Sometimes, I'll find that I haven't played Final Fantasy VIII
for a few years, and it's fading into the mist of my better memories. Turning a critical eye on my own experience (as the guy destined to be "that FFVIII fan" among other enthusiasts), I'll convince myself that I only liked this game to be contrarian, or that FFVI
is my real
favourite because it's the sacred cow of old-school curmudgeons. Then I replay it and remember that it really is the best time I've ever had with Final Fantasy
I can't deny that it's a controversial choice. People don't have moderate opinions about VIII. You either have full-scale devotion to Junctioning, the mind-bending plot and Squall and Rinoa's romance, or you have virulent hatred. The closest to a middle road is the fan who loves specific elements and hates others - everything about this game inspires an intense reaction.
This characters of Final Fantasy VIII
lend the game its narrative strength. The time travel plot is more entertaining than realistic, but I've long held that Final Fantasy
plots rarely ascend above middlebrow sci-fi/fantasy (in itself a step up from a lot of console RPG plots). Rather, Final Fantasy
is at its best when the events of the story are primarily symbolic - proxies for character development. VIII is the finest example of this, weaving multiple character narratives across generations together to develop Squall and Rinoa's parallel journeys into maturity and love with each other. Almost without exception, the characters are engaging, sympathetic and three-dimensional (yes, even Zell!).
Junctioning is criticised for allowing large stat jumps, but the fluctuating difficulty level and intricate magic system should keep new players on their toes. Be warned that Drawing magic for hours on end (a favourite pastime of the game's critics) is completely pointless. It's laughable that people find fault with Drawing because they decided to forego having fun with this game in favour of Drawing 100 Scan spells for everyone. PROTIP: If you're spending hours Drawing magic, you're doing it wrong. For my part, the experience of Junctioning 100 newly refined Quake spells to my HP and watching it fly through the roof gives me a rush like few games do.
(...yes, "Eyes On Me" is totally my video game weepy moment.)