'Final Fantasy VIII' Was Too Honest and Unsettling to be Beloved

#1

Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/kzdgq9/final-fantasy-viii-was-too-honest-and-unsettling-to-be-beloved
#2

Guess I have to play FFVIII now?

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#3

Yeah, hard same.

#4

my opinion is this

thank u for ur time

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#5

The way Cameron wandered from a brutal read of child soldiering and possibly mind-control straight into philosophical naval gazing about the nature of time and history is why I think FFVIII is pretty badly flawed. One does not connect to the other thematically. A new storyline simply devours the old one every disc, and it’s always unsatisfying. I think Cameron has put more thought into the results and implications than the game writers did.

Cause FFVIII isn’t really about those ideas either, it’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl love story. Whether you like FFVIII depends on whether you like that love story (I don’t) and whether you like Squall (I really don’t).

What I’m saying is that my man Zell should have been the main character. Zell was awesome.

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#6

What I remember about FFVIII was a disjointed plot and a battle system that was a significant step back from VII. “Time compression” was an intriguing villain goal, but it was never described coherently.

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#7

This is a good article on the appeal of FF8’s narrative, but I would offer the more mundane argument that FF8 isn’t as well remembered because it’s the most visually forgettable final fantasy, with a focus on a romance that a lot of people didn’t care for at the time.

After all, FF7 wasn’t exactly about “some guy waking up to his mother asking him if he’s ready to go on his big adventure” either.

#8

I will never love FF8 because of what it did to Xenogears.

#9

It’s a shame FFVIII isn’t getting in on this new wave of re-releases, because it would be very interesting for me to go back and play it again after all these years.

I don’t dislike FFVIII, it’s just that after all these years the best word I can use to describe it “forgettable.” I have two concrete memories of that game; one that a gunblade is a really stupid weapon and two that I gave up before beating it because I was told to go to the Centra Continent and had no damn clue where that was. I have a distinct memory of trying for what seemed like days but in hindsight was probably two shitty afternoons trying to find the next area to progress the story and failing. Beyond that, everything is just kind of a puddle in my head. Squall was kind of annoying, blonde rival was more annoying, the draw system didn’t make sense to me, and there was a card game I didn’t like. At some point a guy in a cowboy hat was supposed to kill someone that got the feelings, then finally she caught the bullet in midair. That’s it.

Laguna’s battle music was dope though.

#10

I was under the impression that the whole FF8 took Xenogears money/workforce was not true at least according to this article https://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/06/the-real-story-behind-xenogears-unfinished-disc-2/ .

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#11

VIII has remained my favourite of the franchise (though I’ve probably had the most play throughs of IX). There really is no deep reason for this. I formed a superficial (despite being tied to a very deep emotional issue) bond with the story.

I was a teenager, unknowingly in the midst of a very loooooooooooooong descent into depression and more or less shutting down. At the time, Squall resonated as a character. He was a character who on some level wanted someone to reach in and pull him out of his own head, yet at the same time seemed too tired and defeated to bother connecting or explaining. So as much as he may have needed genuine connection, in a much more immediate and tangible way, he wanted everyone to fuck off and leave him alone. There was a sort of ambivalence to Squall I found relatable.

It’s possible I projected my own feelings onto him, but at the very least, he was a suitable vessel for that. He seemed to have the same resignation and fatigue with dealing with people and life that I was experiencing. He was satisfied enough to focus on (and excel in) his duties as long as he didn’t have to go through the exhaustion of giving people emotional validation by making himself more relatable, or by faking emotional responses through the numbness for the sake of perpetually putting others at ease.

If Chicken-wuss were the main protagonist, I’m pretty sure I would have struggled with him. I’ve never been good with the overly upbeat main characters. I like them in the cast, but I find it alienating to play as them. I really liked Zell, but a big part of that was out of sympathy for the cold treatment he received from Squall, and the teasing he received from Siefer.

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#12

Here’s my answer to the final question of the article:

#13

Oh mainly I want Zell for Hero because I spammed his infinite limit break to victory through the entire game. The battle system is very exploitable.

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#14

The magic system was not so fun. I didn’t like the fact that once I absorbed the best spells and linked them to the appropriate attributes, I was completely unmotivated to use any magic. It got to the point that I was fighting my random encounters and not even watching the screen. I was just waiting for the sound that Squall made before he swings his gun blade (also gun blade…:roll_eyes:) and pull the trigger for bonus damage. The only spell I used was during the last battle when I had folks cast the spell that made people get limit breaks. Beyond that, just didn’t use magic. So, yeah, compared to other FFs, when it comes to magic systems, this one wasn’t very fun.

#16

Yes!

I like how there were so many tracks that riffed on the main “Eyes On Me” theme. The waltz was especially good.

