As I begin this write-up it is nearing midnight on the first of July. 2015 is now half over, and I have just wrapped up Final Fantasy VIII after playing five straight hours on a work night to complete Ultimecia’s Castle and whup the final string of bosses in one go (no Game Overs for me, thank you very much!). Taking these notes into account, you have my apologies if this wrap-up is a bit shorter than normal. Considering last week’s entry surpassed 2100 words, I think I can allow myself some breathing room this week.
I finished the story of Final Fantasy VIII on Day 182: July 1, 2015.
When this week began I was being thrown through a loop regarding the increasingly bizarre plot devices, such as NORG and the orphanage epiphany. Let’s touch back on those briefly. The entire Garden Master/NORG segment was pretty pointless in the long run. You find out that NORG is part of the strange Shumi Tribe, but unless you actively seek out the Shumi Village during the free-roam parts of Final Fantasy VIII, you never learn any more about them. I completely bypassed it to move forward with the game, and have come away thinking it was simply thrown in as a plot device to get Balamb Garden airborne and make Cid mention that Edea was his wife. I don’t like it, full stop. Moving on.
This week’s buzzword was SORCERESS. If there’s a Final Fantasy VIII drinking game where you take a shot any time a Sorceress is mentioned, you’d be dead from alcohol poisoning well before reaching the final disc. As it turns out, Sorceress Edea is actually a lovely lady called Matron who was being possessed by Sorceress Adel. Meanwhile Sorceress Adel was being controlled by Sorceress Ultimecia from the distant future. Sorceress Ultimecia was using Sorceress Adel to find Ellone to use her strange ability of sending peoples’ souls or consciousness into the past so she could live on forever or something? It’s kind of confusing. Oh, and on top of all that it turns out Rinoa is a sorceress too. When we exorcise Ultimecia/Adel from Edea/Matron, Ultimecia/Adel takes over Rinoa so she can go into space and undo the seal that is holding Adel’s physical body captive (the handiwork of one Laguna Loire and his pals).
So even though Rinoa is now a sorceress, susceptible to possession by Ultimecia at any given moment, Squall has finally come to terms with his growing feelings for her and decides he has to be with her no matter what. When she goes strangely unconscious, he piggybacks her all the way to Esthar to find someone who can help. When she’s possessed in space and let’s Adel loose, the pressure from Adel’s captivity throws Rinoa into a Sandra-Bullock-in-Gravity spiral, with no spare oxygen tank to keep her going. It is then that her shining knight and sudden emotion machine Squall saves her life before he even reaches her. Supposedly it’s the power of love or some load of crap like that. Sorry, it’s just really not explained very well. Just like many other parts of the game.
Anyway, to make a long story short, the team defeats the Ultimecia in the future, saves the day in the present, and Squall flashes Rinoa a creepy happy smile after the credits have rolled. They allegedly live happily ever after. Final Fantasy VIII is far from perfect, but it’s still a fun ride. The heavy focus on romance – not just between Squall and Rinoa, but also Laguna and Julia, Laguna and Raine, and even some Selpihe and Irvine – make for an interesting contrast to previous entries in the Final Fantasy series. There’s usually an epic quest to undertake and some typical love interest, but the journey always comes before the love. In Final Fantasy VIII most of the journey happens because of the love. Squall finds someone he wants to care for, who breaks him out of his shell, who means more to him than anyone. His is a quest of doing what needs to be done so he can live his life together with her. It’s very sweet, but ultimately I feel they just shove it in our face way too much.
Before wrapping this up I’m going to touch on my least favorite and most favorite aspects of the game.
My least favorite part of Final Fantasy VIII is the overall character growth. If you’ve read many of my past updates on the Road to XV in ’15, you’ll know that I put a lot of stock into good characters. If the primary cast is weak, it’s going to fall flat in my eyes. Squall and Rinoa, and Seifer as well, all go through many motions from Final Fantasy VIII’s start to finish. They change, they grow, they mature. That’s all well and good, but what about the rest of your player characters? They are all connected through the orphanage, sure, but that doesn’t do much to flesh them out very far.
