In brief defence of Final Fantasy 8

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I know every nerd under the Sun loves to argue about which Final Fantasy is the best or worst, but I've noticed there is still a lot of hate with regards to the game whenever the topic arises with me and I would like to hear people's take on these thoughts.

Before I start this, I'd just like to say I'm not a massive Final Fantasy 8 fanboy or anything. My favourites are actually 6, 4 and 15 respectively. BUT every time the topic of Final Fantasy arises I hear people hurling accusations at 8 because of a couple of things which I consider minor quibbles. Some people even claim it's 'the worst Final Fantasy' so I find myself having to defend it. Therefore, I thought I'd make a post about it, because I actually think it's the most interesting.

And before anyone pulls the nostalgia card on me, I played it after 6, 4 and 7. I have played all the FF games now except for the MMOs too. Also, I'm purposely talking more about story than the junctioning system in this post because, personally, I think it's an easy gameplay mechanic that really isn't as complicated as everyone seems to think and, to me, it's just a case of 'getting better' or concentrating on the tutorial. I don't see the point in arguing about this. I don't consider myself particularly amazing at RPGs and I picked it up in no time. Plus, it actually makes the game quite easy it you know how to use it.

Shift from 7 to 8...

Anyway, we all know the series made a quantum leap in 1997 with the release of Final Fantasy 7. It took full advantage of the hardware, using 3D graphics to create a more fully realised world, and the larger storage capacity of CDs to tell a Byzantine storyline that spanned over 50 hours long. Yet for all its progress forward, the game still seemed like a hodgepodge of different styles that never amounted to a satisfying whole (in my opinion).

Its aesthetics were a blend of Tolkien-esque swords and sorcery with Japanese anime and cyberpunk dystopia, while its storyline was now half melodrama, half plot-heavy comic book with the occasional stab at social commentary -- the game contained references to genetic engineering and corporate corruption, but it never really went anywhere with these topics.

By contrast, Final Fantasy VIII knew exactly what it was trying to be: a coming-of-age story built on the metaphor that growing up is a long, dangerous journey. What's even more interesting than the game's attempts at plausible character development and thematic depth is the fact that it's part of a larger trend.

Character Studies...

If Final Fantasy 8 were merely a triumph of aesthetic design, it would make for an atmospheric videogame but a thin storyline. Instead, the game subverts the usual fantasy narrative: it starts off as an epic adventure and slowly reveals itself to be a character study.

And as much as everyone tells me they hate the orphanage scene, I felt it could be viewed as a resonant metaphor: the experience of warfare stole their childhood innocence and is slowly turning them into soldiers who have no purpose except the next battle. More than that, it's a commentary on how the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood can cause us to forget who we once were. Anyone who has ever rediscovered a childhood memento and found old memories flooding back can sympathise with characters who are amazed at how much they've forgotten.

This plotline reminds me of some of the best work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-creator Joss Whedon, who proved himself a master of using fantasy as an allegory for real-life pain (consider the unforgettable episode in which Buffy sleeps with her boyfriend and accidentally transforms him into a soulless monster). Indeed, Whedon suggested that he might be a fan of the game in a 2007 interview with The Onion's AV Club in which he stated that his new favorite musical genre was YouTube music videos of Final Fantasy VIII.

There are other fascinating subplots, one of my favourites being a the series of strange dreams that Squall and the others keep having about a man named Laguna Loire, a journalist-turned-soldier who fought in the earlier war. Squall watches with somewhat amused detachment as Laguna flirts with a torch singer during shore leave, gets injured and recuperates in a small town, and is eventually captured by the enemy.

When the two meet face to face in the present, Squall learns that Laguna is his father, who disappeared after the war ended in order to become a political leader in a distant country. Unlike most RPGs, which pump every event and strange happening full of cosmic importance, Final Fantasy VIII keeps its focus deeply personal: in the end, the cryptic dreams are revealed to be nothing more than a son's attempts to understand his absent father.

Conclusion...

As I said, I'm not an FF8 fanboy and I don't think think It is proof that videogames can reach levels of high art or anything. I'm not denying there are huge flaws in the game. Its storyline is simultaneously convoluted and formulaic, and most of its 50-hour quest is spent on repetitive battles. But it's fascinating to see how even a well-worn formula can allow for strange, beautiful environments, thrilling scenes, and even flashes of insight into human nature. And I think for all it tried to do it deserves more respect among FF fans than it seems to get.

Argh!! Just had a whole post written out, and the forum decided to eat it.

TL:DR: FFVIII is a fantastic game; setting and storyline are good, though the cast of playable characters isn't terribly interesting in comparison with VII & IX; drawing for magic is a perfectly good mechanic, though tying magic to stats through junctioning (so that casting a spell can weaken the corresponding stat) is needlessly complex.

Oh, and the orphanage scene isn't too bad, certainly no worse than Cloud seeing all the other Clouds in his head in VII. IX did the big self-reflection scene much better (in which Zidane trudges through Terra, resigned after discovering his origins, and then his allies join him one by one in the fight for survival).

I'd say my main quibbles with it were that;

The acquisition of magic wasn't explained very well. They teach you drawing in the tutorial, which is the ultra-tedious horrible way to do it. Once you figure out Refining its like you unlocked easy mode or something, but thats literally never indicated to you to do.

The characters lacked much mechanical distinction. Other then sequences occasionally forcing you to use one or the other, there was no real reason to cycle them around for any unique strategic value.

Laguna's story felt unfinished. We see tiny bits of it, then we see the eventual outcome, but not the in-between. I'd personally say it seemed like the more interesting storyline as well.

Seth Carter:

The acquisition of magic wasn't explained very well. They teach you drawing in the tutorial, which is the ultra-tedious horrible way to do it. Once you figure out Refining its like you unlocked easy mode or something, but thats literally never indicated to you to do.

