3/2 Love Can Blossom, Even In a Turn-Based Battlefield

Final Fantasy VIII

      As long as there's console gaming, there's probably going to be Final Fantasy. And with each subsequent release will come loud grumbles from fans of the other games, proudly declaring "MY Final Fantasy did it better!" This is mostly from the fact that the only thing any of these games has in common with the next are titles and certain character names, spells, etc. It's a little ironic that Biggs and Wedge, names usually given to throwaway helpers or soldiers have had more longevity than any of the heroes excluding Cid. There's always a Cid, and he's always involved with the airships or hight echnology somehow. Hell, Cid Highwind from FFVII shows up in Kingdom Hearts to help with the stupid Gummi Ship.

     It's not enough that each game creates its own world with no regard to the continuity of others (shut up if you want to bring up King Cid the Ninth in FFIX or Gilgamesh in VIII seeming to have collected famous/infamous weapons throughout the series. They're just jokes Square put in there to reward the insanely patient people who play all their games.) It seems since Playstation adopted the series, they see fit to completely retool the system with each release.

     Final Fantasy VIII (or 8 if you can't read Roman numerals and think I previously alluded to Final Fantasy 'icks') was probably doomed with the enormous hype awaiting it. It's also a pretty good example of an attempt to sell a game on appearances alone. The TV commercials, playing choral music over FMV sequences of MOTORCYCLE BEING SHOT IN THE AIR, carefully avoided showing scenes of say, Squall walking, or any actual in game combat.

     The game system recieved a vast overhaul, which never made sense to me since FF7 players probably averaged around 60 hours of game time. You get used to the controls, equipping and unequipping Materia, etc. The menu systems in FFVIII were seemingly simplified and complicated at the same time. No more equipping weapons or armor; your character basically comes to you on an as-is basis. I guess this was done to justify the fact that in most RPGs, no matter how much armor you throw on a character, they always look the same. (If you paid attention in FFVII, they sort of did that by making all of the 'armor' just bracelets and bangles.) Weapons aren't bought, they just get upgraded with random crap your character finds after battles. Yes, by taking some screws, a metal pipe, fish fins and a chef's knife to a shop, the man will kindly rebuild it into a new weapon.

     Magic became a pain in the ass. They eliminated the hallowed tradition of allotting MP to characters and made it so you must 'draw' spells from enemies for casting/junctioning. Yes, in order to make yourself more powerful, you have to amble around, wait for a random encounter monster to assault you, then put it to sleep or something while selecting the 'draw' command endlessly. Once you stock 100 of a given spell, you can junction it so that spell will no longer hurt you as much. Or absorb, but I think that's for higher level spells. Of course, to use magic in the first place, you need.... drumroll please... a GF.

     No, not the AOL shorthand for 'girlfriend.' Not that the average FF fan would know how to get one. (ZING!) Guardian Force. Also known as 'scenery-chewing summon monsters,' you must junction a GF in order to do, well, anything. You can't even use items, which strikes me as a bit much. Without a GF, your characters are usually about half as strong and unable to use any command but 'attack.' Yes, apparently without a guardian demon circling their head in another plane at all times, our heroes have no idea how to reach into their own pockets for a life-restoring potion.

     Anyway, onto the game itself. Spoilers abound, so if you intend to play a four year old PlayStation 1 RPG with a tarnished reputation for giving people dry heaves, you're warned.

Disc One






     The game opens with a shot of the ocean, then suddenly the camera starts tracking like mad, across fields and mountains and Wal-Marts. All the while, the Latin (actual Latin, not 'fruity dance music' Latin) chorus chants out random Latin words. Ghostlike, cryptic messages flit in and out of the screen like a bad Evangelion episode. "I'll be 'waiting...' ...here... so..." Suddenly, they cut to Rinoa in a field of flowers, petal and/or feather fluttering about at random. "Tornado Alley is such a fun place to play!" she seems to say. Then, a spinning gunblade falls from the sky with an nice, thick CHUNK sound. Squall fights with Seifer, whose dirty fighting and asshole smirk cause Squall irrepable facial damage and cause the screen to overlay some ghostly clips from future FMVs on the picture. Finally, with a last desparate come in a shower of sparks and yet more feathers, Squall runs his friggin' gunblade right across Seifer's face! Then everything gets kind of fuzzy and Squall ends up hugging Rinoa for whatever reason.

