This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Tonight, while grocery shopping, one of the employees at Ralph’s happened to notice my Griever tattoo in passing. He said, “HEY, nice tattoo!”
Befuddled, I tried to remember which of my tattoos was out in the open. After looking down, I realized it’s my ode to Final Fantasy VIII….my Griever tattoo, placed strategically on my right forearm. Out in the open, and hard to miss.
I became giddy and replied, “Hey! Thanks!”
(not to be confused with “Hey! Listen!” I’d like to think that I’m not that obnoxious.)
He said, “Lionhart, right?”
Technically it’s “Squall Leonhart,” and technically it’s “Griever,” but he knew exactly what it was and this is entirely beside the point, so….
This tattoo is one of the many defining symbols that surround one of the best installments in the Final Fantasy series: Final Fantasy VIII. Many people would argue with me, and tell me why it was the worst installment and why it will always be the worst game in the series.
This game is fucking magical.
My parents got me into video games at a very young age, probably age 5 or so. My mom hooked my dad up with an NES and Zelda for Christmas one year. His initial collection consisted of the shiny gold cartridge that is The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros., and a few others. I’d watch in wonder as he came home late from his long shift at the hospital and would immediately settle in to play Legend of Zelda, well into the early hours of the morning. I’d sit on the couch and would experience every victory, every setback, and every “One more time” that occurred after Link died.
I’d watch my mom and dad take turns on Super Mario Bros. I witnessed my mom master the technique known as “turtle tipping,” and together my parents saved the Princess even though that witch liked to hop castles like it was going out of style or like she’d committed insurance fraud. The princess was always in another castle, but they never gave up.
An addict was born.
As soon as I was old enough to figure it out, I started playing the first installment of Final Fantasy on NES, probably around age 8 or so. I created a profile, named my 4 heroes, and set off on a life changing 8-bit journey of epic proportions.
Over the following 3 years, my Fighter, Black Belt, White Mage, and Black Mage would reveal to me who I truly was.
You read that right: it took me 3 years to beat the game. I was a little kid, for crying out loud. This was pre-internet, and before I knew what a “walkthrough” was. I did it the old fashioned way. Blood, sweat, tears and all.
At the end of my journey, I wanted so badly to run to my mom and dad and tell them to come look at my victorious ending screen. But…..I couldn’t.
I had named my 4 heroes “Butt,” “Ass,” “Jo,” and “Mama.”
Yes. I did that. 8 year old me thought it would be fucking hilarious to use swear words in secret, where no one could catch me, only to have it gloriously bite me in the ass years later upon game completion.
Needless to say, it was a bittersweet victory. To this day it makes me both laugh out loud and cringe internally. That was my very first taste of the Final Fantasy series, and unbeknownst to me at the time, it would not be the last. Time went on, and I forgot about the game.
What I found…absolutely floored me. Results showed that there had been several installments in the game since I’d last played. I was so excited that I nearly cried. At the time of my search, FF7 had been out and FF8 was about to be released. I spent hours upon HOURS (and then some more hours) on Squaresoft’s website, fantasizing about game-play, characters, story-line, graphics, adventure, magic and everything in between.
Back then it was known as Squaresoft. Today it is known as Square-Enix.
My parents were (and still are and always will be) the best parents in the entire world. That Christmas they gifted me a Playstation, along with FF7 and FF8. My FF7 had the green “Greatest Hits” bar on the spine and my FF8 had the classic black bar. I yanked the Playstation from it’s cardboard womb, and freed my Final Fantasy games from their saran-wrapped shields.
I was fucking ready.
Photo Credit: Awestone, January 2012