I almost feel bad picking on Final Fantasy VIII. It’s been done so well, by so many people that it feels like beating a dead horse with a sledge hammer. That said, I just finished watching the massive and excellent review of the game over at Spoony Experiment and am feeling a bit inspired. Or lazy. Whichever you prefer to call it.
For the record, Final Fantasy VIII is actually a game I really, deeply love. It the game that got me back into the franchise and for a long time I genuinely thought it to be the best in the series. I know, what was I thinking?
For the most part I blame it on my just being something an emo loser in my own right at the time. Well, emo may be a bit strong, but I was certainly very insecure with myself, was at times anti-social and very much assured that no girl would ever want to lay a hand on me. That’s thankfully over now, but at the time it made it easy for to me relate to Squall who was an odd combination of sullen and popular. I mean if he could get a girl, then surely I could too!
And I did eventually meet someone, fall in love and yadda yadda, but it had more to do with my just growing a pair and asking her out than anything else. So while I can play Final Fantasy VIII now and enjoy it, I do acknowledge that is actually a pretty lousy game.
The core problems? The battle is mediocre at best. Many fans of the game proclaim it to allow a profound amount of customization but honestly, four complete play throughs the most that I’ve ever tinkered with the Junction system is to set all my junctions to one of the default attack or defense settings. And yes, the draw system sucks. There are alternatives, but really magic should not be such a hassle.
The battle system is something I’ve always been able to tolerate though. It’s not as if it’s broken; the game is quite playable and even enjoyable at times.
The biggest problem with Final Fantasy VIII is plain and simple its story. There are elements of it that I enjoy but for the most part it is one big mess of confusing and random events that are forcibly strung together to create a story. It reminds me of the …And Justice for All album. Many count it as Metallica’s best because it is their most technical. I’ve always had trouble listening to it though because none of it really strikes me as being organic. The songs just continue on, shoving in a solo here and there to show off their ability to masturbate a guitar. It doesn’t feel natural.
Final Fantasy VIII has a similar problem. The opening FMV, the train sequence, the battle with the gardens, the space station, the final battle and ending; these are all cool, but they happen often just for the sake of happening. The epic battle between Seifer and Squall from the opening? A training match. The battle between the two gardens? It just kind of happens. The game had gone fifteen minutes without an FMV and the developers had to meet their quota.
Much of this is just to push the plot forward, and honestly, a bit of clumsy MacGuffin wouldn’t be horrible, but it far exceeds mere clumsiness. Take for instance, the most infamous scene in the game: the orphanage revelation. The heroes are reminiscing about their younger years and as it turns out not only are the all orphans, they also lived together as children in the same orphanage. The reason this hasn’t come up before? It pretty much amounts to “we just plum forgot.”
This scene alone almost destroyed the game for me, even back in my own “woe is me” days. It is so stupid and above all else, utterly pointless. It could be removed and all you’d need to do is edit a few sentences and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to the overall plot. But it can’t be removed; it’s there, a part of the story and it remains the elephant in the room for the remainder of the game.
How is the good in the game supposed to shine through when it is up against stupid such as this? The game never quite gets as bad as that again, but there are plenty of moments that are almost its equal. And the dialogue! How can you not cringe when Seifer wants to tell you about his “romantic dream?”
So yeah, I love Final Fantasy VIII but it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s like an intelligent person enjoying Twilight. You know it’s crap, but somehow you just enjoy it any ways. You know, with some face glitter and some contacts Squall could almost be Edward Cullen. Damn it Square! What were you thinking?