It was almost March of 1998; almost my 11th birthday.
It was time to choose a new video game system for my birthday. The current collection resided in my bedroom; A Super Nintendo (never called a SNES) connected to a 13” CRT TV and a trusty, grey-brick Game Boy loaded with Pokemon Blue. I was ready for something new, but what to choose?
The Nintendo 64, was not quite a year old. It could be a solid choice. My best friend, Brian had it and boy, was GoldenEye 007 amazing. I was a Nintendo kid my whole life, so it seemed like the obvious choice.
Another friend, Nick, threw me a bit of a curve-ball. He kept telling me about this amazing new game — Final Fantasy VII; bringing magazines into school and show me screenshots of the game. He would explain how the main character had a huge sword that you fought enemies with and the story was like a movie. A story in a video game? This sounds amazing. The only problem, it is only for Sony PlayStation.
I played on a Sony PlayStation before. It wasn’t a new system; another friend, Victor had it for a while. We played some weird fighting game on it (Tekken?). Should I really choose this washed up system? The N64 is basically brand new.
I explained this situation to my father, magazine in hand; pointing out ads of GoldenEye. “Look, the N64 has 4 controller ports! The whole family could play!”
But, the Sony PlayStation has this really cool game, Final Fantasy VII and I want to see it!
Convinced myself — I needed the PlayStation for this Final Fantasy VII game. GoldenEye and other N64 games could be played at Brian’s house.
Fast forwarding to my birthday….
After I got home from school, my dad took me to PC Richard & Son (an appliance and electronics store limited to Long Island, NY) where my dad had a “guy”; one of those people they know somehow but aren’t actually friends with, but gave them the “hook up” (don’t dad’s always have a “guy” like this?).
My dad, saw the price ($299?) and uttered some curse words, “You’re not getting anything else.”
The salesman trying to upsell a memory card, informed us that we would need it for most games, but no budging from my dad. In the end, I was walking out with a shiny, new, Sony PlayStation. That was all that mattered.
It wasn’t all that bad, though. The PlayStation did come with a demo disc. Plus, my parents could rent me games. I might even be able to borrow one from a friend. This is exactly what I did.
I gathered the courage to borrow Final Fantasy VII from my friend (once he beat the game, of course) and he allowed it.
Now, keep in mind that I didn’t have a memory card. Nick would let me borrow Final Fantasy VII on the bus ride home from school on a Friday.As soon as I got home, I immediately threw the disc into the PlayStation.
I had never seen a game like this before! Playing all afternoon and as late as I could stay up. This is when the first issue kicked in; I could not leave my PlayStation on while I slept, in fear of it overheating or breaking. So what would I do? I would turn the game off and go to sleep. No memory card, so all that progress was…lost!
No problem for me, though. As soon as I wake up I would simply turn on my Sony PlayStation and restart Final Fantasy VII. I was a Sector 1 reactor expert.
This went on for a while. A few weeks? Maybe months? I was very grateful that Nick would let me borrow his game over and over. He knew about my memory card situation, after all.
Now, I became a master of the initial hours of Final Fantasy VII. On a Friday after school, I would be able to make it up to the Sector 6 slums, sometimes even the Shinra Building.
A full weekend’s worth of playing allowed me to get much further. Routinely, I was able to make it through the Shinra building; with the furthest I ever made it in a single run — the Chocobo Farm, before clicking the old, power-button.
A few months later, I finally convinced my dad to get me a memory card. I think I may have begged and pleaded and asked for it to be an early Christmas present. I explained my gaming situation; how games required this card to save, so I could turn the PlayStation off and come back later; How this game was 3 discs long, and I’ve only ever seen the first few hours of disc 1.
The following Christmas, all I wanted was Final Fantasy VII.
After all my gifts were open, my dad asked me if I got everything I wanted. I pulled enough courage together to say, yes, even though I was heartbroken.
To my surprise, my dad pointed out that there seems to be a gift on the entertainment center, by the VCR. My dad pulled the old Christmas Story trick on me. It was indeed, Final Fantasy VII!
I don’t think I was more excited to play a video game in my life! For weeks I would carry around the instructions booklet, just to look at the artwork or show anyone who would listen.
Here and there, my dad would pop in and watch me play for a while, but he never understood why I enjoyed it. He would ask “What are you actually doing?”
It was a valid question; whenever he came in to look, I was reading the dialog. He called it a “movie-game” and that’s a pretty good explanation of a JRPG.
The experience of playing the beginning of the game over and over again, really stuck with me. Midgar is my favorite part of the game and I think most would agree. The game changes so drastically once you enter the world map after the Shinra Building. I play it every few years and sometimes I stop after the Kalm flashback; that’s when the game really shifts its focus.
Final Fantasy VII is a very special game to me for all these reasons. I am beyond excited for the remake.
Do you have any FF7 or early video game stories? Let me know in the comments!
Speaking of old games; have you checked out my favorite games of 2010? I will be going over my favorite games from the 20-10’s to create my Game of the Decade list.