This website is barely a week old at this point and I have devoted many words already to the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake, a game which only now do I feel I can get excited about. However, there was another announcement made by Square-Enix that made me shout “YES!” but silently in my head because it was two in the morning. Final Fantasy VIII would finally be coming to this generation of consoles with a remaster to boot. It was a very notable absence to their list of Final Fantasy ports that were announced earlier this year which has seen Final Fantasies VII, IX, X and XII make their debuts on other systems.
Yet, Final Fantasy VIII was excluded with no reason ever given. There was speculation that they no longer could license the ‘Eyes on Me’ track but it was still a bizarre omission to me especially since Final Fantasy VIII is great. However, the internet has had a funny relationship with the game and so FFVIII has earned a reputation as the black sheep of the series from the PlayStation era. A multi-part series “review” of the game from Spoony helped set the tone for how a lot of people would look back on the game. However, that was a long time ago and people are peeping out of their fallout shelters (no, not that one) to say “hey, Final Fantasy VIII…is good”.
Final Fantasy VIII is good. It is a game that tried a lot of new things which is bold considering the massive success that FFVII was worldwide. It would have been so easy just to replicate VII’s systems and stick it on a new story and call it a day but that is not what the Final Fantasy series is all about. Every numbered game is unique in their own ways. VIII’s main gimmick to set it apart from the rest was the Junction system.
While levelling up your characters helped boost their stats and whatnot, levelling up was made quite redundant due to the fact that enemies level up alongside you. Enemies that are tough at level 5 will still be tough at level 99. So how does one become more powerful? You can Junction magic spells to certain stats based on which GF you have equipped. That sentence makes no sense at all if you have never played FFVIII, oh boy. I have to describe what a GF is and the magic system now, great. So, you get Guardian Forces in VIII, they are the name Summons have been given for this world. By equipping a GF it will allow you to attach magic onto certain stats such as Strength and HP. You get magic from drawing them from certain draw points or from enemies – essentially stealing them. If you draw nine Fires you can use Fire nine times with that character. You can get up to 99 of each magic. More magic you have junctioned to a stat the more of a boost it will get.
Later on in the game when you have access to more powerful magic is when you can truly start overpowering enemies in your path. Yet if you devote a decent amount of time at the beginning of the game you can super break the game as early as before the first dungeon by just playing cards. Yes, by playing cards.
Triple Triad is something a lot of people remember from FFVIII and it is the premier mini-game of the world. It takes place on a 3X3 board with each player picking five cards from their deck. I am not going to get into how to play Triple Triad because I can talk about that when the Remaster comes out but you can amass a lot of great cards really early on by playing it around Balamb Garden. Then, the GF Quezacotl can learn an ability called Card Refine – which allows you to turn these cards into items. You can then turn those items into magic. You can then turn that magic into being far too powerful for anything to even remotely touch you. If you’re into that sort of thing.
The card game is fun and is actually really in-depth. Probably too in-depth as certain regions introduce certain rules which makes the game a little too complicated unless you know what you are doing. Then there is the Random rule which can GO TO HELL but that’s a topic for another day.
The story of VIII gets a lot of dirt shovelled in its face and this I can sort of understand. The game does start getting a little bizarre after the first disc and there is a big revelation in Disc 2 that comes out of nowhere (albeit there is some foreshadowing, but most people will have forgotten about that by the time the reveal happens). This coupled with the fact that Squall is a deeply unpleasant character early on in the game and I can see why some people get put off.
Thing is, and FFX’s Tidus is a victim of this too, is that people who hate the game are not going to witness the character development that Squall goes through. At first he is a loner who actively pushes people away when they get too close – but he has a character reason why he feels he has to do this. A bad reason but a reason none-the-less. The Squall we see at the end of the game is nothing like the Squall we see at the beginning. He grows up and he opens up. I like his journey.
I’ll be the first to admit that the story of VIII is not perfect but there are some very good moments throughout the game that I happily talk about once the Remaster is out and people get a chance to play it for the first time. However, I think the battle system is solid with a good scope of customisation attached to it and Triple Triad might be the best FF mini-game in the series. Therefore, I do declare Final Fantasy VIII to be…….good.