We’re doing something different in this 1st of many bonus podcast episodes. “Save Point(s)” are personal anecdotes where we, the hosts of Press X to Examine, share our experiences and connection to the video game at hand.
Get to know me, Shane, as I become acquainted with Role Playing Games (RPG’s) and, what would become one of my favorite games of all time, Final Fantasy VII.
Big, BIG Thank you to DJ MZA for curating and editing in the music for this episode.
This Episode was produced, written, and edited by Shane Rivera
Music curated and edited by DJ MZA of Soul Circle Radio (soulcircleradio.com)
01 Big Wave + Carter – Lovenenow feat. Masego
02 Dephrase – Songs I Never Wrote
03 J Dilla – Featuring Phat Kat (Instrumental)
04 Ta-Ku – Uh
05 Badbadnotgood – Fall In Love
06 Justin De Guzman – 01 03 15
07 Notorious Big – Juicy (Instrumental)
08 Mos Def – Kalifornia
Before final fantasy VII my relationship to RPG’s wasn’t very deep.
Action games or games that placed me inside of the action fantasies I saw on TV, these were the things I was interested in.
Anybody remember Blood Sport? Frank Dukes! Van Dam! Oh, that last fight with “ ” where frank gets that white dust thrown in his eyes. Aww man…
Well, anybody hear of a game called street fighter?
In street fighter I could be like Frank Dukes. Or some version of him. Guile is probably frank dukes, right?
In games like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis I could be Murtaugh or Riggs from lethal weapon shooting shit up!
I could be anyone of the ninja turtles, an X-Men, a ninja, a race car driver, a fighter plane pilot.
I’m willing to bet this isn’t much different than most gamers connection to games. Or a readers connection to books. Or a movie lover to movies. It’s that opportunity to do something your not in any position to do and I think this resonates most with kids. So as a kid, I gravitated towards the fighting games, the racing games, all of the above really. Because the always put you in a position to do something you’re not “Old enough” to do. So, at the core of the games that I played was a kind of one to one interaction. Having an immediate effect on the movements and actions involved in the game.
Now these were visceral in nature.
Now, one of my earliest memories of a game was through a commercial. I remember this commercial coming on during some Saturday morning cartoons.
There at a desk sat a little white teddy bear like creature ,with a pink nose, and wings ,smoking a cigar. He says,…
His office door swings open and a monster slides towards him and kinda roars at him. The little white guy points his finger at him and it just kind of explodes.
He calls out, “Next!”, and another one comes in. Points his finger and…
And another one comes in…
And another one comes in…
And after all that a voice comes on and says Final Fantasy III…
[end of clip]
And I was like, “WHAT is this!! I don’t know what this is, but I gotta play it!”
The commercial never showed any actual gameplay so I hadn’t any idea what to expect.
Now, we used to rent some movies from Blockbuster. Almost every weekend. I would try to get a game in on our rental stack. Usually, I could get one in.
I was roaming the video game isle picked one,up turned it around to look at screen caps. “Nah” scanned some more and saw it. I nearly forgot about this. It had been weeks. “Final Fantasy III.” I rushed over to it and I picked it up. I was little bit unimpressed with the box art. Turned it around, and was generally unimpressed by the graphics and setup. Also, what is that menu thing?
Disappointed in what I was saw I put it back down and i ended up picking something else that weekend.
You know how they say never judge a book by it’s cover? Well,I think that applies here. Never judge a game by it’s box art.
Now, let me tell you about Johnathan. He has got to be one of my oldest friends. It’s possible we’ve known each other since we were about 3. At this time, say 1994/95, he was getting me into an area of cartoons I didn’t know had a distinctive title, Anime. Akira, Ninja Scroll, and Dragon Ball Z ,were among the first.
He was on a different tip when it came to console games. There was a definite overlap in games that we played, but he had broader tastes. PC games were a growing area of gaming for me at the time, fueled by my uncles obsession with the computer, itseld.
