Let's get something off my chest before I dive into my recap: I am a quitter. I quit things, all the time. It is almost to the point of being a contender for the Olympics in the global sport of “Quitting”. So, earlier this week I put my quitting skills into full force and stopped playing Persona 4: Golden. As much as I wanted to get Platinum, I wanted to even more so experience something new. So I downloaded some more Final Fantasy games and thought maybe I could defeat some more after accomplishing FF9.
So I started FF8 and wow, it is a brilliant contrast to FF9.
While Final Fantasy 9 has characterisation that I've commented before combined silliness with drama, FF8 is a straight drama. This may sound good (possibly even better) as imagine films that tried to be silly and dramatic (e.g. Pixar films) next to straight drama (e.g. True Detective, which I know is a TV series). While both are good in their respective fields, the straight drama tends to barely win out for interesting narrative.
Except, well, that assumes the writing was competent. While FF9 used its silliness and drama to create a holistic humanised image of someone (as isn't life filled with a mixture of silliness and drama?), FF8 uses its straight drama to instead render the cast unlikeable. So far, about an hour or three in, Squall has managed to have the angst of someone four or five years younger than him. Meanwhile Zell seems cast for a theatrical performance but instead tripped up and accidentally an entire video game.
Rather than allowing an interesting exploration of the cast by focusing on drama, I believe the purely-dramatic performance has actually diminished the attempt. FF8 has ignored that we are not just incomplete beings made of seriousness, angst and grit but instead an entire spectrum of emotions. We are serious, but we are joy, envy, lust, anger, woe and much more. This, to the fault of FF8, includes a side where we are silly, humorous and tongue-in-cheek.
Yes, even I have a humour side to me. Even if it is as dry as gin.
I get the feeling I could rant all day about ways FF8 falters in comparison, but I've got one more for now: Environmental design.
Even in this sub-category, I have to admit that I'm going to push to aside the aesthetic choice as while that is relevant it is a huge mess of its own. Instead, you have to consider what an environment's design says about your setting and how it'll appear to a player.
My favourite example of this is what Balamb Garden says, as it is the first area of the game. The main thing that strikes me about every environment in Balamb Garden is it is empty. Even assuming people are at their classes, comparing the amount of people hanging around to an university campus, it is absolutely barren.
This would say a lot of negative things about the Garden (e.g. it is a failing institute that may be going under soon, what with the lack of students), but yet no indication is made beyond the environment's design this is the case. This is especially striking as a situation as you'll only see people within your age category (i.e. 17ish), rather than the full range (15 to 19), so it feels like you only see a few of the students.
All this space, and they fit one person and a draw point. I can't find good pictures of the main gate and the lead-up to the toll booth because of how void they are of anything.
I think the reason it came about is due to wanting to make the garden look large and grand, complete with an eccentric gate (that isn't much of a security, oddly), but lacking the memory to depict the amount of students required to make it seem bustling rather than dead. So while the same amount of characters could have been used in scenes within Alexandria in FF9, by making the environments larger in FF8 it looks like a failing institution in comparison. I really wonder if areas such as the first floor lobby or the gate needed to be as big as they are or if they even need to exist besides one or two scenes.
Anyway, at least once I get through the game I can get rid of it for good. In the meanwhile, until I complete it, let's leap into the recaps!
* - You keep saying “this is it”, pushing away what you swear is the final iteration of a series you will ever touch again. You keep swearing you're now boycotting games by Square Enix, Ubisoft and Creative Assembly, hoping by doing so they'll change their ways while you get to pay for good games in their absence. You keep declaring that you're done with Konami, EA and Activision, with their rampant ethics abuses and half-baked games. James Internet Ego reminds you, like the devil on your shoulder whispering sickly sweet truths, why you will likely continue buying into what you swore a year or two back to never purchase again.
S – There's snow place like home...There's snow place like home... There's snow place like home... Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas yet. The fields are frosted over, the houses covered in white and Dreamweaver has stapled his Comments of the Week to every front door.
A – Dr Mel talks about possibly one of the most popular quotes in the video game industry: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is bad forever” - Shigeru Miyamoto. Namely, talking about how in the context of patches, the second half of the quote is incorrect. Personally I don't agree (especially as that delay could possibly lead to the ironing out of story problems that couldn't be patched in, like in most episodic games), but they definitely make a good case for minor gameplay issues.
S – Some people take ventures (e.g. I took a Venture into the Borderlands, maybe you've heard of it?), others decide to take a journey. In the latter case Garett Mefford, sick of his day job, decides to go on a Journey to Become a Jedi Knight. This week, he looks into Star Wars: Dark Forces 2 and how it compares to its predecessor.
R – CoilWhine reviews Sunburn, quite possibly the best game around in the genre of: Finding your friends and launching them into the sun, because that's where they belong.
T – So, I only just found out The Tomorrow Children had a beta that I completely missed. This is something I'm let down about actually, as it does look like a really interesting game I would have loved to try. However, at least I've got JawshButturBawls's...Uh...Thoughts on the subject.
While a dumb joke, it show's the culture these Black Mages have created in their own village.
C – Oculin offers a brief flicker of thought about Full Spectrum Warrior on the X-Box, namely the cover-shooting that occurs. Sadly, as always, a bit short though.