I would say it makes little sense to still be complaining about the tutorial once you don't need it anymore. Truly, 20 years later and now that you know how to exploit the magic system, why is this a complaint.

Silvanus:

drawing for magic is a perfectly good mechanic, though tying magic to stats through junctioning (so that casting a spell can weaken the corresponding stat) is needlessly complex.

Drawing and Junctioning go hand in hand. Since magic is a consumable in this game, the only real way to make drawing worthwhile is to be able to junction it to stats. Most people who know the ins and outs of this game don't actually use magic as magic so we know that using it wouldn't make drawing worthwhile, after all GF usage is free.

Being able to directly affect your stats is the main strength of Final Fantasy 8.

Final Fantasy VIII had a really interesting story and characters, but the gameplay consisted of numerous (admittedly very good) ideas that really didn't mesh together very well, creating a whole that was somehow lesser than the sum of its parts.
When you're making a game, you need to make sure that all your various gameplay systems complement one another to work in tandem, so the player doesn't end up fighting against themselves. But the design in FFVIII is just a complete mess, and it utterly fails at doing that.
Two examples that immediately stick out to me are junctioning magic vs. casting it, and Guardian Forces vs. the enemy level scaling. Let me explain:

The idea of junctioning magic, of linking different spells to your stats in order to raise them, was a really neat concept, and it lent itself to a lot of experimentation, figuring out which spells worked best for which stats, in order to create optimal character builds for your playstyle.
The problem comes from the fact that the stat increases are also tied to how many copies of the spells you had stocked, meaning that actually casting magic would lower your stats. So unless the spell is game-breaking enough to make it worth eating the stat decrease, like Aura, the player is highly discouraged from actually using magic, ever.
When you render one of your game systems (in this case, casting magic) extraneous like this, that is sloppy design that should be avoided whenever possible. The systems do not mesh.

For my other example, you can get all kinds of new abilities by leveling up your Guardian Forces, right? There's some potential fun to be had in seeing what cool stuff each GF has to give you, and trying out different things.
Except enemies also scale up based on your current level, meaning that unless you know how to min-max your character builds effectively, level grinding actually makes the game harder. So the smartest thing to do is to grab Encounter None as soon as possible and keep it active for the entire game, removing all the random encounters, so you gain as few levels as possible to keep the game from getting too difficult.
Putting aside the fact that it's laughable when a game discourages you from actually playing it, this means your GFs aren't leveling up either, so you aren't getting any of those cool abilities. Once again, the systems do not mesh.

Possibly the nadir of all of this for me personally is the final dungeon, Ultimecia's castle. There is a really cool concept there: a dungeon where the boss's power seals your various commands while you're inside it, so while you can technically go straight to fight the boss, that's a really bad idea with everything except your basic attack option cut off, so you need to explore and solve all the puzzles to fight minibosses that let you unseal one command with each one defeated.
I seriously love this idea, and I wish more RPGs would do stuff like this. It's a great final dungeon that could have ended the game on a high note... except for the actual final boss fight itself: Ultimecia. It would be fine, except for the fact that you don't get to choose your party for this fight. Rather, three characters are chosen randomly, so, instead of maxing out one set of three and using them (you know, the thing you've been doing for the entire game up to this point), you're forced to divide up all your resources among every single character, making all of them a lot weaker than they otherwise could be. "Oh, but if one of them gets knocked out in this fight, they're replaced by someone else!" I hear you say. That is true, but not something you can really rely on, because after a while, Ultimecia brings out her big guns, and--unless your characters are built optimally (which they won't be, because you've had to divide your resources)--you're pretty much guaranteed to get a total party kill and lose, so you don't have the time to waste waiting for the guys you don't want to die. Oh, and of course if Squall isn't randomly picked for this fight, you may as well just restart it, because your damage output is crippled without him. Random party selection out of nowhere is really dumb and I can not imagine why anyone thought it was a good idea.
A really poorly-designed final boss just kills an otherwise great dungeon, and if that doesn't totally sum up FFVIII as a whole, I don't know what does. Great ideas, lousy execution.

And as a post-script, for the record, I don't mind drawing magic all that much.

EDIT: Oh yeah, one other thing I forgot to mention: the orphanage plot twist. Yet another really cool idea that's not executed very well. I love the idea of GFs forcing their users to delete parts of their memory in order to make room for them in their brains. That's an awesome concept that does a lot to explain why so few people actually use GFs despite them being so powerful, and there's a ton of potential for interesting story there. It's just a shame that, aside from it being a convenient excuse for why no one remembers the orphanage, it never really comes up. What a waste.

One of my biggest problems with the battle system is that you wind up with a rather ridiculous number of different inventory items that pile up to the point that it becomes difficult to navigate and sort it all.

dscross:
There are other fascinating subplots, one of my favourites being a the series of strange dreams that Squall and the others keep having about a man named Laguna Loire, a journalist-turned-soldier who fought in the earlier war. Squall watches with somewhat amused detachment as Laguna flirts with a torch singer during shore leave, gets injured and recuperates in a small town, and is eventually captured by the enemy.

When the two meet face to face in the present, Squall learns that Laguna is his father, who disappeared after the war ended in order to become a political leader in a distant country. Unlike most RPGs, which pump every event and strange happening full of cosmic importance, Final Fantasy VIII keeps its focus deeply personal: in the end, the cryptic dreams are revealed to be nothing more than a son?s attempts to understand his absent father.

It seemed to me more like there were just giant gaps in the story that they meant to fill out before they ran out of time and money. The stuff with Hyne and the origins of the witches, for instance.

