Self-Indulgence 6.1: The Summer Before my Youth Died, Part 1
Fourteen years ago, my first life on this material plane ended. I graduated from high school that May. I was seventeen years old and was thoroughly oblivious to the true nature of the world. Soon I would be entering college, whereupon I would have my soul crushed and the harshness of reality crammed down my throat without a hint of mercy. But before my youth was sacrificed in the name of “growing up,” I had one last fling– a flirtation with those so-called innocent days where I didn’t have to give a damn about anything other than having fun and doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do.
I loathe to call the summer of 1996 the greatest period of my life, since I’d like to imagine that I’ve had some pretty damn good years since then, and I’d like to think that I have some damn good ones ahead of me as well. Despite that, I can’t help but look back on that summer as something I’d like to grasp again. I know I can’t spend an entire summer idling about without a care in the world. I have a job that gets me the cash I need to do the shit I like to do. It isn’t the exact events that I want to recapture. Rather, I want to recapture that feeling I felt at the time.
The summer started when my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation. I really wanted to go with a few friends to Florida. One of them had a family rich enough to own or rent some beachfront property down there, and they were going for a week of freedom away from their parents and families for the first time ever. I wanted in on that shit, but it wasn’t meant to be. My parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of me driving halfway across the country in a car with kids slightly older than me without an adult in sight. I was pissed, but what can you do? It wasn’t like I could say “Fuck you, mom and dad! I’m going anyway!” since I didn’t have a dime to my name (I never had a part-time job in high school.).
I wouldn’t get to “run away from home” for a couple of more years when I started to go to anime cons, so I had to “settle” for something else. Not being much into computers or anything at the time (I wouldn’t even get onto the internet until I got to college.), I asked for a Super Nintendo game. Something to keep me busy while I waited for my friends to get back from their mission of self-discovery in South Florida. I really wanted to get Final Fantasy 3 (6 in proper lingo), but none of the game shops had it in stock at the time. I ended up having to “settle” for Chrono Trigger when I found a lone copy of it sitting on the racks at Best Buy.
Yeah, at the time I thought I was “settling” for the consolation prize, but what a second place prize it turned out to be.
Very few non-fighting games have enamoured me the way Chrono Trigger did during that summer. It could be because it was the first RPG that I ever outright bought. I had rented stuff like Final Fantasy 2 and a few other games of that ilk, but since I had to return them to the video store after a few days I never had the chance to really delve into them. The only RPG I’d ever played to any sort of obsessive extent before Chrono Trigger was Uncharted Waters 2, but that wasn’t the traditional sort of JRPG that Chrono Trigger falls under.
So Chrono Trigger was my “first.” It was the first time where I really felt that “magic” that RPG fans feel when they play these sorts of games. Looking back, the story is hardly innovative or unique or anything like that, since it boils down to “let’s save the world from being destroyed by Ultimate Evil!,” but the very fact that it was my first complete experience with such a game gives it a special place in my video gamer heart. I would stay up until three or four in the morning playing it, only to wake up at eight or nine, turn on the TV, and resume playing. This happened for about a week or so as I immersed myself in Chrono Trigger’s world, and when I finally beat it I was relieved that you could play through the game again and get different endings depending on when you tried to defeat Lavos throughout your progress. I didn’t dwell on this too much, since my friends soon returned from their trip and I got caught up in other summer exploits, but I managed to snag a few different victories along the way.
Ever since then I’ve tried to recapture that feeling I had while playing Chrono Trigger. Games like Final Fantasy 3/6 (When I finally borrowed it from a friend and played it through.), Earthbound, and Final Fantasy Tactics (Which came a few years later.) came pretty close to capturing that feeling, and Monster Rancher brought about a completely different but just as compelling sensation, but I’ve yet to find a game that had the same level of wide-eyed amazement as Chrono Trigger. I doubt I’ll ever find a game that can do so, since many of the factors involved are independent of the gameplay, but it’s hardly a terrible thing to want to strive for.