Impressions: Final Fantasy VIII

It’s been a while since I played Final Fantasy VIII.  That’s abundantly clear to me after reflecting on how I viewed it in 1999 and how I view it now.  At first, as a kid that didn’t care much for school, I thought the idea of going to mercenary high school would be pretty rad.  I guess it would be like kids  who think Hogwarts is pretty cool, except markedly more demented.  Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, Final Fantasy VIII may have been one of the single most bizarre games I’ve ever played, and I’m on the fence as to whether that is a good or a bad thing.  14-year-old me might have thought that mercenary high school was pretty neat, 26-year-old me is having a hard time reconciling the two ideas.  This is a world where orphaned child soldiers are available to hire from sweater-wearing grandpas, guns are used to just make swords hit people harder, monsters fly down from the moon, t-rexes are kept at kept in schools for combat training, there are other monsters that live in your brain, and Rinoa falls in love with Squall.  Good god.  But even after all that, Squaresoft decided it was necessary for the characters to look realistically proportioned, and not look like puppets.  God forbid that anyone forgets that this is fictional.

There are certainly some pretty wild ideas in other video games (see any of Suda51’s games) but what really drives the crazy train home with FFVIII is the earnestness with which the story is delivered.  What’s that?  Of course those teenagers are going to execute a plot to assassinate a major political figure.  Durrr.  The game play itself is equally ludicrous.  Want to raise your strength stat?  Well, first you’re going to need to junction your favorite monster buddy to your brain, then teach it how to make you hulk out by first slaughtering a lot of monsters then by pilfering magical spells from your them.  It’s all almost enough to make you throw your hands up and say “why don’t I just play Final Fantasy XIII”, but there’s just enough coherence to the plot (in its own insane logic) to appeal to those which might be curious about such a weird world (or to try and figure out just what Squaresoft was thinking at the time).  I can’t say I would dedicate the time to sit down in front of a TV to play this again.  On the PSP however, it’s convenient enough to revisit in bits and pieces.

For those who are willing to go headlong down the rabbit hole, there’s this gem of an interpretation of Final Fantasy VIII’s already outlandish plot.

You know what? The ending to this game was actually pretty good.

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