Also the tracks that riffed on the Balamb Garden theme, and Fisherman’s Horizon.

This game musically imprinted more deeply in my brain than most other games I’ve played.

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#17

I didn’t “wander” there, the game explicitly wrestles with these themes and ties them all together with the orphanage plot and the long, drawn-out scenes where all of the playable characters discuss the fact that their entire histories have been stripped from them in a bid to win a time war. Ultimecia’s castle is literally chained to the orphanage in the final disc of the game. The game is doing this work, and I think it’s a bit of a mischaracterization of the game to say that I “put more thought into the results and the implications than the game writers did.”

This also isn’t the first time that I have seen the “manic pixie dream girl” argument, and I am truly baffled by it. This seems like some received wisdom from the Internet more than it does an actual argument, since the movement of the plot takes Rinoa from being a resistance leader with a lot of vitality to someone who has to betray her own father and then into a plot where her bodily autonomy is being stolen from her. It’s closer to a melodrama than anything else, and it seems like a thin reading to reduce this to some sort of Elizabethtown precursor.

There are all sorts of problems with Final Fantasy VIII, and I’m not here to defend it from all critique (it has as many problems as any other game), but at least have some fidelity to the text yall.

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#18

I don’t think FFVIII has ever left my Top Five. I love this game. I loved it so much that in grade 5 I did an hour long presentation on it for my class, complete with Plasticine models of the characters and guardian forces and a full hand drawn Triple Triad deck.

I think the main roadblock for people is the Junction system, which is a shame because it is so original, elegant and gives you so much control over your party while also actually giving you incentive to explore the world.

Around the game’s midpoint you are able to convert items into magic, which when coupled with the ability to link magic to stats means every item you come across has a ton of potential value to you. You fight a weak plant monster? You don’t get that much exp but you get a vine. You can convert that vine into sleep magic. Do you give that sleep magic to someone so they have that spell? Do you junction it to Zell’s ST Atk so he can knock people out with punches? Do you further convert the sleep magic to Sleepga at a 5:1 rate? If any of these options are appealing, you’ll start to keep an eye out for these plant guys, take note of where they hang out, etc. This goes for every enemy in the game. Every enemy has potential value to you, which gives incentive to explore different areas and also makes random battles more meaningful. Since items can determine your stats, weapons and magic available to you, EXP and gold mean very little which eliminates grinding, and when you reach a town you’re looking to advance the story, instead of beelining for the weapon and armor shops. You don’t even need to enter battles for items, you can just play cards all day and convert those. Everything you come across can essentially be converted into something of value to you.

I’ll stop. I didn’t want to look in this thread because I knew I would get way too carried away with talking about this game…

However I will also say that Cloud and Squall share a lot of similarities with their character arc, but Cloud’s is cheapened by the ability to choose between dialogue options. Cloud is supposed to be an asshole ex-SOLDIER who doesn’t give a shit about his community at the start of the game but a lot of the time you’re given the choice between “I don’t care about this, give me my paycheck” and “Sure, I’ll help!”. A lot of players choose to be helpful in their RPGs so I think a lot of people like got a really muddy version of Cloud’s arc. FFVIII doesn’t give you the option to play as Hero Squall from the jump which I think angered a lot of people, but also allowed Squall to be a more defined character with clearer motivations.

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#19

I should clarify a bit on the “manic pixie dream girl”, since it is just a TV Tropes reference and not really an argument. My issue with FFVIII’s love story is how ultimately one-sided it ultimately is. Squall spends about three discs being awful to everybody and outright rejecting multiple attempts for people to reach out to him. His issues stem deeper than “he needs a girl to fix him”, he’s possibly depressed and like many 17-year-olds, not ready for a relationship. It is so much Squall’s story and not “Squall and Rinoa’s story” that it hurts the dynamic. I don’t think either character is weak (Angel Wing Meteor, anybody?), but I don’t like how one character is ultimately written just to serve the needs of the other.

As for the story, I like your read better than my own, actually. I’m not saying you’re seeing something that isn’t there or your experience is invalid. Maybe it is there, but what I got was a story that had so many cool ideas it needed to jam them in almost incoherently while making room for a love story. (I’d still rather play a game with too many ideas than too few.)

The child soldiers and memory concepts are all better and more brutally explored in Final Fantasy Type-0.

#20

Ultimecia desires “time kompression,” which is stylized to give it an accent, but is so powerful because of that stylization that the very phrase itself becomes elevated to something different. It’s not time compression, it’s Time Kompression, and accomplishing it means the utter destruction of how human beings experience their lives and the universe that supports them.

See, the thing about spinning hay into gold is that you’re the one doing all the work, and the hay is just hay otherwise.

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#21

The thing about FFVIII is that the draw/junction system is super grindy and also Squall dies a long time before the game is over

Grindy drawing aside I really liked it