My first blog and I’ve already lied in the description. Actually, I bought and played a little Final Fantasy VIII when it came out in 1999. Now that I think about it, I played Final Fantasy VII (which I had not played up to that point) after I bought Final Fantasy VIII. So that means I played my bit of FF8 sometime later, probably in 2000. I played 10 hours or so, but don’t remember hardly a thing. I think I stopped around the time I obtained a magic lamp with Lucifer inside.
I really enjoy the Final Fantasy series, with the exception of the Playstation era. VII, VIII and IX are ugly games with bad systems. Overblown and soulless. Or at least, that’s how I used to feel.
I recently finished VII again. It took me roughly 80 hours to do everything I cared to do, which is, everything in the game except gathering a handful of materia. I’ve always considered VII to be the second worst entry in the series (FFII is the worst, bar none). But for 10 years now, the adulation heaped upon this game got me doubting my original assessment. Was it really awesome in subtle in grand ways that I just didn’t get? I decided to confirm my impression.
This was all really started by reading VII story synopses. Final Fantasy VII has a really interesting story, it turns out. A story that I had either totally missed during my first play, or had more likely ignored because everything else about the game pissed me off. So my desire to re-experience the story coupled with my own self doubt, along with a healthy disinterest in any new games, triggered my VII replay.
To make a very long story short, VII is a great story trapped in a bad game. I still think the game itself is weaker than just about every other entry. In any case, this blog is about VIII.
VIII is a different animal than VII for me. I know so little about it, it’s basically a brand new game as far as I’m concerned. I’ve decided I’m willing to give it a chance. How can I pretend to know anything about the series if I’ve only experienced part of it? What kind of completionist would I be?
As I play, some of my judgment criteria will be:
- are the characters unique? Do they have abilities that differentiate them beyond their limit breaks? Do the game’s systems render each character generic and interchangeable?
- Are the graphics appealing, or are the characters just a rough collection of cubes on drab backgrounds?
- Is the score emotional and affecting, or is it essentially a step backwards from previous titles?
- Is the game flow constantly interrupted by ill-conceived mini-games?
From the instructions, it looks like Final Fantasy: High School Musical. All the characters are so young and pretty and are apparently in some Garden high school. However, it is refreshing to not see any wolf or robotic cat characters. The Gunblade is quite cool. This is where Final Fantasy, and Japanese game companies in general, excel: excellent design.
Squall seems very Cloud-ish, Rinoa the Aeris stand-in. Selphie is ostensibly the required annoying female, a la Yuffie or Riku. There’s also a teacher, a monk and a cowboy. Hmm. Guardian Forces and the Junction system are both things that I couldn’t possibly comment on at the moment. Their true natures will reveal themselves as I play. The most interesting question right now is: who is this Laguna guy? Squall only encounters him in a dreamlike state. Knowing Final Fantasy, there are probably two parallel worlds, perhaps light and dark, or Laguna is Squall in a past life, or perhaps his brother on another planet.
In any case, enough talk, let the game begin!