Final Fantasy VIII

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Will
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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by Will » January 7th, 2019, 5:40 pm

Oh, FFVIII, what an ambitious mess you are! Someone more poetic than me once observed that FF and Dragon Quest are like siblings, with DQ as the responsible, stodgy older brother who works in insurance, has 2.5 kids, a golden retriever, and a haircut you can set your watch to while FF is the artsy younger sibling who swings wildly between brilliant epiphanies and absurd stunts that leave everyone baffled. To me, VIII is that younger sibling’s biggest swing of the PS1 era and, unfortunately, it left me shaking my head as the game drunkenly tumbled ass over teakettle off the back of the couch and shattered the family's good china.

Briefly, the good. The graphics are outstanding for the era and the music is exceptional, even by Uematsu’s absurdly high standards. Some of the character designs are also quite lovely, and I’d include Edea in any “best of” list of designs. When those elements come together, as in the opening cinematic, VIII can take your breath away.

Unfortunately, most everything else in the game just doesn’t work for me and the only time I played it through I spent the last half of the game hate-playing out of obligation to drag my underpowered, unloved party across the finish line.

Much has been written about the convoluted story, and, try as I might I could never connect with any of the characters or find any purchase in the plot or thematics. Even in brief tentative moments where I did find a way to grab on to some aspect of the narrative, a new set of seemingly-unrelated, unpleasant characters would quickly intrude with an unexplained [dream sequence? time jump? altogether different game that accidentally got included as the result of a major manufacturing error?]obliterating any momentum and investment I had been able to establish.

Returning to VIII today, the weirdness of the story can seem interesting, rather than just murky and frustrating. Particularly in light of the “Squall is Dead” theory, there’s something intriguing and brave about building an entire game around a sullen, opaque main character who speaks mostly in ellipses. I’m also a sucker for the weirder elements of the series, so NORG, Doomtrain, and the moments where VIII feels like a covert entry in the Silent Hill series have some appeal.

Image

The problem for me is that I just don't enjoy the act of actually playing the game because the core gameplay feels not just different from but openly hostile towards everything I love about FF. At every step, the systems seem designed to lay traps for players raised on previous entries in the series. Weapons aren’t purchased from shops, summons are a dead end for late-game combat, and leveling actually makes the game harder! Instead, progression is almost completely tied to junctioning, but the way that you are explicitly taught to do that is incredibly tedious, requiring hours of mindless drawing from each enemy you meet.

Clever players - or those who ponied up for the strategy guide - will really dive into Triple Triad to gather cards and change them into stat boosts, but doing that quickly makes characters comedically overpowered. Forty hours in, I never found a way to play the game that was actually enjoyable. I very much missed the standard RPG “fight - XP - fight” feedback loop, which seemed to have been replaced by five minute GF boosting sessions and a half-assed card game.

Overall, I appreciate VIII and applaud Square for trying something new. It would have been easy to simply rehash the things that made VII such a critical and commercial success. Like II or XIII, VIII is totally different than what came before. Also like those entries, unfortunately I just can’t find much to love in the game itself. I know some people treasure VIII and I certainly don’t begrudge them this weird little offshoot. But if you ask me my honest opinion of the game all I can say is “. . . Whatever.”

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by Sage + Onion Knight » January 7th, 2019, 7:09 pm

Will wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 5:40 pm
NORG
This is my last post in this thread, I promise (but not entirely sincerely): this reminds me of the fact that FF8 is responsible for two of my favourite old uni house share memories.

1. Noting that one of the regulars from quizzers was the spitting image of Garden Master NORG, and making my housemate convulse at how audaciously obscure that reference was

2. Annoying that same housemate by insisting with increasing aggression that a stock sound effect of a dog we heard on an advert was definitely sampled from Final Fantasy VIII and that they should pay millions in royalties to Nobuo Uematsu who had painstakingly crafted the sound effect from scratch

Again, yet another reason why this game has such a weirdly nostalgic tone for me. As much as FF7 is the one we're all nostalgic for, FF8's nostalgia is so fittingly odd to me.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by TheEmailer » January 8th, 2019, 9:48 am

My first RPG - nostalgia limits my objectivity and brevity

I never clicked with the predecessor, maybe I was too young. I was tempted by the the style and diversity ofart shown in magazines. The graphics have aged, but personally I feel much of the art design holds up well. A bright, vibrant world,with a distinct visual style to the different locales and inhabitants, from the 50s Americana of Galbadia, the futuristic curves of of Esthar and the Shumi.

