ALL WE ARE SAYING, IS GIVE SEED A CHANCE!
I have loved the Final Fantasy series since Final Fantasy 7 hit the scene when I was a lad of 8. By then my gaming knowledge consisted of playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Tomb Raider obsessively but when I saw the first TV ad for the game (that’s how we got our reveals back then guys) I had never seen such a spectacle before. It was grand. It was beautiful. It looked massive – So when it came time for me to finally play it at my cousin’s house, I wasn’t sure of it. As I said; I liked Sonic and Tomb Raider so the style of gameplay was like a foreign language to me, but the storytelling was new and intriguing to me, so I was left on the fence on the series as a whole. Fast forward two years and Final Fantasy 8 is announced and I witness the opening cinematic on a weekly TV show about video game news, new games, cheat codes, walkthroughs etc (I forget the name of the show) and much like its predecessor I was amazed! The cinematics were incredible for the time, the score was intense, mystifying and it was just awesome. The character models looked better and it looked like the series as a whole was evolving in a time when the PlayStation was at it’s most popular.
I played Final Fantasy 8 relentlessly for years, it was 4 discs (and yes, you heard right children!) of an incredible adventure that took you around the world and even through space and time! It wasn’t till a couple years ago while web surfing out of boredom when I found out it’s not everyone’s favourite entrance. In fact; it’s considered one of the least favourite of the entire franchise – but why? I hear you ask! I can see why because the battle system is time-consuming and easily forgotten. It’s supported by a cast of character’s that can be seen as somewhat colourful but is held together be an extremely one-dimensional lead character. Through all of this, it still holds sentimental value to me as it was the first one I owned and it was my first true experience of Final Fantasy. I loved it. I even remember watching an advert for it on television and at the end, a message appeared that read; ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get over it’ – Alas, 18 years on… I still haven’t; and here’s why!
Carrying on from the two previous games Final Fantasy 8 continued to evolve with the series, doing away with the castles, the princesses, the kings and the crystals and began to look toward the future with a more pioneering yet rustic punk vibe with locations like Deling City giving; an ode to more Victorian times. It still had the hustle and bustle of modern cities and with Esthar looking like a textbook image of the future with its crystal clear facade and massive outlook shows that the developers wanted to move Final Fantasy into the 21st century but also didn’t want to forget the people that have been loyal since 1987. This is evident when it comes to series staples such as the versatile world map, the use of airships and a character called Cid.
The six main characters though four of them attend the same school are practically strangers to one another (or so you may think). Squall – the emotionally distant and reluctant leader, Quistis – the dedicated instructor and voice of reason, Zell – the hot-headed fighter, Selphie – the optimistic child-like fan service girl, Irvine – the cocky sharpshooter and Rinoa – the freedom fighter turned damsel in distress turned love interest turned sorceress eventually all come together for a common purpose much like the cast seen in the previous 7, it wouldn’t be a compelling story otherwise but the character roles I just listed out to you is what they all remain as for the entire game, I can only think of one point in the game where our protagonists claim to change themselves for the better and that is when they vow to limit the use of their GF’s (FF8’s name for the summon monsters – the Guardian Forces) as over time it has affected their memories.
This is where Final Fantasy 8 clearly falls short as the player wants to see the characters they play, grow and have personal epiphanies, however, this falls to the villains. Edea eventually is freed from her mind control and returns to her loving self and sees the error of her ways and Seifer has a sudden realisation when he realises his henchman Fujin and Raijin are only on the side of evil cause they will always have his back and turns a new leaf. This is where Final Fantasy 8 is refreshing when it comes to its characters.
Where FF8 garners most of its criticism is its battle system. Never before has it dared to be this different with its junction system. Unlike other entries, magic doesn’t cost MP. It’s stocked and you add types of magic to your stats like HP, strength and defence. This is in lieu of stat-boosting armour used in almost every other entry. Some people thought it was boring and unnecessary but I believe it added more strategy to upcoming dungeons and boss fights. If monsters are weak to fire – junction fire to your attack and if a boss fight uses ice magic – junction blizzard to your defence. So now not only are you thinking about your way to victory during the traditional turned based combat, but more than ever you are thinking about it before every battle.
Final Fantasy 8 also offers, in my opinion, some of the most challenging side quests in all of Final Fantasy. Be it the time trial of Odin, the King Tonberry quest where you must defeat a certain amount of Tonberries (which to every FF vet is no easy task) before you must defeat him and the Ultima and Omega weapon boss fights are all insane challenges but aren’t impossible. One thing and one thing alone everyone who plays this game can agree on, TRIPLE TRIAD IS AWESOME! This addictive card game has you travelling the planet and jumping through ridiculous hoops in order to collect every card, but it’s all worth it to absolutely destroy every NPC you take on and eventually become the CC King. The premise is simple but the additional rules you find in other regions gives this mini game an ever growing difficulty curve you can be playing for hours until you remember you have the world to save.
Yes, FF8 isn’t the greatest Final Fantasy game – but it sure as hell isn’t the worst one. In my opinion, that falls on FF12’s shoulders (come at me). In its battle system, it dared to be different and it dared to be innovative which became clear to me when I played more and more of these entries. Its one-dimensional characters are held together well with its story with emphasis on the past, the future as well as the late reveal of the main villain Ultimecia, bringing you to one of the most challenging final dungeons and one of the best final bosses of all time if you ask me. To anyone that was brought in by FF15 and wants to try more yes play the measuring sticks like 7 & 10 but if you give this diamond in the rough a try and take into account what I’ve written you may be surprised.