Oh, what a long year it as been.
With that in mind, I could start to ramble on about how 2003 was such a kick-ass year for gamers everywhere. You know- talk about something NEW and FRESH. And along those lines, there are a requisite number of things to talk about. Topics like SNK Playmore resurrecting their most popular franchises and beginning to release games for Lucard and I to snatch up, or Nintendo completely rocking the gaming world by firmly establishing themselves in the number 2 market share armed with nothing but quality and a sense of gaming ‘grace.’ All worthy topics, indeed. However, what I’m covering this week hits a little closer to home.
You see, this saga started sometime in October of 2001, with a game that has slipped into every other column that I’ve written. It was during that time, that one fateful day at the video game retail store I once worked at, that I decided to set aside that bruised and beaten store copy of Street Fighter Alpha 3 and look up at what the USED section had to offer. Swearing off RPGs had always been the norm up until that point, as I always wondered how any gamer with a pulse was able to enjoy a game genre whose generic level of interactivity was comparable to that of an ATM. Never did I ever think, in my wildest notions of gaming evolution that I would ever- ever pull an RPG off the shelf without the intent of either selling it or condemning those who showed interest for it; an admission of madness I’m sure. But damned; this one didn’t have big robots and religious overtones.
So in that regard, and the realization that Bad Religion was never going to do the soundtrack for any Armored Core game, I decided to make peace with the RPG. So with but the slight of hand, and 44 dollars surrendered to EB a couple of weeks later, I was the proud owner of a reissued copy of Xenogears.
Come now- you were expecting Final Fantasy VII?
Well, a good friend was. And this is where the gears in the machine begin to rotate at a quicker pace. To make a long story short- or perhaps longer than it should be (we’ll see how tired I get before this goes to press), I decided to turn to my friend to confess my newfound obsession with the RPG. Now, because I had Xenogears, I had at that moment became engulfed in this loose network of ferocious gamers who appreciate the RPG more so than any other genre. And what joy indeed! I mean, why take pleasure in pulling off Cyrax’s helicopter fatality for the 23rd time when I could actually level up my characters and have them learn new and creative ways to make the opposing sprite shake? Or why did I have to spend an eternity only to be disappointed about the name-swapping story between M. Bison and Balrog concerning Mike Tyson, when I could now play games with pre-meditated meanings to their name? I mean, ‘seraph’ means ‘angel?’ WOW! Can’t get that kind of culture from Killer Instinct!
It was on now. I was all revved up for my unofficial membership into this ‘inanimate sprite fraternity’ that calls themselves RPG gamers. As with any exclusive fraternity, I’ve gotta get some kind of endorsement from an established member. In this case, I’ve gotta seek his approval of the game that I’m playing, which in turn shows me that I do indeed appreciate a respected RPG, and thus attain some sort of quasi-religious nirvana. Shun my prior obsession with Time Killers and Primal Rage! membership would be mine!
So I decided to make that call to this very good friend of mine, whose gaming passions lay across a spectrum that include the likes of one John Madden and that rabies-infested dog from Pa-Rappa The Rapper. Despite some New Castle-aided brain cell killing on my part, I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday:
Fred Badlissi: Yo yo- what up, thug-o-saurus?
Good Friend o’ Fred: Keepin’ the score between good and evil- what’s up on your side of the tracks?
FB: Dude- I found popular gaming bliss. And it rocks my lame socks off like hearing Rammstein for the first time.
GfoF: What! you bought a Jaguar? And dude, Rammstein never rocked.
FB: No, you MC Paul Barman fan. I finally bought an RPG!
GfoF: (in an interrupting and excited tone) NO SHIT.
FB: Hell yizzle, my dizzle! (Snoop Dogg and I shared an apartment at this time, and procured a lot of his trademark slang from me. I mean, come on- being a rapper on No Limit Records would kill even a Maya Angelou-level of creativity. -Ed)
GfoF: So what did you pick up? A game with large blond hair and even bigger gun swords I hope.
Now this was the point of no return. I hadn’t fully grasped it at this part of the conversation, but it was evident that I would not receive the blessing I so dearly expected. Only with more enlightened banter did the light begin to shine!
FB: No, you jackass. This one has big robots and religious overtones- just like when I grew up in central Texas- at least, minus the big robots.
GfoF: You mean it’s not Final Fantasy VII?
