I should probably start with a disclaimer, I love Final Fantasy 8 but I think every Final Fantasy game released pre-2003 needs to be played with some nostalgia behind it. I have no idea how old the people reading this will be, but I'm going to go on about how much I love this game anyway because it has played a huge part in my life… and it's my blog and I can do what I want.
I think for anyone who loves the Final Fantasy series, the one you grew up playing was most likely to be your favourite and that's definitely the case here. I'm not going to lie and say I've played every single game in the series but I've made my way through a fair few, so I like to think I have a relatively good knowledge of them, although obviously not as great as those who have conquered them all.
I’m going to be referring to all the Final Fantasy games as FF from now on because it’s tiring to type and probably even more tiring to read it.
Are you sure you don’t mean 7 is your favourite?
Now, I know the purists say FF7 is still the best game in the series and I often get looks of horror when I tell people that I think FF8 was actually a lot better.
I think people’s love for 7 probably has a lot to do with it being the first game in the series to really break through into the mainstream gaming community. It sort of elevated Final Fantasy from being this niche RPG to a really playable game that both soft and hard gamers could get on board with.
So, I think that's why a lot of people who fell in love with FF7 had a hard time accepting 8 for what it was. It had pretty big shoes to fill and if I'm being completely honest, after completing 8 and moving on, I had the same feelings about 9.
Eventually though, I got over it and I've come to accept them for what they are. They're all unique in their own way and honestly, game snobbery annoys me. Just enjoy it man, that’s what it’s there for.
I have played 7 and I think I did a pretty good job of playing it objectively, but I still think the story line, characters and music in 8 were better and for those of us who love games for their story over other elements, it really does win hands down. Moreover, the cut scenes in 8 were genuinely spectacular. I know a lot of people actually really hate how long they are, but it just elevated the game to this new level of amazing. Plus, it was 1999 and for the time, the cut scene graphics were out of this world.
When FF8 was first released I was only 7 years old and wasn’t really old enough to play any serious games yet. My dad was a pretty big gamer at the time though and he played it a lot, which is where I first started to develop a taste for it I guess.
I watched him play it for what seemed like days on end and by the time I was 10, I started to play games myself and of course, FF8 was my first choice.
Anyway, enough introduction, this is why Final Fantasy 8 will probably be my favourite game forever and ever etc.
Let's start with the main characters. They’re really great. Squall is the perfect Final Fantasy lead, he’s a bit moody, awkward, angsty, mysterious, has no idea what he’s doing and is basically just very relatable. He doesn’t want to do things just because other people do them but somehow still feels he has a sense of duty to lead, even though he doesn’t really want to.
I can totally get on board with that.
The character development for him was just perfect as well. Of course, there’s a romance, there always is, but rather than distract from the story it’s this that transforms him from, well, kind of a dickhead, to a really likeable guy.
Quistis, Selphie, Rinoa the three leading female characters in the game are all perfect in their own way. They’re not particularly radical, they’re just loveable personalities that also don’t take any shit. They’re smart and brave and I thought they were all so cool when I was growing up.
Zell and Irvine are the other two main male characters and they are hugely flawed, but the game does well to show how their dumb, overly sensitive exteriors are only one side of them. They’re really relatable, funny and hugely committed to their cause.
Other notable characters that really captured my imagination were Seifer and Edea.
Seifer is Squall’s arch enemy and their rivalry is an interesting part of the game that added another layer of drama to the story line. We never get to hear much about Seifer’s past though, which is shame, but I wonder if they did it on purpose to keep the story mysterious.
Edea is a sorceress you meet relatively early on in the game. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone reading this who hasn’t played it, but she is the character who most captured my imagination. I desperately wanted to be her when I was younger, she was majestic, graceful and powerful. Who doesn’t want all of that?
Come to think of it, I’d still like all of that now.
Ultimately, I think what really makes most of the FF8 characters so great is that they’re so familiar. Everyone can relate to at least one of them. If they’re not you, they’re definitely someone you know.
The soundtrack to this game is spectacular. Even if you don’t agree that the story line is good, or the main characters are spot on, you have to agree the soundtrack is something special.
Search through any forum or set of YouTube comments and the one thing people always say is how atmospheric the soundtrack is. Music can evoke such strong emotions in people and I’d say that’s why a good soundtrack adds so much to a game.
Nobuo Uematsu, quite possibly the most well-known video game composer ever, created the soundtrack for FF8 (as well as many of the other Final Fantasy games). His unique style is what makes the Final Fantasy soundtracks so unique and memorable. Each piece of music transports you directly into the epic battles you’re fighting or the quaint little towns you’re walking through.
The Final Fantasy soundtracks are the only pieces of music I can listen to whilst working. They’re comforting and familiar and keep me focussed. In fact, I’m listening to the soundtrack right now as I write this piece.
I don’t think my love for FF8 is just down to nostalgia, despite what I said at the beginning. The game has a story you can really get lost in.
Even now, 16 years after first playing the game, it still resonates with me in a way not many others have. I have a pretty vivid imagination, but I’ve always struggled to read. Instead, I think I lose myself in games the way others lose themselves in books.
All the highs and lows of the game, the shock twists, the love story, the character development, the AMAZING open world you can explore and the side quests, which add to the rich tapestry of the game – it’s all great. In fact, it’s the thing that makes every Final Fantasy game stand out amongst all the boring shoot-em-ups.
I know it might seem really sad to get so emotionally attached to a game but I think that’s the reason this, out of all the others I’ve played over the years, is one I’ve always come back to. It’s not the best game by far, not even the best in the series to a lot of people, but it’s the one that defined my childhood, if that isn’t too dramatic a thing to say.
Of course, Final Fantasy 8 has its flaws, but no game is perfect, and you know what? It’s a lot of fun and that’s all that really matters.