The storytelling has taken flack in the subsequent years, somewhat deserved. Teenage angst is a fertile topic for storytelling due to its relatibiloity, but if the execution isn't flawless it can come across as whiny and immature. The dialogue in all PlayStation FF entries has real low points, I think the teenage nature of 8 exacerbates this. A moody and terse leading man is a trope that can lead to mysteriousness & charisma, but here isn't often pulled off. Maybe the redemption arc of Seifer would actually have made a better story.
The second half of the plot is a mess. The switch from an engaging villain in Edea to the uninteresting puppet-master and a hokey time travel masterplan doesn't engage. If the story was wrapped up ended at disc 2, it would be much improved.

What the story does have, again mainly in the first half, is some very compelling set pieces . I'm thinking Dollet, Vinzer Deling's train, the Edea Assassination, the battle of the two gardens. I was particularly taken by the side by side narratives of the two teams post the prison escape, giving players a reason not to neglect their whole parties level. If I could replay just these set pieces, I would do it every year!

At the time I really liked the Draw and GF systems, acquiring magic to strategically buff stats and building affinity with the GFs. Acquiring a new GF feels like a satisfying reward to defeating either the GF or its master.
The systems suggest to having 3 defined load-outs, shared between two character. However, in 2019 with less time to grind than as an eleven year old, I am less taken by the idea of the having to grind through repeated drawing magic from standard enemies to build a store of 300 in every spell.

I believe the Limit Break system here stands out for a delicate risk and reward balance. I prefer a situational trigger for a limit break to a gradually filling meter, as it tempts the player* to risk sustained low HP in order to do more damage.
* before Aura becomes commonplace late game.

The enemies levelling with the player is a nice idea to keep grinding fresh, particularly as they begin to have new spells. Although in reality going back to areas from earlier in the game, the enemies are higher level but still relatively easy.

A note here for Triple Triad. I believe part of the appeal of Triple Triad is the simplicity, allowing the "collect them all" aspect to come to the fore. I also like the idea that a mopey, monosyllabic teenage soldier is really keen to play cards with anyone he meets.

Finally, as an 11 year old, I found the idea of the military school that can also fly really cool. As an adult the idea of funnelling orphans into commandos by giving them powers that will sap their memory an authoritarian nightmare. Letting one of them go into battle with just fists against gun wielding soldiers, tanks et al would lead to some disagreements with OFSTEAD.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by duskvstweak » January 8th, 2019, 3:18 pm

I think most of my affection for Final Fantasy VIII comes from the first disc. Balamb Garden seemed like a school I wanted to go to, the first dungeon with Ifrit had that amazing soundtrack, the first SeeD missions, the big assassination plot, it was all so cool to my teenage sensibilities. After that, my memory of the game gets a little fuzzy, I remember big moments but not in walkthrough detail like I have with that first disc.

I still love the game dearly, I love watching people play VIII on Twitch, I find ways to play the card game whenever I get the itch. I don't "miss" the junction system in other games, but I didn't mind it at all in my playthrough. I don't think the full cast of characters is as dynamic or memorable as VI or VII, but I remember being in the minority of people who liked Squall and felt like I understood his character arc. And the soundtrack is another Uematsu masterpiece, no ifs, ands or buts.

I understand the black sheep reputation this game has, but it will always be in my top five Final Fantasy games and, I think, it's a showcase of what the Playstation could do.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by DavidBagguetta » January 10th, 2019, 1:13 pm

Here we go, first time contributor!

Listening to your FF7 podcast recently I realised why that game was so influential to me, yes it’s absolutely fantastic in its own right but as a late comer to that game I happened to own the platinum edition which you may remember came with the demo for FF8. It was the first SeeD mission to Dollet in which you embark on an extraordinarily cinematic “mission” to repair the radio tower and assist Dollet with the ever increasing threat from the Galbaldian army.

