- Final Fantasy 8 is a unique outlier in the series, featuring mechanics that were never reintroduced in later entries, making it a cult favorite.
- The game’s complex systems and obtuse narrative make it challenging to pick up compared to the beginner-friendly Final Fantasy 7.
- Final Fantasy 8 was initially underappreciated and skipped over for remaster and port treatments, but it has gained a loyal following that appreciates its uniqueness over time.
Square’s PS1-era trilogy of Final Fantasy games is bookended by two of the most beloved titles in the series, but right between them, as the proverbial middle child, is Final Fantasy 8. Long maligned for the ways that it eschews nearly every mechanic introduced in Final Fantasy 7 (and then being partially responsible for the nostalgic return to form that Final Fantasy 9 represents), Final Fantasy 8 is a unique outlier in the series much in the same way that Final Fantasy 2 is. However, unlike Final Fantasy 2, which remains a sore spot in the franchise’s early years, Final Fantasy 8 has a devoted cult following precisely for the reasons the game would prove to be so divisive – its radical differences from Final Fantasy 7.
Originally released in 1999 for the PlayStation, Final Fantasy 8 is a unique outlier in the series in that it features mechanics that would never again be reintroduced or iterated upon in later series entries. While every Final Fantasy experiments with combat mechanics and character progression systems, Final Fantasy 8‘s approaches to these elements via the Junction and Guardian Force systems make the game surprisingly deep and almost endlessly exploitable (thanks to the Triple Triad card game). And it’s precisely because of the game’s mechanical depth and atypical approach to its characters and story that Final Fantasy 8 remains a cult favorite 25 years later.
Final Fantasy 8’s Unique Mechanics Are a Double-Edged Sword
As the ‘middle child’ of the PS1 Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy 8 is a bit of a mixed bag depending on how players approach its complex systems.
While Final Fantasy 7 is Beginner-Friendly, Final Fantasy 8 is Anything But Easy to Pick Up
It’s no wonder that Final Fantasy 7 would be both one of the PlayStation’s killer apps and an introduction to the world of Final Fantasy for millions of fans. Between its dystopian cyberpunk-meets-swords and sorcery aesthetic, iconic character designs by Tetsuya Nomura, and its natural evolution of the RPG mechanics from Final Fantasy 6, Final Fantasy 7 is perhaps the perfect onboarding to the JRPG genre. Like the original Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy 7 is a perfect encapsulation of the core JRPG elements while also being a great starting point for newcomers.
And, similar to how Final Fantasy 2 abandons nearly everything from its predecessor to chart new territory, Final Fantasy 8 makes a sharp U-turn away from Final Fantasy 7‘s accessibility to present some of the most complex gameplay in the series along with a notoriously obtuse narrative. Looking back at Final Fantasy 8 in hindsight shows that the game isn’t as much of a radical departure as fans viewed it at the time, but without the patience and observation to work through every one of the tutorials the game provides for its new systems, the experience can be incredibly challenging compared to Final Fantasy 7‘s relative “pick-up-and-play” nature.
Final Fantasy 8’s Place as a Fan Favorite is Due to its Uniqueness
For years, Final Fantasy 8 would languish as a PlayStation and PC exclusive, continually getting skipped over for the remaster and port treatment on modern consoles in favor of devoting resources to its PS1-era siblings Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 9. While the prevailing rumor was that the source code for the title had somehow been lost, the truth is that Square Enix understood the relative niche appeal of Final Fantasy 8 in comparison to its predecessor and sequel.
Thankfully, though, Final Fantasy 8 Remastered would finally arrive in 2019. In the years since, the title has begun to reach a brand-new audience more receptive to its innovations. The talented voice actor behind Final Fantasy 16‘s Clive, Ben Starr, even wore a Final Fantasy 8 shirt to his winning appearance at the Golden Joystick Awards. Final Fantasy 8 now stands as both one of the most unique and one of the most underappreciated games in the entire franchise, endearing itself to a loyal following of fans that view it in a positive light for the exact reasons it was so divisive at the time of its release.
Final Fantasy 8
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The eighth installment in the mainline Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy 8 follows Squall and a group of people as they attempt to put a stop to an evil sorceress while simultaneously discovering their past.
- February 11, 1999
- T for Teen: Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence