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Final Fantasy VIII: The OTHER 9/9/09 Ten Year Anniversary

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…?

ff8_cover

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.

ff8_screen_1

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.

ff8_screen_2

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?

10 Comments

  1. I absolutely loved VIII. It was no VII, but it had a darn good story. That’s actually why I like it so well. The whole reason I got into RPGs was because of the amazing stories. It did have weird gameplay, though. Thanks for giving some attention to the IMPORTANT 9/9/99 release. :p

  2. Man, I think the entire neighborhood (i.e. really myself, and three friends, two of which were big sis and little bro) were pretty excited about this game, I do believe. I remember we were really into VII (on the PC, no less) and also hit up VIII on the PC (or rather one of us did) while myself and another took on the PSX version. I never did get very far in the game. In fact, I think I got as far as that damn room we were stuck in at the General’s Mansion/the sewer before I gave up and restarted or whatever. Eventually, with some help from friends I figured it out and have played the game to varying degrees since then. The FMVs and music have always been one of my bigger favorites, although I’d suspect I could put our collected excitiveness of our resident female computer player reaching the third and four discs higher. Heh, I remember the hot dog jokes and all.

    Sadly, by the time my true favorite–IX–came out I believe it was only I and another who were playing the games feverously. I’ve got a tale to tell for IX myself, but let’s just say it was a memorable Christmas I got it.

  3. This is, without question, one of oddest games for me. The simple fact is no matter how many times I play it, I decide that I’m either a) too bored to continue, b) too annoyed to continue or c) hate the damn thing so much that I again wonder why I’ve tried playing it. I’ve given consideration to start a game once again this year just to see if I can get past the first disc. I tell ya…it’s an enigma, wrapped in a riddle.

    That said, I can remember how little I cared about getting this game compared to getting my Dreamcast. It was a second thought for a long time. Then I borrowed a copy of the game from a friend, who borrowed it from HIS friend. All I can remember was my utter disdain for the draw system and the fact that my friend had a falling out with his friend, so somehow, that gave my friend permission to “give” me that copy of FF VIII, which I still have to this day. Don’t really feel too proud of that considering, but, hey…

  4. Final Fantasy VIII stands as the first (and only) FF that I’ve beaten. I got to it very late (2002) and I was 13 at the time, it was my first exposure to the series. I remember spending a whole summer playing through the whole game and loving every bit of it. Sure, the story was absolutely insane, but I digged it at the time.

    I still have a soft spot for the game, and I always have to jump to its defense when no one else around me will. I still don’t get how it turned out to be the “black sheep” of the series. Squall gets bashed for being “emo” (yeah, I know), and I feel like asking those people if they paid attention to his character after the first few hours. Sure, he starts out kind of cold and brooding, but I would say he turns out to be a capable leader by the end. As for the gameplay complaints, I think people just weren’t used to the junction and drawing systems, which is fine but I really enjoyed using them.

    Overall, I’m a proud member of the FFVIII defense force.

  5. It’s funny. This game was almost as popular as VII. Why weren’t there any sequels or prequels made for this game?

  6. Loved the game. I could really relate to Squall. His perfectionist mentality & ‘lone-wolf’ attitude really motivated me to do well in school – I know, it sounds corny lol.

  7. nathantheguitarist

    October 13, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Huh. I didn’t know 9/9/99 was also the same day FF8 came out. I guess I missed that because of the Dreamcast, and the fact that I was still playing FF7 at the time.

    I dropped FF8 at the same time as you Mike lol. I eventually picked it up again and beat it (with some Gameshark help, because I was a cheater back then lol) and it took me two copies to get through skipping FMV’s. As of right now, FF6 and FF12 are the only ones I haven’t beaten (I don’t count FF11), and out of all of those FF8 is probably the second to worst in my opinion. Worst FF being FF2 lol.

