I’ve been finding it hard to write about League of Legends for the past month and it occurs to me that maybe I should try my hand at writing something else to keep these blog posts going, even if it’s not about LoL. So today’s post has nothing to do with League of Legends. If you’re looking for a continuation of my posts on Teamfighting, I’ll be happy to oblige on Friday, but today I really just needed a change of pace to get the blog going again. So today marks the first of what’s sure to be many posts about growing up and gaming with my dad.
I don’t even remember when my family got our Nintendo Entertainment System. I must have been somewhere between the ages of four and six, but truthfully, I have no strong recollections of the first set of games we had on it. I imagine we must have had the original Mario Bros and I think I remember my brother playing Duck Hunt for as long as we had the system, but all my memories from our first batch of games are hazy at best. When I was roughly six years old, my eldest cousin (who was much more on top of video games than we were) donated a batch of old games to us that included the original Final Fantasy, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition. The latter two of these games were a bit outside of my comprehension, but I was excited about Final Fantasy, as my father had explained it as a video game version of Dungeons and Dragons (which I had happily played with my dad and my thoroughly disinterested brother).
That being said, these were the early days of gaming and we didn’t have the luxury of the things we take for granted nowadays such as save slots. So since my father and I were both interested in playing Final Fantasy, we decided that we would play together and each play two of the characters in our party. With that figured out, we went about making our party. The first character choice was simple – every party needs a Fighter. I was obsessed with cool weapons and armor and as such I wanted to control our Fighter, so choosing his name fell on me. After giving some thought to it, my six year old self decided that the single best name for a Fighter was ‘Penis’… Yes, that’s right, I wanted to have Penis the Fighter gallantly leading our party. I was quite adamant about it too, I seem to recall my dad trying to convince me that maybe ‘Penis’ wasn’t the best name for a Fighter, but I held firm in my belief that this had to be the name of our Fighter. So my poor father gave in and let me name our fighter. P-E-N-I-S… Thankfully for him, this was still the olden days of video games, and just as Final Fantasy’s limitations only allowed one save slot, it also only allowed four letters per character name and when I entered the fifth letter, it simply overwrote the fourth. Upset that ‘Penis wouldn’t fit, I begrudgingly settled on ‘Pens’ being a passable name.
For our next character, my dad wanted to find whatever the closest translation to a Ranger from AD&D would be. Looking over the characters and their skills from the instruction booklet, he decided that the Red Mage was the closest thing and promptly named the Red Mage ‘Pop’ after himself. Then it was my turn to pick again. Looking at the last four character types, the Black Belt was the most appealing to me. I’m pretty sure it’s because I thought he was a ninja, as my mental image of ninjas was probably most heavily influenced by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the time. I have no idea if I had a mental block or if my dad wasn’t going to risk me naming him ‘Butt’ the Black Belt or something, but the naming of our Black Belt turned into a process of my dad suggesting names for my approval until we found one to my liking. I can’t remember any of the earlier suggestions, I just remember that we settled on ‘Sven’, which was just a funny sounding name to me, but that I’m sure my father found particularly amusing because of the mental image of an extremely Scandinavian Black Belt. Finally we got to the last slot, and my dad decided that we needed some more offensive magic and picked a Black Mage and named him ‘Igor’ after the character from Young Frankenstein.
So after our arduous process of party creation, we were eager to start down the path of the Light Warriors with Pens the Fighter, Pop the Red Mage, Sven the Black Belt and Igor the Black Mage. We went into town and started pricing out our options for weapons, armor, and spells. Four hundred gold didn’t go a long way and we decided to favor better equipment over getting Pop a spell. so we bought chain mail for Pens and Pop, cloth armor for Sven and Igor, rapiers for Pens and Pop, nunchucks for Sven, a dagger for Igor and the fire spell for Igor. I remember both my father and I being puzzled at what wood armor was exactly and who would use it, but we ultimately decided that it was just for a Fighter who couldn’t afford chain mail. You see, back in these days, the only way to know who could use what equipment was trial and error or to have the fold out poster that came with the game that our cousin had lost. Feeling satisfied with our purchases, we wandered out of the town to go fight some monsters and earn enough money to teach our Red Mage the cure spell, rest at the inn and then we would go forth and find that Garland fellow they were talking about at the castle.
BAM! We had our first random encounter. Three Imps, no big deal right? They sure looked wimpy, we should’ve been able to just crush them. But that fight was pretty rough. We got through it, but those little jerks sure hit hard and we seemed to do very little damage. Our next encounter was significantly worse: two Imps and a MadPony. Given how tough just three Imps were, my dad decided to have Igor cast Fire on the MadPony at every available opportunity and we scraped through the fight by the skin of our teeth with a dead Sven and a bruised and battered Pens, Pop, and Igor. We spent our hard earned gold on reviving Sven and resting at the inn (back in my day, sleeping at an inn didn’t revive fallen party members, you had to go to a special shop to revive them). Looking at the clock, my dad realized it was my bedtime and I begrudgingly went to bed.
The next day my father gave our dear cousin a call to find out if Imps and MadPonies were supposed to be so goddamn difficult or if we were missing something about the game. As it turned out, we were. You see, when you bought a piece of equipment in Final Fantasy and the game asked, “Who will take it?” this was only asking about which inventory to put the item into (each character had their own inventory for weapons and armor) and from there, we were missing the step where you actually had to go into the character’s inventory and equip the equipment. Which explained why all our characters just walked up and flailed around with awkward punches instead of swinging swords and nunchucks, an observation that I believe we had chalked up to graphical limitations. So, with our new found knowledge of how to equip items, we set forth and embarked upon our journey, ready to dispatch of MadPonies without expending all our Black Mage’s spells for the day.
I have no recollection of how long it took us to beat the game, but my fondest early memories of video games are those of my father and I huddled around the TV, guiding Pens, Pop, Sven, and Igor through their journey.
As an aside, many years later, when I was in college, I stumbled upon Final Fantasy A+, a neat little Flash video that someone made as a project for their Japanese class. In this video, the protagonist is a Fighter… named Pensuke. Just a fun little coincidence.