When I was about ten years old, my brother Mike introduced me to my favorite game, a JRPG for the PS2 called Radiata Stories. It was a fantasy love story about a young man, Jack Russell (yes, you read that right) whose dreams of becoming a knight are shattered after his teammate, Ridley, is nearly killed. Later, Jack finds himself caught in a war between fantasy creatures and humans, and he needs to pick a side. Oh, there’s also a whole end-of-the-world plot going on underneath all of this. There’s a lot going on in this game. As a kid, I loved this game, and, after revisiting it this week, I still do.
Radiata Stories was the first game I played that had so many features and objects in it. You could kick rocks, barrels; or even children if you wanted to. Sometimes kicking things would result in battles, while other times it would reveal secret items or money. While at times the story can be dark, the dialogue overall is humorous and the 300 characters, each with their own schedules, are complex and charming. The game lets you recruit up to 175 NPCs to fight alongside you in battle.
As a kid, all this led me to develop a massive obsession with the game. In fact, I was so obsessed with this game that I wrote exactly 200 pages of hideous, cringeworthy fanfiction dedicated to exploring a potential sequel.
As I booted up my PlayStation 2 this week, the whimsical menu music immediately brought me back to my childhood. I gushed at the opening cutscene, where Jack’s father fights an elemental dragon. It was like I was seeing an old friend after spending years apart. But, like when you meet an old friend again, my perception of the game had changed.
I used to think of Jack as a…