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Let's face it. VIII is almost as well-known as VII, and most of it's "bad rep" comes from nothing more than comparisons drawn. Not from the FF series and VIII, but between VII and VIII. Most of it also comes from the U.S, and this perception that "American opinion is fact" is what makes people actually believe this game was bad. I mean, americans also prefer the english dub in DBZ, that doesn't make the music better than the original.
If you take the game at face value, if you come into it without knowing about VII and it's apparent end-all-be-all reputation, if you are new to FF or even RPG, this game is good. Scratch that, this game is great. And even if you have played others before (or after) the game holds up, as long as you are free of nostalgia goggles.
I know that because that's how I met VIII, my first FF, my first RPG. You imagine now that I am biased toward it. That's not true. While I appreciate VIII, I can still love VII, and the rest of the FF series (yes, it actually IS possible to like them both).
Why the hate? If any of the critics were to be honest, the problem with VIII is that it is not VII, or VI, or whatever your favorite installment is. That's it. In and of itself, it is a stand-up game. It's mechanics are not any more mind-boggling than other FF's or RPG's. People were simply missing the Materia system, or still in denial about FF's passing into the 3-D age, or even mad at a romance-driven plot.
Difficulty? Critics cannot decide if they dislike the game for it's difficulty or lack thereof. Why? Well, because VIII was designed to be played in different ways, it has versatility. You can spam GF's all game long, if you don't handle the junction system well. You can progress at a "normal" pace and face the challenges ahead earnestly, or you can become the master of junction and become unstoppable early on. So what is it then, too easy or too hard/tedious? It's a game that satisfies alright when played "normally", and from then on continues to satisfy in proportion to the effort you put into it.
The story is compelling, the characters are likeable, the art direction is breathtaking and the world created in VIII is wondrous, not to mention the music, which his vastly underrated. No game is perfect, but you'd do well to remember this game won "Game of the Year" several times in 1999 for a reason.
So the review basically says: This game is factually good, if you don't agree it's just because you're petty.
Drawing magic was a neat idea that got old after the first 15 minutes, and completely tedious not long after that. It resulted in a system where you dreaded encountering new enemies, not because they were dangerous, but because they might have a new spell that you'd have to waste time drawing 300 of to max out all your characters' stock. More importantly, it resulted in a system where you avoided casting magic at all costs, because casting magic lowered your stats and required you to replenish it after the battle.
Characters lacked mechanical identity, as the only game mechanics unique to individual characters were their limit breaks (which you didn't get to use that often), and whether they were melee or ranged fighters. This was largely due to the GF and junctioning system taking too much customization away from the individual characters and putting it into the GFs. Party composition became all but completely irrelevant because the GF and junction profiles became more important than the characters themselves. Of course it's good that a player not feel forced into only one or two possible party configurations because they're the most optimal or, worse, the only viable ones, but this takes it too far to the point that you don't even care what your party composition is because the characters themselves are such non-entities in combat.
Scaling monster levels to the characters' levels made leveling up superfluous, and removed an important difficulty variable from the game. Expert players could not attempt to beat the game underleveled for a challenge, and powerleveling could no longer get a noobier player past a boss they were stuck on. Junctioning is not a substitute for this. An expert player can only use the junction system to up the challenge by intentionally using it poorly or not at all, which makes for incredibly boring gameplay as all it leaves you with is basic attack commands, while a noob can't use it to overcome obstacles because they don't know how to junction optimally.
"Likable characters" is entirely subjective. I thought Squall was the coolest when I first played this game as a teenager, but these days I can't stand his constant moping and whining, in part because it reminds me of what an insufferable little twerp I was at that age. Similarly, Rinoa has gone from being a free-spirited dream girl to being a spoiled child with no concept of the actual consequences to her actions as I've grown older. Seifer is a petulant child, and his "rivalry" with Squall is so pathetic there's not even any satisfaction in beating him over and over anymore.
FF VIII did win a lot of awards for a reason. Specifically, because it was the latest in the prestigious Final Fantasy series, and we gamers tend to have really bad blind spots for our favorite franchises.
Mr. Reviewer Person, I agree not because they're good points (because they're not) but because I approve any and all criticism leveled at VII's faults until the criticism versus blind nostalgia-fueled love levels balance out.
...I am fully aware this may be a lifelong pursuit.
Bastard1, it would help if you made cogent criticisms of your own about FF VII beyond the plot being incoherent and addressed those who played it recently and liked it.
Felt compelled to write this long-winded diatribe even though i'm replying to an old comment.
Counterpoints to your counterpoints:
Your points about the draw system: Not really. The game allowed you to transform items dropped from enemies or purchased in shops into magic using abilities learned from the G Fs. This meant you had the option of (mostly) ignoring the draw system if you wished. Also, you don't have to max out every spell anyway, the game isn't forcing you.
As for making you avoid casting magic: The absolute most magic junctions a character can have is 19 out of 32 different spells. But you can only have that many towards the end of the game IF you've gathered enough G Fs at that point, with the needed junction abilities and equipped them to that specific character. For most of FFVIII, only a portion of spells a character can carry will be junctioned (usually, between 4 to 10).
