7 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 11: Final Fantasy VIII

  1. FF VIII is my very favorite after VI, and I enjoyed reading this thoughtful re-evaluation. One thing that struck me before and that strikes me even more after reading this is how VIII’s system is the most “RPG”-like of almost any Japanese RPG I can think of. I mean this in the sense of a Western computer or pen-and-paper RPG.

    It seems like an odd claim in a game dominated by a linear (and in my opinion, interesting and highly unique) story, but the level of tinkering and mechanical involvement that is possible in the game is astounding…if only we use our heads and learn how the system work. I’d argue the Junction is deeper than Jobs or any other system the series has ever employed. People who suffer for either their Draw-focused OCD tendencies or conversely their inability to win battles without waiting through summons have only themselves to blame, in a sense. The level of depth and non-frivolous mechanical liberty (non-frivolous is crucial, since Tales and so many other games delight in stacking endless customization systems on top of each other) is truly amazing to me. Given how easy it is to play FF VII brainlessly without even needing Materia, I can see how VIII was a hard deal for many new fans.

    And that worldview. Wow. I think it’s one of the most unique and refreshing RPG worlds I’ve seen.

    • The system itself is rather easy to exploit once you get it going, after all that micromanagement.

  2. Loved it when it came out – just the right time to experience that type of story, I guess. Now when I play it… well, the junction system is pretty great, and pretty intuitive. As for the tedium of drawing spells… it’s basically the same tedium as grinding. It might even be easier, because you can at least get your (total) 300 spells in a single battle. Drawing spells (and then junctioning them) also produces the same effect as grinding – it makes the game easier than even VI and VII (probably the three easiest games in the series).

    The world, though… it’s great for being cohesive, but it seems rather cold and lifeless to me now. It has a polish and cohesion that VII lacked, but it also lacks the dirty details and charming incongruity of VII’s world. VII’s static environments, inconsistent though they are, felt lived-in and grimy, most of the time; VIII’s are cold and lifeless, but don’t yet have the added movement and business of IX’s world.

    And then there’s Rinoa. I admire the attempts at a romantically-centered story in VIII and X, but Square really has to learn that, for it to be effective, you can’t keep making a love interest that the player wants to go the way of Aeris.

    VIII is truly the first ‘modern’ FF – VII sort of straddling the line between classic and ‘modern.’ VIII has the most polished translation (though not the best script), consistently proportioned characters, a more cohesive gameworld, more seamless and more cinematic cutscenes, and the humorless anime angst that sort of defines the series these days. Like VI and VII, I can still get more than enough nostalgic enjoyment out of it to overlook its flaws.

  3. I always thought Squall was a rather well-created character. They did a great job of showing his development throughout the game (although the love story with Rinoa was a stretch).

    To me, FF8 is the prime example of a game that’s better on a second playthrough. On the first playthrough, at least for most people, it seems like it’s difficult to grasp the junction system, and people resort to solely summoning GFs… which makes for a subpar game.

    But once you understand which spells to junction, and which spells you should go out of your way to get, the game becomes much easier, less tedious, and much more fun. Breaking the game on a second playthrough is tons of fun; that’s why the New Game Plus in Chrono Trigger was so enjoyable.

    Plus, the music in this game is flippin’ fantastic. “Force Your Way” and “The Stage is Set”? Some of FF’s best music right there.

  4. Despite loving Square’s SNES output, my first playthrough of the PS1 FFs, VIII included, was actually just a few years ago. Back in the PS1 years I considered battle screen transitions and turn-based gameplay to be relics of the 16-bit era. Games like Metal Gear Solid which combined a rich story with clever action gameplay had me trained to disdain them. But around 2009 I finally wanted to see what all the fuss about the PS1 FFs was about, so I trudged through them.

    FF8 was a clunkier experience than 9, but more ambitious. I never had a problem with the junction system but I still felt it was needlessly obtuse. The main incentive for using it is to save time by not watching summons every battle.

    Since Squall and Rinoa weren’t really compatible, the plot for FFVIII-2 has to be like Scott Pilgrim. Squall is now dating Quistis, and they fight off each other’s evil exes.

  5. VIII had the worst battle system by far, if only because they made so many of the mechanics needlessly laborious.

    Everything else, though? Loved it. I really need to play through it again because my memory of the three PSX games is starting to blend together, but I found it to be an interesting love story. And the big battle at the academy blew my mind back in the day. Plus, you get to fight a dinosaur!

    I am beginning to wonder if I can go back to random encounters, though…

    • Fortunately, the Diabolos summon ensures that very quickly, you don’t have to if you don’t want! And since the enemies’ levels are all matched to Squall’s….

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