The original Final Fantasy was the first game that I bought for myself. My existing collection of ColecoVision cartridges (including 4 copies of Space Invaders) and NES classics like Toobin' and Gotcha! The Sport! had been gifts, seemingly picked at random from garage sales and failing movie rental stores.
Those games entertained me as anything that made it possible to move things on a television screen would, but Final Fantasy was something special. I had done extensive research, re-reading an article about the game in Nintendo Power at least ten times. It captured my imagination.
I still remember pulling apart the velcro strips of my neon orange Body Glove wallet and nervously handing a small fortune in birthday card money and allowance to the cashier. Opening my first brand new game box, finding a scratch-free cartridge tucked neatly into a shiny sleeve with a black pebbled surface, marveling at the map and monster chart as I trailed my mother through the mall and back to the car... I'll never forget it.
After beating the game, I couldn't wait for the North American release of the next installment. I made a vow to import every Final Fantasy game from that point forward. True, I didn't (and still don't) understand Japanese, but Final Fantasy transcends language, like a Charlie Chaplin film or a book.
This all began in 1990. Now it's 2010, and a Japanese copy of Final Fantasy XIII is on its way to my doorstep. The series has had its missteps, but overall it's been a fun ride. Here's what I thought of each import.
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