Revisiting the Nemesis: The Final Fantasy VIII Logs (12-17-09)

Posted by MrCHUP0N (246 posts) -

Earlier in the week, I wrote about revisiting Final Fantasy VIII, a game I managed to loathe after my first run with it. Often I look back on things that were deemed quality experiences by others (this extends past videogames--movies, most notably Michael Mann's "Collateral"; music; books) and start to think about the things I missed. With Final Fantasy VIII, I realized that I never really explored the Junction system fully; this was mainly because I didn't "have" to, but I felt that perhaps I ended up missing the point. On the Sunday before I wrote that editorial, I had already initiated a new game, and I've made some cursory progress (thanks to my self-proclaimed, most likely WAY overblown ability to multitask) while battling a juxtaposition of insomnia and narcolepsy. (Neither diagnosis is clinical; in fact, I'm just a nutcase.)

(Before I even continue, it just came to light that Final Fantasy VIII is due out on the Playstation Network "soon." Now, I'm playing my dusty old CD of Final Fantasy VIII from September 9, 1999. Having it on my PSP would be so much more convenient, given how little time I actually have to sit down and play a console, and given how wretchedly annoying it is to lug consoles around with me as I travel for my job. This first Final Fantasy VIII Log entry may very well be the last one for quite a while; it all depends on when it appears on the Playstation Store. If its release date is within the next month or so, then I'll stop playing right now and wait for the download. If it doesn't come out until--say--March, then I will press on. Oh yes, I will press on.)

With that, here's my report thus far.

I'm about four hours into the game. I've just finished the SeeD exam portion, where Squall, Zell, Seifer and later Selphie move to stop the Galbadian advance into Dollet. I've spent most of my time drawing in battles, and in fact spent about ten minutes--while on a phone call for work in my hotel room, no less--drawing from this one poor hapless soldier until Squall and Zell had 100 units each of Fire, Blizzard and Thunder. (Screw Seifer--I literally did nothing with him.)

My focus is on taking a deep dive into junctioning and GF abilities. The first thing I aimed for after getting GF Boost for each of mY GFs was learning their refinement skills so that I could set about experimenting with that. Right now, there's not much I can do with regards to junctions since I only have Shiva, Ifrit, Siren and Quezacotl. Squall is the only one with an elemental junction (I've attached the 100 Fires he has to Attack), and across my characters I can really only junction to Attack Power and Spirit. However, I'm definitely anticipating the multitude of things I can do later on in the game when I've more attributes to which I can junction.

However fascinating junctions and GFs are to me, I can't help but be a little unsettled by how similar characters end up being so far. Bear in mind, the following is a generalization, I'm still very early on in the game, and I'm going by my memory of my first run over ten years ago. Yet, when I look at it, how are the characters so vastly different from each other when you take away their limit breaks? Focusing on what really makes them go--Guardian Forces and the resulting junctions--how is Zell all that different from Selphie when you're able to trade magic and GF's between them? I definitely appreciate how your characters are supposed to build affinity with their GF's, and how you're supposed to customize your characters differently to get the most out of the game, but I think this makes each character--from a gameplay perspective--more of a shell with which you play around instead of a wholly unique individual.

Let me clarify. Almost every Final Fantasy up until this point has made each character play some sort of job-based role. Final Fantasy VI started down the precarious path of "everyone can do anything"--with everyone being able to equip Espers and learn every spell--but each character could still be very effective in other ways besides magic (well, unless everyone learned Ultima. That's where the game starts to fall apart a bit, and it pains me to say it). Sabin could still wreck fools with his martial arts techniques; Edgar's tools had certain purposes; Relm had her portraits; Cyan's swordtechs were lethal... you get the point. With Final Fantasy VIII, I feel like instead of developing Squall's inherent abilities and "job" functions, I'm simply customizing Party Member A with junctions and he just happens to have a leather jacket and be named Squall. Is this a problem? I suppose not; I guess I've just been wired to expect that certain JRPG individuals are meant for certain things, and you develop their tree of skills from that unique starting point. And, once again, I'm probably going to be proven quite wrong once I put more hours into it. I'm regurgitating stuff here, but bear in mind that the last time I played it, it was ten years ago, and almost all I did 95% of the time was spam the GF command and hardly had any trouble surviving.

Of course, the ways in which each character is truly special in Final Fantasy VIII is through the story. I get that. I'm not ignoring the story, really; the thing is, I know what happens, and I'm really in this go round just for the gameplay. So, when cutscenes happen and I can't skip them, I start to get agitated, which leads into me remembering just why I had enough of the game by the third disc. (This isn't a good sign for my ability to overlook its flaws for the sake of enjoying its positives, but hopefully I can persevere.) I'm noticing how oddly sophomoric the dialogue is at the beginning. It could simply be a cultural difference, though. I'm talking about things like Zell pantomiming his punches at Seifer before they go up the communication tower, then Seifer saying, "What's this? Swatting flies?" before walking away, and then Zell saying, "Dammit!" and trembling with rage. I mean, who does that? What's that all about? How is what Seifer said such an insult to Zell's integrity to the point where Zell looks like he's about to explode? To me, Seifer's comment was about as witty as the old "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. No one older than ten years old would be insulted by that. To be clear, this isn't so much a criticism as much as it is just me being puzzled at some of the writing choices being made. It probably makes perfect sense to a certain audience, perhaps a younger audience, and in the grand scheme of things I realize that it doesn't matter... but it's something I've been noticing for sure.

