*** Final Fantasy 8 Spoiler Alert ***
You may not know me, but I am a rabid Final Fantasy fan. I have followed the games since Final Fantasy VI's initial release into America, and am proud to say that I've had the opportunity through most all of them (no, I'm not crazy enough to try and import FF2 or FF3). I bought my Playstation almost specifically to play Final Fantasy VII, and I found it to be a grand gaming experience. As for Final Fantasy VIII.. That game is personally my all time favorite RPG/Final Fantasy right now.
Why in the world am I telling you this? I am absolutely tired of hearing people declare that FF VII and FF VIII are not as good as the "golden oldies." I will grant you that Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI were all very enjoyable games. But they are simply not "perfect" as they say. I loved Final Fantasy VI, and I still like it better then FF VII. But where do people get off in calling Final Fantasy VII crap? The game took a bold step in moving beyond the series' medieval trappings and into a futuristic kind of world.
I'll point out to you, that Final Fantasy has always had a little
technology. I still blink whenever the Bard from FF IV says "We can take my hovercraft." A hovercraft? In Final Fantasy IV? Did I miss something important? At the very least, Final Fantasy VII was consistent. Furthermore, although the storyline in VII can be convoluted and confusing at times, it is still fairly well put together. I felt a nice degree of "closure" once I beat the game. It's true that the game is a bit linear.. But it is only linear to the capacity that it advances the storyline. There are plenty of things to do in Final Fantasy VII. I'm not ashamed to say that I spent hours breeding those damned Chobobos just so that I could catch hold of that groovy Knights of the Round materia. Only Final Fantasy VI approaches anything like that. I will now take great delight in pointing out that FF IV, V, and VI are FAR more linear the VII or VIII.
I picked up Final Fantasy VIII, and I found it breathtaking. It quickly replaced FF VI as my favorite FF of the moment. Why do I speak
of such blashphemy? It is simple: FF VIII is one of the deepest games that I have ever played. The storyline is put together well, the soundtracks are a cut above the tracks from FF VII (except that ugly boss music), and the characters are very well characterized. I actually felt sympathy for Selphie when Trabia got blown to bits. I couldn't bear to be mean to Rinoa. Square ought to be applauded for characterizing all of the characters so well. The "love story" element was also well conceived and well implemented. I'll grant you that Squall has a bit too abrupt a change of heart toward the end (I'd say that he does a complete 180 by Disc 3), but it is entertaining to no end, to read his little comments to himself. My biggest problem with Final Fantasy IV + V is that their stories are well... weird. V seems to have been written by an eighth grader. The degree of coincidence in that title is incredible. The main character meets up with three peeps who just happen to be lying in the middle of a crater, and then they decide to go and save the world. Geez.. I'm not going to spoil the rest, but it's far too coincidental. I will not go into what kind of cop out Final Fantasy IV pulls on us at the very end. Very, very stupid.
Finally.. The battle systems. The Materia system is annoying as
hell, but functional. The Junction system simply blows about everything away in terms of depth and complexity. I have heard that you are "chained to your GF's" in that it is impossible to win without using them. That is BS. If you put the proper thought into your customization, you can win any battle without using a GF once. I can truthfully say that I had Squall doing 1200 + damage with every stroke of his sword by the end of Disc 1 (I fried Seifer in two shots, LOL). It is a hell of a task to find the monsters with the proper spells for junctioning, but it didn't feel like work. It felt like fun. The Job system was fun and well realized. It's simply not as cool as the Junction system. It is rather fun to give your characters costumes and teach them new abilities, but it is rather time consuming to build up all of that AP. The same goes for the Esper system.
So what's the point of this editorial? The point is that FF VIII, and to a lesser degree, FF VII, meet and exceeds the standards set by their predecessors in nearly every way. I don't know about you, but in no way do I think that Square has lost its touch.