So, why would you avoid casting magic at all costs when generally, only a handful of a character's spells are ever junctioned to any stat, allowing you to use the majority of spells without your stats being affected?
Your point about samey party members: While it is true that characters are not that mechanically diverse (true of many titles in this series honestly), party composition is not irrelevant due to the limit breaks, as you mentioned. For example, high HP enemies are best defeated using the highly damaging Limits of Squall, Zell, Irvine or Rinoa (depending on which of her limits you use). Whereas Quistis's and Selfie's limits can be used for status buffs, healing or instant death attacks. FFVIII's mechanics also allow for frequent use of character's limits, through keeping HP low or with a certain spell, so limit breaks in this game are not necessarily marginalized, like you say they are.
Your point about level-scaling: Actually, no. Level-scaling is not superfluous. Higher level enemies have better spells to draw, and therefore make for better junctions. The junction system IS a substitute for the lack of fixed levels for enemies. Here's why, and, if I may quote you:
"An expert player can only use the junction system to up the challenge by intentionally using it poorly or not at all, which makes for incredibly boring gameplay as all it leaves you with is basic attack commands."
Completely wrong. After you junction a GF to a character, you have the full choice of what else to junction or not junction. Players wanting both more challenge and a full range of battle commands could simply junction everything except magic to stats. If I may quote you again:
"while a noob can't use it to overcome obstacles because they don't know how to junction optimally."
The game has an auto-junction command in the menu that automatically optimizes junctions for the best strength, magic or HP depending on which of those options you choose, so noobs are covered.
Your point about the characters: You say you don't like the characters because you no longer see them as cool or admirable and because they remind you of yourself at that age. Dude, Squall, Rinoa and Seifer weren't meant to be cool, they were meant to be FLAWED. Squall was emotionally damaged. Rinoa not understanding the consequences of her actions is one of her character arcs. Of course Seifer is a petulent child, did you think you were supposed to see him as anything else? Squall and Seifer's "rivalry" is supposed to be one-sided (Seifer's the one with the problem, Squall just wants him go away). The fact that Squall reminds you of yourself seems like a testament to the character's realism, and it's not really a flaw with the character that you're personally irritated by that.
As for your final point about blind fandom, many, long-time FF fans hated FFVIII when it came out. Ever since FFVII, every new FF title has been greeted with an opinion-split. For every supposed blind fan, there were supposed blind fans of other FF titles that wouldn't acknowledge any quality in an FF title they hated.
Perhaps we should just focus on the points being made. "Fanboys" and "Haters" they may be, but that doesn't mean they have no good points to make.
I really like FF VIII\'s themes and characters, but the mechanics are a brilliant idea that got too little testing and refinement. This is a game where you have to mess around with clunky, ugly menus not just to optimise them but simply to make them at all functional. Those who like it basically say \"I was able to break the game so much!\" but that\'s not what I want in a character build. I want to make the fights interesting by giving me more options, but here if your build is right you need do nothing but normal attacks. FF X gave me more attacks the more I progressed, and I didn\'t have the crippling restriction of only 4 abilities at a time. (Seriously, awful design flaw.) It is very newbie-unfriendly with how it throws impenetrable junctioning terms at you with barely any tutorial. It is ultimately a promising system, but as implemented so much revolves around elemental resistances, requiring the player to take notes or consult a guide to know how to best fight any one monster.
Levelling was wonky. By the end I had Squall twice anyone else\'s level, making it dangerous to put the lowest-level members in the party with him, worsening the difference. They should have removed levels and just scaled the party by magic type.
Nor are Limit Breaks much good, because of how self-defeating the mechanic is: if someone is low or down, I want to heal/raise them, not attack recklessly. While weak monsters can\'t trigger it unless I keep my health low, which I don\'t want to do.
Perhaps worst of all: the combination of ABT with unskippable summons. There\'s no flow to the battle because I have to go through so many menus to cast spells. FF X-2 did ABT right.
And again, I love the flawed characters and the theme of reconnecting with the past and looking to the future. This is probably the most polarising game in the series, and I can see why. The characters are great if you can relate, annoying if you can\'t. The theme is great, but the story is badly paced and let down by some really wonky moments. Villains are pathetic or non-entities. The setting is inventive but so much backstory is missed unless you know where to look. It is haunting and frustrating in equal measure. I recommend it to anyone who likes narrative-rich games, but have a guide handy.
Lol. Reviewer decides to simply ignore all legitimate criticism, then claim "all criticism is just X".
That's called a strawman argument.
FFVIII has massive gameplay design problems that discourage actual playing. That's not because people compare it to FF 7, it's purely a failure in fundamental game design. The story and characters themselves are bland and lazy. That's not just a problem comparing it to FF 7, that's a problem comparing it to anything with a story.
Anyways, I wrote up my own review a long time ago, which you obviously pretended didn't exist because you're trying very hard to ignore all legitimate criticism and make excuses for your personal favourite game.
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