A decade ago, I never intended to go so long without playing video games. I had dozens of PS2 games and had spent hundreds if not thousands of hours playing them. My favorite genre was Japanese RPGs and games like Final Fantasy X/X-2, Xenosaga, Dark Cloud 2, and Dragon Quest VIII probably helped my get ready to enjoy anime when I would discover anime during this time period.
Looking back, it was a combination of my burgeoning interest in anime/manga with a poor start to the PS3 that caused the initial break and that was further solidified when I started this anime blog. It also didn’t help that the only video games that seemed to get made and talked about were shooter games which was a genre that I wasn’t interested in. Then, somewhere along the way, the idea of getting back into video games just fell by the wayside.
And that likely would have been how things stayed if two specific wires didn’t get crossed before the most recent Christmas.
My much younger brother and I are a study of contrasts when it comes to giving people ideas for Christmas gifts. With almost equal spacing between Christmas and my birthday, I always have a list of books ready to go; whereas, my younger brother almost never needs or wants anything. It’s probably a good thing that he’s authentically humble like that; it just drives the rest of us crazy trying to think of gifts to get him.
The most reliable area for gift ideas has been video games, but, because he believes buying a console/handheld system “for only one game” is too excessive, the only device he has that’s still current is a 3DS. Several years ago, we tried to remedy this by getting him an Xbox 360 with a Sonic the Hedgehog game for Christmas (Sonic being his all-time favorite game character) and we were surprised when he got angry that we got him an Xbox without his asking for it. It sat, collecting dust, for months before he finally decided he would play it, though, he only ever got a half dozen games for it and never really played it much.
So, Thanksgiving rolls around, and I’m told by the family that for Christmas they are tired of only getting books for me as presents. Then, I’m told to come up with gift ideas for my younger brother that the family could use. (I was tempted to say books.)
While pondering those two directives, I remembered that I heard that Kingdom Hearts III is supposed to come out in 2018. If there was one video game that would could push me to pick up a controller again it would be Kingdom Hearts III. And, if there is one video game that could rival Sonic for my younger brother’s affection it would be Kingdom Hearts.
I knew my brother would really like to play Kingdom Hearts III when it comes out, however, he’d already vetoed the idea of buying a PS4 “for only one game” even though Kingdom Hearts I is his all-time favorite game. I decided I had to figure out a way to get him access to a PS4 without upsetting him like the Xbox 360 did.
My solution was a bit unwieldy. The PS4 would be given to the both of us with each of us getting a game to play on it. I didn’t want a game for myself, nor did I have much desire to pick up a controller and get back to playing video games after so long; but, I thought being able to watch me play would hasten how quickly by brother would warm to the PS4.
The choice for his game was obvious. The Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix collection was something he couldn’t complain about and it would help him get ready for the new game that might actually get released this year.
I, on-the-other hand, had no idea what game I should pick.
I was browsing the Square Enix online store and noticed that they’d also released a HD remake of Final Fantasy X/X-2. Perfect, I thought. I sank well over 200 hours into Final Fantasy X. I didn’t finish the game until I had put all the playable characters through the entire Sphere Grid. I enjoyed having Auron play the healer and Yuna and Lulu play the damage dealers. And I played quite a lot of X-2 as well. That seemed like the safe choice and I would have gone with it until I saw for a few bucks more they were also offering Final Fantasy XV.
Long dormant reflexes kicked in and I went off to GameSpot and IGN to check the reviews of Final Fantasy XV. (I also discovered GameSpy was no longer with us.) In the end, I decided I should try something new and went with Final Fantasy XV.
Christmas came. We all waited to see how my younger brother was going to take the PS4 and were once again surprised. This time he was excited.
Later that night, after I had the chance to set the PS4 up, I popped my copy of Final Fantasy XV in and discovered a new facet of video games. They can be patched and these patches can be extensive. In the end, it took over 20 hours before it was done patching and I could start playing. In the mean time, my younger brother came over with his game to play and left disappointed when we discovered it needed seven hours to patch before it was up-to-date.
Eventually, we both got the chance to play our games.
Now, almost two months later, he’s played and collected all the trophies from Kingdom Hearts I and is currently almost to the same point with Kingdom Hearts II. He’s going to continue playing his game but he is also talking about wanting to play Final Fantasy XV and wanting to get more games. So, on that front alone, I think the PS4 was a big success.
What I wasn’t expecting was how deeply enthusiastic I’ve become for playing Final Fantasy XV.
I started with a list of things I didn’t like about it. I really missed the more tactical turned-based combat that X had. I really missed the background to the world, characters, countries, and organizations that seemed to be snipped out of the game. I missed all the magic that I thought was integral to a Final Fantasy title. I thought having a party of four seemed too small and I missed having female characters. To name a few things.
It wasn’t all bad. I was really blown away be the substantial jump in graphic quality between a PS4 game and a PS2 game. The ability of Noctis to teleport across the battlefield was exceedingly fun to have. And the more time I spent camping and hanging out with the three other characters in the party, the more I got to really like them.
The fact that I was slowly increasing how often I was playing Final Fantasy XV should have been a tip-off that I was getting into the game. My issues with the game didn’t fade away. I was having so much fun riding chocobos across an open world, taking monster hunt quests, and exploring the various geographic areas that they seemed less important. It wasn’t until I hit the final third or so of the game and the story really kicked into high gear that I realized I’d gotten hooked playing video games again.
I know I’m still not interested in playing the seeming majority of games that come out and that probably means I’ll never consider myself a gamer; however, I missed putting 140 hours into a game like Final Fantasy XV and crying during the ending credits because I’d just played through a story that could move me to tears. I also realized how much I missed listening to the soundtrack of a Final Fantasy game.
And I want to experience that again and again. I’m not ready to move on from Final Fantasy XV quite yet, but, I have started eyeing my next potential game. Nier: Automata and Horizon Zero Dawn seem like two possible candidates. The HD re-release of Final Fantasy XII also interests me since I never completed the original game. Kingdom Hearts III isn’t the only game that’s coming out this year that I know I want to play as Dragon Quest XI is also supposed to come out this year. I’m sure there’s more good games with great stories lurking in the PS4 catalog that I will hopefully discover as time goes on (especially ones from franchises that are new to me).