I was born in November of 1987.
I opened my eyes on a world where Star Trek: The Next Generation had just premiered. RoboCop, Predator, and Spaceballs were brand-spanking-new. The Princess Bride was still in theaters. And the Zelda, Metroid, and Castlevania franchises had all debuted their first installment in the US within just the last few months.
What I’m saying is that 1987 was a magical time for a nerd like me, even if I wasn’t old enough yet to know it — old enough to watch TV, play videogames, or… to lift my own dumb head, actually. To me though, 1987 is, more than any of those other things, the year of Final Fantasy. Sure, it didn’t hit North America until three years later, but this was the year Final Fantasy was born — just a month after I was.
I’ve talked about it before, but Final Fantasy is the first videogame I have any memory of. In fact, it’s my second memory — beaten out only by vague, dreamlike images I can occasionally recall of witnessing the second floor of my childhood home being built. In contrast, the memory I have of seeing Final Fantasy is fully three-dimensional. I remember the exact setting, the people who were there, and the feelings I felt. And in some ways I think that that moment was the start of the life I’m still experiencing… as if it was just videogames that my brain was waiting for before it came fully online.
What I remember most clearly from that moment is that I was terrified. It was a combination of technical limitations and youthful imagination — my child’s brain stared into the black battle screens and filled them with monsters hiding in the dark; heard the digitized music and made it the soundtrack of my nightmares; filled in the missing details on the simplistic, scan-lined enemies and turned them into the worst horrors I could dream up.
Being afraid has a way of crystallizing memory. It’s odd to think that this is where my relationship with videogames began; that if I hadn’t been scared out of my wits as an impressionable child, maybe I wouldn’t have walked this path at all. But it’s true: often the games that left the deepest impression on my brain were the games that frightened me, made me genuinely sad or lonely, even pissed me off for whatever reason. (Hey there, Metroid: Other M!)
I owe a lot to this silly little game, and not only because of what it represents. I also spent many a summer, years later, playing through Final Fantasy with different parties or trying solo challenges. I went searching through the ancient internet looking for weapon and enemy stats, and read up on how to max out my characters’ progression. I joined message boards to talk about this game. The very first mod I ever made was a ROM hack of Final Fantasy — which was rejected from the hack site I tried to submit it to because I forgot to include any documentation. Ah, the memories…
So, in short, Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy is where it all began… but we’ve got 29 more games to go.