Kotaro:
I seriously love this idea, and I wish more RPGs would do stuff like this. It's a great final dungeon that could have ended the game on a high note... except for the actual final boss fight itself: Ultimecia. It would be fine, except for the fact that you don't get to choose your party for this fight. Rather, three characters are chosen randomly, so, instead of maxing out one set of three and using them (you know, the thing you've been doing for the entire game up to this point), you're forced to divide up all your resources among every single character, making all of them a lot weaker than they otherwise could be. "Oh, but if one of them gets knocked out in this fight, they're replaced by someone else!" I hear you say. That is true, but not something you can really rely on, because after a while, Ultimecia brings out her big guns, and--unless your characters are built optimally (which they won't be, because you've had to divide your resources)--you're pretty much guaranteed to get a total party kill and lose, so you don't have the time to waste waiting for the guys you don't want to die. Oh, and of course if Squall isn't randomly picked for this fight, you may as well just restart it, because your damage output is crippled without him. Random party selection out of nowhere is really dumb and I can not imagine why anyone thought it was a good idea.

"Ultimecia brings out her big guns" ? I remember the final battle and how silly it was that some of my un-equipped characters were coming up, but I don't remember having any problems by the time the right ones came into rotation. (It seems in theory the "right" way to do things is to actually Draw one of Ultimecia's unique spells, but I did not find myself needing to do that.)

Jorpho:
"Ultimecia brings out her big guns" ? I remember the final battle and how silly it was that some of my un-equipped characters were coming up, but I don't remember having any problems by the time the right ones came into rotation. (It seems in theory the "right" way to do things is to actually Draw one of Ultimecia's unique spells, but I did not find myself needing to do that.)

The summoning of Griever and subsequent junctioning of it and transformation (i.e., the various "phases" of the battle) are actually based on time passing during the battle, rather than Ultimecia's remaining HP. The easiest way to win the fight is to take her out before she can summon Griever in the first place. That's the only way I've ever managed to do it.

I believe that in the greater scheme of things, FFVIII will go down as one of the "decent to good" FFs. While the characters were not always memorable, the story was solid enough but its system mechanics had no coherency. It had that "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" vibe rather than a planned structure from the start. Admittedly later FFs would knock it further up the scale as they fill up the bottom rungs of the ladder like XII, XIII and pre-Realms Reborn XIV.

Wow that's quite the in depth analysis. Putting aside the fact that FFVIII was largely responsible for giving JRPG's the reputation of having broody angsty protagonists, I didn't find the relationship between Squall and Rinoa(?) very believable. However that's not what killed the game for me. No, that was the fact that I found I could cruise through the game smashing down enemies with powerful magic and not even bothering tow upgrade my weapons, which was good since for some reason they decided that simply buying new weapons from a shop was too simple. Then I reached the boss that had partially absorbed Rinoa and thus my powerful magic was useless and I only had the dinky starting weapons. It didn't help that the last save point was past a point of no return. So I said "Fuck this shit, I'm done."

Seth Carter:
The acquisition of magic wasn't explained very well. They teach you drawing in the tutorial, which is the ultra-tedious horrible way to do it. Once you figure out Refining its like you unlocked easy mode or something, but thats literally never indicated to you to do.

Definitely a problem, they finally get around to explaining some of the spell junctioning around disk 2 but they really ought to have either explained and toned down the refining far earlier, or seriously considered removing refining entirely.

Seth Carter:
The characters lacked much mechanical distinction. Other then sequences occasionally forcing you to use one or the other, there was no real reason to cycle them around for any unique strategic value.

Pretty much, the only difference was minor differences int he limit breaks as a couple had high variance abilities and the rest a more consistent set, but once you grok junctioning and refining the DPS for most of them just falls by the wayside.

Kotaro:
That's the only way I've ever managed to do it.

The easiest way is to get two of a few specific cards and refine for ten Holy War and 100 Hero. Not only does this give you the totally in-universe appropriate fun of busting out your Magic decks while the world burns, if you feel like it you get two useful cards without even needing to play it.

Once you have those level Diablos up enough to get enc-none, stick it on and wander round the Isles of Heaven and Hell drawing tonnes of Ultima and Flare. Junction both to peoples elem-def and get a tonne of good GFs to junction around. Junction 100 Haste to everyone's speed. Junction whatever you feel like to st-def and st-atk, it hardly matters. Maybe Death or something, that's spicy. Junction something you have a hundred of and that has 'ga' in its name to elem-atk and do it again if you can, you want to be landing 8000-9999 damage with each hit to vanilla opponents. Just remember what's junctioned where, it won't matter in the final battle but it will while you're levelling up. Do Curaga/Esuna to health and so on.

Build each ultimate weapon if possible and unlock limit breaks, don't bother with anything intermediate, go Lionheart or go home.

If you want to, grind XP with Odin/Gilgamesh by taking enc-none off and walking round the Island and running from anything that doesn't get autonuked.

Get into Ultimecia, start fight, chuck a Holy War and start spamming limit breaks. You're nearly invulnerable unless you're hit by Meltdown which dejunctions everything. Once you run out of Holy Wars switch to Heroes and keep going, use Rinoa's dogcannon rather than Angel Wing as it's weaksauce, your best damage dealers are Lionheart and whatever chicken-wusses ult is called. Just do that while occasionally replacing buffs and reusing your Heroes etc. Eventually she will summon and then 'junktion' with Griever, it means the fight gets easier because she stops using Meltdown, from then you're pretty much good. Don't bother with GFs, don't bother with magic, don't bother with drawing, scanning or any of the other interesting combat stuff, Ultimecia is purely about keeping your shields up and pounding away.

EDIT: From a story perspective FFVIII hasn't aged well, it's pure teen wangst and it doesn't work well any more, I'd almost love them to remake it but with more well adjusted and fleshed out characters, I think the story could be fun if the SeeD ops were a bit more professional. Mechanically it needs more reason for me to vary my party and the refining/junctioning system was very easy to break, but I like the magic-as-item system a lot and I enjoy the game for how customisable the stat blocks felt compared to just slotting materia. The story complaints aren't one of premise as I got what they're going for, but of execution. The characters feel flat and poorly fleshed out and nothing sells me on a bunch of 17-18 year olds being sent off on their own. I'd rather they either made them more adult or made them more teenage and built on that element more.