A divisive title, there can be no doubt, but FF8 for me is the best of that holy trinity found on the PS1. I played that demo hundreds of times and never tired, my anticipation for the release had reached fever pitch after it was appearing in magazines, that demo still a mainstay in my play time as I waited. To this day it is the only special edition game I’ve ever owned, how on earth I managed to convince my dad to buy me the huge box with such frivolous extras in at the age of 10 I do not know, the key item inside was a large adult t-shirt. God bless my dads prioritisation to get me to be quiet.

The game itself was more experimental than square have ever dared to go since, the junctioning and draw system was bizarre, so bizarre in fact that I somehow managed to get all the way to the Ragnarok spaceship without junctioning a single spell against my stats. I felt like a very foolish, but now overpowered, god once I realised why I wasn’t able to defeat the weird aliens on board.

Where the game really shines more than any other in the series for me is the cinematic presentation, that opening FMV is so iconic to me now, grown men going hell for leather with two crazy looking gun blades, actual real blood and scars to boot, and the transition to the game itself as I was introduced to real looking, life sized people was like Final Fantasy had come of age. Before you even have the chance to get settled you’re taken though another magnificent FMV sequence and I was able to walk around as it all unfolded around me in graphical quality I hadn’t seen before.

I’ve replayed this game so many times and am still impressed with the way everything looked whilst in FMV, hard to believe this was from 1999.

Also hard to believe despite the many replays I’ve never actually finished this game, if I was to be critical of anything here it would be that ultimecias castle is utterly ridiculous. I just haven’t been able to find the skill or patience to get all of the party abilities in order to defeat the final bosses, and with FF8 looking like the only one we’ll never see new versions of I dare say I never will.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by idontpuzzles » January 11th, 2019, 10:22 am

(First Time) FF8 is the only game in the series that I have started multiple times through my life, and have never finished. I remember when the game first released being enamored by the cut-scenes, and being floored by the leap in in-game graphical fidelity.
That being said the game was never able to grab me. I've gotten 20+ hours in on many occasions but always lose interest. It's difficult to pin point what it is about the game that loses me, whether it be the pacing, the story, or the aesthetic. For me though, that could very well be the issue, nothing about this game stood out to me.
I don't hate the game though, and absolutely plan on finally sitting down and beating this unique Final Fantasy one day. Just not today.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by Ben77000000 » January 14th, 2019, 8:29 am

FFVIII is as bizarre a hodge-podge as any game I've played, and though it pulls off an admirable amount of bold ideas with aplomb, I feel my experience with VIII was ultimately defined by the game's missteps. The narrative's backbone revolving around a time loop that begins with a group of mercenaries arriving from the future and inadvertently kickstarting a cycle of prejudice that gives birth to the very tyrant that they came to warn everyone about makes for a brilliant statement on the futile and cyclical nature of hate, but this core thread of the story is all but buried beneath a naff romance.

Squall makes for a superb protagonist, and one boasting a striking design that's atypically restrained for Nomura,but his relationship with Rinoa wasn't executed well enough for me to root for them. As great as it was to see Squall develop from taciturn teen to responsible leader, I struggle to buy that the advances of a character as blandly pleasant as Rinoa would catalyse such changes. The franchise is otherwise rife with women whose presence and personality endear them to the player, but VIII drops the ball with its main love interest and the emotional impact of the game is dampened as a result. This blandness is not limited to Rinoa however, the supporting party are also a far less colourful bunch than FF casts had been and would be. Making the six party members peers would not have been an issue had the writing imbued them with personality enough to leave lasting impressions, but I find the party ultimately lacks the camaraderie that would have made adventuring with them that much more involving.

