Let’s jump right into it.
Kind of a mixed bag. Playstation games generally look horribly dated by now, and while FFVIII had a more realistic style than Final Fantasy VII, it still hasn’t aged very well. In some ways, while it has less flat-shaded polygons than VII, it looks a lot grainier. In terms of realism, some find that the CGI characters fall into the dreaded uncanny valley.
However, there are some great spell and attack effects that look awesome and live up to the standards that you expect from Final Fantasy.
One unfortunate side effect of the realistic character proportions is how they would dwarf locations on the world map. Oops.
The harsh gunmetal gray look of the menus is slightly lame. You can’t customize it, either.
Though the tracks may not be quite as iconic as VII‘s (a wild theme approaches!), there are still some great compositions. My favorites are “Liberi Fatali”, “Force Your Way”, “Shuffle or Boogie” (the Triple Triad theme), “Maybe I’m a Lion”, “Blue Fields” (the overworld theme), “Find Your Way”, and “The Castle”. There are many other nice themes sprinkled throughout the game. I like “Don’t be Afraid”, the general battle theme, but you hear it so often that it’s not “special” like my favorites are.
I also like “Eyes on Me”, despite its slightly cheesy lyrics. “Shall I be the one for you/Who pinches you softly, but sure?/If frown is shown then/I will know that you are no dreamer”
It’s not just the lyrics, but how they’re sung, too, which makes them kind of cheesy. Said singing by Faye Wong is so beautiful, however, that I can’t hate it.
If it wasn’t for “Eyes on Me”, we may never have had similar theme songs used in later FF games.
One curious thing that I find about some of Square’s earlier PS1 games is that the sound effects are a little older-sounding than you would expect from how the graphics look. They seemed to reuse quite a few sound effects from their Super NES/Super Famicom era.
While I really like some of the elements of VIII, there are some elements that are a drag. I actually like the Guardian Force system of development, but battles are dragged down by overlong GF summoning animations. There are other repetitive problems like Drawing magic from enemies. Imagine if there was a way of Drawing magic while attacking enemies, like a magical version of Mug (but then how would you pick which magic to Draw?). I think that your enjoyment of VIII depends on how much of a nerd for stats and numbers you are, how much you like to bork games to make your characters as overpowered as possible, and how much patience you have for slow and repetitive battles. To be fair, though, Square quickly learned their lesson and made summoning animations quicker or even skippable, if memory serves.
The gameplay is still my favorite thing about VIII, and the thing I reminisce about the most from the game. Especially Triple Triad.
The Story and Characters
I never really liked or paid attention to the story. This is mainly because I remember GameFan bitching about it, and I just went along with what they said for some reason. But perhaps I can take a deeper look at it.
The story receives complaints about how it makes no sense. Time travel stories can be confusing like that. This game is sometimes seen as the origin point for Square’s troubles with scripts and trying to recapture the once in a lifetime success of VII.
The story is built on the theme of love, which I wasn’t into at the time. It kind of works for me now, though, with how Rinoa saves Squall at the end. Who doesn’t like a story where someone saves a person that they love? However, I still prefer the love stories of other FF games.
This is clearly a game about child soldiers. That’s what SeeDs are, and what Gardens train them to be. But I think that the game could have emphasized the horror of child soldiers (something that still happens in the real world) and the alienation that Squall and some of his fellow SeeDs clearly feel better. Not every game emphasizes the human cost of war even as well as Metal Gear does. Or, to take an example outside of games but still from Japanese media, Mobile Suit Gundam.
Speaking of Gundam, I always thought that the names in VIII were some of the weirdest that I’d seen this side of the legendary anime/manga franchise, which is well-known for some cracky names.
It doesn’t help that the usage of GF’s can ruin the memories of these young soldiers. It raises a lot of questions about how desperate the governments and Gardens are to shape SeeDs. How many kids lost their memories before anyone noticed? Sure, the people behind Gardens are trying to fight Sorceresses, but it could be interpreted that they are exploiting orphans to become soldiers. Sorceresses are bad, but Garden staff members are no angels…
The whole GF-induced selective amnesia thing is arguably a cheap way of generating even more angst among the cast. It’s also a twist on the selective amnesia cliché. But does Square deserve any credit for trying to put a new twist on a very, very old storytelling crutch?
The script has far more solid English and grammar than VII, but I noticed a strange quirk of Square-EA’s translations of the time: the tendency to give characters odd accents. Why were some characters, like Fujin, saddled with STOIC ALLCAPS DIALOG? It’s just weird.
Chrono Cross is another example, where almost all of the potential party members had distinct accents spelled phonetically in the dialog.
I find some theories around Squall and his behavior interesting. Some theorize that he’s suicidal due to his eagerness to dive headfirst into some dangerous situations. It’s not much of a stretch TBH, because it’s easy to read him as a put-upon kid who became a SeeD due to a lack of options, and because he has no interest in forming meaningful relationships until he meets Rinoa.
There’s also the “Squall is Dead” theory, which sounds like a name for an over-the-top Devil May Cry/Bayonetta wannabe, but is actually exactly what it sounds like: the theory that Squall is dying over the course of the game. The in-game events are actually a dream that he experiences as he dies. That’s too depressing for me to consider canon.
There are also theories that stem from Ultimecia’s ability to manipulate time. That’s why there are theories that Rinoa actually becomes Ultimecia in the future. Wouldn’t that have been a cool plot twist?
Rinoa is a character with split reception on different sides of the Pacific. She’s one of those characters who is more popular in Japan than in the Americas. I feel slightly negative towards her because she wants a “knight” to save her. But then again, she’s the one that saves Squall in the ending.
