This is a topic that got brought up on the podcast but they never really dove into it. Lots of people have something they got very attached to earlier in their life in a way that was formative. Kingdom Hearts is an obvious big recent example, where a lot of people are personally attached to that world even if that was originally at a different point in their life.
Do you have something like that? Something that meant a lot to you when you were younger, and still might now. Even if you maybe think it’s silly or cringey now, you can’t deny how it was important.
The Worlds Ends With You is a different Square Teen RPG where it’s an emo protagonist who learns about the power and value of connecting with other people. In some ways it came right after when it was most relevant to me, when I was already trying to not distance myself from people and actually be sociable. But TWEWY was a very good affirming game that spoke to thoughts I was already having about why I wanted to be more social and what I was missing out on. It also helped a lot that it was a rare game where I connected with the characters too and cared about what happened to them in the weird Square friendship melodrama that played out.
Similar to TWEWY, it’s about a nihilistic kid who learns to slow down and actually connect with the world and people around him, which came to me just at the right as I was entering high school and found myself going down a similar path Naota has already gone down at the start of the series. Really helped me course-correct.
Whats great is that last years sequel show, FLCL Alternative was just as good if not better. Instead of a nihilistic elementary schooler, it’s about an overbearing teen who doesn’t know what to do with herself as she ends high school and has to actually start thinking about what her life might look like, which… big same. It takes the spirit of the original but flips it around and keeps it fresh.
If I’m remembering right, Austin said Star Wars was his Kingdom Hearts, and that’s a huge Huge Same for me.
As a kid I was deep into the Star Wars stuff: the tie-in novels, the video games, the ship schematics, the D20 rpg, you name it. I remember being pretty upset when kids on the playground switched from playing Star Wars characters to playing as Pokemon haha (although it wasn’t long before that grabbed me as well).
To this day, few things make me as giddy with anticipation as seeing “A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” show up before that title card (and that trumpet fanfare!!).
To bring this back around to (the neighborhood of) Kingdom Hearts, I have mixed feelings about the Disney Era of Star Wars. I really love The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and so as a fan I’m super pleased those movies got made. On the other hand, I find Disney’s steady march towards monopolization of entertainment media extremely worrying. The last line from Julie Muncy’s review of Kingdom Hearts III really resonated with me:
After all, if this is what Square Enix can make with Disney characters with their owners breathing down its neck, imagine what we can do without them.
Probably unsurprising considering my avatar and name here, but definitely Pokemon. Specifically Gen III and Pokemon Emerald, where the proudest moment of my childhood may have been completing that Hoenn Pokedex.
There’s a lot about Pokemon that I still find extremely rewarding; I’m invested in its battle system in a way that I will never be with any other game, because I will never have the time to learn and master another battle system like that now that I’m (sort of) an adult. But also, considering the proliferation of internet guides and wikis, I’ll probably never again be in the position where I need to intuit and explore a game’s mechanics and secrets if I don’t want to (and I rarely do). That means Pokemon is probably the last sort of… analog experience I’ll have with a video game, which is something I remember fondly.
For instance, in completing that Pokedex, I had to figure out how to evolve various pokemon that, because I didn’t get a lot of internet time in elementary school, I never looked up. So that led to a lot of trial-and-erroring with a pair of connected GBAs, and the joy upon finding the thing that worked (I distinctly remember evolving a Kingdra for the first time and being ridiculously excited that the logical Dragon Scale was in fact the correct item). Similarly, the Gen III games have a ton of Braille puzzles, where codes to doors or secrets were translated into Braille. And instead of looking them up, I translated them letter by letter with a Braille alphabet I’d copied from an encyclopedia at my library. The rewards for those puzzles—the Regis, the ability to trade between the Kanto and Hoenn games—were nice, but the experience of working out solution and having it actually work became a huge part of my engagement with games as a kid.
This. I went on a bit of a rant in one of the KH3 threads about how, in a way, KH is a horrific demonstration of just how much stuff one entity controls.
Back on topic though: I’ve been thinking about this, and:
video games wise: I’m not sure - other than maybe Uridium 2, there’s not much from my pre-15 era that I’ve returned to a lot. Like a lot of people who were teens during the 90s, id’s output is sort of formative in my expectations of some kinds of games - but I have very strong formative feelings about the Amiga period, and games from that era [and the related journalism, including, and especially, Amiga Power]
books/novels wise: Dune is an obvious example, since I read it at about the right time for it to be a formative influence. Similarly for basically all of Cordwainer Smith’s oeuvre, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence, and Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber ; it’s sort of my formative era of SF&F and fiction in general.