    I have to ask though. How come you dropped FF6 Mike? I always hear that it’s the best one of the series. I personally wanted to beat the first 6 in order, and that’s why I haven’t gotten to it yet. But if you don’t plan on getting back to it, I’ll take it off of your hands 😀 If I recall correctly, you were playing the GBA version, right?

  8. Hands down Final Fantasy VIII is my favorite in series. It is the only FF I have played through more than once and if it hits our PSN I would gladly download it to my psp and play it again. I really can’t give a definite reason. I think the character designs are not too crazy (see FFX if you want overdone costume designs) and the love story was a bit tacky, but it really hard to get annoyed at that when there is no voice acting (once again see FFX). At the very least the story wrapped up well and left me satisfied.

    Gameplay-wise I can see why some people don’t like it. I admit I like summons being more than a powerful spell like in VII, but I think they were too crucial in battle. The fact you had to watch animation constantly got tedious. On other hand, I loved limit break system. The risk reward of staying in low HP in an active time battle system was a great combination. Also made the limit breaks seem like a last ditch act of desperation. The leveling system was interesting the way you only needed 1000 points for every level and enemies leveled with you. It kept the game from feeling too grindy level wise and rather you grinded for ability points for your guardian forces. Finally, The inner-child in me will always love gunblades. I mean come on, it’s a gun AND a sword, and you press R1 to fire it as you slash an enemy…so rad.

    Put it all together with a pretty and consistent presentation, including a great soundtrack and it is one of favorite games.

    …Oh and Triple Triad…need I say more?

  9. VIII is my favorite Final Fantasy, probably because it was the first I played. I got it at a thrift store for a few bucks. It had more theatrical-like cutscenes than I had ever seen, and the setting is just so cool. This game is a lot more colorful than FFVII, especially in the beginning (take the bright, pristine, high-tech Garden against the perpetually dark and dingy Midgar City). Also it has my absolute favorite soundtrack of all the Final Fantasy games. (Other people generally seem to favor it as well, whenever I’m churning out some FF music on the piano.)

    Squall is really cool character and I like how some of the dialogue sequences play out (although some of them are a little cheesy). One the things I distinctly remember liking about Squall is that for nearly every one of his conversation replies one of the choices is almost always “…” Like as in “I don’t care enough about what you’re saying to warrant a response.”

    I’ve heard people complain about the Draw/Junction magic system, but it’s still my favorite battle system. The reason is that it allows your characters to get really powerful, really fast if you know what you’re doing. The thing about this game is the enemies level up WITH your characters. So you actually want to stay as low level as possible and then raise your stats through the roof by junctioning drawn magic.

    I’ve beat this game several times and each time it becomes easy and funner to play.

  10. I was a bit late to the whole PSX RPG party. I didn’t get a hold of FFVIII until the summer of ’01, when a friend wanted to trade my Saturn with a bunch of Capcom and DBZ fighters for his PSX w/ VII, VIII, and Legend of Dragoon.

    I found VIII to be my narrow favorite of the three at the time, with it’s colorful graphics, interesting weapons (I’m another Gunblade fan), characters that you could almost relate to, and incredible musical score (I used to always say that VIII’s OST didn’t need as many revisions of it as VII did because they got it right the first time).

    I also enjoyed the battle system, since drawing and junctioning magic along with more accessible limit breaks allowed for more of a character-centric fighting experience, versus depending almost solely on summons for the more difficult battles. I was especially a fan of Zell’s Duel, since you could mix his combinations up, or be really evil and spam them terribly depending on the circumstances.

    The overall story took a bit of warming up to, but I found that there was a good blend of action and suspense to keep me in it. Squall and Laguna’s “story within a story” was also a nice touch. Though I was a bit confused by it at first, I liked how it all came together in the end.

    While I feel that LoD has held up better over the years and is more deserving of a story continuation, if VIII pops up on the PSN, I’d definitely buy it again, even with a “Square-Tax”. 🙂

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