Final Fantasy X is out today on non-PlayStation consoles for the first time (except for the PC release), which means that a whole new group of gamers now have an opportunity to experience my favorite game of all time. This isn’t a post that is trying to convince people to buy the game, as I’m sure that people have already made up their mind about whether they want to pick it up or not. No, this is a more personal piece, discussing what Tidus and Yuna’s story means to me and how much I personally appreciate it. Every gamer out there has that one game that reminds them of why they enjoy the hobby, or may even be the reason they got into it in the first place. Final Fantasy X is that title for me and every game I have bought in my life since owes a debt of gratitude because this is why I got into gaming.
My mom plays a lot of video games, so we had a PlayStation system in the house for my entire life. Some of my earliest memories include playing Barbie Super Sports and Elmo’s Letter Adventure on the console, as well as Humongous Entertainment point-and-click adventures with the assistance of my parents on the computer. While all of these games certainly laid the groundwork to create a lifelong gamer, they still were never going to blow even child me away. Even at that age, I was already a reader devouring books, so what I really wanted from my games more than anything else was a strong story that kept me hooked, which, believe it or not, Barbie Super Sports did not deliver fully upon.
When I was around seven, my mom decided that it was time to pick up a PlayStation 2. Her old PlayStation had served her well, but fewer games were being released for it with the newer console available, so we went to Best Buy together and each picked out a game for the new console. I clearly had not yet learned the golden rule that buying video game adaptations was just an exercise in disappointment and picked Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights. My mom, however, was persuaded by the employee to pick up a game she had never heard of called Final Fantasy X.
Booting up the game for the first time was unlike anything either my mom or I had ever seen before. The opening cinematics looked lifelike to us, the city of Zanarkand felt enormous, and we couldn’t believe that we were playing a video game with a story that was so enjoyable. Both of us were in love. I have to admit that, as a child, I didn’t fully understand the plot of Final Fantasy X because of its reasonably complicated plot and mature themes regarding religion and politics that flew right over my head, but that was actually part of the appeal. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I could ask my mom because she was right next to me as we experienced the story together. To this day, we still occasionally have conversations about the ramifications of certain character’s choices or the symbolism behind a specific event in the game.
Over the years, games have come and gone from my memory, but Final Fantasy X is a fixed point throughout my life. I used to tell the game’s story to my friends at school and we would act out pivotal scenes on the playground. When I graduated high school and was moving away for college, I coped with the change by playing through the game again. In college, the remaster came out and I walked four miles to the nearest GameStop in order to pick up my pre-ordered copy for my PlayStation Vita. Even as an adult, I play through it every few years just to hang out with Tidus and the gang for a few dozen hours.
If I’m being completely honest with myself, Final Fantasy X isn’t my favorite game anymore, not really. There are other titles that have come along over the years that I love more from a gameplay or story perspective, as well as others that have equally fond memories attached. At the same time, however, there’s no denying that my adventures in Spira hold a particularly fond place in my heart. Mass Effect 2 and Skyrim may be my more recent loves, but I only played them in the first place because of Final Fantasy X. Moreover, no matter how many games I play, the bar I use for determining a truly great game remains the same. The best experiences I’ve had are titles that make me feel that same wave of emotion and fiery need to analyze every facet of the lore that I initially felt as a child experiencing Tidus’ story for the first time.
My experience is in no way unique, as I’m sure that everyone who games has had an experience with a title like this. Instead of Final Fantasy X, it may have been Metal Gear Solid or the original Super Mario Bros. Whatever the game is, however, I am willing to bet that a standard was set the first time gamers find that title. Whether it’s for the story, the gameplay, or something else entirely, every game played from that point on will always be compared to how gamers felt about their nostalgic favorite. For those who are picking Final Fantasy X up for the first time today, know that it is an old title and my love for it is very much based upon the age in which I played it. Don’t expect the best game ever, but know how important it is to my own gaming history as well as, I would imagine, many others like myself. Have fun with it, and I hope you learn to love it.
What game opened your eyes to gaming or set the standard for everything you play? Let me know in the comments below!