Mothro:

Seth Carter:

The acquisition of magic wasn't explained very well. They teach you drawing in the tutorial, which is the ultra-tedious horrible way to do it. Once you figure out Refining its like you unlocked easy mode or something, but thats literally never indicated to you to do.

I would say it makes little sense to still be complaining about the tutorial once you don't need it anymore. Truly, 20 years later and now that you know how to exploit the magic system, why is this a complaint.

The game standing on its own feet without external metaknowledge helping it along, presents a ridiculously tedious progression system and completely ignores a key element of it. I'd call that a worthwhile complaint. You can remedy it, the same way folks mod Bethesda stuff to hell and back to fix/improve it, or rely on external wikis like trying to figure out how Dark Souls 1's stats works (or literally anything in Ark, if you want a more extreme example). But none of that is a component of the game itself.

Seth Carter:

Mothro:

Seth Carter:

The acquisition of magic wasn't explained very well. They teach you drawing in the tutorial, which is the ultra-tedious horrible way to do it. Once you figure out Refining its like you unlocked easy mode or something, but thats literally never indicated to you to do.

I would say it makes little sense to still be complaining about the tutorial once you don't need it anymore. Truly, 20 years later and now that you know how to exploit the magic system, why is this a complaint.

The game standing on its own feet without external metaknowledge helping it along, presents a ridiculously tedious progression system and completely ignores a key element of it. I'd call that a worthwhile complaint. You can remedy it, the same way folks mod Bethesda stuff to hell and back to fix/improve it, or rely on external wikis like trying to figure out how Dark Souls 1's stats works (or literally anything in Ark, if you want a more extreme example). But none of that is a component of the game itself.

Refining can be figured out by playing with the abilities that you learn from GF's. Just a little experimentation and it's all in game, right in the damn menu, you don't need outside sources to learn that. Just experiment.

...so much for this being a "brief" defence. 0_0

On the other hand, you did spell "defence" correctly, so there is that.

I confess that one of the things that makes Final Fantasy 8 my favorite of the series was that it ditched the super deformed style of character design. It was never a deal breaker but I really do hate that style.

votemarvel:
I confess that one of the things that makes Final Fantasy 8 my favorite of the series was that it ditched the super deformed style of character design. It was never a deal breaker but I really do hate that style.

If I wagered a guess, you're on the younger side, right?

Cause the deformed-style stuff was prettymuch exclusively 7, and the pitfalls of early 3d more then anything.

VIII is my fav one. All those common issues with it I never once had any issue with when I personally played it, so I just don't care or agree about any of those complaints at all.

I can't be a fair judge of it I'm afraid, as I worked out how to break the game so quickly on my first playthrough with the junctioning system. Since I ruined the gameplay hook for myself, the rest of the game struggled due to it.

But, I respect your views on the game as a whole. I mean, I liked FF12 back in 2006. I know what it's like to like one of the black sheep games.

My personal review of FF8:

I like the game so I'll start with the the negative bits first.
The junctioning system isn't complex, it's just tedious. Even if you max magic so you only need to [Draw] 9 (or 10? Whatever) times per spell, which is it's maximum alloted amount you can Draw per round, it's not particularly fun and because they're attached to your stats, you never want to cast spells because you'll have less than maximum and return to the drawing more magic. But lots of enemies seem to have the spells you need to cast on them so you usually don't need.
The only part it becomes particularly irritating is when you switch back and forth between the dream characters and need to swap around who has which set and it just takes time when you just want to keep everything the same but you're made to switch or have nothing - which is also bad.

Which brings us to the second problem I have, which means Summons are your major spell source, they do good damage but you almost always want to use the Boost ability which means spamming a button every turn for maximum damage. It's much worse with the short animation summons where you definitely can't get 255 boost points but the long animations are long but you'll generally always get 255. Eventually the animations get long and tedious and I REALLY hate that about games. It's even a bad feature of the newest Street Fighter games with their ultra combos. When it hits, it does a definite amount of damage and 'combo' hits but they take forever and there's no way to skip it or enable a 'quick' alternative. It can be just as mechanically effective to be a 1 hit loads of damage thing and take only half a second instead of half a minute.

Lastly, since cards eventually can be broken into items you need or want (or rare spells), somehow bad card Rules always invade your region and make it hard to win suddenly and losing to some dope with crappy cards because they did a [Side] and it for some reasons combo into a perfect (?!) and you lost all 5 cards because of some rule that doesn't make sense and never works in your favor to steal all their crappy cards.

--

But the good stuff. The story is compelling, beyond the emo-main character nonsense who seems to get all the girls by rejecting affection and attention and becomes the Leader of everything by not wanting to be the Leader or even a participant. (I personally do not find the Gunblade to be cool at all. Squall looks like the effeminate male cheer leader and some how he's the jock in this world. Japan. -_-)
But when you have these 'missions' that plays out like a Final Fantasy / Solid Snake kind of thing, your performance effecting a ranking that rewards how much money you earn, these mini-game main quest events are rather compelling and gives you a reason to stay interested in the current story portion.
It was really cool that they had the in-battle and out-of-battle models the same and in good resolution (for it's time). FF7 had that low/high alternates.
Playing through the game, everything seemed to not make sense and feel really confusing. Taking in all the 'new' kind of blocked what was really going on until I made a second play through years later. It was all actually very interesting and probably one of the strongest story told FF games out there. Squall eventually redeems himself in my eyes as less of a prissy whiny brat and man's up a little bit. It might have been nice if his battle performances reflected this change a bit by not having him be the strongest member of your party immediately. Like, maybe picking the Gunblade as his weapon of choice 'because he thought it was cool' like a dweeb or something and couldn't use it very well and gets his ass handed to him by Seifer who CAN use the weapon which is WHY he uses it. And Seifer could at least have a reason for picking on Squall because Squall made a bad choice of picking a weapon he doesn't know how to use and makes Seifer look stupid for having the same weapon and people might associate him for also just picking a weapon "that looks cool."
Quinoa, I think her name was, is a Teacher for some reason then decides NOT to be one for some reason and is either a student or just tags along for some reason. Her character was pretty lame.