That's it for now. I'll pour some more onto virtual paper as I get further in the game... if I decide to continue playing. That's a decision I'll make after I find out exactly when Final Fantasy VIII will make its U.S. debut on the Playstation Network.

#1 Posted by MrCHUP0N (246 posts) -

Earlier in the week, I wrote about revisiting Final Fantasy VIII, a game I managed to loathe after my first run with it. Often I look back on things that were deemed quality experiences by others (this extends past videogames--movies, most notably Michael Mann's "Collateral"; music; books) and start to think about the things I missed. With Final Fantasy VIII, I realized that I never really explored the Junction system fully; this was mainly because I didn't "have" to, but I felt that perhaps I ended up missing the point. On the Sunday before I wrote that editorial, I had already initiated a new game, and I've made some cursory progress (thanks to my self-proclaimed, most likely WAY overblown ability to multitask) while battling a juxtaposition of insomnia and narcolepsy. (Neither diagnosis is clinical; in fact, I'm just a nutcase.)

(Before I even continue, it just came to light that Final Fantasy VIII is due out on the Playstation Network "soon." Now, I'm playing my dusty old CD of Final Fantasy VIII from September 9, 1999. Having it on my PSP would be so much more convenient, given how little time I actually have to sit down and play a console, and given how wretchedly annoying it is to lug consoles around with me as I travel for my job. This first Final Fantasy VIII Log entry may very well be the last one for quite a while; it all depends on when it appears on the Playstation Store. If its release date is within the next month or so, then I'll stop playing right now and wait for the download. If it doesn't come out until--say--March, then I will press on. Oh yes, I will press on.)

With that, here's my report thus far.

I'm about four hours into the game. I've just finished the SeeD exam portion, where Squall, Zell, Seifer and later Selphie move to stop the Galbadian advance into Dollet. I've spent most of my time drawing in battles, and in fact spent about ten minutes--while on a phone call for work in my hotel room, no less--drawing from this one poor hapless soldier until Squall and Zell had 100 units each of Fire, Blizzard and Thunder. (Screw Seifer--I literally did nothing with him.)

My focus is on taking a deep dive into junctioning and GF abilities. The first thing I aimed for after getting GF Boost for each of mY GFs was learning their refinement skills so that I could set about experimenting with that. Right now, there's not much I can do with regards to junctions since I only have Shiva, Ifrit, Siren and Quezacotl. Squall is the only one with an elemental junction (I've attached the 100 Fires he has to Attack), and across my characters I can really only junction to Attack Power and Spirit. However, I'm definitely anticipating the multitude of things I can do later on in the game when I've more attributes to which I can junction.

However fascinating junctions and GFs are to me, I can't help but be a little unsettled by how similar characters end up being so far. Bear in mind, the following is a generalization, I'm still very early on in the game, and I'm going by my memory of my first run over ten years ago. Yet, when I look at it, how are the characters so vastly different from each other when you take away their limit breaks? Focusing on what really makes them go--Guardian Forces and the resulting junctions--how is Zell all that different from Selphie when you're able to trade magic and GF's between them? I definitely appreciate how your characters are supposed to build affinity with their GF's, and how you're supposed to customize your characters differently to get the most out of the game, but I think this makes each character--from a gameplay perspective--more of a shell with which you play around instead of a wholly unique individual.

Let me clarify. Almost every Final Fantasy up until this point has made each character play some sort of job-based role. Final Fantasy VI started down the precarious path of "everyone can do anything"--with everyone being able to equip Espers and learn every spell--but each character could still be very effective in other ways besides magic (well, unless everyone learned Ultima. That's where the game starts to fall apart a bit, and it pains me to say it). Sabin could still wreck fools with his martial arts techniques; Edgar's tools had certain purposes; Relm had her portraits; Cyan's swordtechs were lethal... you get the point. With Final Fantasy VIII, I feel like instead of developing Squall's inherent abilities and "job" functions, I'm simply customizing Party Member A with junctions and he just happens to have a leather jacket and be named Squall. Is this a problem? I suppose not; I guess I've just been wired to expect that certain JRPG individuals are meant for certain things, and you develop their tree of skills from that unique starting point. And, once again, I'm probably going to be proven quite wrong once I put more hours into it. I'm regurgitating stuff here, but bear in mind that the last time I played it, it was ten years ago, and almost all I did 95% of the time was spam the GF command and hardly had any trouble surviving.

