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 XV

Look at these good bois.

This game has been a big discussion point among the RPG community, or pretty much anyone who wanted to give this game a try. As is expected in this day and age of Gamers™ thinking they know better than developers, it’s received its fair share of harsh criticism and unnecessary backlash. Before anyone gets all up in arms, I will say that yes, criticism is fine, but negative attitudes and dragging people down for actually enjoying this game is not. Neither is insulting the developers, especially when they went through hell to get this game made. If you want to be angry at someone, blame the corporate side of Square Enix for putting such strenuous deadlines on the developers when they were already having a tough time. Regardless, this game has been out for almost a few years now and I’ve beaten it a couple times, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it.

Allow me to apologize for my initial frustration regarding the topic. As a fan of the game myself, I’ve heard my fair share of berating and have grown rather tired of it. Thankfully, I don’t hear it as much these days, but it was particularly bad over the past few years. With the remake of Final Fantasy VII coming out in just barely under a month, everyone’s attention is turned towards that anyway. Mine included, to be perfectly honest, but that’s a conversation for another post at another time. (Right now, I’m just getting through my backlog of drafted posts I never finished. Hashtag procrastination.)

Final Fantasy XV was a magical experience for me. That could be said for every game in the series. Over the years, I had the amazing opportunity to play every game in the series. Unfortunately, not FFXI, but that’s simply due to a lack of access. Regardless, the point remains. Ever since I was a kid, Final Fantasy has always intrigued me, and it inspired my love of combining sci-fi and fantasy into one genre in my own writing. Something about the music, the combat, the setting, the stories, the characters, all of it was majorly influential on my career as an author and even a music composer. FFXV was my first PS4 game. It was the reason I bought a PS4 in the first place, and I was beyond excited about it.

I remember first seeing screenshots of it in an old Game Informer magazine back in 2010 (I think) when it was called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I remember the old slogan “A fantasy based on reality.” I remember eagerly following every trailer or article on this new game for the duration of the development process and becoming enamored with this mystery game. Then I remember the day they revealed the title change and decided to simply call it Final Fantasy XV. I still have chills remembering the hype surrounding that reveal trailer. It was incredible, and remembering that feeling reminds me of my passion for video games all over again.

The moment Kingsglaive came out, I bought it as quickly as I could. I wanted to get my hands on anything related to Final Fantasy XV, and that was my first stop. While it was downloading, however, I saw that there was a livestream for the Abbey Road Studios performance of select songs from the FFXV soundtrack, a concert where Yoko Shimomura herself, the composer, would be attending, so I had to watch that. That was my first true glimpse into the music. I was already well in love with Shimomura’s work from some of the other games she’s done music for, but this concert put me in a trance. The music was just so beautiful, and getting to hear it performed live, even from a computer, was a worthwhile experience. Afterward, I got to watch Kingsglaive, a film designed to be watched before playing the actual game since it helps fill some of the plot in that you might not understand otherwise. Even the film was amazing as well, and a perfect compliment to the adventure that would soon follow. I won’t spoil any of the plot if you haven’t seen it, but if you like FFXV at all, I would highly recommend it.

Finally, the moment of truth. The game came out in November of 2016, if I recall correctly. It was around the time that I was finally regaining my passion for writing after a year of stagnation. I bought the game a week before I could even afford a PS4. I just wanted to assure that I had a copy before anything else. Then once I got a PS4, I could only think about getting the game booted up and finally giving it a try. I had to work all day that day, so I simply had to wait.

Once I got home and booted the game up, I was immediately in love. The brotherly dynamic between the four protagonists, the compelling story that begins where it ends and then takes you back to where it all started, and the oddly real yet fantastical world you get to spend the game in all drew me into the world of FFXV, and I loved every moment of the game.

I’d spend as much time as I could doing sidequests, exploring dungeons, anything to allow me to stay in this amazing world for as long as I could. I’d look for every radio in the game to listen to the numerous NPCs that spoke on it. I had so much fun with the game, and it was just such a wonderful experience.

The last few chapters hit like a truck, though. I played from chapter 11 to the end of the game in one sitting, and it was emotionally overwhelming, to say the least. By the time I beat the game, I actually had to set it aside for a few months before revisiting it. I did not expect the game to go that hard on the story, nor that it would be that emotional. The first eight chapters set up a false sense of security in a way, only for the last chapters of the story to break your heart.

Even so, my love for the game has not wavered. I still enjoy the game every time I play it. Since more time has passed since its release, they have also added many new features that make the game feel better to play as well, so I’d say now’s as good a time as any to play it. Especially with the release of the Royal Edition. I’m such a fan of the game that I have both the day one release and the Royal Edition, mostly for collector’s sake, but still. This game is an incredible experience, and I would definitely recommend playing it with an open mind. Just don’t play the end of the game as quickly as I did if you get emotionally overwhelmed easily.