Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Is The Best Way Ever To Play Final Fantasy VIII

After years of its suspicious absence from Square Enix’s unstoppable barrage of ports and re-releases, Final Fantasy VIII has emerged remastered for all consoles (and PC). This is the best version of the game that has ever existed. Watch me play it for 47 minutes, while discussing 20 years’ worth of crystallised thoughts about the game.

For example: I argue somewhat passionately that you should not use the fast-forward function.

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is even better than the original. I noticed a peculiar trend in YouTube comments on the debut trailer Square Enix showed at E3 2019: “The graphics look exactly the same,” many commenters said. They absolutely do not. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered keeps the original’s fuzzy JPEG backgrounds, though its 3D models are butter for the eyes.

I think what a lot of the commenters were driving at was that, yes, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is not on the level of graphical upgrade of Final Fantasy VII Remake. This is because it’s a remaster, not a remake. (As it says in the title.)

I do understand where those commenters are coming from, though. In 1999, when Rinoa told Squall “You’re the best-looking guy here,” we role-playing-game-lovers hunkering in front of dull CRT televisions barely noticed his face was a clump of hideous pixels. We had no idea what a meme was, much less that this screen would eventually become one.

By that point in the game — about three hours in, if you mosey a bit — it had hooked us completely. We were so in the zone that Rinoa’s words filled in the gaps in our imaginations. We knew Squall was a good-looking guy. We remembered him from the hours-ago two-minute anime-music-video-like opening movie. We’d probably watched that opening movie about 90 times.

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered keeps the fuzzy, barely animated background JPEGs. It keeps the aspect ratio. It keeps the original full motion video quality. Then it gives us wonderfully, lovingly new 3D models. In their geometry, these models are identical to those in the 1999 PlayStation original. In their texture detail, they are identical to our fond memories of the 1999 PlayStation original.

In this video, I admit that I didn’t really like Final Fantasy VIII when I first played it. Ten years after it first came out, I played it again and thoroughly enjoyed it. It takes so many bizarre risks with its game design, structure, and plotting.

As I say in the conclusion of my video, the original creators of the Final Fantasy series often regale us with the anecdote of the desperation with which they developed that initial game. According to their legend, Squaresoft only had the money to make one more game. If it didn’t hit, they were dead. It hit. They lived.

Final Fantasy VIII arrived two years after Final Fantasy VII busted blocks worldwide. At the time of Final Fantasy VIII’s release, Squaresoft was developing the next three numbered Final Fantasy games. They were also financing and producing a Final Fantasy feature film all on their own. As far as video game development goes, this is a level of ambition whose modern-day equivalent I can’t immediately think of.

Final Fantasy IX, X, XI, and the movie would offer a rich platter of something for everyone. Final Fantasy VIII was thus destined to come across as “The Final Fantasy That Came Out After Final Fantasy VII.”

Now that I’m able to look back at it so crystal-clearly 20 years later, I deeply admire its creative risks. If the spirit of Final Fantasy as a franchise has always been, as its creators say, reinvention with every numbered instalment, Final Fantasy VIII represents the absolute zenith of old-fashioned Final Fantasy.

I’ll admit, as a 20-year-old, I rushed through it. It was hard for me to like the protagonist, Squall. The very first character we meet aside from this tough-guy-wannabe teenage protagonist is his slightly older teacher who sees right through his cold exterior and mocks his tough-guy dialogue affectations not five text boxes into the game. It felt embarrassing; it felt to me, then, like reading my old writing feels now.

I didn’t want to think about my dirtbag teen days at age 20 the way I don’t want to think about my dirtbag twenties at age 40.

Replaying the game in 2019, so far, has been a delight. I’m able to fully appreciate the oddball game design choices that me and my hardcore fellow Final Fantasy fanatic friend frowned at in 1999. The battles have a Bravely Default level of game-designerly, simplistic urgency that was sitting there all along, for 20 years, waiting for me to revisit it and appropriately freak out.

The card game, Triple Triad, is still amazing. The Triple Triad theme music is still amazing.

My video consists of eight chapters, each telling a different story about my time with the game. In one chapter, I talk about the game design. In another, I try to find the truth behind the rumour that Square Enix had lost the game’s source code.