Of course, the ways in which each character is truly special in Final Fantasy VIII is through the story. I get that. I'm not ignoring the story, really; the thing is, I know what happens, and I'm really in this go round just for the gameplay. So, when cutscenes happen and I can't skip them, I start to get agitated, which leads into me remembering just why I had enough of the game by the third disc. (This isn't a good sign for my ability to overlook its flaws for the sake of enjoying its positives, but hopefully I can persevere.) I'm noticing how oddly sophomoric the dialogue is at the beginning. It could simply be a cultural difference, though. I'm talking about things like Zell pantomiming his punches at Seifer before they go up the communication tower, then Seifer saying, "What's this? Swatting flies?" before walking away, and then Zell saying, "Dammit!" and trembling with rage. I mean, who does that? What's that all about? How is what Seifer said such an insult to Zell's integrity to the point where Zell looks like he's about to explode? To me, Seifer's comment was about as witty as the old "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. No one older than ten years old would be insulted by that. To be clear, this isn't so much a criticism as much as it is just me being puzzled at some of the writing choices being made. It probably makes perfect sense to a certain audience, perhaps a younger audience, and in the grand scheme of things I realize that it doesn't matter... but it's something I've been noticing for sure.

That's it for now. I'll pour some more onto virtual paper as I get further in the game... if I decide to continue playing. That's a decision I'll make after I find out exactly when Final Fantasy VIII will make its U.S. debut on the Playstation Network.

#2 Posted by idiotic_genius1 (416 posts) -

I didn't read your whole post, but I thought I would tell you that it was released earlier today on the U.S. PSN.
#3 Edited by rjayb89 (7720 posts) -

It's real easy to cheese your way through the game by not leveling Squall.  Knowing how the junction system works can make it real cheesy, too.  Then again, I've played this game through two times and currently on my third, though not actively as I usually do with games I've enjoyed in the past.

#4 Posted by MrCHUP0N (246 posts) -

@idiotic_genius1: Thanks! I came home to this good news just a few minutes ago. I'll be glad once I can get it loaded and not have to be chained to my console.
 
@rjayb89: Hmm, interesting--I'll take that into consideration. I don't think that'll bother me though; my ultimate goal with this re-run is to engross myself within the junction system and discover what I missed the first time around as opposed to just playing to beat it. I mean, sure, I'll play it to completion, but I'm less focused on, "Hey! Let's beat this game!" and rather more on, "Hey! Let's explore all the crazy shit you can do with junctions and GFs that you didn't bother to last time."

#5 Posted by gla55jAw (2687 posts) -

I purchased this as soon as I saw it was released, even though I already own the game. But like you, I wanted to play this on my PSP as well as FFVII, althought for both games I wound up just playing through on my PS3. I planned to just play it for a few minutes then put it on my PSP but I wound up playing for 3 hours lol. I just beat Ifrit and I already have Squall and Quistis at LVL 11 and Sqaull already has a Strength of 38. 

Anyways as for the junction system, I loved it even though you have to ultimately waste time grinding to draw magic. I never use magic anyways in RPGs that I play so I didn't have a problem with that. I guess you could go through and "cheat" by keeping Squall at a low level, but I never did that. If you really want to get into the Junction System, go and get every GF, and make all your character's lvl 100 and go and beat Ultima Weapon, who at lvl 100 has 160.000 hp. That's what I did. Also trying just using phyiscal attacks for your random battles and only use GF's for Boss fights, and leave Squall to only attacking unless you have to use a GF. 
 
The game is great thought, and so is the story.
#6 Posted by gla55jAw (2687 posts) -

I knew those Utltima Weapon stats were too low. I was thinking of Omega Weapon who has 1,161,000 hp @ lvl 100 lol.

#7 Posted by Khantael (162 posts) -

I quite like the junction system. This is ironic, as I was young when I first played FF8 (not long after it came out here in Europe) and the tutorials made no sense to me - I finished nearly 2 discs with no magic junctioned (I did understand enough to junction GFs). 
 
Sometimes I think some of the problems people have with FF8 is more for people who like to be very precise with how they train etc. There isn't really a need to get, say, 100 of every spell, and I can see why that would be really really tedious... unless you want to max out your stats/don't like leaving a job incomplete.
 
Personally, I never maxed out anybody's stats. My current record for beating Omega Weapon is at level 60. I'm trying to do it lower each time... that was a party of Squall, Zell and Rinoa I think. 
 
It drawa fights out if you don't max things out, but not so much I'd consider the tedium of it. 
 
I do like FF8 - largely nostalgic, too - though I'll agree there are some flaws - though I'd argue it's more story than gameplay in places.

#8 Posted by skrutop (3615 posts) -

I also dislike the trend of making every character interchangeable.  This started earlier in the series (FF5's characters were completely interchangeable), but became the standard for character progression as the series rolled on.  Except for stats and limit breaks, you can make any character into an uber-badass.  I prefer having some limits on each character, which makes for more strategy in choosing what characters you keep in your party during different parts of the game.

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