      After waking up in the Balamb Garden infirmary with a nasty-yet-trendy scar between his eyes, Squall glimpses another dark haired mystery girl who mutters something cryptic. There are a lot of dark haired girls in this game, and most of them are prone to cryptic muttering. Since he's late for some test or exam or something, his instructor-slash-first possible love interest Quistis Trepe assumes he doesn't know anything else about the game and begins a thirty minute sermon on how to use the aformentioned menu system. Exiting Garden, they make their way through the Fire Cave to do Squall's homework: Capturing a wild GF. Beats trig, I guess. The Chinese guys at the opening to the cave ask how much time you want to accomplish this task. Your first time through, pick 40 minutes thinking, "Oh boy, this must be hard!" Then kick yourself when you make it through the whole course in seven.

      After this comes Squall's other final exam, I guess. To become one of the elite SeeD mercenaries (his lifelong goal for a never-specified reason), they must partake in an actual battlefield mission. Partnered with Seifer and the hyperactive, tatooed, and extremely annoying Zell Dincht, they take part in a beachhead operation at some city called Dollet. Galdbadian (You know they're the enemy because they have the word "BAD" in the name of their country) soldiers are laying siege to the town so they can repair and turn on an ancient radio station and beam their favorite oldies to troops stationed at the four corners of the world. Seifer disobeys orders and drags the others to the station. As he runs into the place flailing like a retard and exclaiming, "One of these days, I'm gonna tell you 'bout my ROMANTIC dream!", the next member of the party, Selphie "Perky-Pants" Tilmitt appears. Just in time to fill the third party member gap, you think.

      At the tower, a boss battle ensues, then as Squall and company flee the area, a huge mechanical spider chases them down the mountain and through town. Just as it's about to kill Squall, Quistis fires the shipboard machineguns into the thing's friggin' face. And the game continues.

      Squall and Zell are officially SeeDs. I assume this is good. Headmaster Cid, who alternates between looking like Ben Franklin and Robin Williams, congratulates all of the new recruits by whispering in their ears. I especially like his words of encouragement to the dark-haired NPC- "Try your best, even if you don't stand out." And finally, as he congratulates Squall, he says, "Finally... a gunblade specialist." Apparently, SeeD already has members skilled in the use of the rest of the spectrum of useless combination weapons. Like the spork.

      Instead of being outwardly vengeful, Seifer applauds his rival's promotion while plotting to turn evil by the end of the first disc. Then there's a dance. Rinoa, in a sort of slutty flesh-tone slip/dress grabs Squall and leads him through a ballroom dancing FMV. She leaves him after spotting whoever it was she was looking for, and Squall goes out to the balcony to brood.

      Quistis follows him out and invites him to the hidden makeout spot in the training center. Either being very naive, dense, or just lacking in libido, it takes about another fifteen minutes of Quistis speaking to convince him to go. Fortunately she just wants to half confess her true love for him and tell him that she's being fired from her teaching position for some arbitrary reason. Squall doesn't pick up the former, and doesn't care about the latter, so he leaves her depressed.

      The gang's first official mission as SeeDs puts them into the mitts of the Timber Owls group. On the trans-atlantic train ride over, the party falls asleep from sheer boredom and dreams about a somewhat interesting character named Laguna, and his sidekicks Kiros and Ward. The trio of Galbadian soldiers run through the woods fighting random encounters after apparently getting separated from the main battle force. Rather than reporting in or anything, they of course hop into their RV and speed off to a bar in town. See, Laguna has a crush on this piano player Julia, who keeps playing the same song we keep hearing throughout the game on her piano. As he works up the courage to speak to her, he develops or fakes a severe leg cramp and has to sit back down. Afterwards, she invites him up to her room for intermitable dialogue and to confess she had a thing for him too. Finally, Squall and the others awaken. Selphie thinks Laguna was cute and funny. Squall is horrified. "I dreamt I was a moron."

