so, without even reading the article, (by the way, don't worry, I will.) I thought I'd share my own Final Fantasy VIII memories, unspoiled by whatever prose Mr. Lloyd has written up. I find that I talk a lot about Final Fantasy VIII these days, what with the Eden-based raids in Final Fantasy XIV having such great music remixes and having to... talk to folks who like this stuff about Final Fantasy VIII.
Up to that point, I was the kid with the N64 while my friends all had Playstations. I had discovered Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics this way, told my cousin, and he told me that "It was time" and he gave me a copy of Final Fantasy on NES. once I played through and beat FF1, he let me borrow Final Fantasy VI (which... I still have that cartridge because he gave away his NES before I had a chance to return FF6!). I played Final Fantasy VII myself through the PC version on my dad's PC, but... I was still dancing around having a playstation. I was still going to my friend's house and playing FFT, still playing Brave Fencer Musashi with them and checking out that TOTALLY SWEET Final Fantasy VIII demo disc it came with!
Then it happened. Christmas, 1998. Dad got me a playstation wtih NCAA March Madness '99, and...! Final Fantasy VIII! all my friends had been playing it of course, but now was my chance to set aside my gameboy obsession and play the new Final Fantasy...!
only... something went way over my head. I distinctly remember making it to right before the lunatic pandora and having difficulty with some of the side content before I gave up. I'd LONG stopped understanding what the plot was even about, and I really didn't feel particularly attached or endeared to any of the characters besides maybe like... Laguna and his friends? they seemed way cooler and more heroic than the characters you actually played as in my mind...
And I never really finished out the rest of the game. I eventually got a bunch of other FF games for my Playstation (I was the only one of my friends who bothered with Final Fantasy IX, as all my friends didn't like the art style or something...), and for a time, Final Fantasy 8 was that one that just... kinda confused me with all the crazy crafting and junctioning and such. I think FF8 might have actually been the first video game I played with a crafting system in it.
Jump forward to the late oughts. I'm an edgy college kid, Planet Gamecube is NintendoWorldReport, and the rise of Youtube is happening on a large scale. a crop of individuals making entertaining video reviews of games spread like a rash in the wake of the Angry Video Game Nerd. I'm talkin' folks like Armake21, BlackbusterCritic, and... most importantly, Noah Antweiler, known by his moniker The Spoony One. Now... I could go into a massive essay on the mental breakdown of Spoony and how his star fizzled when he was one fo the brightest and funniest dudes pioneering the Youtube boom, but that'd be beyond the scope of this.What was important was his multi-part magnum opus where he ripped into Final Fantasy 8 and called it out for how awful and damaging to the Final Fantasy brand the game was!
At the time, it beggared belief. at this point, 10 years had hazed over my FF8 memories and he was... reminding me of parts of the game that were particularly unfun, so I sat down with it for my second and final time... and I was astonished at how poorly it panned out. I still didn't understand the story, but that was because FF8 is such a weird fever dream of a JRPG plotline that it makes me laugh out loud. even being more on top of the game systems and understanding the game better, it commits sins that I could not forgive, and suddenly I bashed on FF8. hard. I still kinda do to this day.
I think when I had my REAL understanding of what FF8 was, however, was in 2015. a Zoomer friend of mine is going back and checking out Final Fantasy games. I'm jaded at this point. Final Fantasy XIII had broken me and cemented the idea that Square-Enix internally had lost all their talent and were too busy sniffing bath salts to put out compelling games, and it took external teams like Sillicon Studio and Eidos to keep them afloat and remind them of what good, fun games looked like. in an attempt to educate this friend on the rise of Squaresoft, I had him playing through FF games sequentially, and we finally made it to FF8...
... and we had a blast. granted, not because we legitimately were enjoying the game on it's own merits, no. My friend was... riffing on it? he was laughing at some of the dumb, DUMB stuff that happens. we were naming the GFs silly names, I think we named Angelo something very lewd that made fun attack names like Anal Rush, Anal Recovery, Anal Reverse, Anal Search, and my personal favorite, Anal Cannon
(spoilered for offensive language) and laughed at how silly some fo the game's setpieces are and how poorly the narrative and characters play out. I recognized that Final Fantasy 8 wanted to do new and ambitious things and carve it's own path with all the crazy money put into it... but you know what else was like that?
That's when it clicked. Final Fantasy VIII is a hilarious game for all the wrong reasons, and for that, I can't hate it. it is a caliber of Kusoge all in it's own. It tries SO hard to be a love story, a story of an introverted individual finding his heart and learning to accept friendship while battling against the most inconvenient form of time travel ever concieved. It is a game of insane shared amnesia and dumb coincidences. it is a game where the best way to play it is to not kill monsters, but to turn them into cards to turn into items to turn into spells to junction your stats. It is a game where casting the cure spell lowers your maximum HP and that the meta in battle is to mash the triangle button until you get a limit command rather than wasting your time on any other type of attack.