Final Fantasy VIII is one of my favorite games in the series and after the relatively recent re-releases of VII & IX, I’ve been waiting patiently for the remaster of the seemingly forgotten entry. At one point it had seemed as if we would never get to play Final Fantasy VIII on current consoles. Thankfully, this is no longer the case as Square Enix has now announced its release later in the year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. I for one, couldn’t be more excited.
It turns out though that not everyone shares my excitement. After speaking to many people and trawling the depths of the internet, I have discovered that some people absolutely despise Final Fantasy VIII. They don’t just dislike it a little, they hate it. And then you have the other side of the coin, people like me, who love it.
Perhaps more than any other game in the series, Final Fantasy VIII really divides the fans, which is saying something when XIII exists. I wanted to take a look at why that is and perhaps get some of you playing the game, or at least discussing it. There will be spoilers so if you’re okay with that, let’s begin.
The Battle System
Following on from the brilliant Materia system in Final Fantasy VII was never going to be easy. How do you follow perfection? You change it completely of course.
What I’m talking about here is the junction system, a system that could prove fairly complicated, especially for first-time players. I remember struggling quite a bit when I first played the newly released fantasy adventure. Maybe not as much as I’ll struggle to explain it now, but it was tough.
Traditional stat boosts were replaced with the junction system and were tied into magic. No longer could you just buy magic and level it up, you had to collect magic and assign it to character stats to make them stronger. The more magic attributed to a stat, the stronger it was.
Exactly what commands and what stats that could be upgraded depended on what Guardian Force (summons) are attached to the character. Without these, the characters can only attack and generally not be much good to anyone.
It’s a system that required a bit of trial and error and was quite off-putting to a lot of people. I enjoyed it, once it clicked in my brain, even if I’m terrible at explaining it, a wiki can be found here.
A big issue with the system is the constant need to hoard magic, either from draw points around the world or stealing them directly from monsters. Needing the magic to boost also meant it was harder to just cast spells without thinking, as wasting any magic would be detrimental to your stats.
It is a system that I enjoyed even if I can understand that it’s not for everyone.
Whilst all the characters in Final Fantasy VIII may pale in comparison to those from say VI or VII, the main criticisms that people had were aimed squarely at the protagonist, Squall Leonhart. He’s moody and a bit of a loner who pushes everyone away.
He does come across as extremely unlikeable and you do wonder why people keep trying to get close to him. In fairness, he is your typical moody JRPG character.
If you take in the story, there are reasons why Squall is how he is and those reasons do make sense. He plays the angsty teenager well, much as Harry Potter does in the Order of The Phoenix. Many people didn’t enjoy the character in that book either.
The changes in Squall throughout Final Fantasy VIII are fairly subtle, with the real payoff not coming until the end when he does start to mature as a person and no longer seems to fear to let people in. I’d imagine that if this moment came midway through the game and we got to see what he would become, people who place him much higher in their list of favorites.
Final Fantasy VIII is primarily a love story set in a time of conflict, with two lovers brought together by war. The problem with VIII is the other side to the story, involving sorceresses, group amnesia and time travel.
I’m not going to sit here and defend the second side to the story, it’s not the worst thing ever, but it is a convoluted mess with lazy plot twists and flashback sequences. I’ve finished the game and I’m not keen to talk about that side of it, let alone try to explain or justify it.
Watching the subtle changes in Squall as he falls in love with Rinoa is the best part of the story, couple this with some great moments against his rival, Seifer and there is a good story here. Trouble is, much of it is hidden behind the mess, something that, let’s be honest, is par for the course in a lot of Final Fantasy games.
Triple Triad is great and you can’t convince me otherwise. The card battling mini-game has seen me rack up plenty of hours of playtime. Seriously, if they released this as a standalone game, I would happily pay full price for it. Imagine playing it on the Switch and battling people wherever you went, stealing their cards and amassing a huge collection. Wouldn’t that be great? The answer is yes.
Even haters of the game liked Triple Triad for the most part. The problem lies in the rules or at least some of them. You see, there are some terrible rules that hinder your chances of victory. One such rule is “Random”, this automatically picks cards from your library instead of letting you pick your own. Obviously, this could easily cause defeat depending on what you get given.
These rules can also follow the player and cause other NPC’s to play with them, spreading your misery all across the map and making it difficult to pick up those ever-elusive rare cards.
Terrible rules aside, Triple Triad is great and I can’t wait to play it in the remaster. I’m itching to obtain the likely “collect every card” trophy, even if it may make me cry in the process.
As a fanbase, we could talk about the pros and cons of Final Fantasy VIII for hours and I would enjoy doing so, the problem is, I can’t do so here, I’ve taken up enough of your time. There are many other sides to the coin that I haven’t picked up on in this article, I have just tried to pick a few of the major issues that I discussed recently with a friend.
I would highly encourage you all to continue this debate, between yourselves or with us in the comments or on Twitter. Likewise, let us know of any games you argue with people (respectfully) over. After all, it’s perfectly fine to not like the same things as others and it’s always nice to have a friendly debate.
We will inevitably review the remaster of Final Fantasy VIII once it comes out and will delve into the gameplay in a bit more detail. Hopefully, we will have a fixed release date soon so that we can sit back and watch the debate begin between a whole host of new fans.