The Playstation Network re-release of Final Fantasy VIII happened much quicker than I would have imagined. When I came home from the airport late Thursday night, my podcast co-host Al informed me that Sony had just thrown the game online and I immediately booted up the MediaGo software to begin downloading it. $9.99 (plus tax) and five hours of sleep later, I had Final Fantasy VIII on my Playstation Portable--PSP, as acronym-loving humans like to call it. Considering that I had put in a handful of hours before the PSN release, starting it over again on the PSP would mean that those console hours would go to waste. Well, say hello to the wastebasket, hours.
I haven't done much with the PSP release yet since I've been busy with other obligations, so I haven't even reached the point where I stopped on the PSone (that being just after finishing the SeeD exam). I did get a chance to see how the emulation fared on the PSP, and so far it works just fine. Pete, our third podcast member, told me he heard that when Final Fantasy VII was released on PSN, a critic on another podcast mentioned something that implied that the emulation was pretty bad. I hadn't experienced that with FFVII in particular, myself, and in the limited time I've spent with FFVIII, I haven't experienced bad emulation either. I will say that it's slightly irritating to not have that second set of shoulder buttons, since it forces you to map the L2 and R2 commands to either the d-pad or the analog nub. I liked playing FFVIII with the analog stick on the Dual Shock (it's more accurate on the world map), and obviously using the d-pad for menu commands (it's way more precise), so being forced to choose one or the other was a bit saddening. But that's just a small gripe inherent with the PSone-to-PS3 conversion, obviously.There are a lot of conflicting comments on my previous blog, mostly pertaining to how to best play the game, with a few Final Fantasy VIII detractors here and there. This all seems to ultimately speak to Final Fantasy VIII's greatest strength: There are so many ways to play the game, that depending on how you play it, you might love it or hate it equally. I'm not talking about Oblivion / Fallout "ways to play" in terms of your decisions and their impact on the game world around you but rather how you choose to customize your characters' abilities and whether you choose to spam Guardian Forces; use or not use magic; power-up your party by leveling up traditionally, or not leveling and instead relying completely on the Junction system; et cetera. It's actually quite fascinating, really, and it's precisely the reason I chose to give the game a second whirl. I have to re-iterate that no matter how interesting or deep a game is, if it doesn't end up coming together for me--and that's a totally subjective, je ne sais quois type of thing, as it is for everyone--my opinion won't be making that 180-degree shift to the positive. But in fairness, no matter what happens in the end, I'll definitely be glad I gave it a shot.