The seventh of these chapters concerns a marketing campaign Squaresoft executed back in 1999: pre-order Final Fantasy VIII, and you could win a car. And not just any car: it was an exceptionally bland car. It was a 2000 Toyota Echo

In my mind, whenever people talk about the anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast, I immediately think of the 2000 Toyota Echo: in the magazine advertisement for the sweepstakes, the date “Available 9.9.99" loudly begs the page-flipper’s attention.

I wanted to surprise you all: I wanted to find the person who won this car. I promise I tried as hard as I could.

I asked some people at Square Enix if they might know anything. They did not know anything. However, they knew some people who might.

I ended up spending more time on the phone in two months than I usually spend in a year.

Ultimately, I didn’t find the car. Though someone at Electronic Arts — with whom Square Enix had partnered to market Final Fantasy VIII in 1999 — told me with confidence that the winner of the sweepstakes had almost certainly taken the $US10,000 ($14,842) cash prize over the car.

I explain this in my video, though I thought it was worth telling you about in this text. What’s not worth telling you about in text, however, is my off-the-top-of-my-head musing about what cars other Final Fantasy protagonists might be. Please leave a thousand comments debating this topic, even if you don’t watch my video. (Watch my video, though, please. I tried to do an NPR voice this time.)

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered arrives on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC today — six days short of the game’s release’s 20th anniversary.

Don’t use the fast-forward function. Even for grinding. You’ll thank me 20 years from now.


Comments

    It’s a pity that SE felt the need to censor Siren’s design by putting a skirt on her. Apparently HD female monster bits were too risqué for them.

      The people outraged about this and claiming they're not going to buy the remaster solely because Siren's bush isn't visible any more confuse me. It's such an inconsequential element of the game.

        It was always a cool design though. In saying that, CGAF day 1 purchase.

        Same with Rinoas undershirt though I do wonder why they even bothered with that one, at least the Siren one is obvious from a design choice.

        Weird part is a lot of folks are comparing it to the Tifa censorship, or more specifically that she doesn't have massive milk jugs in the remake despite the fact she never actually did and Advent Children already set her realistic body shape. (But not face apparently)

          Rinoa's shirt is even more of a non-issue. It's no more than an inch of cloth, and it more closely matches both her FMV model from the original game and the figurines they released at the time anyway. Likewise for Squall, which seems to have people complaining that they 'removed Squall' from the game. Even though what we've seen of the new model clearly resembles his original FMV model.

          Then there's the fact both Rinoa's and Squall's updated models have been around since Dissidia NT in 2015 so it's not exactly new either.

      Ifrit is wearing shorts, it's a bit weird.
      (He isn't lol)

    I always preferred FF8 over FF7.

    Just felt like a richer more original world, rather than a mash up of steam punk, magic & pseudo cyber punk Neo Tokyo of FF7.

    Looking forward too junction "death" to attack so I can instakill enemies again and laugh when some say immune lol immune too death.

    Don’t use the fast-forward function. Even for grinding. You’ll thank me 20 years from now.Don't grind, at all. In fact, toggle encounters off. FFVIII is one of those bizarre JRPGs where it's better to stay low level than gain levels because enemies scale with you so levelling only works against you.

      The leveling is meant to be accompanied by proper junctioning as you go. Staying low is a valid strategy, but in my opinion it cheeses the hell out of fights by the second act (or I should probably say first act even though it comes second, thanks memory loss).

      I guess what I'm saying is just play normally. If you really want to grind, the better way to do it in FF8 is to get into fewer, longer fights where you can top out your draws and AP.

      I'm more wondering how you're meant to time the extra hit of pressing the button when the gunblade connects for bonus damage when everything is moving Benny Hill fast.

    I wish you could change the screen size

    Pour one out for Chocobo World, the fun little Pocketstation minigame. Boko never had a chance.

    I couldn't care less about what clothes someone is wearing, but how can you guys not have mentioned the loss of rumble? Man, that was the coolest thing ever, pulling the trigger and feeling the buzz as you did bonus damage activating the gunblade. It pulled me into the game as a kid.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now