Final Fantasy VIII

If there’s one good thing about the games in the Final Fantasy series it’s that even though there are 12ish games in the series, you generally don’t have to have played the previous installments to enjoy them. Each game is its own self-contained story, with some similarities thrown in so that you know it’s still Final Fantasy. So even if you, like me, couldn’t wrap your head completely around Final Fantasy VII you don’t need to do so to play VIII.

The story in this game is also quite convoluted and confusing, and I know I’m going to misremember and misinterpret some of it, but here’s what I can recall: You start out with Squall who’s a pointlessly rebellious guy in a military academy. He’s eventually sent, along with some of his classmates, on a mission to assassinate the ’sorceress’. The Sorceress is the latest in a line of sorceresses that have ill-defined magical powers and pass them down to some random girl every generation. The ragtag group of people, it happens, are all orphans that grew up together, at an orphanage run by what would become the current sorceress (and whose husband is headmaster of one of the military academies), but they don’t remember any of this because they have amnesia. Amnesia brought on by using powerful summoned creatures known as Guardian Forces. So the assassination attempt fails and two things happen: Squall’s new girlfriend becomes the new sorceress and a sorceress at some point in the future decides to do something called ‘time compression’ that makes all moments in time happen simultaneously. Oh, and there’s a side plot involving some guy whose daughter has the ability to send minds back in time to experience things, and things you do while in the past will influence the future.

Got all that?

Gameplay wise, it’s a lot like other Final Fantasy games. You run around fighting bizarre monsters while working your way to the next plot point. Where it differs is in how it handles stats.

Role Playing games are all about stats. Your stats determine your worth. Health Points dictate how much damage you can take before you die, Strength determines how hard you can hit, and so on. Typically, in a Final Fantasy game, you also have Magic Points. Each spell you have costs a certain amount of points to cast, and these come out of your pool. In this game, the developers have dispensed with this system in favor of the junction system. To gain magic spells in this game, you have to ‘draw’ them out of your enemies or from random points throughout the world. You then attach to your various stats for boosts. You are then immediately faced with a conundrum. The magic spells are typically some of your best attack and support avenues, and if you use the ones you have you decrease your stats. And an RPG character with sub-par stats is a pretty lame character.

The other problem has to do with the Guardian Force creatures. You use these creatures for extremely powerful attacks, but the attacks take a long time to play out. I fully understand that every time you do the attack that it always plays out to do the damage, but I would have loved the ability to skip them, especially when I got the longer ones.

Sure, they look cool the first couple dozen times you see them, but after seeing the same Guardian Force do the same minute-plus attack a hundred or more times, you just quit using them, opting for the slower, but much more interactive, mundane battle.

I’m the only person that I know that has actually finished this game, but I never felt compelled to play through it a second time. Or to complete any of the optional sidequests to fully understand the story. In fact, toward the end the it began to feel more like a chore than a game.

This would also be the last game in the series proper that I would play (not including Final Fantasy XI) since it was the last Final Fantasy game that would come out on the PC. Had IX, X, X-2, or XII come out for the PC, I’d have probably given them a shot. Not all of us own Playstation consoles, you know.

3 Responses to “Final Fantasy VIII”

  1. [...] I started driving around the courses and seeing how fast I could go before I crashed. Then I bought Final Fantasy VIII. And then I never played this game [...]

  2. [...] guess to a neophyte the Final Fantasy series might be a little intimidating. Ridiculously convoluted storylines, lots of characters with obvious flaws, and sometimes obtuse battle mechanics might be difficult to [...]

  3. [...] ever played and it kind of hooked me on the series. And even though they’ve gotten kind of bizarrely obtuse in recent iterations, this one definitely makes the short list of great games in the series, and [...]

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