It’s 1990, and I’m in 7th grade; first year of Junior high, or at least that how it was in Greece… Game Boy was the big fad at the time and I played one of the first of its series, and greatest games of my life, Final Fantasy Legend (though, as will be mentioned below, this was not even an original FF game to begin with).
For those of you new to my Generation Pong series, it’s all about the memories focused around video games – a great many of those during the years when I moved to Greece, Europe (between the ages of 7 and 17). This particular memory takes place when I’m a little over 10 years old. I’ve only just moved to Greece a couple years back, and I’m really missing my siblings. Both my brother and sister (14 and 9 years older than me, respectively) had remained in the states with my father – so I went from a little kid growing up and playing with my siblings to only talking to them once or so a month on the phone, and seeing them for a couple weeks during the summer when they would visit.
I remember missing them and being sad, though back then, it was a simple childlike sadness. It is not until now, as an adult, am I realizing the gravity this might have had on me as a kid. My siblings are great, loving people, and I’m extremely fortunate to have them. What is unfortunate is the lack of time we got to live and grow up together when I was a kid. By the time I returned to the States, I went to college and pretty much lived on my own. Of course it was amazing to be close to them and officially have them back in my life, but I never got to live those years of the younger brother – probably annoying the hell out of my sister, while my big brother showed me the ropes. Luckily, I do have a handful of great memories with them (both the summers they would visit, and from before I moved to Greece at the age of 7).
Anyway, Greece was a little behind when it came to technology (especially back then) so when the Game Boy came out in ’89, Greece had not yet seen it in ’90. My brother (obviously missing me too), would shower me with the coolest things every summer he would visit. Nike Jordan’s, Reebok pumps, you name it. The best gift of all obviously, was my very first Nintendo Game Boy. Do you know what it feels like to be a video game kid and to have one of the first portable game players? (and how cool it was to be like the only kid in school with it?). Amazing, that’s how. And my love for what the Game Boy was for me could be a story in its own right. What should be focused on here is the games he brought me alongside the Game Boy. I got Tetris (still one of my favorites… I “finished” it btw… getting that damn rocket to shoot into space), and Super Mario Land (oh was an amazing game that was). He had told me he was bringing me this, and asked me what games I wanted. He literally called me from home and listed off some of the names he had jotted down at the store (this was before cell phones, where he could call on the spot), and from those, I picked the two. When he asked me to pick another, I said surprise me. And indeed to my surprise, he picked one of my favorite games of all times, part of a series that has been with me for years to come… Final Fantasy Legend!
You see, what makes this game special was that I had never played a Final Fantasy before that. In fact, I don’t remember having played any “role playing” video game before that. What I did play, and truly loved, was actual Role Playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. I was a huge fan of fantasy (Willow being one of my all time favorite films – even until this day). So the ability to role play in that world, pick your weapon, your skills, your armor… it was fascinating.
So, when I see this FF Legends my brother got me, I had no idea what to expect. It was my surprise gift after all. I even remember I didn’t play that game at all until after he left that summer… I was pre-occupied with Tetris and Mario. And one day, I decided to give it a try. I got to pick a character class, I got to have my own weapons, I spoke to villagers and went on missions for them. This was it… this was the video game version of Dungeons and Dragons. I had barely gotten into the game when I ran to my mom asking her if I could call my brother (expensive ass call back then, not to mention I probably wasn’t thinking of time-difference between countries… which was 7 hrs btw with NY). I guess timing was ok, so she says sure, and there I was, a 10 year old kid, babbling to him about how amazing this game was and how special it was for me, not only cause it was something I loved, but my brother, who I missed so much, picked it out randomly for me! He told me how he read the back of the box and he thought it looked pretty in depth and figured I would like it. Oh, how right he was.
But Final Fantasy Legends, beyond being the video game representation of RPG’s (for what it was for the time at least), also held its own magic as a video game. You see, the story with it is pretty eerie and haunting… especially for a 10 year old boy who is playing the first “epic” game. It revolved around 4 heroes trying to reach the top of this unbelievably tall tower. You explored the medieval fantasy like world on the surface, trying to complete missions to even get access to the tower, and as you ascended, you stopped at 3 other levels, each having it’s own entire world (that concept in itself was a mind-boggling, imagination driving explosion to me). Each world was entirely different… one under water, one on the clouds… one was even a post-apocalyptic land run by Biker gangs (time/era had no connection between worlds, so each had the items/equipment and constructions that fit the story). As you progressed, you found clues of others that died trying to go up the tower, and hints that at the top of it all, was the creator… God. And when you finally reached him, the storyline (as simplified as it was made for that type of game at the time) was as epic as you would expect for a Final Fantasy Game.
Ironically, Legends was never officially a fantasy game. Originally released in Japan under its own name (what was known to be part of the Sa-Ga series), the developers Square/Sunsoft renamed it linking it to the Final Fantasy games. This would not only help improve the marketing of the game, but the game clearly had the same values and feel of a Final Fantasy game, fitting right in (as it was the same creators anyway).
And those are the memories around Final Fantasy Legend, always linked to my move to Greece, my first Game Boy, and the distance between me and my siblings (my brother in particular in this story). And now, 25 years later, I still remember climbing that tower. I still remember each of those worlds being so uniquely different and in depth. I remember the amazing music that game had (especially the game over screen, which had a melancholic yet peaceful tune). And I remember the multitude of Final Fantasy games I literally ran to buy in the future, knowing how much I had loved this original one. In fact, upon returning to the United States, trying to fit in was difficult, and I remember spending lots of times with the newly released Playstation, which I specifically bought because of Final Fantasy 7; in fact, I was so excited for that game, I bought it even before I bought the playstation, just to play on my roommates console in the dorms, while I saved up money to buy my own. But you can read about that particular story here.
What memories do you have involving video games? Did you ever play any Final Fantasy games, and do you remember the first time?
That’s it for this time… see you next time we go down memory lane with Generation Pong, here at Don’t Forget A Towel!