Nostalgia in Video Games

I’ve been on a Final Fantasy kick the past few days, going back and playing a bunch at once, which is never a good idea, but I like to keep my options open, so I generally play multiple games at a time instead of focusing on one. (Gotta love starting with a run-on sentence.) But after playing them for a while, I got to thinking about my feelings regarding the series. Primarily, the fact that my tastes have changed.

Growing up, Final Fantasy IX was my go-to game, at least until my PS1 broke. Then I just got the port on the PSP and PS3 before it was released on the current gen consoles. There was something I loved about its world, the characters, and the story it had to tell. Back then, I didn’t have as much experience with the series as I do now. I was still new to RPGs in general. But after spending almost 50 hours on the game in my current playthrough, I’ve realized that I don’t quite feel its magic as much as I used to. Granted, that could be because of dealing with adult life in the middle of a pandemic and a screwed up government, so magic is pretty hard to come by these days, but still.

Whether it’s that or the fact that I just burned myself out on the game, I don’t feel it the way I used to. With that, I decided to take a break from Final Fantasy IX and start a new file in Final Fantasy VII instead. (With the help of my girlfriend, because I am indecisive and couldn’t choose between VII and VIII, so she chose for me.) The moment I booted the game up and heard the opening theme, I felt right back at home. Even as I write this post, I’m blaring the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. I’m already three hours in with Aerith in Wall Market, and still having a blast.

After playing it for just a few minutes, however, I realized something. I even talked to my brother about it to see if he felt the same. I have the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and I have absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I seem to enjoy the original game more despite the fact that the remake added so many amazing new parts and fixed many of the narrative issues the original game had. But why is that, when the remake is most definitely an improvement? My brother got back to me and said he felt the same way, and explained it’s because of the nostalgia we have attached to the game.

As kids, even though we never had a copy of the game because it was too expensive online due to scalpers, we were super into Final Fantasy VII‘s lore, the characters, the story, the music, everything. We’d seen Advent Children multiple times, we had a copy of Crisis Core that we played the hell out of, we watched playthroughs, we pretended to be characters from the game when playing outside, and we even attempted to dress as Cloud and Sephiroth one Halloween.

Thinking about it that way, it occurred to me that the nostalgia was a big reason why I had such an attachment to the original game. Playing it brings me back to that point in time when life wasn’t so crazy. But of course, that’s just looking at life through rose-tinted glasses. We often make the past seem much grander than it really was, especially when the present day feels so hopeless. While it’s fine to reminisce on the past, it’s important to avoid over glorifying it, since that makes us resent the present even more. At least, in my experience. The point is that Final Fantasy VII gives me this feeling of being right at home. On top of that, I just enjoy the turn-based combat system more.

While I personally enjoy the original Final Fantasy VII more than the remake, that doesn’t mean I think any less of the remake. Heck, even now, I also feel like playing that. What it means is that this solidifies that our tastes are purely subjective, because we don’t all share the same memories. The collective unconscious might be a thing, but at the end of the day, we’ve all lived our own lives and made our own memories. We each have memories attached to things like video games, music, books, shows, movies, etc. That’s often why we get attached to them. It’s not the only reason we get attached to them, of course. That’s a whole other article in itself right there. But it is a common reason.

While nostalgia does often increase our love for a game, I’ve noticed that a lot of people either use it against others, or get defensive if others don’t like a game they enjoyed, or if someone likes a game they did not enjoy. Looking at it from a psychological point of view, I always saw this as a case of someone making the things they like part of their identity. So when someone dislikes something they like, it’s as though they feel like those people are disliking them, and they take it personally, intentional or not. I say that because that’s how I used to be and still sometimes feel.

When that happens, I reevaluate myself. The world is crazy right now. With social media being a thing, it’s easy for us to lose our sense of self. Perhaps it’s a feeling of inadequacy, helplessness, loneliness, or we’re lacking something important in our lives, like serotonin. Something makes us latch onto the things we enjoy and treat them like they’re an extension of ourselves, and that becomes a very thin shield to protect our rather fragile hearts. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a game, especially if it brings back wonderful memories. We all need any bit of happiness we can get. It’s equally important to not forget our sense of self.

Thoughts on Final Fantasy VII Remake

With all the hype surrounding games coming out soon, Final Fantasy VII Remake has been one of the many incredible games announced to come out soon. The original Final Fantasy VII had such a major impact on the gaming world in 1997 that it seemed near impossible to reach that level with a remake.

Enter Square Enix.

They managed to capture the original essence of the game so well while making it feel like a new game entirely in such a perfect way that it’s unbelievable. The characters feel more alive than they ever have, the world feels fleshed out and refined, and the music is the best we have ever heard it. Bringing back original composer Nobuo Uematsu was an incredible move on the dev team’s part, because the reorchestrated soundtrack does more justice for the original music than expected. If you have a PS4 and you haven’t tried it yet, the demo is available for free on there. Feel free to give it a go if you want to feel how it plays!

