I was around the age of 8 when my parents bought me my first gaming system. It was the Playstation 2, originally released in March of 2000. Now I had been introduced to video games through my cousin when I was around the age of 5. We would play Mario 64, Mario Kart, and–probably not the best age to play these games, but we’ve all been there– Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto. I was beyond ecstatic when I opened up that present that Christmas in 2002. My parents, in their lack of understanding, had purchased a lot of Playstation 1 games and had no idea they had to purchase a memory card. For either a PS1 OR a PS2. Let me tell you…you do not know pain like that of constantly having to restart a game because you cannot save it. *shiver*
For any of our younger readers, back in the day, there was this majestic place called Blockbuster. In my case, the closest movie store was Movie Gallery or Family Video (RIP to some legends). One of the best feelings as a kid was going here on Friday night, and while the adults looked for a movie for the whole family to watch, I took off to the back video game section. I remember browsing around for which game I wanted to take home for the weekend when I spotted the cover. A golden moon in the shape of a heart shined in the backdrop and painted the silhouettes of several characters. Upon further examination of the cover, I noticed characters I had grown up with. Donald Duck and Goofy?! And that dear readers were when my gaming life changed. I took that game home that weekend and was introduced to Squaresoft’s world of Kingdom Hearts.
Now, do you remember how I said I didn’t have a memory card? Well, I spent that entire weekend trying to get as far into the game as possible before I had to return it. I went so far as to leave my system on all night which, in retrospect, probably didn’t help my parents’ electrical bill any– sorry, Mom and Dad. Alas, I only got so far, and the weekend was over. Back to the video store to return it, and the cycle repeated almost every Friday. While it was aggravating to start over each time, I never got tired of the opening. TO THIS DAY, I get chills every time I hear Utada Hikaru’s Simple and Clean (PLANITb Remix).
Now, eventually, I DID get a memory card, and I could finally save my progress and advance the story. The gameplay of this game was unlike any I had experienced before. It was one of my first experiences with a JRPG style game and having those classic RPG elements in general. Traveling from planet to planet that was reimaginings of classic Disney movies sounds silly at first but being in that world, interacting with these classic characters, hearing Tarzan grunt at you and yell ‘CLAYTON!’…I mean, what more could you want? For me, the answer was simple. Not much. There was only one thing I truly wanted more from this game. That’s right. I’m looking at you, Donald. JUST HEAL ME. You see, my health is in red. You hear that warning noise blaring. Stop casting on Goofy. He LITERALLY has full health. Donald seriously…annnnnd I’m dead.
Yeah. That was a conversation between me and my screen.
In all honesty, though, Kingdom Hearts still holds a special place in my heart. The memories of playing through all of those Disney levels, flying the Gummi ship, and uncovering the reasons behind Ansem’s goals to “nort a boy” (BDG); are memories that have stuck with me through my years of gaming. This is definitely a game that I can easily go back and play through…which we might be doing very, very soon on our GateCrashers Twitch channel (hint, hint, wink, wink).
Who would have ever thought mixing Disney characters and IPs with Final Fantasy characters would lead to an awesome and impactful game, but it just works? The more I played this game, the more I fell in love with not only the overarching story, the music, the gameplay, BUT the characters. Characters like Sora, Riku, and Kairi quickly made their impact, but I also wanted to know more about these Final Fantasy characters like Leon (Squall), Yuffie, Aerith, and….HELLO GOTH BLONDIE?!
Perfect segway, right?
Kingdom Hearts was my gateway into JRPGs and the realm of Final Fantasy. As soon as I saw that one-winged goth blondie working alongside Hades, I KNEW he had to be min—er I mean, I had to know more about him. Final Fantasy VII, released by Squaresoft for the Playstation 1 in 1997, has since accumulated a cult following and is arguably one of the best video game stories in history WITH one of the BEST video game soundtracks out there. FIGHT ME! Now I didn’t get my hands on a copy of the PS1 version for A LONG TIME, and I “officially” got introduced to the world of FFVII through the PSP (Playstation’s first handheld console). I actually started my journey with Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. I wanted to play these games so bad that all I wanted that year for my birthday was a PSP JUST for that game.
With the Playstation 3, Sony started releasing “classic” games to download to the system. And that’s when I FINALLY got to experience the original 1997 classic. I downloaded the game to my system and then transferred it to my PSP so I could play on the go. I mean, who doesn’t like searching for materia from the comfort of their bed?! It was through playing on my PSP that I finally got to experience the world of Final Fantasy VII several years later.
This game is my favorite game of all time. The characters and the story drives each one of them forward. The beautiful soundtrack composed by the brilliant Nobuo Uematsu. The masterful turn-based gameplay and (at the time) advanced 3-D graphics. There is so much about this game that I will forever love. Let’s break each down a bit.
The Characters. Firstly, their designs created by the artistic genius Tetsuya Nomura are breathtaking. The characters themselves are beautifully drawn and designed but what really brings depth to them is the story written by Kazushige Nojima, Yoshinori Kitase, Tetsuya Nomura, and Hironobu Sakaguchi. They developed not only a deep and immersive world rich with lore, but they made sure that each character within your party has a deeply motivating goal that drives not only their individual story forward but the overarching story as well.
The Music. As I said before, I will go to BAT and say that “One-Winged Angel” is the best villain song of ANY video game. How many villains can say that their theme music has a beautiful operatic vocalization of their name? Not many. I still get goosebumps every time I hear that “dun..dun..dun..dunn…” and then the violins just kick in. Uematsu, in my opinion, belongs up there with composers like John Williams with all that he brings to his works. The storyline is only part of the immersive environment. The music is where it really elevates it and brings it to life.
The Gameplay. I didn’t have much interaction with JRPGs and turn-based gameplay until I played this game. Turn-based gameplay can be hit or miss, and you either love it or hate it. I actually really enjoy turn-based systems. It allows me to take my time to plan out a strategy to tackle the enemy, and in a game like FFVII, that is very much needed and appreciated. The graphics, even to this day, still hold up. At the time, it was the first Final Fantasy game that was moving into the realm of 3-D models. It has been so amazing to see those designs develop over time as graphics have enhanced and more details are being added. Looking at the evolution of Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockhart, Barret Wallace, etc. from that first game, through the Advent Children film, and up to the present with Final Fantasy VII: Remake. It is like a dream come true.
Kingdom Hearts introduced me to the world of Final Fantasy, and both games hold special places in my heart. The characters, gameplay, story, and music have stuck with me throughout the years, and I never need a push to go back, pick up my controller, and play them. I hope this has maybe inspired some of you to play these games if you haven’t done so before. I HIGHLY recommend playing the original FFVII before the remake because it makes the remake experience that much better with picking up on the little easter eggs they dropped in for OG fans.
SO what are you waiting for? Go check them out and let’s talk about your thoughts on these amazing games that made my childhood! You can play all of the Kingdom Hearts games in their HD 1.5 & 2.5 ReMIX editions, as well as Kingdom Hearts 3 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo Switch. You can pick up Final Fantasy VII (original) on PlayStation, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, PlayStation Portable, Xbox One, iOS, and Microsoft Windows. You can play the new Final Fantasy VII: Remake on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Microsoft Windows (Sorry XBox fans). Until next time, there’s only one thing left to say; “When you walk away, You don’t hear me say please, oh baby, don’t go.”