Nostalgia in Stereo.
As I stare at this empty word document, “Tifa’s Theme” – a piano rendition from the brilliant Nobuo Uematsu’s piano collection – echoes quietly through my office. The soothing melody plays between the cracks in the cabinets, flows a river through the room, babbling its tone over me, soaking my skin with its sweet keys. “The Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII” whispers into the empty space between tracks. And… I remember my blessed childhood. How fortunate was I to grow up in a loving household.
I remember the sheer awe of owning my first PlayStation. I remember the white casing on my Squaresoft demo disc and the shiny reflective surface of the disc itself. Summoning Titan during the Mako reactor run of the opening sequence – only in the demo – and trying furiously to escape the impending detonation at such a young age; I remember this, too, clearly. It is the poetry in music, and this alone, that can truly cast me back into the depths of memory and embrace of nostalgia.
As the twin melodies of “On Our Way” thunder through my speakers, I remember reading the instruction manual packaged within my PC version of VII during class after a test in the fifth grade. I remember the vain attempts to cross the marsh before lassoing a Chocobo after school. And, truly, from that point on, Final Fantasy VII really began.
“Aerith’s Theme” sings now, a somber tune decrying the struggle of the last remaining Ancient. Cold steel pierces flesh as the life runs out of Aeris’ eyes. Her white materia bounces with precision down the pedestals of the Forgotten Capital. I can remember the flushing of cheeks – my own and Cloud’s – as she fell lifeless into his arms. He cries to Sephiroth, as the theme rains emotion, about his feelings and how she will never again experience her own. I remember the shock of witnessing the death of a beloved character (and how its unexpected nature desecrated my party shortly thereafter). It’s a moment that fans of Final Fantasy VII will never forget for various reasons; it is a scene that will live in the annals of video game history in infamy. It is a tragedy that is still written about today.
The record changes to the “Blue Fields” of Final Fantasy VIII. I have matured into my 7th grade self, and I eagerly await my birthday and the hopes of what will become my favorite RPG of all time. I still live in my childhood house, and the monstrous trees of my suburban neighborhood tower over the houses around mine and offer seclusion from the rest of the world. At the end of the night, Final Fantasy VIII had made it into my ungrateful hands (and for that, I am truly sorry). But as “Ami” excuses itself into play, I remember running the halls of Balamb Garden.
I remember finding myself completely lost. Not much older than 12, I still did not grasp the full concept of RPGs. Yet I still became enthralled by the experience of searching, and coaxed by the peaceful track, urging me along. The friends that I made because of this game are the best I’ve had; their constant companionship 15 years later is as strong as ever. To say that these games and this music has not influenced my life for the better would be a disservice to them and to our friendship.
And as “Eyes on Me” sings its sweet hymn over the ivory and ebony, I smile. I remember the passion between Squall and Rinoa and how I hoped I could find myself a companion when I came of age. And… as I listen to my own nostalgia in stereo, the brilliance in retrospect has shown me how absolutely blessed I still am. I have found the most incredible woman I could ever hope to love, and we have never been more eager to start our lives together.
“Melodies of Life” from Final Fantasy IX will close this nostalgic letter to my memories of the past and fears of the future. I cannot go back, nor should I want to. I should enjoy the memories for what they are and appreciate the people who made them so wonderful. And… by keeping nostalgia where it belongs, in the safest keeps of my heart, I can do right by my future wife and family by offering them the best I possibly can. I won’t be so naïve, or elusive, as to praise music or games as the building blocks of my life. It simply wouldn’t credit those who truly matter enough. Because music and games have illuminated my family and friends as they continued to pour love into my life, I can safely say that without them that my world, in both the present and in retrospect, would be a lot darker and lonelier.