Also some of the new summons were also introduced and interesting. No Ramuh but (Quetzalcoatl???), Phantom Train's reappearance was cool, Zell having Tifa-like-Blitz -- didn't have he some stupid long-before-Tyson-did-it-tattoo-on-his-face or something?

I think my disc was scratched around the time they were in space so I didn't finish it that 2nd time.

5/10.

I have incredibly low opinions of FF8. My rants are legendary on this matter. I feel as though the best rants on why the game is NOT good are somewhere between my writing and Spoony's videos. (Someone remastered those videos for him, so they're easily findable.) To put shortly, I found the character designs, writing, plot, battle system, and most everything else except for the music to be bad. It DOES have great music, but it's not any good, otherwise. Anyone looking for more detailed explanation, I actually favorite'd the most-recent version of the rant from a thread of my own making.

While not my first FF game, mine was FF1 for the NES, FF8 is in my top 5.

The music, the overall story, Triple Triad, and having some of the better aesthetics of the series...all keep it up there.

My biggest issue with the game is the combat.
The tutorial for FF8 sucks...it just...sucks.
Auto-Junction is fine and all, but you don't really get the most out of it unless you know what you're doing.

But, hey, at least it isn't totally broken like FF2's and boring AF as FF7's.

Seth Carter:

votemarvel:
I confess that one of the things that makes Final Fantasy 8 my favorite of the series was that it ditched the super deformed style of character design. It was never a deal breaker but I really do hate that style.

If I wagered a guess, you're on the younger side, right?

Cause the deformed-style stuff was prettymuch exclusively 7, and the pitfalls of early 3d more then anything.

if you consider 41 to be young, sure!

FalloutJack:
I have incredibly low opinions of FF8. My rants are legendary on this matter. I feel as though the best rants on why the game is NOT good are somewhere between my writing and Spoony's videos. (Someone remastered those videos for him, so they're easily findable.) To put shortly, I found the character designs, writing, plot, battle system, and most everything else except for the music to be bad. It DOES have great music, but it's not any good, otherwise. Anyone looking for more detailed explanation, I actually favorite'd the most-recent version of the rant from a thread of my own making.

Did you at least like some of the visuals? The game had a very distinctive visual style. The first five installments of Final Fantasy borrowed freely from the medieval fantasy epics of Tolkien and his imitators, creating a landscape of fortified kingdoms, bucolic villages, and monster-infested dungeons. The next two games mostly followed this template, but added their own touches: the world of Final Fantasy VI seemed more pre-Industrial than medieval, while Final Fantasy VII added a dismal metropolis straight out of Blade Runner. The series clearly wanted to establish its own look rather than resorting to pastiches of other works, but it wasn't until Final Fantasy VIII that it managed to get it right, in my opinion.

Balamb Garden is the epitome of the game's unique style: a massive, colourful building shaped like a mountain, with an illuminated halo-like structure hovering above it. It's a marvel of futuristic design that apes neither the bland sterility of Star Trek or Minority Report, nor the towering, baroque architecture of Blade Runner or Metropolis. The Garden looks almost organic, something both man-made and a part of the natural environment. The rest of the game's cities and locations might not be equally as memorable, but they're all inspired by a mix of imagination and different architectural styles from throughout history. Consider Deling City, which contains Parisian landmarks (it has a structure that bears a curious similarity to the Arc de Triomphe), an Asian-style shopping arcade, and an Edwardian mansion, and is host to a Madri Gras-like parade organised by the city's fascist government in honor of their new leader.

dscross:
Snip of ages

The visuals were nice, I guess, but then that was half the point of the game, since Square was making full use of the Playstation at the time. At no point did I say the game looked ugly in my rants. I just appreciate the music way more than the visuals, being one who has enjoyed Final Fantasy 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10. (I also have 4 and 2, but my response to them was a decided 'Meh'.) These are not redeeming enough. Most other RPGs I've played through would not make me feel like it was work. Not the Final Fantasies I've listed as my likes, not Chrono Trigger, not any of the Persona series games, not Skies of Arcadia (The Dreamcast version with more random encounters than the Gamecube version.), and not Crave's own Shadow Madness, whose graphics were kind of FF7-level with various up and down slopes...but the game was very enjoyable, different and fun. I've been around the block a few times. They don't do things like in FF8, and there's a reason for that.

votemarvel:

Seth Carter:

votemarvel:
I confess that one of the things that makes Final Fantasy 8 my favorite of the series was that it ditched the super deformed style of character design. It was never a deal breaker but I really do hate that style.

If I wagered a guess, you're on the younger side, right?

Cause the deformed-style stuff was prettymuch exclusively 7, and the pitfalls of early 3d more then anything.

if you consider 41 to be young, sure!

Ah well. The theory was that maybe you'd played the handheld/mobile remakes, which do have a sort of deformed art style to them.

If you mean the NES/SNES ones, I don't know where "Deformed" would come from.

EscapistAccount:
EDIT: From a story perspective FFVIII hasn't aged well, it's pure teen wangst and it doesn't work well any more, I'd almost love them to remake it but with more well adjusted and fleshed out characters, I think the story could be fun if the SeeD ops were a bit more professional. Mechanically it needs more reason for me to vary my party and the refining/junctioning system was very easy to break, but I like the magic-as-item system a lot and I enjoy the game for how customisable the stat blocks felt compared to just slotting materia. The story complaints aren't one of premise as I got what they're going for, but of execution. The characters feel flat and poorly fleshed out and nothing sells me on a bunch of 17-18 year olds being sent off on their own. I'd rather they either made them more adult or made them more teenage and built on that element more.

