(We covered this one before, but it's too neat to ignore.)
If you think gaming with the internet is bad now, just imagine what it was like 15 years ago. Long before game publishers figured out how to abuse you with overpriced downloadable content and useless-but-mandatory online profiles they had to get the truly abysmal stuff out of the way, first.
One such early experiment was Squaresoft's PlayOnline initiative. In tandem with BradyGames, then publisher of about half the world's strategy guides, the developer released a walkthrough for Final Fantasy IX. They might as well have released toilet paper with screenshots on it. The $20 book only gave the vaguest of "strategies," telling readers to instead head to Square's website -- PlayOnline -- for the actual information.
Fast-forward 13 years. Game FAQs user The_Kusabi claims to have found a mostly forgotten side quest in the PlayStation's final Final Fantasy while reading the game's companion book, Final Fantasy IX Ultimania. As it turns out, he was right.
Finding the quest requires some tedious hoop-jumping on the fourth disc. You'll have to repeatedly check in with the Nero family after each new boss and cutscene. They'll spout more-or-less identical dialogue with all the comedic value of a misremembered Abbott and Costello routine. The payoff isn't particularly rewarding, either. Along with the utterly useless guide, this probably explains how even a teensy bit of side content from one of the biggest game franchises of the time could go unnoticed in the United States for over a decade.
Final Fantasy wasn't the only role-playing series developed by Squaresoft in the 90s. One other such project was the incredibly ambitious, but ultimately flawed, Xenogears. The game was directed by Final Fantasy graphic designer Tetsuya Takahashi. As such it featured some similarities to the publisher's flagship franchise. In fact, it actually started out as the original idea for Final Fantasy VII.
Xenogears referenced the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud. Square deemed these ideas too mature for a Final Fantasy game, and so we ended up with jokes about cutting off someone's testicles and talking robot cats in the real FFVII. Some of the game's original DNA persevered, however.
After finding Cloud in his catatonic state on the game's second disc, have a chat with the poor boy. Each time you do he'll have some new, incoherent babble to spout. Put it all together and you get the following.
Most of these are lines from Xenogears' theme song "Small Two of Pieces." The last bit is just a good, old-fashioned JRPG mistranslation. In the touched-up PC version of Final Fantasy VII Cloud closes with "Xeno... Gears..." That pretty much cements the reference. It also confirms that even Cloud wishes his angst was rooted in important philosophical theory, rather than anything else you usually see in an anime.