Final Fantasy 8 is the best Final Fantasy game…. There I said it. Look, I’m a sucker for FF8, I always feel like I have to defend that belief, as if loving FF8 makes me a filthy Mudblood. I have to make excuses like, “It was my first Final Fantasy” in which case everyone just kind of accepts it and moves on. Well not anymore buckaroos! I’m no longer ashamed of one of the greatest RPG’s of all time. In fact I revel in the fact that it’s hated and I will argue that FF8 is one of the best Final Fantasys of all time! And now it’s time to show you why!
Now I know that one of the first arguments against FF8 is some of the characters involved. Many people say that Squall is just an Emo kid and that he is an emotional baby. Rinoa is a lame heroine (which okay you’re right there), Zell is an overzealous bastard, Quistis is a creepy, yet sultry teacher with a whip. Then you have Selphie who is annoying and peppy, Irving who is an atypical ladies man and the supporting cast is pretty odd too. It’s okay if these are your personal opinions as well, I excuse your lack of good taste.
Here’s the reality though, these characters fit the plot that was given and play a perfect role in that world. Okay, maybe not Quistis, but she’s just an oddball. The thing here is that these are supposed to be kids or at the most young adults. This means that they are teenagers, but again not Quistis, she’s just a weirdo. This means that a teenager with anger problems, a guy that hits on all the girls and a girl who is super peppy about everything would be a pretty normal occurrence. Oh and if you want to hit against Squall because he is “Emo”, he’s nothing compared to the crybaby from FF7. I love cloud as a character, but you can’t claim that the reason you don’t like this game is because of an emotional crybaby. FF7 has an extremely similar character.
Every characters personality in FF8 flows extremely well together. I liked the spoken and unspoken rivalry of Squall and Seifer, it felt like highschool. Zell was the guy I wished I could be since he spoke his mind, Irving was suave as a mother ***** which meant he was getting his guns cleaned all the time. Then there was Quistis….Yeah she is still just weird. Isn’t weird that most people don’t complain about her though, I mean she is the oldest one in the group and decides to join a group of teenagers? Weird man…just weird. So there is this whole dysfunctional family dynamic here, I mean every type of atypical sterotype from highschool is present in FF8. They may not work together perfectly all time, but that brought a needed diversity to the cast.
Then we get to the laguna side of things and yes it’s weird, but I think it’s an important part of the game/story. Laguna is an interesting character that you actually get to see evolve through different points in his life. Now Ward and Kiros may not be as well-developed, but they fit the Biggs and Wedge stereotype pretty well. I love this cast of character and they may even be my favorite group of characters in a Final Fantasy game. I know that other games are considered much more popular in the series, but let’s talk about the most popular shall we?
(Most popular….yes, the best….not quite)
First off I want to say that FF7 does have a good cast, but because of the presentation and just kind of weird part of history that RPG’s were in at that time, FF7 does kind of feel weird. Cloud is a good emotionless/emotional character, Barret is a curse slingin’, gun totin’ bad ***, Tifa is a titular character with fists constantly clenched. We also have the weirder characters like Vincent who is Edward from twilight on steroids, Red XIII who is wise beyond his years, Cait Sith whom we should never mention again, Aerith who spoiler* dies too quickly, and Yuffie the ninja from the village hidden in the leaves. (I left Cid out on purpose, he’s just there because he has wheels)
Regardless it’s not that these characters aren’t interesting, but they aren’t really relatable. Barrett is a super racial stereotype, which personally I can’t wait to see how he is redone in the remake! Tifa is there to give cloud support, Red XIII is a weird alien dog, Cait Sith…is annoying. Then we get Aerith who is a really cool character that ends up being killed of before anything of worth can happen with her story. I mean it’s just a wasted story plot line, more on that in another post, eventually…. Vincent is awesome, but any character in a RPG with a cape gets that recognition. Then we have Yuffie, who is pretty much Selphie…on steroids. Again these aren’t bad characters, but you can tell that this was a transitional time for RPG’s. There was that issue of how serious do we make this title and how goofy do we want it to be at the same time.
(Memorable…yes, goofy and a little out of place….yes)
None of the characters from FF8 even get close to being as cartoony as the characters from FF7. This is because FF8 is a much more serious RPG and as a result it caused me to love it more. I prefer my RPG’s to be serious and dark, yes I am aware that FF7 can be dark at times, but it’s also a super goofy mess at times, and that ruins a lot of the dark overtones. On a character based level I love final fantasy 8. These characters make me smile when I think about their personalities. They take me back to a time that I was that age and had those basic problems. Comparing it to FF7 and Cloud is weird because cloud is just an angsty adult, I argue that FF8’s characters act more like their age, except for Quistis…She’s a weirdo.