      And guess who's there? Rinoa. You wake her up in her room, which causes her to explain her dog's super powers. After a semi-comical scene explaining their plan to hijack the President of Galbadia's train, they set about doing so. Unfortunately, they accidentally stole the Mayor of Raccoon City's passenger car instead of the President's, so they fight a pointless battle with a zombie, who begins with the infamous quote, "My butt hurts from all this sitting... yOUng LAdy..." This boss encounter can go one of two ways: exceedingly hard as it flings status effects galore at you while hitting like a ton of rocks, or you can feed it a Phoenix Down to unkill the undead beast in one turn.

      It's then that we learn the the contract Rinoa made with Garden lasts until the liberation of Timber. "How vague."

      Arriving in Timber itself, we find Timber Maniacs, an amatuer publishing company that ties in uselessly with the background story. Whee! It seems that the radio tower from earlier in the game is going to be used by Galbadia to broadcast something. Rinoa has her pet SeeDs come with her to the TV station. Though Galbadia's declaration of whatever doesn't get off the ground, it proves to be good viewing anyway when Seifer takes the President hostage on live TV. Heroes, rush to the rescue! Retarded Zell blurts out that they were sent by Garden. Make a mental note of that. Then, the Witch/Sorceress herself, Edea appears and belittles Seifer. Since he's such a hothead, he naturally immediately goes along with this random person who made fun of him. (I know it doesn't make sense. Humor me, humor Square.)

      Being seen assaulting the dictator of a large, powerful, warlike nation on worldwide television means Squall and the others need to lie low for a while. They do so at Galbadia's Garden following another Laguna hallucination scene. Of course, about ten minutes later, they are given a new, even stupider assignment: Pick off the Sorceress with a sniper rifle during a parade. Naturally, they all can't wait to go along with it. So, it's off to Deling City, where Laguna and pals were earlier. (SEE, SEE? IT MAKES SENSE. IT'S A GOOD STORY.) But wait, they need a sniper. Enter Irvine Kinneas. He's a cowboy who thinks he has a way with guns and women. Take a moment to ponder why none of these people ever wear their SeeD uniforms past the first hour of the game as he saunters by in his cowboy and and coat. Assuming Selphie's odd full-body tube top didn't have you wondering already.

      You arrive at General Caraway's mansion in Deling City only to be sent on a side quest by the guard. You're supposed to retrieve the student I.D. number of a SeeD he sent to the stupid tomb, presumably to look for the I.D. number of one sent to the tomb before that. Inside the Tomb of the Unknown King, you also get the chance to recruit a new comic relief GF and battle mutant armadillos. With that done, you meet General Caraway, who is- SUPRISE! Rinoa's dad. He literally walks you through the assasination plan, and walks back home. As they prepare at the mansion, he refuses to let Rinoa go. Quistis feels sorry for something she said at some point when I was mashing the X button to get through all the dialogue, and return to the mansion after ditching her post at the gates. And somehow, she manages to get herself as well as Zell and Selphie stuck in a time-locked room right as Rinoa runs out. Whee! It's kind of ironic in a stupid kind of way.

      Rinoa offers Edea a power sealing magic bracelet, and is rewarded with telekinetic gut punching and mind control. Meanwhile, as Squall and Irvine take their places in the crowd, Quistis's group navigates the sewer system and ends up in the exact building they were supposed to be in. How lucky. Edea begins her speech to the people about their utter idiocy, and they cheer her on the whole time. And when she sets the President on fire, she's met with uprorious applause. So, either Edea is very charismatic, or Galbadians are genetically retarded. She then brings a pair of gargoyles to life and sics them on a dazed Rinoa. Squall pretends not to care, then Irvine goads him into helping. As they make their way through the crowd, guess who is at Edea's side on the homecoming float? Seifer! Remember him?

      A battle ensues, of course. Quistis drops the gate and traps Edea, opening up Irvine's shot, at which point he turns wuss and can't fire. After some persuasion, he takes the shot, which is deflected harmlessly, thwarting the tension. Squall then moves out to finish the job by jumping off the tower onto a soldier, stealing a car, and smashing through the gate. He duels Seifer, then the Sorceress. At the battle's end, however, she charges up and throws a spike of ice through his chest.

...and the peasants rejoice.




The logo heralds the most co-dependent chapter of the FF saga.

current mood: Selphie

The fact that you can check in on Selphie's Livejournal confirms the angsty target audience, doesn't it?

Fujin is cool. She don't NEED no steenking sentence structure.