I can see where you are coming from, but I really do think there were lots of parts in the story that were quite under appreciated for what it was trying to do. There are lot of parts in there that truly deserve more credit. For example, one of the best parts of the storyline is purely visual and doesn't involve any dialogue or text whatsoever. The game's ending consists of a 15-minute computer-animated sequence that pushes its melodrama to operatic heights and blends it with an avant-garde surrealism - and it works beautifully. Final Fantasy VIII sets up this conclusion by explaining that its protagonists must travel to a dimension outside of space and time in order to confront the game's true villain, and that the only way to return to the real world afterwards is to focus on a reassuring place from one's memories.

For Squall this proves incredibly difficult. He wants to imagine a vast field of flowers where he promised Rinoa they would meet after the final battle, but he finds it impossible to remember what she looks like. He recalls scenes from earlier in the game, but every time her face appears blurry and indistinct. As Squall becomes increasingly desperate to remember the woman he loves, the montage of prior scenes begins moving faster and faster, the clips rushing by at a frantic pace. He finally thinks back to a moment in which Rinoa almost died, and for the first time her face is completely visible. Squall's body fades away into the light.

What's remarkable about this sequence is that it doesn't bother to explain exactly what's going on. Gamers will hopefully understand that this rapid-fire montage represents Squall's fevered imagination and that the shock of almost losing Rinoa causes him to snap out of his delirium, but the game doesn't spell this out in any way. If a mainstream Hollywood movie trusted its audience to handle a wordless, four-and-half minute segment like this, it would have been hailed as an extraordinary achievement. But since Final Fantasy VIII was merely a video game, nobody noticed.

Canadamus Prime:
Wow that's quite the in depth analysis. Putting aside the fact that FFVIII was largely responsible for giving JRPG's the reputation of having broody angsty protagonists, I didn't find the relationship between Squall and Rinoa(?) very believable. However that's not what killed the game for me. No, that was the fact that I found I could cruise through the game smashing down enemies with powerful magic and not even bothering tow upgrade my weapons, which was good since for some reason they decided that simply buying new weapons from a shop was too simple. Then I reached the boss that had partially absorbed Rinoa and thus my powerful magic was useless and I only had the dinky starting weapons. It didn't help that the last save point was past a point of no return. So I said "Fuck this shit, I'm done."

I think how they used Squall in that 'broody' way was a broader trend of the time. Final Fantasy VIII was released only two years after Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on television and the first Harry Potter novel was published in England. What all three works have in common is their use of fantasy as a rich, multi-layered allegory for adolescent pain. Their success paved the way for other genre crossbreeds like Pan's Labyrinth (childhood fears as nightmarish creatures), Battle Royale (high-school rivalries as ultraviolence), and Veronica Mars (high-school backstabbing as film noir), but while Buffy and Harry Potter have been frequently championed, Final Fantasy VIII has been mostly forgotten. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, is what I'm saying.

From a gameplay standpoint, I do sort of get why it annoyed some people a bit (although I don't think it deserves abuse to the extent it gets). The battle system was a bit idiosyncratic, asking you to spend a lot of time robbing enemies before attacking them and punishing you for casting magic spells (usually the quickest and easiest way to win fights) by gradually making your characters weaker after each usage. Personally though, I think the Junction system probably took me less time than traditional level-building. I guess it depends how you played it. It sounds like you were a bit unlucky using the method you went with.

Jorpho:
It seemed to me more like there were just giant gaps in the story that they meant to fill out before they ran out of time and money. The stuff with Hyne and the origins of the witches, for instance.

Seth Carter:

Laguna's story felt unfinished. We see tiny bits of it, then we see the eventual outcome, but not the in-between. I'd personally say it seemed like the more interesting storyline as well.

I didn't see the Laguna plot as unfinished at all. I think it was meant to be viewed more thematically to give you a bigger picture reason for Squall's character and, also, how the war had affected his generation more generally. The devastating war had cast a long shadow over the characters and put much of the plot in motion. But rather than a centuries-old conflict that has become the stuff of legend (like in other RPGs), the world war of this game ended little over a decade ago, and the game touches on the volatile politics and human toll that have been left in its wake. Squall's abandonment - first by his parents, and then by his friends who leave the orphanage one by one - teaches him not to trust or rely on other people.

I would like to replay it sometime, but I feel like I'd need to follow a guide of some kind on how to just be OP. I played and finished it once back in high school, and it was fine until Ultimecia. The ONLY way I could win, was to get Squall the Lionheart (I think that was his best weapon?) so that I could use it's corresponding... limit break? Overdrive? Whatever it was called? The only method that gave me a fighting chance, was to keep Squall alive (Protect, Regen, etc) along with having Aura on him (that one that gave you a greater chance of using limit breaks). Everyone else was just there to keep him and themselves alive. Every turn, limit break (if I could). Hope for Lionheart, since it did like 14x 9999 damage. Keep doing that... for the 45 minutes needed to get through all of Ultimecia's health.

That fight alone dropped the game a whole 2 stars in my mind. There was absolutely no reason for her to have anywhere close to as much HP as she did, or why the majority of her attacks could insta-kill everyone.

dscross:

Canadamus Prime:
Wow that's quite the in depth analysis. Putting aside the fact that FFVIII was largely responsible for giving JRPG's the reputation of having broody angsty protagonists, I didn't find the relationship between Squall and Rinoa(?) very believable. However that's not what killed the game for me. No, that was the fact that I found I could cruise through the game smashing down enemies with powerful magic and not even bothering tow upgrade my weapons, which was good since for some reason they decided that simply buying new weapons from a shop was too simple. Then I reached the boss that had partially absorbed Rinoa and thus my powerful magic was useless and I only had the dinky starting weapons. It didn't help that the last save point was past a point of no return. So I said "Fuck this shit, I'm done."

