No. 1 – Final Fantasy VIII

So, here it is. FFVIII is the number one Final Fantasy game for me. Not the most popular choice but I do have reasons. Hopefully, you won’t stop reading out of disgust. You’ll give me a chance to explain and you’ll even accept a different opinion from FFVII at the top. Maybe?
Story
I’ll hold my hands up and admit it right now – this is not the best story seen in the series. In fact, too many parts of it seem to try and rival VII in some way, which makes it even less appealing considering the different world, look and system involved. That being said, it’s not the worst story either, compared to titles on either side of its release. It is pretty decent overall, with some areas standing out and others lacking. It’s like many Final Fantasy titles in this respect.
The characters are the same. Squall is an emo kid, we get it. He’s annoyingly cool for the first 20 minutes, maybe (if you’re having a good day) but then gets to be a pain in the ass very quickly. By the end, he’s actually grown as a person though, which is something a lot of protagonists throughout Final Fantasy titles just do not do. Each character has flaws to their personality that makes life difficult but they have a goal and they come together to get it done – the romance story is probably one of the weaker aspects while Laguna’s story is great just for the comedy they (try to) bring.
Graphics and music
FFVIII carried on from FFVII’s graphics leap, and it made the game stunning at the time – especially the CGI scenes. Even now, it doesn’t hold up too badly compared to some older games, just a bit blocky but what do you expect from a Playstation title. The music is great too and catches the tone of each scene and area perfectly. These are two areas that Square (later Square-Enix) would later seem to prioritise over gameplay and story. They seem to take the attitude that looks mean everything. Hopefully, they’ll learn that while good and pretty, there’s far more to a title than that.
Junction system
This is probably my favourite aspect of the game, and my favourite system of all Final Fantasygames to date. The system was as simple or as complex as you wanted. You could choose an automatic setup or you could do it yourself and I spent hours tailoring my characters to suit my style of play.
Being reasonably young on the first time playing, I didn’t realise that using junctioned magic MADE ME WEAKER with each spell. Obvious now, I know, but it made magic more tactical than how strong the magic stat was, what the weakness was and how much MP or Mana I had. It would directly impact other stats. Magic was, in some cases, difficult to find so more strategy was needed.
What really let this system down was the ease of which you could max out GF’s (Guardian Forces – AKA summons) and the 1,000 experience points per level. A tiered system would have been more difficult.
Side games
Triple Triad! I love this little card game – it’s a fun addition that isn’t actually necessary to completing the game. Tactical thinking and a variety of rules make it fun to play, even if the AI is a little too predictable at times. I’d love an updated version and I do remember the days where a group of FFVIII fans got together and made an online version. I met some great people back then. The abilities involving Triple Triad and the items you could get definitely made this venture worth it on any play through.
Summary
Overall, FFVIII is a great game. It has its shortcomings as do most, if not all, games. Some people beat down on it more than others and I’m not sure why. Personal opinion plays a part, but as the title that followed VII, it had a lot to live up to and ultimately failed to surpass it according to most people. Then again, every title since VII has failed in that regard. Technically, I think it works well and it’s one of my favourite games to go back and play with one of the most enjoyable side games of the lot. It’s definitely one of my favourite games of all time and favourite Final Fantasytitle to date.
Side note
I haven’t included Kingdom Hearts or non-numbered titles in this top five. I love both Kingdom Hearts and titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Dissidia. They may get their own posts in the future – we’ll see. As it stands, this is based on my opinions of the five games covered, not influenced by other people or sales statistics or anything – just one gamer and his thoughts. I hope you’ve enjoyed the countdown and will join me for more next year.
Just to recap:
5 – FFX
4 – FFIV
3 – FFVI
2 – FFVII
1 – FVIII
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