He, Johnathan, at some point let me borrow a game that I really loved. That game was Secret of Mana. It felt like Zelda, but bigger, fuller, like it but different. Somehow new. Also, I realized the characters were designed by Akira Toriyama and that was the creator of Dragon Ball Z. There was something really cool about playing characters designed by him. It was closer to playing a cartoon because of that relationship.
I never finished Secret of Mana. I remember getting stuck at a certain point and he wanted it back and wanted to lend it to somebody else.
Another time he was telling me about this other game. He showed me the instruction booklet, Toriyama, again, is the designer! I wanted to see it in action. He was still in the middle of playing it so he wasn’t going to let me borrow it just yet.
He invited me over. I got to his place. He answered the door, let me in, and closed the door behind us. We went into his room where he had the game on pause.
The game was Chrono Trigger.
The controller was sitting on the carpet, he knelt down, picked it up, un-paused the game…
“This is just like Secret of Mana! This is cool!”
But then he entered a battle…
And a menu came on screen…
And he was choosing attack options…
“What the fuck is this! Nah man why can’t you go up to him and slash him? Turn based…what? I don’t get it.”
“Nah that’s not for me…”
“I wanna slash the dude! Like secret of mana, you know. You can do that in there. walk up to him, slash him ,wait a few seconds for recharge and then do it again!”
I was talking mad crap, and he may havestop playing at this point after saving it. I think I was talking too much crap. It may have discouraged his playing, in front of me anyway.
In retrospect I kinda missed out. Final Fantasy 3, (or 6, whatever you prefer) Chrono Trigger, these are largely regarded as two of the best RPG’s ever made by Squaresoft. And at this point I couldn’t wrap my head around what an RPG was! To me RPG meant menu battles, which didn’t make any damn sense to me. And I wasn’t having it. Though, maybe a little proud to admit that I was still curious, about these games.
Not long after that I remember reading in EGM, I used to read EGM on a regular basis. My mom lived in California and she got me a subscription to the magazine. Nice right?! And I remember seeing an image of a Super Famicom sitting a top what looked like a CD drive, well it was a CD drive. Nintendo had a partnership with Sony to develope a CD based system attachment. Everyone was doing this at the time. The Sega Genesis had a CD attachment, Panasonic 3DO might have been out by this point, and maybe Nintendo was trying to catch up with the technology.
It was fun keeping up with this kind of stuff. Though not knowing what it meant for games. What it meant for the future was still a kind of mystery.
Not long after that, maybe a few months or so, there was another article. Apparently, Nintendo and Sony were feuding, contracts and liscensing, the sort of stuff companies do, and their relationship was terminated. Sony would then go on to develope their own system which would become the PlayStation.
That’s kinda messed up. It seems like Sony has all this exposure to the Nintendo and it’s architecture and they use that information to make their own thing. …It’s kind of a grey area.
I used to play Tekken in the arcade all the time. I remember that summer my first major girlfriend was over at the crib, and my dad was their keeping an eye on us. She was the first girlfriend I told my dad about. A very awkward situation. So, I did what I do in awkward situations I put a game on. I put tekken on Tekken. She watched. Quiet and probably bored. I put it on pause [pause sound] to get her and I a drink. Went into the kitchen and my dad was like,
“You gonna loose her if you don’t stop playing that game.”
which is decent advice in most cases, unless of course she was playing with me.
But I was like, “hmmm…I guess”
But I was thinking, “You sitting there watching me is awkward man. If you weren’t here we’d probably be making out right now. But that’s not happening so….”
I kept playing. Tekken was good.
So, more news from EGM, Squaresoft was in the middle of developing there latest and announced that the Nintendo 64’s cartridge based system was inadequate in holding the amount of information they needed to produce what they wanted, and they pulled exclusivity to Nintendo in favor of Sony and the PlayStation!
