see them the same way. Our vintage goggles come up, and we see them from a distance.
But we still WANT to feel that way, and perhaps the HD gives us an excuse. Maybe that moniker is enough to justify in us “Oh, it is different, well, better jump back in!” And that’s…okay. When I remember how I felt slaying my first fiend, taking out the sinspawn at Kilika, hearing the Besaid theme loop in the background, watching Yuna summon for the first time, hearing “At Zanarkand” play as the game booted up, taking on Sin in a desperate bid for world peace…when I remember these things, I remember why I play games. And if an HD guzzy can be enough of a reason for me to revisit those feelings, then I guess I’m ready to be a consumer whore.