Nostaljoy: Final Happiness
(Nostalgia isn’t always bad. Welcome to a new series of articles dedicated to happy days gone by. GamersSchmamers is happy to share: Nostaljoy)
As often as I play games, rarely do I ever feel one particular emotion:
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are games that make me smile. Games that excite me. Games that put me in a better mood.
But happiness? That’s a tricky one.
It’s harder to be happy the older you get. The world likes to shine more and more light on things that should make you unhappy, and what’s worse, usually make you pay bills for them.
Cynicism is such a simple, alluring emotion. Why find the good when the bad is so obviously stinking up the joint? And while being critical can be advantageous, rarely is it fun.
And probably never is it happy.
So when was the last time I was happy with a game?
A while back.
Meet Final Fantasy 6. Released in America as Final Fantasy 3 because WE HATE PROPER NUMBERS. The praises lauded upon this game is immeasurable and completely deserved. If you haven’t played it, it’s on Virtual Console and you officially have no more excuses. Get to it.
This is not a happy game. The game starts dark, stays dark, and isn’t the happiest of endings. There are human beings more monstrous than any creature you’ll find in the wild, piles of heartbreak, and more than one unforgettable death. Had this been the final Final Fantasy, it’d have been a perfect, crushing finale.
But for me, this game is a total bucket of sunshine.
I didn’t really play this game until much later in life. It came out in 1994, when I was eight years old. I don’t think it was until my teen years that I actually played it from beginning to end.
I had an older brother, though, who completed the entire adventure. Multiple times, actually.
And he didn’t do it alone.
Final Fantasy 6 was a very expansive game. There was an entire world to explore and brevity was not the soul of its wit. Compared to modern maps (Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, and so on), it’s fairly condensed, but at the time it simply seemed endless.
That’s why they gave you a map.
Released with the game was a double-sided world map of the entire planet upon which the game took place. I won’t spoil why it had to be double-sided (holy moley, talk about unforgettable sixteen-bitness), it just was, and it was up to you to navigate.
Or, in this instance, up to me.
FF6 was a little too complicated for my young mind, but I still enjoyed watching it. Since it was such a masterpiece, my brother loved playing it, multiple times over. We’d binge an entire playthrough in a single weekend, many time. It’s that great. Go play if you punks don’t believe me.
But my price for admission was not free. If I was going to watch, I was to remain active and help out.
Thus, I became navigator.
My brother tossed me the map and would ask me how to get to here or there. I learned my cardinal directions this way. No matter where he went, and I suspected even if he already knew the way, he would ask me how to get there.
We became a team. Charting this wild world one city at a time. And every time we reached the destination, I felt accomplished. I felt invaluable. I felt as useful to this journey as any sword or shield.
I felt happy.
Unfortunately, my relationship with my brother has deteriorated over the years. Life’s a funny thing that way. But any time I go through the shenanigans of Locke and Terra and Setzer and Umaro and the VASTLY UNDERRATED Sabin (seriously, learn his blitzes and he can single-handedly win you the entire game), I’m unable to stop the smile creeping over my face remembering late nights in Dallas, Texas, map in hand.
If only I had my own navigator.