Stick with me on this point, because I know it’s going to seem weird. I know that games like FF7 and FF6 or even 9 and 10 are considered the best stories in RPG’s. I agree that they are great stories and should be remembered as such, however I will be damned if you think that FF7’s story is better than 8’s. The reason that most people love FF7’s story is that it is a bite-size and memorable story with a few twists and turns, and no time travel. In my opinion FF8’s story is more than just a really weird let’s change time and the world story, it is story of rival countries, betrayal and most importantly friendships.
So cliff notes edition of FF8’s story…GO! Squall is hurt by Seifer and a grudge is intensified. A huge exam to become special soldiers ensues and Seifer fails because he is a jerk. Squall gets sent on a mission and meets Rinoa who turns out to be a revolutionary hell-bent on bringing her country back to glory. They eventually find out that a Sorceress named Edea is controlling the president and want to rule over other countries? Or some babble close to that. Squall and friends find Irving and then try to kill the sorceress, they fail and Squall is subsequently hospitalized.
(Now will you listen when I say don’t run with ice in your hand!?)
While all of this is going on Squall continues to have dreams of a guy named Laguna who previously worked for the rival country. Squall experiences multiple pieces of the characters life in-game. Eventually Squall comes to and they are captured. Upon escape they learn that Edea plans on launching missiles at the Base that their squad is from. One team goes to stop the missiles, they fail, then squall goes back to base to try to warn them. Squall succeeds in activating the flying base and then the group runs into Ellone. Ellone is trying to send squall back in time to change the present, and surprise, it doesn’t work. Eventually you find out that the entire group used to be at an orphanage together, so they are family, except for Rinoa. Poor girl, but good for Squalls baby-making future.
Jump forward to a lot of complicated things and you find out that a sorceress Ultimecia is trying to control time and you have to stop her. Again…cliff notes. So obviously there is way more to the game then just those two short paragraphs, but it gives you a good cliff notes of why. Is the story complicated? Yes. Is it still a good story though? Yes. It is better because it deals with real human problems and is really supernatural and weird at the same time. Sure Sephiroth is a really cool bad guy, but he’s not relatable. He’s destroying the planet because his alien mother wanted to…not very relatable to most people? Unless your an evil scientist wanting to rule the world.
(I mean it’s a cool plot, but the reasoning behind it comes out of left field)
The thing that makes FF8’s story so strong is that it deals with real issues. There are rival countries fighting each other. Special soldiers whose job is to be professional mercenaries. Sure FFX’s story is cool and deals with all kinds of religious ideals, but FF8 is so well grounded. I always felt like FF8 was a real story that I could see happening, minus the time travel. I loved the idea behind the story. I’m not saying that other stories in the series are bad, I just prefer 8’s. It’s a traditional story in the beginning that evolves into a time travel paradox, oh man do I love it!
Now, I am talking about a turn-based RPG here, so how can I say that FF8’s gameplay is better than any other in the series. It should be relatively similar right? Well here comes the most unpopular thing I have said this entire post…..Quite simply the GF’s and the Draw system make this the best Final Fantasy ever. Stick with me though, I have an argument, big shock there, and I am going to make an honest attempt to persuade you to the dark side….We have cookies
Look I think the biggest problem with gameplay and GF’s in FF8 is that they aren’t explained correctly. That’s the developers fault as much as it is our own. Many didn’t explore the options, many didn’t care. Regardless in the game there is two different types of experience you gain. AP which levels up your GF’s and the EXP which levels up your characters. In the game enemies scale based on your characters level and the GF’s are used to boost your character above those stats and don’t have an effect on the enemies strengths. Which means that through proper utilization of GF’s you become stronger. As you level up the GF’s they gain the ability to junction magic.
This junction system allows for you to place magic in stats. This can effect resistances, elemental attacks on weapons, your health, strength or even the abilities you can use in combat. This in-depth system is amazing because it encourages experimentation and what magic you want to use in combat, versus for your stats. The reason people don’t like this is the Draw system. You have to draw the magic out of enemies for you to obtain it. You can also get it from abilities that allow you to break down items into magic as well as random things in the world. However, most will just draw it from enemies…which takes forever.