And that is when it hit me. Ever so lightly, it was engraved into my psyche that without playing Final Fantasy VII, I would get no respect when talking about RPGs with anyone. ANYONE! You see, it didn’t matter in any respect WHATSOEVER that I now began to develop an interest in the RPG- because that RPG had to be FINAL FANTASY VII! Expecting the worse, yet always endearing the brunt of any assault, I went along with the conversation!
FB: Why? Is it written in the Square-forsaken skies above that I ABSOLUTELY MUST PLAY FINAL FANTASY VII?
GfoF: In short, yes. And for future reference, those skies are slightly westward of our current locale.
FB: I see! and what can a game with ostriches that have names that sound like candy bars and obnoxious airships offer me that a game with giant robots and religious overtones can’t? I’m tellin’ ya- all Transformers needed was a church.
GfoF: OK, Fred-sause. I’ll break it down for you. Final Fantasy VII is probably one of the best games- if not THE best game ever made. Its story is deep, the gameplay is unmatched, the graphics were beautiful for it’s time, and the music is something that no composer can touch. Before you start worshiping this Xeno-whatever it is, sit down and play this. Don’t play it during the school year- or else you’ll fail every class you’re taking. But for Winter Break, play it- you’ll never turn back.
Never had anything my friend uttered been heard so decisive as this had. For my meager begin, his request was clear and equally non-binding: set your ass down for nearly two weeks straight and play Final Fantasy VII until you can’t decipher the real world from a digital encyclopedia of cosplay references. At this point, I began to think; I’ve never seen this cat speak so passionately about any game at all- save that Pa Rappa reference he busted outside of AP US History back in High School. However, he does indeed carry a coherent head on his shoulders; so there may exist some unadulterated relevance to his advice.
GfoF: So what’s it gonna be?
After careful consideration, I offered him this ultimatum- an ultimatum that would save both my ass and his FFVII-rooted pride. Granted it doesn’t carry as much weight as “throw down your weapon or we’ll shoot,” but in true diplomatic fashion, it afforded the both of us a face-saving solution to the conflict at hand. His Kennedy to my Khrushchev, if you will:
FB: OK, Mr. Square Head. Since I have started playing Xenogears, I’m already a good 14 hours into it- and I can’t turn back now. However, when I finally beat it, you have my word that the next gaming endeavor I undertake will be to play and complete Final Fantasy VII. Start to finish; nothing will take up that time at all except for food, sleep, and ladies- all in varying order. Sound cool?
GfoF: Agreed, Fredinator. As soon as you beat it, you let me know. Only then will you experience the greatness that is FFVII.
And with that, it was settled. Upon the completion of Xenogears, I would then follow it up with the beginning of FFVII. Roughly 8 months after that conversation, I found FFVII at Frys on sale for $8.99. For the impending completion of Xenogears, I purchased it; inactively pondering the day that I would have to come to terms with the game that so many of today’s gamers love.
2 years have passed since that fateful conversation, and now I stand ready to take the silent oath of madness into this ravenous fraternity. This coming December 22nd, I will confine myself to my room, Dolby 5.1 ablaze, and begin to assimilate the zaniness and social depravity that will join itself to me. Nouns like “Chocobo,” “Tifa,” and “Sephiroth” will no longer have what I perceived as a random quality; my ignorance will finally be remedied. Erased, perhaps. But one thing will be for certain: my self-imposed ignorance to FFVII will be a thing of the past.
At this present time, I sit- thinking about the other games I could put my time to. Games sitting on the shelf! Legacy of Kain: Defiance! Armored Core 3! Xenosaga, just to name a few. But my word was given, and now I must make peace. Before I can long to see how the events of the Xeno-line unfold, or if Kain and Razial can rock the casaba again, I must honor the wishes of a good friend. I must make peace with FFVII.
At this present time, my good friend is teaching English in Japan; under the auspices of a strict work schedule and good Japanese cuisine. Upon my news that I had completed Xenogears just a relatively short time ago, I received an e-mail from him which embodied this paragraph among others:
“Congratulations on finishing xenogears. obviously i am far more excited about the fact that that means you are now able to try FF VII than anything else, as that is one of the few things i ever begged you obsessively to do… and now you can finally come through with the colors of your spirit.”
And indeed I shall.
Gaming with heart. That’s the Gamer’s Conscience.
That again does it for this edition of the Conscience. I sincerely apologize for the absence of the column last week, and am optimistic that it will not happen again. Stick around this week, as we’ve got Turkey-day-sized portions of gaming splendor and info comin’ at ya from all corners of your browser in only the way that 411 can bring it! And unlike a cross-wired guitar amp at a show, feedback is always appreciated.
Until next time!