While people are going crazy over Destiny , I’ve been replaying Final Fantasy VIII , via a PSN download. The PSN port has all the failings of the original (which I still own, I just don’t want to be digging out my PS2 to give it a whirl). I have played this game most of the way through more than ten times and it is one of my favourite videogames of all time . However, I do feel that the original has some flaws that should never have been there in the first place, and have only been partially addressed in the recent PC/Steam release.
There are spoilers for a fifteen year old game in this piece.
The game felt smaller than Final Fantasy VII and IX . The world seemed so small that it was very difficult to believe that it could support three huge military academies at the same time. I fully understand that the various wars and conflicts that emanated from the the Esthar side of things would have decimated the population, but even some ghost towns would have added more flavour than what we ended up with in the final game. The world just wasn’t big enough for suspending disbelief.
Despite having an enemy system whereby enemies tended to level with party characters, taking on the average level of the characters when facing them down… characters joining your party were not given such a luxury. And this was a pain in the ass. While equipping them with some far more levelled GFs meant that you could bolster their otherwise measly stats, new characters were often a liability to the party. When you’d already spent time stocking magic by the bucket load and quickly getting junction abilities, having to quickly bolster the levels of a character that should have been kick-ass was a pain. It also made using Edea on the journey into Esthar less than desirable.
I once tried to bid on a PocketStation during an eBay auction, but lost out by a couple of quid. Had I managed to obtain this device then I might have had a chance at playing Chocobo World, a mini-game that formed part of VIII and was the only way to consistently obtain certain powerful game items. While it was possible to activate access to the game on your save file, those playing outside of Japan on PlayStation and from PSN would not have access to Chocobo World, because the PocketStation was never released outside of Japan. Thankfully, the PC/Steam version of VIII does have the mini-game emulated, but that doesn’t undo over ten years of non-access.
Despite the pivotal role played by Moombas in several parts of the game, their overall presence was rather limited to those and Shumi Village. Again, they didn’t need a huge presence with one in every town, but these cute little guys were really a rarity and so were thee beings they often were exited as before being transformed into Moombas. Your time in Shumi Village, where you make this connection, is quite limited and as (other than Chocobos and some enemies) the only other sentient races in the game it seemed silly that their existence was so confined to a few moments, which also included a boss battle and some flashbacks. I get that they were reclusive, but their presence felt tacked on.
I have heard people say that the game shouldn’t have had its stocking system at all, but I was reasonably happy with the idea of having characters that could only store a finite amount of magic at any one time. What did annoy me though was how long it would take to acquire magic drawn from enemies during battles. Not everyone had fantastic magic stats and while it made sense that magic affected the ability to get more magic, even that seemed hit and miss at times with competent magic users struggling to get more spells at a time. Refining items into magic was a way around this, but as soon as you wanted magic types that weren’t elemental, it was damn hard to track the magic down and then not die while confronting some monster.
But despite all of this, I still love this game.