My history with Final Fantasy VII is a little strange, I’ll admit. I actually have an old YouTube video from two years ago where I discussed half-assed reasons why I didn’t like the game at the time. Which is ironic when you consider what this blog page is all about. My philosophy on video games has changed so much in recent years. If you’re interested in watching past me try to explain stuff that doesn’t make sense, here is the video for you.

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My history with Final Fantasy VII began when I was about 14 years old. I was just getting into the series at the time. Before I was 12, I didn’t even know what Final Fantasy was. All I knew of it was the name. My love for the series started with a classic DS game called Ring of Fates, which was part of the Crystal Chronicles spinoff series, and the GameBoy Advance port of Final Fantasy IV. Both games inspired my love of the series, and the latter was what sparked my love for combining fantasy with sci-fi.

I had more access to the internet when I was 12 years old, so when I was working on my books at the time, I would listen to music from the Final Fantasy series almost exclusively. I was obsessed with Uematsu’s work, especially with the music from his former band The Black Mages. Combining metal and rock with Final Fantasy music? Count me in.

Once I started high school, many of the people I met there were fans of the series and helped me access it a little more. By that, I mean introducing me to the age-old solution for playing games when you’re part of a middle-lower class family: emulation. Sure, it’s illegal, but my rebel teenage self didn’t give a rip. (Full disclosure: I still use emulators, but only to play games I already own legally on my computer and to play fan translations of Japanese SNES games. Even then, I still buy legal copies of said Japanese games when I can afford them for the sake of legality.)

I finally looked into the rest of the series and played the games my old 1GB Windows XP computer could run, which was pretty much anything for NES, SNES, and GBA. One game I always wanted to play myself was the aforementioned Final Fantasy VII. It was one of the games in the series that always seemed to evade me for the longest time. I knew the gist of the plot, the characters, and I’d heard the incredible soundtrack, but never got to play it. I saw a few episodes from a Let’s Play for it back in the day (by the YouTuber HCBailly, if anyone’s interested; he’s a great RPG YouTuber and I’d recommend checking his stuff out), and I even saw the movie Advent Children multiple times and played Crisis Core, but other than that, I never got to see the game firsthand.

It wasn’t until I was 18 years old and working full time that I got the opportunity to try Final Fantasy VII for the first time. I got the port of it for the PS3, and I did enjoy it, though over time, I began to wonder why it was so beloved. Like I mention in the video I posted, most of the Final Fantasy hoodies I found online were for Final Fantasy VII. Nowadays, I understand why, but back then, not so much, and it annoyed me, which, for some reason, ruined my experience at the time. I have no idea why. I was young and dumb, apparently.

A couple years ago, however, I finally gave the game another shot and pushed past the point in the game I never made it past. I reached the point where you learn the story of Red XIII and Cosmo Canyon, and I cried like a baby. It was that point in the game where I finally understood why this game was so beloved. It wasn’t just an overhyped game. It was a storytelling masterpiece. The cinematic elements, the character stories, the music, everything about it was perfect. Save for a few typos, but almost every game, if not every game, has a typo somewhere.

I still have yet to beat it; I got to the final Sephiroth fight about a month ago, but he just spammed status ailments on my party and I could never beat him for that reason (I can only blame myself for not being as prepared as I expected), but still, I got to experience the rest of the game in my 70-hour playthrough, and it was amazing. There were very few parts of the game I actually disliked, and they were just minigames. I loved everything else about the game.

With the release of the demo, I was immediately on it. I initially had my doubts, like I’m sure many people did. Or perhaps it wasn’t as much “doubt” as it was reluctance. The original Final Fantasy VII tells its story in such an incredible way. It was anyone’s guess as to whether it would feel the same, or even better.

I can confirm that it truly does the original game justice. Of course, that’s just my opinion and you can form any opinion on the game you’d like, but I personally love it. Cloud’s snarky attitude is back, the members of AVALANCHE feel more alive and fleshed out than they ever did, the combat feels fluid and smooth and combines turn-based with real-time combat perfectly, the writing is clever, witty, and somehow different from the original enough to feel fresh, but also similar enough to where you can tell it’s the final draft version of the original script. Not to mention the soundtrack. The reorchestrated music still gives me chills. It has what’s called a “dynamic soundtrack”, where the music fluidly changes depending on the circumstances, like whether or not you’re in battle and such things like that.

All in all, I can safely say that this remake is going to be mind-blowing to those willing to let their minds be blown. When you play it, go into it with an open mindset. Whether or not you enjoy it will be up to your own personal tastes, but if you were a fan of the original and are willing to adapt to the new combat system (which is really easy to get the hang of, especially for someone like me, who sucks at action-based combat), I think you’re really going to enjoy this game. I may even start a playthrough of it on the day of release on my Twitch and YouTube. We’ll have to see.