I think how they used Squall in that 'broody' way was a broader trend of the time. Final Fantasy VIII was released only two years after Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on television and the first Harry Potter novel was published in England. What all three works have in common is their use of fantasy as a rich, multi-layered allegory for adolescent pain. Their success paved the way for other genre crossbreeds like Pan's Labyrinth (childhood fears as nightmarish creatures), Battle Royale (high-school rivalries as ultraviolence), and Veronica Mars (high-school backstabbing as film noir), but while Buffy and Harry Potter have been frequently championed, Final Fantasy VIII has been mostly forgotten. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, is what I'm saying.

From a gameplay standpoint, I do sort of get why it annoyed some people a bit (although I don't think it deserves abuse to the extent it gets). The battle system was a bit idiosyncratic, asking you to spend a lot of time robbing enemies before attacking them and punishing you for casting magic spells (usually the quickest and easiest way to win fights) by gradually making your characters weaker after each usage. Personally though, I think the Junction system probably took me less time than traditional level-building. I guess it depends how you played it. It sounds like you were a bit unlucky using the method you went with.

Maybe so, but it still helped cement that reputation that JRPGs carried for quite some time and probably still do to some degree.
I was mostly fine with the gameplay up until that brick wall I mentioned.

FalloutJack:

dscross:
Snip of ages

The visuals were nice, I guess, but then that was half the point of the game, since Square was making full use of the Playstation at the time. At no point did I say the game looked ugly in my rants. I just appreciate the music way more than the visuals, being one who has enjoyed Final Fantasy 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10. (I also have 4 and 2, but my response to them was a decided 'Meh'.) These are not redeeming enough. Most other RPGs I've played through would not make me feel like it was work. Not the Final Fantasies I've listed as my likes, not Chrono Trigger, not any of the Persona series games, not Skies of Arcadia (The Dreamcast version with more random encounters than the Gamecube version.), and not Crave's own Shadow Madness, whose graphics were kind of FF7-level with various up and down slopes...but the game was very enjoyable, different and fun. I've been around the block a few times. They don't do things like in FF8, and there's a reason for that.

Is it mainly gameplay you have a problem with or the story as well?

I haven't played 8 since it came out, so these are the impressions I remember having from way back then, so take that for what you will...

- The game looked fantastic after 7s polygonal models and having the party members running behind you was a nice touch. That waltz scene was gorgeous, and still looks pretty good even now.

- I wasn't a fan of the drawing system. It was so boring and wasted a turn in combat. In tandem with that I wasn't too hot on the junctioning either so I don't remember ever really bothering with it until the end when I had underlevelled party members (see next point).

- I absolutely HATED that the unused characters didn't level up in line with the party characters. It meant I got to the end and was screwed over because I suddenly had to use all the characters I'd hated and never had in the party.

- The story is one of my least favourites in the series as a fairly large portion of it relies on you actually giving a shit about the "love" story between Squall and Rinoa; if I could have let Rinoa float into space without getting a game over I would have... (-_-)
I would have preferred the story focus on Laguna, or more on the Sorceress's and their whole deal. That would have been far more interesting than a vapid love story about characters with the emotional range of a brick, and orphanage ex machinas.

All in all I definitely didn't hate FF8, but it's definitely lower on my list of favourites.
That's probably why I've never gone back and replayed it.

But then I'm one of the garbage humans that actually like the 13 trilogy, so maybe I'm just a shitlord with garbage opinions.

captainsavvy:

- The story is one of my least favourites in the series as a fairly large portion of it relies on you actually giving a shit about the "love" story between Squall and Rinoa; if I could have let Rinoa float into space without getting a game over I would have... (-_-)
I would have preferred the story focus on Laguna, or more on the Sorceress's and their whole deal. That would have been far more interesting than a vapid love story about characters with the emotional range of a brick, and orphanage ex machinas.

As I tried to allude to, it was more about adolescent pain than the love story. I don't think you needed to care about that love plot to appreciate it thematically (although it helped). That was a device to get Squall to open up to the world more than anything. The majority of it was about the effects the war and abandonment had on the characters and the reason for Squall's extreme introversion.

Squall's frustration at dealing with others comes to a head in an extraordinary scene early on in the game. He and several other graduates of Balamb Garden have been assigned to help a resistance cell fighting against a dictatorship. As they plan their next move, they receive word that Seifer, one of their former classmates, has been executed. Stunned by the news, the group takes turns trying their best to remember Seifer as a decent person.

Quistis says she doesn't have 'any good memories of him', then insists 'he wasn't really a bad guy'. Zell swears revenge despite having been tormented by Seifer, and Rinoa, lost in her romantic memories of their time together, seems to be imagining a different person entirely. Only Squall is heartless enough to realise the truth: Seifer was a bully who made their lives miserable and his death was largely the result of his own recklessness.

Intentionally imagining someone to be a good person because they're now dead is, of course, a complete lie -- a very human failing, but also a necessary one that protects us from our own feelings of despair and nihilism. It's a defence mechanism that takes some of the power away from death, even at the expense of what we know to be true. Squall's inability to participate in this group fantasy shows just how much he has hardened his emotions. He is too critical to accept these lies and too disparaging of Seifer to think of him in a positive light. His ability to keep both other people and his own feelings at an arm?s length might make him stronger, but it also makes him seem coldly inhuman.

The game twists the knife further when Squall realises that if he were to die tomorrow, everyone would eulogise him as a cheerful, likeable guy, cementing the fact that they don't know him at all. Upon understanding this, he storms out of the room, while the rest of the group is puzzled as to what's come over him. Too cynical to join their group fantasy, yet still dependent on the opinions of others in order to determine his self-worth, Squall is trapped in the singular hell of feeling alone in a crowd.