This I knew was crazy. I may not have known much of Squaresoft, but I knew that that exclusivity switch was a big deal. Not long after that announcement, we got it. Final Fantasy VII was the project. There’s a lot of technical talk about polygon counts and pre-rendered backgrounds, and CG animation. I don’t know what any of that is…BUT IT SOUNDS COOL! Theres were some screen caps in the magazine and I was like, “Oh my god, this looks amazing!” The backgrounds really were something we had never seen before and this really was exciting. Totally forgot about the turn-based stuff I was allergic to and I really wanted to play this thing. It looked sooo good!
I used to go to the local video game store almost on a daily basis, over that summer. I remember walking into one of the video game stores and I was just checking it out. Checking to see what they had. Sometimes I was just there to look. Sometime I had some money and I could buy something. This happen to one of those times I could buy something.
I was looking through the case and I saw a game through the glass named Tobal No.1. On the box art in the bottom left corner was a Final Fantasy VII logo. And it said, “Free Demo Inside,” or something like that. I asked the shop keeper, “Can I see that?” He pulls it out and I start looking at it. “Oh, this is a fighting game.” Handed it back to the guy and I bought it.
Now, I took it home and put Tobal in first out of principal because you can’t buy a game for JUST a demo, right? Though I have since.
I popped Tobal in and the sound came on! I was like, “Oh, this is good.” The music was really good. Then I got into the fight and started messing around in there. The sound effects were great, I mean every hit, every strike, had an effect. It’s was always comes with a fighting game. The sound is so important. “You know what this is a good game. This is a decent game.”
After awhile I put it down because there’s only so much you can do until you’re doing the same thing over and over.
So, I took it out.
Put it back in it’s case.
Pulled out that Final Fantasy VII Demo.
Popped it in the Playstation.
Closed the Lid.
And I turned the system on.
And Started up the Demo.
The CG thing comes on.
And it’s like that star scape. That sort of swirling and half spinning.
And then it transitions into a girls face illuminated in green.
Camera angle changes and it starts to pull back. It follows this girl down an alley.
Then the logo is on Screen! “What is happening!?”LOL
Then there’s this crosscut to a train, and then back to the city.
Back to the train.
Then a pan down to a train-station and the train rolls in.
And then the game starts. A few dudes come out of the train a start kicking some ass! And this big black dude is there with his gun arm thing! What is clearly the main character flip off the train and lands on the floor. And it’s like, “OH MY GOD! This is awesome!” The you enter battle almost immediately. Now, this is where the game should have lost me, but I start making my selections and I make my attacks. And…my alergy is gone! LOL
So, this was so good.This was so much better than I thought it would be. I can’t wait till this game comes out. I just can’t wait.
I must have played that demo dozens of times over the course of the summer.
After the summer ends…This is kind of a rocky area of my teenage life.
I grew up in New York. I was starting High School. A school I didn’t want to go to. I wanted to go to an Art High School, in Manhattan. We were supposed to be moving to Florida, which we never did. So, I never applied to this art school. By default I ended up in this local High School. That was already depressing, but the facade of this place was like… this was a fort. It used to be a fort they said. Say, after the first month or so one of my oldest friends Edgardo and and I would step up to the school and sort of go through this downward depressive spiral and we would look up at the school. One of us would say to the other, “You wanna go?” “Go” didn’t mean, “do you want to go in?” “Go” meant, “do you want to leave,” “do you want to go away?” We just didn’t want to spend anymore time in this dungeon. This is what it felt like to us. It felt like we were going to jail. They were sending us to the dungeon.
So, we ended up cutting class a whole lot. So much so, by the end of that semester, my dad was called into the office. I sat down beside him in front of the guidance counselor and she showed him my report card, and she told him how many absences I had. My report was a mess , right? But, there were actually two classes that I did go to and I got pretty high grades in those two classes. The first was Spanish. I’m Latin, so, I already new spanish, kind of. The second was the “Boys Chorus.”
As the guidance counselor was telling him what was happening, I remember feeling like total shit, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. But then we had a conversation at home, and while dad would normally just be really fucking pissed off, he wasn’t as pissed. He more disappointed than anything and he made a decision. That decision was to send to me to California to live with my mother. So, off I went. Out to California.
