The Greatest Christmas Gift I Ever Received

[Editor’s Note: Apologies for no entry last week. It was stupid hellish at work. I was debating a drunken random other thanksgiving stories post, but I already used my best story. And I didn’t really have time for anything else, so fuck it. No post. I think this one will make up for it though. Been thinking about making this post for a long time. So, here we go.]

The best Christmas gift I will ever receive is my copy of Final Fantasy VII for PS1.

To gain a full understanding of why this game, put yourself in the mindset of the fall of 1997. Join me on this journey, won’t you?

Imagine a world before Weeaboos. Mainly cause the only anime around was Saturday Morning Anime on Scifi or if you had loads of money to pay for the Manga VHS. Toonami was just getting off the ground. Definitely the cult that has built up around…especially this video game….wasn’t a thing at all. There was no cult around any video game back then.

Here’s what we knew in the summer of 1997.

First new thing from Squaresoft in years, their first game for the Playstation, and first Final Fantasy since III for the Super Nintendo (in fact, we learned about the unreleased Final Fantasies because of this game and its reliance on the japanese numbering).

That’s all we needed to be pumped. Squaresoft was untouchable back then, and they had hit after hit. But, this is the first one that we were old enough and aware enough to be hyped for.

In fact, lets get into that. Hype was way different back then. I recently saw someone say that Drake is bigger than Michael Jackson ever was, and I am like, you are fucking insane. Hype was totally different. EVERYTHING wasn’t hyped. Some shit just stealth arrived.

Not everything was a cause for celebration. The big events were much bigger. The peaks of hype were much higher than anything that gets released these days. Lets put it this way, Final Fantasy VII’s release was much bigger than anything around No Man’s Sky.

So the topic of the summer among my nerd friends was this game. No doubt.

But, here’s the problem. I grew up broke. If I wanted something, I either had to horde money from my birthday (which was tough for a late middle-schooler to do) and carry it to the future just in case, or ….wait till Christmas.

I didn’t have the discipline to keep money from my birthday to the preorder, so I decided…I’ll just wait till Christmas.

I remember when I first realized this mistake. Band camp. My friend had preordered it and showed up to the first day of band camp wearing this:

At 13, I thought this was the most fucking awesome thing I had ever seen.

To say I was jealous was an understatement. I remember I told my parents that week in august that I wanted Final Fantasy VII for Christmas, and I didn’t care about anything else.

And for me the hype only continued to build. Over the fall, one by one my friends ended up getting the game. Either cause they had money or their birthday happened to be timed just right.

And the conversation that entire fall was Final Fantasy VII. I think it will always be the game I knew the most about before I even got to play it myself. Just from conversations. I knew about the WEAPONS. The Materia system. Shit like Knights of the Round.

Anytime my parents brought up Christmas, I would just say, “Final Fantasy VII and I don’t care about anything else.” I remember distinctly a conversation we had where my mom flat out tells me, “You are getting that game. We have it. Is their nothing else you want?” And I said, “Nope.”

Hell, by the time Christmas got around, all my friends were done with the game, and I hadn’t even started.

Cut to Christmas, and my parents gave me the game first thing Christmas eve morning. They didn’t even want to wait any longer. They also had 2 fucking strategy guides and this:

I was surprised and fucking elated.

So, I immediately dove in. I eventually got a beanbag as part of my actual christmas. So, picture me, sitting in my beanbag, eating chips, and playing Final Fantasy VII with this controller. Maximum chill. Maximum shame.

I shut out the world. Just me and the game for the rest of Christmas.

After I sequestered myself in my room, I figured everyone did their job, and would leave me alone.

Well, after all that fucking hype, my grandfather HAD to see this game. He wanted to see what his grandson was ranting and raving about for all this time. I think he wanted to understand what was my equivalent of the Red Ryder 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle. See, he worked at Western Auto back in the day, when Western Auto was where you got everything. He always told me stories about spending Christmases making displays, building bicycles, and wrapping presents.

So, he wanted to see what the kids are into now….

He walked in at the worst possible time: Don Corneo.

For those not familiar with the game, or too lazy to watch the whole video, Don Corneo is the local rich sex pervert in Midgar, the main town in FF VII, and has captured one of your party to be a sex slave. Your goal is to rescue them, but he only lets girls in. So your character has to cross-dress. And the more time you spend on it changes what happens when you get inside his rape dungeon.

And my grandfather came in when I was actually buying Cloud’s dress.

I had to explain to him why my character was wearing a dress. What was going on. All that kind of stuff.

This 60 year old man just nodded and kind of walked out.

I was completely embarrassed. Did he think that I was hyped for cross-dressing the video game? Later in the holidays, I tried to have him see some of the boss fights, but by then he wasn’t super interested.

Cut to like 6 months later. I am doing my next run through. He decides he wants to see the game, again. What I am on at that point. Fuckin Don Corneo. The only part of this game my grandfather ever saw was the cross-dressing. If he even remembers Final Fantasy VII, he will probably remember it as that game where you have to dress like a girl.

As the years went on, Final Fantasy VII became a turning point. I grew to really hate the Materia system. And if I hate that you mess up magic, it makes me really hate your RPG. It was the last RPG I played until MMORPGs came along, which are definitely not the same thing at all.

Looking back on it now, I can’t ever really hate Final Fantasy VII. There was a point in my life where it was the only thing I wanted. And I got it. It was easily the biggest anticipation for a Christmas gift I ever had.

I kind of think everyone has their Red Ryder BB Gun. Mine happened to be a video game. I wonder what my son’s will be.

And I hope you got yours or will this holiday season.

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