The game's prioritising Squall and Rinoa's relationship over lucid storytelling has the inadvertent effect of shining a spotlight on the game's clumsiest aspect and leaving the story's intricacies for the player to discover themselves. As such, the world is full of small details that add colour to its people, locations, and history.
The endlessly repeating text reading 'I am still alive', 'I will never let you forget about me' and 'bring me back there' on the big video screen in Timber offers a reason for the absence of wireless communication in the game world: Adel had been telepathically hijacking all the airwaves from space in order to spam angry messages. This detail reveals a lot about sorceresses and the impact they have on everyday life, but is hidden quite literally in the background of a single screen.
Likewise, a common complaint raised against VIII's story is that the orphanage twist seems very out of left field. However,conversations can be had in Balamb Garden that allude to GFs causing amnesia, foreshadowing what lies ahead. These minor details illustrate how elaborately the world was constructed, but the delivery of them is subtle to a fault, and the narrative they contribute to is left on the back-burner in favour of a central relationship that was bettered in both IX and X, two games boasting a more engaging harmony between narrative and romantic development.

Aforementioned flaws aside, I really did like Final Fantasy VIII. Its cinematic direction, rousing soundtrack and varied but cohesive art design were often showcased across an abundance of gripping and memorable set-pieces. I just wish the characters around Squall, and their relationships with him, had been as richly drawn as the intricate world they inhabit. As a final point, I feel the junction system was a terrific idea that might have ended up with a stronger reputation had the game done a finer job of demonstrating the myriad benefits of tinkering with it. It's also a shame that the game gives players so many early opportunities to break the system entirely, allowing them to forego engaging with it on a more strategic level.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by Mr Ixolite » January 16th, 2019, 8:17 pm

Coming off the eye-opening experience of FFVII, I entered a brief period of FF mania, chewing through entries 4 through 10 in rapid sucession. Yet despite playing it in this period, and it being only my second game in the series, I've never been compelled to revisit FFVIII.

The world of FFVIII was certainly interesting and the story was entertaining enough, with some memorable setpieces. The problem is just that I didn't care about the characters experiencing the story. I found Squall unlikeable, and every bit the self-obsessed brooder Cloud has gotten unfairly labeled as. Squalls behavior in turn made me annoyed at Rinoa, since she found him inexplicably charming. Considering their love is a focal point of the game, this was not optimal. The rest of the main cast didn't fare much better in terms of memorability, and the decision to ground the game with more realistic, high-school- evoking character designs only made them blander. To me the only standout in the party was Zell, specifically because he was the most colorful and animated of the bunch. I honestly think that if everyone were deformed little caricatures instead of "real" people, they'd be more endearing.

Gameplay-wise, I bounced pretty hard off the junctioning system. Coming off FFVII there were too many things to accumulate and manage, and having everything tied to spells meant that I almost never used magic for fear of damaging my stats, since thats where my best spells were tied up. But since enemies leveled with me, physical attacks never seemed to do much for me either. Instead, what I did for almost the entire game was spam GFs. They did a ton of damage, shielded you, and could be summoned almost instantaneously until they died. This carried me all the way until Sorceress Adel, at which point I shifted to the brilliant strategy of spamming Aura on Squall and Zell. I then proceeded to beat the game like that.
Now, you can break pretty much any FF game with enough tinkering with the mechanics. But when said mechanics feel tedious, and you can break the game so easily that you barely have to engage with those mechanics in the first place, it just ends up boring.

I do remember some things from FFVIII fondly, though they are mostly not directly associated to the main cast or story. Hanging out with Laguna was way more fun than hanging out with Squall, and recruiting optional GFs such as giant Cactuars and Tonberris gave the game some spice. Ultimecias castle was also a fun challenge, since it broke up the monotony of my gameplay and forced me to actually strategize. But ultimately, my memories of FFVIII are so drab that I've never been compelled to replay it.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by ToQi » January 24th, 2019, 2:09 pm

For me, Final Fantasy VIII's score is Nobuo Uematsu at his peak — melodically, instrumentally, and aesthetically.

Opening operatic-orchestral track "Liberi Fatali" rivals John William's "Dual of Fates" as one of the finest "Carmina Burana"-esque shriek-a-thons; "Eyes On You" is one of the most beloved and memorable original game songs; and the town/city themes, including for Balamb Garden, Winhill, Timber, Esther, and, of course, Fisherman's Horizon are among his very best.

I kept a save file right outside the final boss room and, at least twice a week for a month, I would beat Ultimecia so I could hear all of the ending suite, from organ epic "The Castle", through to the spellbinding full-orchestral outro. Those final few chords, where the famous prelude arpeggios are woven in, offer guaranteed goosebumps for Final Fantasy fans.

