Yesterday, Final Fantasy VIII was uploaded to the Playstation Store. For just ten bucks, you too can relive one of the most controversial and most poorly regarded games in the franchise. I know I intend to.
My history with FF8 is long. My brother bought it at launch as one of many people who were swayed by the graphics alone (no offense intended bro. I’ve probably done triple the number of stupid things in my gaming life). He eagerly tore into it, and I followed shortly after with my own save. We both slowly crawled through the game, amazed by the visuals but struggling with each new challenge. He quit somewhere around disc 2, and I puttered out around the third. Looking back, I consider this an insane achievement, because we both got that far using GF summons almost exclusively during battle. Our characters were so weak, so poorly constructed, that no other attacks could do any meaningful damage. Imagine having to watch a GF summon animation at least once every random battle. Now imagine going through it 20 or more times to chip away at a boss (of which many are available as side quests). Do you want to shoot yourself in the head yet? I always thought it was the can of Coke I spilled that killed the PS1, but perhaps it was actually this game (I do know that after the Great Cola Flood, either the Playstation’s lens or motor could not load any of its random battles).
Years later, I returned to the game. I had read a lot about it, saw all the opinions for or against it, and finally discovered what it is I was doing wrong the whole time. Having come to understand the concept of the Junction system, I decided it was time to go back and start the journey fresh. I didn’t get too far, but what I did play was far more tolerable. Note that I still wasn’t using Junctioning properly, but was better at it than before. I could finish fights without touching a GF, and that alone made a huge difference.
Pictured is Christian awkwardly reminiscing with FF8. She doesn’t seem to remember him.
My memories get foggy at this point – I’m not sure why I stopped my retry attempt, though I do know that I eventually continued (not sure if I restarted yet again). When I did so, I might have been playing at my then-girlfriend’s dorm room. The only other clear memory I have is that we broke up, I brought the game home, and my jRPG loving roommate continued my save (which was okay, since I didn’t care about him playing sections I had already seen). That’s when he found out that I had left Disc 2 at the ex’s house. I never did get it back, and I made peace with the fact that I never would. After all my attempts, after all the times I had to go through the tutorial dungeon, I would never finish Final Fantasy VIII. Not a major loss in the long run, but as the years went on it began to gnaw at me. I kept reading more and more, learning exactly how I could master the game’s intricacies. I knew that if I got another shot, I could beat it without resorting to intense grinding. Far too many RPGs get the best of me via confusing or complex mechanics. If I could actually get through this one, I decided I didn’t want it to slip away.
So after all these years, I get my chance to team up with Squall and angst our way through a muddy plot and even muddier graphics. I doubt it will be worth it from an entertainment standpoint. But dammit, this chapter of my life has been unfinished for ten years. Time for some closure.
And before anyone asks why I waited until this PSN release, I am 0/3 lifetime with successful Ebay purchases.