Quistis starts off as Squall’s teacher who crushes on him until she realizes her feelings are more in line with a ‘big sister’ role. She acts as a kind of co-leader at times, but at the end of the day we really don’t know much about her. Zell is a sort of Squall’s comic relief; a skater boy with a loving mother who loves a good hot dog and packs a mean punch. What else is there to know about him? Selphie is a peppy, excitable girl who adores trains. It almost looks like she’s going to get some more depth when we visit the ruined Trabia Garden, but she just comes away from that with more passion and drive. Then there’s Irvine, who truly and honestly makes no impact on the team whatsoever. He’s a wanna playboy who could have easily been a temporary party addition like Seifer or Edea, used only during the disc 1 Sorceress Assassination chapter. You could literally remove him from the rest of the game and it would not change at all. Don’t get me wrong – I’m actually quite fond of Quistis, Zell, and Selphie. But if you think this is a strong and interesting cast of characters, you should probably play a few more games or read a few more books.
In contrast, the best parts of Final Fantasy VIII happen whenever you find yourself in control of Laguna, Kiros, and Ward. Part of me wants to play a full game centered around the three of them and their adventures throughout the years where Squall and company visit them (kind of), but another part of me is immensely satisfied with what the game already supplies. The mystery of Ellone is built up amazingly through the “dream sequences” with Laguna, and the guy is just so charismatic and lovable that I always had fun playing as him. His BFFs Kiros and Ward acted as perfect foils to his dorky nature, correcting his misspoken turns of phrase and sticking by his side through thick and thin. They push and encourage him when he needs it, but also call him out when he’s acting a fool. Yeah, I definitely want a game dedicated to the life and times of Laguna Loire.
Finally, I have to praise the appearance of Gilgamesh. I thought it was neat how he showed up the first time I played Final Fantasy VIII back in the day, but having played Final Fantasy V now (and considering how much I loved that game) I think his inclusion is amazing. The bits that make his appearance truly special are a) how when he first appears he makes mention of the “dimensional interval,” paying homage to Exdeath sending Gilgamesh to another dimension in FFV, and b) the fact that two of his possible attacks represent his weapons in FFV. The mighty Excalibur is the sword he appeared to have picked up before fighting Bartz and company on the Big Bridge, but then it turns out to be Excalipoor – a replica that doles out next to nothing. It’s terribly unfortunate when Gilgamesh pulls Excalipoor in FFVIII, but it’s just such a fantastic call-back that you can’t stay upset for long.
On that note, I am officially finished with Final Fantasy VIII. Enjoy these wrap-up stats, and I’ll be back next week for one more regular update to chat about my opening impressions of Final Fantasy IX before my month off. I will be on holiday until the second week of August, when I’ll dive straight back into FFIX. Until then, catch me on Twitter and search for the #RoadtoXVin15 to follow my progress in real time!
Time to complete: 41 hours before final battles; ~42 hours total
Modes of transportation: Walking/running, Rental Cars, Trains, Balamb Garden, Chocobos, Ragnarok (airship)
Chocobos: Present! Found in chocobo forests (like older games); can be caught and ridden by playing the “Chocobo Hot and Cold” mini-game
Mogs/Moogles: Almost. There’s a Mini Mog card in Triple Triad, representing the Mini Mog “summon” that can only be obtained by playing the chocobo PocketStation game; only capable when playing on the original PlayStation console
Summons: Present! 16 Guardian Forces (GF) can be found and junctioned to your characters; others such as Odin, Gilgamesh, and Phoenix make random appearances after meeting specific requirements
Cid: Present! Cid Kramer is the husband of Sorceress Edea and headmaster of Balamb Garden.
Biggs & Wedge: Present! Galbadian soldiers who appear multiple times throughout the game. They bicker like a comedy duo.
Notable series firsts: I’m not entirely sure. Nothing stood out too much – no “so THAT’S where this thing got started!” moments.
1) Final Fantasy VII
2) Final Fantasy V
3) Final Fantasy VI
4) Final Fantasy IV
5) Final Fantasy VIII
6) Final Fantasy III
7) Final Fantasy
8) Final Fantasy II
— Final Fantasy Zak 12 (@zacharyplyons) July 1, 2015
P.S. I am a believer of the “Squall is Dead” theory.