I like to make fun of Seifer for being a jerk. Why does he have a happy ending, again? Isn’t he basically complicit in Ultimecia’s terrorism? Is the world of FFVIII even more screwed up than I realized?
Seifer is designed to be a foil for Squall. Their color schemes, natures, and temperaments oppose each other.
Selphie is the Designated Cute Spunky Girl (but not a love interest). It is kind of funny how she uses a form of social media considering her name, though. :3
Some of the aspects of this game’s world are just weird. Like how Balamb Garden’s rival, Galbadia Garden, had demi-human hockey players. That you fight as enemies at a certain point in the game. This is some of the finest crack that Square has ever produced. These guys could deserve a game unto themselves. Well, maybe a mobile game. In a game with traumatized kids suffering from abandonment, coping with the brutal realities of war and assassinations, and occasional amnesia, someone thought that the game should also have something summed up as “demi-human hockey players”, and it’s somehow not the best game ever? Maybe we’re all actually living in Ultimecia’s time-compressed alternate universe hellscape, and we never even realized it.
I think it comes from someone at Square watching Friday the 13th and deciding that they wanted a hockey mask-wearing enemy at some point.
In the French translation, the demi-human hockey players are actually called Jason. The French translators were really on the ball there. In the English translation, the demi-human hockey players are called “Slappers”.
Another fan theory I read is that VIII takes place in the far-off future of the world of Final Fantasy III (the one with Onion Knights, not VI).
Square has given homages to all of the main FF titles in various spinoff games. VIII is no different.
Squall reappeared in an alternate continuity in the first Kingdom Hearts. In KH, Squall is known as Leon. In KHI, he was voiced by David Boreanaz. Doug Erholtz took over the VA duties from then on, reprising the role of Squall in DISSIDIA and World of Final Fantasy.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Leon and Cloud have an awesome scene where they fight back-to-back. All of my fangirling~
Their exchange goes like this:
Leon: “Think you can handle this many?”
Cloud: “Well… Might be tough if one more shows up.”
“Then that’ll have to be the one I take care of.”
“What, you’re fighting too?”
KHII also features its own version of… sigh… Seifer. Because he always has to mess things up! He’s more of a schoolyard bully than an outright villain in this game, though. The game also features his sidekicks, Fuu and Rai.
KHII was where I learned how to pronounce Seifer’s name. ;-;
KH also has its own version of Selphie in I and II.
As previously mentioned, Squall is the heroic representation for VIII in DISSIDIA. Ultimecia is, naturally, the villanous representation for VIII. Why not Seifer? He probably would have been too similar to Squall. Maybe in the new arcade version of DISSIDIA.
Selphie is one of the characters guest starring in some of DISSIDIA‘s tutorials. She’s her usual peppy and cute self there.
Naturally, VIII sees plenty of representation in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and its sequel, Curtain Call. Several songs from VIII are featured; playable characters include Squall, Seifer (shakes fist), Rinoa, and Laguna; and IIRC, the VIII incarnation of Ifrit is featured as a summon.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper features several areas, events, and songs from VIII in its own dungeons themed after the game. As of this writing, every SeeD is represented as a playable character, as well as Edea and Laguna. The Japanese version also has Raijin and Fujin; they will probably be coming to the Global version of FFRK soon, but we just had an VIII event, so not immediately. Several pieces of equipment from VIII are also represented.
WoFF, a spinoff game that cranks the cuteness levels way past 11 and breaks the dial, features grumpy little Squall as a cameo character in the storyline and a “Champion” summon. Champion summons feature remixed songs from the Champion’s home game.
These are my characters’ raw stats (without any magic Junctioned to them) from before I beat Ultimecia.
My Final Stats formula gives characters points based on where they place amongst the stats compared to the other characters.
Strength: 1. Squall: 96
Vitality: 1. Selphie: 51
2. Squall: 41
3. Irvine/Quistis: 32
4. Zell: 30
5. Rinoa: 26
Magic: 1. Rinoa: 48
2. Irvine/Selphie: 46
3. Squall: 45
4. Quistis: 44
5. Zell: 43
Spirit: 1. Selphie: 37
2. Squall: 36
3. Rinoa: 34
4. Quistis: 32
5. Irvine: 29
6. Zell: 25
Speed: 1. Squall/Irvine: 37
2. Selphie: 33
3. Zell/Rinoa: 31
4. Quistis: 29
Luck: 1. Selphie: 25
2. Squall: 22
3. Irvine: 21
4. Rinoa: 20
5. Zell/Quistis: 19
Evasion: 1. Squall/Irvine/Selphie: 3%
2. Zell/Quistis/Rinoa: 2%
Hit Percentage: 1. Squall/Selphie: 255%
2. Irvine: 115%
3. Rinoa: 107%
4. Quistis: 105%
5. Zell: 103%
1. Squall (39 points)
2. Selphie (36)
3. Irvine (31)
4. Rinoa (25)
5. Quistis/Zell (15)
Rinoa has the highest unmodified Strength out of any of the permanent party members. Some think it’s a way of making up for the experience points that she loses out on when she spends time being kidnapped by Sorceresses. 😛
I think that VIII does not live up to the legacy of VII, but it should not be dismissed on those grounds alone. It’s still a worthy RPG, even if it is not Square’s best.
Since I have no better place to put this fanart that I found… Remember how one of Rinoa’s Limit Breaks features her launching her dog, Angelo (who’s a female, BTW), from her weird, wrist-mounted, crossbow-type weapon? Well, whoever drew this took that to its horrible, yet logical, conclusion…
What did you think of VIII? How does it compare to other FF games that you have played?