While the Sega Dreamcast‘s launch on 9/9/99 was a major event in North American entertainment history (and was the sole subject of episode eight of our podcast), there was another big item that came out that day. It came approximately two years after its predecessor, which itself opened up the North American gaming market in a new way. Sure, RPGs (and specifically Japanese-created RPGs) had been around for years and years, including ones from this same series, but it wasn’t until Final Fantasy VII and its immense marketing from Sony and Squaresoft that the North American market for the games blew wide open.
So how about that Final Fantasy VIII…?
The game launched the same day as the Dreamcast in North America, and while it did not receive as major an advertising campaign as VII, and it may have primarily been the VII crowd (as opposed to the VI-and-prior crowd) looking forward to it, gamers certainly knew it was coming. VIII took things even further than its predecessor in a variety of ways, thanks to the lessons learned during development. Characters were portrayed as “full-scale” at all times (CG or otherwise), as opposed to VII‘s mix of “super-deformed” polygons and “realistic” cut-scenes. The ATB system was carried forward, but combined with the new “Draw” system for magic, it was an entirely new battle experience.
While I picked up VII at launch, I did not get around to picking up and playing VIII until PS1 games were just about gone from retailers. I grabbed the game for $15 at Best Buy (“Greatest Hits”, of course) whenever this was, and played the game shortly after moving into our apartment, which must have been 2004.
It ended up being one of the three Final Fantasy games I dropped midway through (VI, VIII, X; for reference’s sake, I’ve completed III, IV, VII). I don’t really know what about it caused me to drop it. Since it was at least five years ago, I remember very little about the game and my time with it. I remember enjoying it, but there must have been a reason I stopped.
I loaded up my save file to see just how much time I spent with the game and where I stopped playing.
OK, so I put a bit over 15 hours into the game. Not too shabby. Definitely more than enough to get a good idea of how I feel about the game. Looks like I’m in “Galbadia – Dingo Desert”. I definitely remembered leaving off with some type of vehicle (that may or may not have run out of gas…?) and then not having any clue where to go. My other very specific memory was being down in some semi-maze-like sewers, but I have no idea where that was in relation to where I left it.
How about you all? Have you ever played Final Fantasy VIII, and where do you fall in the argument? Was it one of the best love stories ever told, or was it a needlessly-complicated mess of game design? Did Faye Wong’s “Eyes On Me” move you to tears, or did you just want to punch Squall in the face to make him dance properly? Did Nomura’s character design evolution make you want to drop everything and learn how to sew in order to cosplay, or were you longing for the days of a simple knight in armor yearning to save his homeland?