Through the variety and quality of the overall score, I sense Uematsu's ambition; his mastery of the PS1's sound hardware; his creative flow; and his heart.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by ColinAlonso » January 27th, 2019, 10:34 pm

I've been holding off on reading this topic until I finished it. And while I'm not writing anything to contribute to the show, I really like all the varying opinions and experiences here.

TWR: Messy, ya know?

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by NiaiMitch » February 4th, 2019, 9:58 pm

Though when I first got it into my ten year old hands it blew me away, viewed as a crusty twenty eight year old Final Fantasy VIII is a bit of a messy composite of ideas.

Although I liked Squall’s progression from lone wolf to capable leader able to lean on his friends, Rinoa is probably the weakest heroine of the series (despite her penchant for propelling her dog from a missile launcher). Their love story is meant to be the game’s centrepiece, so it’s unfortunate that they have the most chemistry when she’s in a coma. And the focus on it is to the detriment of the rest of the cast, who development-wise don’t get much of a look in for most of the game.

The revelation that the characters forgot they were Edea’s wards due to their GF-usage is an unbelievably naff Deus Ex Machina, and on Disc 3 the story starts to implode under the weight of so much time compression. Gameplay-wise the Junction system is either tedious in the extreme or broken immediately by savvy players who stay low levelled and refine powerful magic with cards. Ultimecia displacing Edea as the true antagonist continues the annoying trend of the series to present a nondescript villain at the eleventh hour, rather than someone the player has a reason to care about.

That said it has some of the best set pieces in the series – the Dollet landing, the sorceress assassination, and the battle of the Gardens to name but a few, a superb Uematsu soundtrack, and Triple Triad remains the best minigame of the series. If the battle system and plot had a few tweaks it could have been a true masterpiece, but it nonetheless remains a great title, and Square should be commended for continuing to experiment when they could easily have rested on their laurels with the formula of its smash hit predecessor.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by ToQi » February 9th, 2019, 8:45 pm

Will wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 5:40 pm
Oh, FFVIII, what an ambitious mess you are!... To me, VIII is that younger sibling’s biggest swing of the PS1 era and, unfortunately, it left me shaking my head as the game drunkenly tumbled ass over teakettle off the back of the couch and shattered the family's good china.
Very well said Will — blimey, I think you nailed my feelings on it too. Love the siblings metaphor too!

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by Will » February 11th, 2019, 3:42 pm

ToQi wrote:
February 9th, 2019, 8:45 pm
Will wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 5:40 pm
Oh, FFVIII, what an ambitious mess you are!... To me, VIII is that younger sibling’s biggest swing of the PS1 era and, unfortunately, it left me shaking my head as the game drunkenly tumbled ass over teakettle off the back of the couch and shattered the family's good china.
Very well said Will — blimey, I think you nailed my feelings on it too. Love the siblings metaphor too!
Thanks, I really liked your description of Liberi Fatali as a "Carmina Burana-esque shriek-a-thon" as well! I think the crew over at Retronauts deserves credit for the sibling metaphor.

Love that FF takes these big swings even when it doesn't work out to my own tastes. Really hoping the C&R folks stick with FF/JRPG's after this run is over. I'm sure the time commitment is daunting, but FF Tactics, Xenoblade Chronicles, Actraiser, Chrono Cross, Breath of Fire 3, and so many others deserve the coverage.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by ratsoalbion » February 11th, 2019, 3:53 pm

Of course we will continue to cover JRPGs (in fact we have Persona 5 this year too) just perhaps not a rate of one every other month!

Leah is already campaigning for FFX-2 in 2020 in fact...

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by MajorGamer » February 13th, 2019, 6:25 am

I did myself no favors when playing this game. I played the original PC release back in 2000 and it regularly crashed, forcing redoes large sections, compounding the next problem. I failed hard with using the junction system. I didn't care for the card game nor wanted to sit in battles endlessly drawing magic. In hindsight, that would have been the better option since I summon spammed the entire game (barely scraping by the anti-summon boss). This made things incredibly tedious with how long the summon animations are to the point I used summons that were the shortest to cast to try and make things go faster. Due to monster scaling, trying to not use summons got me slaughtered due to being at a higher level with little magic. Monsters scaling at a faster rate than your party does is an oddity in the genre. Making an RPG where being a lower level is easier than being a higher level is counter-intuitive.