Moments like this illustrate Squall's troubled mindset, and Rinoa was a way to bring him out of that. It's much more interesting if you view it all thematically, in the context of adolescent pain (using fantasy as a metaphor to show this was a trend at the time) and of the effects of war on people, in my opinion. Just to give you an example, I liked Buffy The Vampire Slayer a lot when it was on, but I didn't give a shit about Buffy and Angel's relationship - I just appreciated the metaphors.

dscross:
[snip

Without trying to evade discussion I think this is very much a case of variable tastes, I understood roughly what they were going for in terms of plot and underlying journey though you've thought about this far more than I have. My issue with the game's story is more that I find the scripting and dialogue subpar, I got what they were trying to do with Squall but I found his angst and moreover the flatness of each characters portrayal took away from actually enjoying them as characters.

Squall is a character who badly, badly needed more internal dialogue, he felt more like a mannequin than a person to me and while I get his feelings of isolation and detachment I also ended up knowing very little about him beyond that. I'm a big believer in characters being more about the aggregation of little things than being derived from one or two big things and Squall could have been humanised to a far greater degree with both an internal narrative at odds with his external actions and with a few tidbits that tell you more about him.

There were some interesting pieces to do with other characters what kind of achieved this, like Selphie just happening to really dig trains. I'd have been able to get into Squall's head far more if I'd known more things about him, what does he enjoy doing when he's alone, what are his private ambitions and so on. Obviously Squall is a more closed off character so there's not quite the same scope for developing these incidental details as there is with other characters but that's the kind of thing I'd have enjoyed. Why do these other characters follow Squall once they're out of sight of Balamb Garden, why do they keep following him after he screws up, what do they think about Rinoa's hairbrained train scheme and why do they go through with it and so on.

I guess I'm down with the overarching narrative drive of the game, I get the themes but I'd have appreciated more character moments, particularly ones that bind the team together a bit more. One of my favourite quests in a roleplaying game is the one from the Witcher 3 where Geralt, Lambert and Eskel get drunk together because it gives you insight into what Geralt is like around other witchers and what his place in the wider school actually is. I'd have liked more moments like that with the team where you find out why they stay together to the end. As I say you can't do that with Squall without ruining his character arc but you can reflect on him by using the other characters.

EDIT: What was it about Triple Triad that made Quistis decide she was going to essentially win the Protour? As a Magic: The Gathering player Quistis' ability to be basically the best Triple Triad player int he world would have taken no small level of time and investment, what need did that fulfil for her? Was it from her drive to excel or is it a stress release thing and it just turned out her pressure valve was something she was amazing at?

dscross:
It's much more interesting if you view it all thematically, in the context of adolescent pain (using fantasy as a metaphor to show this was a trend at the time) and of the effects of war on people, in my opinion. Just to give you an example, I liked Buffy The Vampire Slayer a lot when it was on, but I didn't give a shit about Buffy and Angel's relationship - I just appreciated the metaphors.

As I said, those were my impressions from when I played it as a 13 year old girl on it's release, and I haven't played it since ;)
To me it was a story about an introverted loner learning to accept friendship, a supremely irritating and pushy girl that he was supposed to be in love with, sorceress possession, scumbag-GF caused amnesia, and time compression.

The problem I had was that I greatly disliked Rinoa; there was not a single thing about her character that I liked and as such I didn't care about any plot point she was involved in. Which was, unfortunately, most of them.
I still maintain that if you really dislike either Squall or Rinoa as characters (or both!), you will struggle to give a shit about the story in FF8. I had the same issue with FF12 and not giving a shit about half of the characters in that game. It made it really difficult to care about all the conflicts, especially when you have an intense hatred for Ashe and couldn't give a toss if she gets her country back.

I too loved Buffy and wasn't particularly invested in her and Angel's relationship.
The difference is that Buffy managed to make all the other focuses of the series (her friendships, enemies, struggles as a teenager) far more interesting than FF8 did; even if I didn't care about Angel, the rest of the show did enough interesting things to keep me invested.

I think that's what FF8 lacked for me. It lacked things that didn't involve Rinoa to keep me invested. Squall's emotional journey basically centred around Rinoa. The main plot of sorceress possession/time compression involved Rinoa. I couldn't bloody escape her!
Which is probably why I liked the Laguna sections because him, Kiros, and Ward were far more likeable as characters than most of the main group. I just wish there'd been more of them.

I guess that's the risk you run when you play a character heavy game; if one of the main characters end up rubbing you the wrong way, it can be hard to push past that and appreciate the other things the game is trying to do.

Maybe if I played it again I'd find something to appreciate in it, but it's not on my radar to replay any time soon. I'm currently drowning in a backlog of unplayed games!

EscapistAccount:
Squall is a character who badly, badly needed more internal dialogue, he felt more like a mannequin than a person to me and while I get his feelings of isolation and detachment I also ended up knowing very little about him beyond that. I'm a big believer in characters being more about the aggregation of little things than being derived from one or two big things and Squall could have been humanised to a far greater degree with both an internal narrative at odds with his external actions and with a few tidbits that tell you more about him.

Was it FF8 where the English translation basically just added "..." to the speech bubbles when the japanese version had actual text? Or am I confusing it with one of the recent Fire Emblem games?

I also agree that getting to know the character as a "person" can go a long way.
Much like real life, people are complex; maybe the sullen, moody, silent guy over there isn't actually a jerk and is just someone that struggles with small talk and feels uncomfortable in crowds? Maybe the hyperactive guy that is overenthusiastic about everything is actually kind of insecure and overcompensating? Maybe the serious, sensible woman over there is actually hardcore Triple Triad player? ;)

Oh I don't think it's a bad game. Not even a bad final fantasy, it just had the misfortune of being sandwiched between 7 and 9 which stand tall as the pinnacle examples of the series to me.

The story was...fine, the characters were kind of weak to be honest, and it had alot of problems technically which many above me have covered.

It's a fine game, it's just ...not the best one. And it's hard to see how it would be anyones 'best one'. But fair dos if it is yours.

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