Final Fantasy VIII was one of my favorites in its era. If you had asked me about it last year, I'd have said it was the last "true" Final Fantasy; Final Fantasy 9 was a fond retrospective of the era and Final Fantasy X began the decidedly inferior era of "modern" Final Fantasies. I'd have also contended that "as goes Final Fantasy, so goes the RPG industry," so to say True Final Fantasy is tantamount to saying True RPG. What makes a True RPG? Here's what I'd have told you:

A True RPG uses stats-based combat, and player skill is represented only by strategy in selecting orders.
A True RPG gives you choices in where to go next. Corollary: the tutorial phase of the game is only over when you can meaningfully choose where to go next.
A True RPG rewards curiosity and exploration; some of the game's finest treasures will be had by finding something secret.
A True RPG has a compelling story; you should want to finish the game in the same way you want to see the end of a movie.

There are more (I've got opinions), but these are the interesting ones for the purposes of this writeup. These are some of the ways I'd have insisted that FFVIII shines.... but on my last playthrough, I realized that the game actually fails to deliver on all counts.

I've often derided FFX for being an "RPG on Rails" - until the very end of the game, your path is literally one-dimensional; you can go forwards or backwards. Same with FFXIII. I couldn't shake the feeling that "tutorial mode" persisted right up to the end of the fourth disc. But FFVIII does the same thing - you don't actually get a choice of where to go next until the middle of disc 2, and once you *are* given that choice, you really only have two options: sidequest city that you have NO REASON TO KNOW EXISTS, and next plot point. You can also find a Chocobo Forest, which doesn't help you because by the time you get there you have land transportation covered.

Rewarding exploration? Not so much. You can find magic draw points, but your magic caps out pretty quick. Or, you can get cards, which refine into items, which refine into magic. There are a couple of Guardian Forces you can find in the wild, but they're either obvious or they're so hidden as to nearly be easter eggs; they don't reward exploration nearly as much as they reward buying the official strategy guide (which was the thing you did Back Then™).

As far as the story goes, it's obviously a subjective call. All I can really say is that if your story hinges around a high school that teaches its students to fight with personally styled weapons, the heroes all have amnesia and the villainess is a time traveller, then you'll have an easier time impressing 19-year-old Mark than 33-year-old Mark.

Ultimately, I think I was really playing the game I expected it to be, and not the game as it actually was - like, I believed that I could explore, so I didn't notice I couldn't. I'll be interested to see how Skyrim holds up for me in 15 years. Has anybody else here experienced this kind of thing? I'm curious how common this actually is.

Travis   Admin wrote on 02/19/2014 at 10:11pm

Speaking of strategy guides, the one for FFIX pissed me off so bad. Here's a brief idea of what you'll be doing. For the rest, go visit playonline.com.

Which of course doesn't exist in the same form anymore so the guide is basically useless.

Timogorgon   Member wrote on 02/19/2014 at 10:41pm

HA! I see I'm not the only one who hates the FF9 strategy guide. Even when PlayOnline was up and running it was still largely worthless. Worst. Guide. Ever. It was so bad I quit buying strategy guides for good after that one.
FF8 is one of the few Final fantasy games I have never played. My friends loved it, but whenever I'd see them playing the game it just never caught my attention. When I saw they released it on Steam I got curious though, and considered picking it up, but it sounds like I am still probably fine not playing it.

CapnCurry   Supporter   Post Author wrote on 02/20/2014 at 12:41am

Oh, wow! The Strategy Guide that Killed the Industry. I forgot about that. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Surely somebody should have realized that the only reason I'm buying your book and not going to Game Faqs is that the Internet wasn't in the same room as my game console and I'm a lazy bastard, right?

I remember they made the argument that no, no, they're not trying to boost their web traffic, they're trying to avoid spoilers in the book.

Come *on*. We all know that there's no such thing as a "strategy" for getting through an RPG that fills a book. You're selling a thorough description of the game world so that I don't miss any secrets. Spoilers are your *product*, you don't get to leave them out of your book. What's next, you sell me an empty carton of yogurt because you're pretty sure I didn't want that milk, it was old and had bacteria in it?

jdodson   Admin wrote on 02/20/2014 at 03:45am

Hahahahaha totally. The last few game guides I bought were for Fallout 3 GoTY & Zelda Twilight Princess.

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