Written by Bad Demoman 2nd November 2016
It’s pretty undeniable that Final Fantasy 8 is the odd one out of the PS1 Final Fantasy trio. It’s very much a Marmite game, where some love and some hate it. Until lately, I was of the opinion that I liked the idea, particularly the story and characters, but that I couldn’t put myself up to dealing with the systems. After the runaway success of FF7, it’s a hard sell when it’s so incredibly different. So let’s take a look at what it did so differently, and how that affects its place as an FF game.
The most infamous aspect of Final Fantasy 8 is the junction system. This is where you assign Guardian Forces (or GFs, which are this game's equivalent of summons) to a character. This lets you then gain access to its power, and also allows you to assign magic to stats. For example, assigning offensive magic to your Strength will increase it, with more powerful magic in greater quantities having a much more pronounced effect. Magic is acquired occasionally from ‘Draw’ points around the world, but these are rare. So, the most used method of acquiring magic is Drawing from enemies. This is where the tedium and distaste for FF8 arises. Each enemy has certain magic you can Draw from it. Grinding is almost a dirty word in RPGs, and so to introduce a system that seems so intrinsically linked to grinding is destined to be an unpopular change. It’s difficult to make a player want to stop during every encounter and stock up on magic, but you feel like you have to. After all, it’s the only way to increase your stats. Thankfully, there are ways around grinding, such as refining items and Triple Triad cards into magic. This can lead to another issue with the Junctioning system -
I ended up hilariously overpowered in FF8. Nothing was a challenge -
When designing FF8, Square wanted battles to be more interactive than ever. I can see where they tried this -
The only thing really differentiating characters is their limit breaks, so you can use any setup you want. Early in the game, your party gets limited to whoevers available as the story allows. The result is an even usage of all the party members before you get a little more freedom, which is nice since it gives you time to decide your favourites. However, Squall is in the party most the time. This, combined with his potential 100% crit rate using his trigger, makes it entirely possible for Squall to carry you throughout the game. It’s frustrating, because it makes everyone else feel incredibly weak. If Squall gets a little over levelled early, he’s likely to remain that way and even increase the gap as the game goes on. This is because the last hit against an enemy gets more of the EXP. Now, who's likely to get more last hits -
So you might be thinking to myself -