Here’s where my relationship to video games was strongest because I kind of needed…because I was sent to California as punishment, kind of, I didn’t really get to play a lot of games, so Final Fantasy VII Demo, let’s play it another few dozen times please!
I was doing really well in school at this point…There was really no choice. I didn’t know anybody and you have to do something. So I did well and I really wanted an RPG fix. I wanted to experience, or at least, kind of like, train for Final Fantasy VII before it came out. I needed to play an RPG and understand what it is.
Sony previously announced that they were to announce the first RPG on the system, and that RPG was going to be Wild Arms. I played the shit out of that game. Front to back. I don’t even know if it was good game. I don’t remember what the reviews were. I’m sure they were good. I thought this game was great and I played it to death. So, I got my training in…
The High School that I went to had school during the summer. It was an overcrowded school and it had a track based system. Anyway…But Johnathan had his vacation over the summer and he came out to California, which was really cool of him and his mom to let him do so. He spent the latter couple weeks of his vacation in California with me. By then I had some friends, and they drove, so we did a bunch of things…We went to the beach,Universal City Walk, and that kind of thing. But, this one day we had nothing planned and so we did what people did in the area. We went to the mall.
We went to Planet-X straight away. I mean we were going to look for some games, see whats going on. Planet-X is a Gamestop Store. It’s also a store I would work for, later. We perused. There was nothing of interest. He and I were both saving our money for Final Fantasy VII, at the time, but it wasn’t out yet. It wasn’t supposed to be out for another couple of weeks.
We left Planet-X empty handed and we went out to KB Toys. I mean this is what you do, right? If you’re into video games, you’re probably into toys and comics and all the like.
We walked in that KB Toys…and he was walking up ahead, and I glanced over at the counter. And I stopped…
And I reached out and grabbed Johnathan…pulled him over. Leaned over to him and I said,
“Is that Final Fantasy VII? Is that Final Fantasy VII?”
He was like, “I don’t know.”
We walked up to the counter kinda slowly and creepily. The girl behind the counter looked at us like we were up to something and one of us said,
“Is that Final Fantasy VII?”
I mean obviously it was Final Fantasy VII, she was probably thinking because it says it on the box, but I was thinking…Planet-X has all these games on the shelves but they’re usually empty cases. Maybe it’s just a promo box. And then I say,
“No I mean, like, is the game in that box…is that the actual game or is that an empty box for display?”
“No, that’s the game.”
So Johnathan and I kind of like step back, take a couple steps back and deliberate.
“Yo, I don’t think she knows the game isn’t supposed to be out, man. What do you want to do?
And Johnathan goes,
“I’ll take one!”
“I’ll take one too!”
So, we both buy one, right? Containing our excitement. Mad Cool.
Ok so, like, we go back up to Planet-X. I remember that Planet-x had some strategy guides and Johnathan was really excited about the strategy guides…I don’t know what a strategy guide is! I never played a game that needed one…What is that?! But if he wants one, I’m going to get one, because…I don’t know. LOL
So we have our guides and our games. We head to the bus to take the bus home. And we get home. Now, Johnathan opens his up and he starts playing. He plays on his own save and I just watch. I’m cool…I’m cool with watching. Let me watch. And we played for most of that day. Probably up until dinner. And then we played some more that night. And then we played some more in the morning. And then some more in the afternoon. LOL
Now, I probably started playing the next day, but watching Johnathan, as seasoned as he was, like, I was getting my training in.
But when I really started playing it…and getting into it…well, I guess that’s why we’re doing this podcast.
And that’s my “Save Point.”
This episode :
Do I need to post a video of Street Fighter? Probably not :
Final Fantasy III (or VI) :
Secret of Mana :
Chrono Trigger :
Tobal No.1 :
Wild Arms :
Final Fantasy VII (as if this is necessary) :