This is a day that truly sneaked up on me, even though in the back of my mind I knew it was coming and have for months. It might be a sign of the times, or at least a sign of my times, but I couldn't let it go unmarked here or anywhere else that I frequent: on this day, twenty-five years ago, Final Fantasy (back then, it didn't even need a Roman numeral) was released in Japan. Well, technically, that day likely came about yesterday for you if you're reading this, due to time zones and such. But still! 18th December!
I personally played that game almost from the day it was released Stateside. I'd seen all sorts of hubbub for the game in the months leading up to its American release in 1990, mostly from Nintendo Power magazine
- of course, back then, that magazine and its ilk were the only ways to find out about such things. It had already captured my imagination, causing me to create my own ideas of what the weapons might look like, and even writing proto-fanfiction, and by the time I was able to get my hands on it the hype it had created in my own ten-year-old mind was massive.
And the game lived up to it.
It felt different from the only other JRPG I'd seen before it, Dragon Warrior (Quest). The party system, the more animated battles, and the sheer accessibility of the game relative to Dragon Warrior felt like a sea change in gaming, and it was one I was crazy for. While I didn't actually complete Final Fantasy for a great many years after first playing it, it triggered a fandom in me that led to me playing and/or owning every American-released game in the series within days of its release all the way through Final Fantasy IX.
That's a good part of my story with regards to the original Final Fantasy, now turning twenty-five. From a wider angle, though, there's more to it. This game not only essentially introduced an entire gaming company to the West, it also saved that same company, should you believe Hironobu Sakaguchi. That company went on to produce dozens and dozens of games, games that made a splash on generation after generation of gaming consoles and the gamers who owned them, and that was before
they merged with another JRPG titan, Enix.
This game was and is huge. It didn't sell the most, and none of the many incarnations of the first game will ever win any beauty awards. It did, however, pave the way for just about every JRPG that came after it, and created a killer app for a lot of hardware manufacturers; how many people must have bought a SNES for Final Fantasy VI, VI or Chrono Trigger? How many people bought a PlayStation when they saw the gorgeous TV advertisements for Final Fantasy VII or in one of the dozens of entertainment magazines carrying them?
This game created Final Fantasy. This game jumpstarted the JRPG in the West. This game did a lot of things right and still moves units, all the way up to the PSP and iOS releases. But most importantly to me, it made it possible for all of us to be here right now, though we didn't cover it here until 2004. What legacy could be better than that?
Join us in celebrating Final Fantasy today. Share this news or your own thoughts both here and to your social networks (if you're on Twitter, use our hashtag, #FinalFantasy25, on Facebook, tag us!). It's okay to be excited about this. A good chunk of your lineage as a gamer came from this day twenty-five years ago, even if you weren't here to see it.