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Considering Final Fantasy VIII is my least favourite game in the series, I actually have a lot of fond memories of it... mostly in relation to that horribly addictive card game, Triple Triad. Back when I was in high school a friend of mine and I were up at my cottage for a week with my parents and we hooked up our PlayStation to an old 8" Emmerson television set that had thirteen channels connected to it, with three buttons on the side missing.
In the evenings we often found ourselves playing games of various kinds, but nothing hooked us. One day on that trip my cousin came to visit and he said "Hey, Sam, I'm stuck in Final Fantasy VIII, can you help me out?" I didn't have my copy of the game up at the cottage with me, so I told him to leave the game, his guide book, and his memory card with me because I knew I'd see him the following weekend. My friend and I sat down, turned the game on and realized how early into the game he was. After beating what he requested, we found ourselves immersed by the world, and if by world, I mean card game.
You see, the Card Queen's Quest is one grueling hardship, especially when all you want to get are specialty cards. Using our handy dandy guide book, we perused the tome and played the game entirely based on collecting the best cards, while dabbling in the game's plot when we remembered what was going on. Some of the Triple Triad sessions were intense to the point of frequently resetting the PlayStation when things didn't go our way. Tempers would flare, screams of happiness when we succeed, Triple Triad had our hearts racing and our blood pumping. Who cared about the main plot? Triple Triad was our jam, and we graciously accepted that for a week, we were addicts.
By the time my cousin arrived back the following Saturday, he asked us if we had beaten the boss he was stuck on. I told him "Yeah, and wait till you see how far you are!" Confused, he then turned to my friend and she said "... and get a load of your sweet ass Triple Triad Deck!" Needless to say, my cousin wasn't impressed by our efforts, in fact, he was furious with us for having done more than we should of. Later when he finally did finish the game he said to me "Man, Final Fantasy VIII sucked. But thanks again for all those awesome Triple Triad cards!"
Who knew months later all that hard work would soon be appreciated?
Michael A. Cunningham
Final Fantasy VIII also came out during my EB years. I jumped all over the demo disc and quickly learned how misleading demos for RPGs can be. The demo started with great music that didn't actually appear on the game's soundtrack, and then the intro mission through Dollet. I thought it was OK, but wasn't blown away. When the full game came out, I didn't quite get it and didn't care for it as a result.
It wasn't until recently when replaying this on the PSP via its PSN re-release that I really understood how to enjoy the game. Drawing and junctioning magic sure seemed annoying and pointless on my first playthrough, but when replaying this I found that it was a great system. My favorite aspect of the system was being able to keep levels low by avoiding all random encounters and as such it made the game much more pleasant to work through. I still agree that the story is contrived and silly, but the game's systems are more fun when you really take the time to understand them.
It probably is not a controversial thing to say that Final Fantasy VIII is the odd duck in the series. Not only featuring more realistic characters and locations, VIII even moved away from several conventions of the series in both good and bad ways. Characters no longer had traditional magic points, instead having to extract uses of spells from monsters and various extraction points. VIII turned summons into a central game mechanic as well, with summons, now guardian forces, providing ways to strengthen characters. Each guardian force equipped opened up various attributes that could have spells attached to strengthen that attribute depending on the power and quantity of the spell. This provided a lot of customization options allowing players to find all kinds of ways to overpower their characters. The story also tried new elements using some strange time travel ideas that ended up being confusing more than they added anything to the plot. Though not the first game to tug at the heart-strings by any means, it is the first to feature such a scene with a vocal song accompanying it. Many will find the story to be a love it or hate it type of affair, but it has many stunning moments despite the strange time travel nonsense. At the end of the day Final Fantasy VIII is unlikely to top many fan lists, but at least it tried new things instead of just standing pat on the success of Final Fantasy VII.
A few days ago, I was in a class where the most important icebreaker question was, "What's your favorite video game?" One of the students answered, "Final Fantasy VIII." The instructor, a devoted RPG-player, couldn't help but express her surprise. "No one's ever said VIII before," she admitted. "My boyfriend hated it so much that he threw my copy out." I don't condone trashing games, but I understand why the boyfriend acted as he did. Final Fantasy VIII had a wonderful, imaginative start that coiled outward until it ended up choking itself.
I take back what I said about One-Winged Angel. Succession of the Witches is better. Or Eyes on Me. I can't decide. Anyway, Laguna is the best character. When the game was about him, revolution, riding on trains, and mechanical spiders it was good. When it was about witches, Time Kompression, and Squall's stupid necklace, less so. Whatever.
Although I never really emphasized with Squall, I borrowed his name for use on a MOO. It was more a way of saying "I'm a Final Fantasy fan!" than saying I agreed with his terrible life choices. Really, Laguna would have made more sense. Or Raijin. Or Doomtrain.
Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke
At least VII had some fun moments for me — Final Fantasy VIII did not. I slogged through it later in 2010 and will steadfastly refuse the invitation of others to try it again when hundreds of other games I have a very high probability of enjoying more exist. Sure it did things differently — I don't want any part of it.
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