Three times. I tried playing this game three times, with my best attempt ending with getting to the third disc. Maybe with a fourth try I’ll complete it, but I digress. FFVIII continues many of the new stylistic threads established by Final Fantasy VII, while radically changing many other elements. It’s many of these changes to the gameplay that turned me off. That and the overly emotional characters. And the story. And the gunblade. I think that’s it.
FFVIII is the first in the series to feature human looking characters. They were proportion, with no deformation, though they looked to be comprised by 90% legs. The main character, Squall, is prototype whiny emo. He’s a member of some soldier training school named SeeD (not a typo). He’s quiet and emotionally distant. This can be an interesting trait in a character, but here it’s annoying. I was unable to connect with him at all. Cloud, the protagonist from FFVII, is of a similar archetype. While Cloud can be endearing, and has some redeemable qualities, with Squall they completely over did it. Squall feels like Cloud, stretched to normal height, then cranked up to about 15 on a 10 point scale.
RPG’s are comprised of three components; character, story, and gameplay. Beyond Squall, the only character I enjoyed was Zell, even with his passion for hot dogs. Why is favorite food a vital state for Japanese characters? Quistis was alright, but Selphie was the typical high pitched over the top Japanese girl. Rinoa was Tifa part 2, and I don’t remember Irvine at all. I’ll guess by his design that he’s a tool.
That’s one category down. What about the story? Again, I only finished half of it, but with the characters so unlikable, it made it difficult to enjoy or follow. Squall’s emotional apprehensions is a major detractor, as it influences many plot points. Beyond the warring countries and rebel forces (FFVII…), FFVIII is billed as a love story. Squall falls in love with Rinoa but is all overly emotional about it. This is another troupe that should be carefully balanced, but instead is completely overdone. Having never finished the game so I can’t speak to the later half. I quit around when I learned everyone had amnesia.
Two strikes. Lastly is the gameplay. RPG’s are expected to have some sort of inventive battle system, and leveling up mechanic. These are typically the basics, with some games branching into item scavenging/creation. Final Fantasy has always focused on the former two, with each iteration having a new mechanic. The leveling device here is fine; every 1000 points the character gains a level with most enemies moving up the scale with the player as well. That works well enough. It’s the battle system that ruins it for me. Completely doing away with magic points, characters must find and draw spells from enemies. Enemy casts Ice 2? Draw on him and your character will get a few uses of that spell. What I don’t like about this is the constant need to hunt down spells you want. This is a very linear game. Constantly stopping to hunt down the spell you need, and in the quantity you desire, is needless complicated. And the entire Guardian Force thing is garbage too. It tries to mash the Esper idea from FFVI and Materia from FFVII, and just makes a mess.
Finally, the gunblade. Seriously? How would that mechanically work? How could the bullet not damage the blade? How could something so heavy be aimed properly? How was it held? The handle was curved, like a revolver. How? Bah.
I really enjoyed Triple Triad though. The card based minigame was a lot of fun. On my first play through I played it for 10 hours, not leaving the first area. I was a little obsessed.
As a card game simulator I rate Final Fantasy VIII a 10/10. As a RPG it’s not really worth the time. With so many other AAA games worth playing, I doubt I’ll ever return to this.
Did you slog through FFVIII? Did you like it? Comment below!
Might go back and play more Triad though.