(Yes this way of drawing magic takes forever, but there is an easier way)
The way to get around this tedious task is to play the card game and use Quetzalcoatl. Wait cards? Why? Well the cards are essentially captured souls in FF8’s world. These cards can be transformed into magic through various GF’s abilities. Quetzalcoatl can turn enemies into cards, and if you are successful, then you gain no EXP and only AP. See the bigger picture here? You can turn almost every enemy into a card and by doing so you can boost your GF’s, get magic to use for stats and can reach super far parts of the game while being under level 20. It’s awesome!
Now I am aware that this may not be a selling point for many, but this constant back and forth of fighting enemies to turn them into cards was something I still love today. Eventually it becomes its own little mini-game. So moving away from that my favorite gameplay aspects are actually the way that critical hits occur as well as limit breaks. Most FF titles are pretty basic and you hit a button and there is a chance that the hit will be a critical. In FF8 if you hit R1 at the right time the hit will deal more damage. It encourages active play of the game and it is just one reason I love the combat in FF8 so much. Then we have the limit breaks. This was the first FF titles to use limit breaks where you had to press buttons or do actions for something to happen. Yes I am aware of Tifa’s slots and some of the more odd FF7 quirks, but they aren’t anything compared to FF8’s limit breaks. In the end I love the gameplay from FF8, it’s just phenomenal.
This is going to be short but if there is one thing that a Final Fantasy game has that no other RPG has it is memorable summons. The Guardian Forces in FF8 are amazing and no title since has even got close to matching the cast that FF8 had. So let’s go through a short list of some of the unique summons that FF8 has. Doomtrain (HELL YEAH), Bahamut, Shiva, The Brothers, Phoenix, Carbuncle, Pandemona, Alexander and a freaking Tonberry, oh and that is of course just a few of them. Final Fantasy 8 has the most extensive list of Summonables ever. Every single one is unique and they are important because of the aforementioned junction system. They help in battle and they actually allow for your characters stats to be boosted.
No Final Fantasy game has ever made summons matter as much as they do in FF8. Never. Not ten, 7, 6, 9 or even XIII. Eventually the summons in those games become old news or outlive their usefulness. Regardless these are just a few of the reasons I love the Guardian Forces in 8. Plus DOOMTRAIN FOR LIFE!!!!!
(I only watched this a dozen times laughing hysterically)
So I love almost all music from every Final Fantasy. I find the tones inviting and absolutely entertaining. Every main title has great music, and FF8 is no different. I think what sells me on FF8’s music is that it is so in your face. FF7’s music is very background and I think it is also held back by the technology of the time. FF8’s music is to the point of full orchestral scores and is so well done. I mean just think of the opening music with Liberi Fatali. It Starts with voices only and is then introduced to a score that is constantly evolving. It is such a great opening.
The battle music is also one of my favorites in the series. I think it is a really good upbeat theme that makes me feel like I’m in a battle. The one thing that still surprises me is that the battle music changes when you change places to Laguna. My 13-year-old brain couldn’t handle that kind of excitement, and even today it is a surprise that the developers cared enough to do that. FF8 has some extremely memorable music and it just elevates its place in the Final Fantasy world for me.
(You can hear the music can’t you…)
So I’m aware that his is an unpopular opinion with a lot of unpopular opinions in it. I know that some gamers prefer other Final Fantasy Titles or even Final Fantasy XII….AHAHAHAH! Let’s be serious guys…. Regardless, what matters here is that Final Fantasy is a very divisive topic in gaming and I think that FFVIII is a title that has been shunned to the corner. I remember having a really good talk with a friend of mine regarding FFVIII and he said that he personally hated FFVIII. So I had a long talk with him and he told me that the Junction system
and that drawing all of his magic was annoying. So I gave him an idea on how to play it, aka the way I do, and we had another talk a few months later.
He told me that he wasn’t crazy about the story, which hey I can understand. Afterwards he said that he was having more fun playing the game the way I had told him though and that he had never stopped to think about turning enemies into cards to use for magic. It’s things like this in the game that give it just a little bit more nuance and complexity that previous, and future, Final Fantasy titles really haven’t achieved. This is more than a game about equipping better items; it’s about managing the GF’s. FF8 uses it’s GF’s better than any other game in the series, and it’s one of the many reasons that I still hold to the idea that FF8 is the best Final Fantasy game. Period.