As a huge Final Fantasy fan; I’ve played all the titles in the series and love them all except FFVIII. I’ve had something with this game since I played it for the first time back in 2000. I always felt something was wrong with it, but at the time I didn’t know much about gaming as to recognize what was wrong. Now days, after having tried tons of great (and not so great) JRPGs, I can finally give my list of reason why I think Final Fantasy VIII is not only the worst game in the series but a pretty shitty videogame overall.
First of all, the party members, in every good JRPG you normally have a male lead and a female protagonist accompanied by other party members which usually have character development, a story of their own and most importantly: A reason to be fighting alongside the rest of the members to save the world. And no, saving the world is not reason enough for someone to travel around on foot fighting animals. This is the case of FOUR of the six party members in FF8.
Let’s face it; the only important characters in the story are Squall and Rinoa. The rest feel like excuses to fill the party with different characters to add variety to the gameplay. They do have some really minor dialogs but they normally don’t affect the story in any way. Quistis started as a great character while she was the teacher and giving tutorials and talking about her life to Squall but after the Timber mission she just became another sprite on the screen. The other one who actually did something was Irvine; he’s supposed to shoot Edea at the end of disc 1 but fails. Zell and Selphie are just like zombies with no real personalities or anything.
Laguna alone had much more personality than the entire Squall group which gives me another problem. I’ve played ALL the mothership FF titles and Squall is the worst protagonist in all of them. Even the Warrior of Light in FF1 is better because the lack of personality makes you feel sympathy for him. Squall is just a retarded asshole who can’t talk much, is rude to everyone and almost never goes beyond the “whatever” line. In real life, a person like Squall would only be punched in the face every day for being an ass. Rinoa is a pretty shitty character as well, her reasons for trying to capture the president of Galbadia are uninteresting and after she became a romantic bitch I just wanted to kill her.
But the problems for me go beyond the characters. The game tells the story of a group of students of a mercenary school trying to stop a witch from the future named Ultimecia who is trying to take over time and space… I know JRPGs plots can be pretty weird but the way FF8 tells this story is totally wrong, first of all. The game fails to explain many key points of the story like why the party members had the same dream about Laguna, why was Squall chosen to lead the world-saving campaign when he was only a rookie and barely graduated. How Squall survived the ice attack Edea casted on him and many other things. In fact, Ultimecia herself appears at the end of the game, everything that happens before her first appearance was totally unimportant except the retarded romance between Squall and Rinoa.
The plot in FF8 is so badly told that there are even two really famous and important theories running around the internet since the game first came out. The first one says that Rinoa and Ultimecia are the same character, there are a lot of people supporting and against this theory but the fact that it even started is proof that the game never said things the right way. The other theory suggests that the actual story finishes at the end of disc 1 when Edea stabs Squall with a huge ice shard. Squall dies and the rest of the game is just his mind thinking about way too many things at the same time before he finally dies. The theory is very well elaborated in the website www.squallsdead.com which I recommend visiting and reading. I actually support this one.
Now, my logic tells me that if these two hugely controversial theories were born, then something is wrong with the game’s storyline and normally, when I mention FF8’s plot to anyone, several comments and opinions about things that happened in the game start being discussed. I have to admit that I actually never finished the game. I got to Ultimecia’s castle but never defeated her. I watched the battle and the ending several times on YouTube videos though. Since the year 2000 when I first started playing Final Fantasy, I’ve given five tries to this game. But I usually stop halfway through because I can’t endure it. Only once I had the patience to reach the final dungeon but never actually finished the game (which was my mistake I admit, I should have finished it after making it there).
The other problem is have with FF8 is that the battle system is just way too freaking slow. When a random encounter starts, it takes around seven seconds for the actual battle to commence. Having to wait seven seconds seems like nothing, but when you have to do it every time at every battle, it just becomes tedious and annoying. I didn’t like the system it used as well. Having to junction the summons to equip the magic attacks on your stats was not well received by me. The game didn’t even have the MP system, so if for example you junction 40 Blizzagas to your HP stat and start casting that magic, your max HP will get lower and lower. That’s just totally retarded.
I even remember a project some people were working on many years ago in which they hacked the ROM of the game so the characters would never level up beyond level 1. And they would attempt to finish the game by growing their stats only with junctioning and they did it and felt little to no difference to the original game. That means the leveling system is not well designed. While writing this I tried to find proof and a website talking about this but I’m not having any luck, I even saw some videos but it was back in 2002 or 2003 so I don’t really remember where I saw this.
The only good things about this game were the technical achievements of its graphics and sound. I might be mistaken (and if I am someone tell me please) but I think FF8 was the first PS1 game with high-quality sound (FF7 used some kind of low-quality midis for the soundtrack and sound effects) and the intro video is still one of the most jaw-dropping presentations I’ve seen in a videogame. The graphics were great (for the time) but the uninteresting characters, badly told story and poor battle system made the game unbearable for me.
I always find people out there trying to defend the game in some ways but they fail to bring down any of the points I criticize about it. I know videogame tastes are something extremely subjective but the FF8 issue has always been important for me because I see the game being really praised like 7 and 9 and I really don’t see why. Something curious about my JRPG tastes is that just like I hate FF8, I feel a deep love for X-2. I see that game as the most underrated gem of the series but I’ll leave that for another article.
Now, with this I just wanted to share my opinions on a videogame to everyone, I’m not trying to say my tastes are better than yours or anything like that, as I mentioned above: gaming tastes are very subjective and if you read this and like FF8 then excellent, enjoy your game because that’s the reason why it was created by the old Squaresoft, to be enjoyed by the public.