Looking back now that I know how the systems of the game works, I'm still not fond of it. Tying stats to magic could have been interesting but it just wasn't done well. It encourages the player to grind out magic, whether it be from drawing or cards, and then never using that magic because doing so makes you weaker. It's just weird turning all of magic into the "Too Awesome to Use" trope.

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Re: Our next Final Fantasy podcast recording (16.2.19) - Issue 357: Final Fantasy VIII

Post by ashman86 » February 15th, 2019, 3:57 pm

I'll remember Final Fantasy VIII launched on September 9, 1999 in the U.S. because it was the same day the Sega Dreamcast launched. A lifetime Sega fanboy, I had my sights firmly set on their new console, and Square's latest entry was barely a blip on my radar. Well, that is, until I saw the intro cinematic running on a TV screen in the E.B. Games where my parents and I had found ourselves that day.

It's silly looking back at it, how excited I was about the pre-rendered FMV sequence, but it was truly majestic to me: the snippets of dialogue text against the opera-like audio track and Squall's blood splattered against stone. I fantasized for days about a future where videogames would look and sound as good as that intro video.

I'd eagerly try my friend's copy of the game some week's later at his house, but it wasn't until years later, when I found the shimmering, holographic big-box PC edition of the game, that I'd actually be able to dig into it.

It was my first Final Fantasy game, and for a long while, it was unopposed as my favorite entry in the series. I didn't learn about its rather polarizing reception among series fans until console generations had passed, and by then, I'd played enough of the series and other JRPGs to at least understand where the game's haters were coming from, but my opinion of the game never really wavered. The magic system discouraged players from actually using magic, level scaling reduced your sense of progression (I'm still on the fence on this one), and the entirety of the final disc, including the boss, comes almost completely out of left field with a really awkward and abrupt deviation from the narrative.

But to this day, after having played and replayed it several times over, my memories of FF8 are all fond: gunblades and GFs, Triple Triad and secret bosses. I loved how zany the game could be at times, like when your school suddenly takes flight and becomes your world map navigational vehicle of choice or when you discover that there's actually a monster blackmailing the school's headmaster (who never looked like the type of man I'd imagine to be training an army of teen aged bounty hunters) living in the basement of it.

And I lived for those FMV sequences. It's strange to think back onto just how much of a treat they were because the stark difference between pre-rendered and in-game animation is no longer so dramatic. I used to think of them as a type of reward for progressing through games like Warcraft 2 and Westwood Studio's Lands of Lore series, but I believe Square's craft for them was unparalleled at the time of FF8's release.

It helped that the music accompanying the scenes was so wonderful. I think the game's score may be Uematsu's best work. It was the first game soundtrack I ever imported, and tracks like "The Man with the Machine Gun" are still on a weekly rotation on my phone's media player, and "Liberi Fatali" sounded to me like the natural next evolution in games music after "One Winged Angel."

But what's really stuck with me 20 years after first laying eyes on the game, is its narrative. While the main plot seems to lose its way right around the time Edea is revealed to have actually been the woman who raised you and literally everyone you know (except Rinoa), Final Fantasy VIII's story always seemed a little more character driven to me when compared to its kin. Sure, people like to poke fun at Squall's melodramatic, emo attitude, but it resonated with at least one teen who was playing the game at the time, and there aren't many protagonists in gaming who show the same level of character progression as I think Squall does over the course of his adventure.

In retrospect, Rinoa may be a manic pixie dream girl trope, but at the time I believed the game's love story and fully bought into it. I'd seen romance side quests in western RPGs, but I remember thinking back then that FF8 was unique in that the relationship between Squall and Rinoa--that romance in general, really, because Laguna's subplot is one of failed (maybe failed? I'm dovetailing here) romance--seemed so central to the game's story. I don't know if it'll resonate with new players, but it worked for at least one hopeless romantic teen boy.

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