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It's a good game, it really is, I won't call it underrated because a lot of people love it but I don't think it's as good as VII or IX however I don't think it's that far off either.
So I'll gloss over a few aspects as comparison.
1. The story isn't as good as VII...but dare I say it may actually be better than IX. IX was good but it was all a bit more simplistic and straightforward. VIII felt like it had a bit more to it, a bit darker, deeper, more twists etc. It's pacing was also better than IX's for sure.
2. The characters again weren't as good as VII. Compared to IX it's a bit here and there. The protagonists and main antagonist were better in IX but the secondary antagonists and background cast were better in VIII.
Squall was...decent. He was a dick who changed throughout similar to Cloud but unlike him this change came too late into the game, Squall was a dick for much too long so it was harder to warm to him.
Ultimecia was an interesting villain but again only really made her proper debut at the very end of the game otherwise she was a lingering presence. So again this brings her down compared to Sephiroth and Kuja.
I also cared more for Zidane x Garnet over Squall x Rinoa.
3. The world itself is actually pretty good. It doesn't have the same charm as the other two because a lot of it looks more inspired by real life but it's environments are pretty large and are visually interesting to look at especially places like Deling and Dollet. I'd probably give this an edge over IX.
4. The battle system is of course the thing that overall brings VIII down when compared to the other two. I didn't hate it but I didn't care for it either. Didn't like the junction system, it was too easy to break the game, even though I could always draw more magic it just put me off from using it so I was mainly on a hacking spree outside of the bosses.
The weapon system was different but grindy and I just preferred buying new weapons as that was part of the fun in reaching a new town. No gear to buy in this one either.
The summons felt cheap. Whereas in VII you get the first summon a good way in, they cost MP and they can only be used once until levelled up. In VIII, you get one straight off and as long as they don't die you can use them over and over again and you can equip a handful of GF's on each member and they can be used as a shield too so it makes the game needlessly easy.
On the other hand the battles weren't slow like IX and earning GP and unlocking new abilities to equip was better than how that was done in IX with the gear which was just tedious.
5. Aside from those main things. The music was good, not VII good but IX good, the visuals were impressive for its age, I especially like how the CGI scenes integrated with the gameplay. There wasn't the same amount of variety in the gameplay as VII like bike racing and snowboarding...but maybe a bit more than IX. Definitely didn't have the same kind of humour as either VII or IX.
So yeah all in all, I can see why it's considered the weakest one but it's still pretty good. It ain't as far off from IX as I originally thought it was.
I'll try and keep to the point. There's always been the consensus that VIII was the weakest of the PS1 trio and I agreed.
Hoo Haa!!! I has Signature!!!
I disagree on the music. FFVIII has the best soundtrack in the series IMO. Other than that, I consider VIII and IX to be on a similar level: the level of meh.
I've got the house all to myself, I've got the world all to myself.
I still think ff7 has the most unique soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a game
VII-VIII - distant IX for me. I agree with most of your points though except for the fact I really didn’t like anything from IX except for vivi and his storyline.
9 seems really popular in the usa, my theory is that usa really loves medievil stuff, they romanticize it much more than europeans.
The card game was fun from what I remember. I’m not really fan of 8 and I haven’t played it in about 10 years.
I'd put it a notch down too but still hold it in high regard. They definitely weren't afraid to try different things.
- It had some engrossing menu/spreadsheet gameplay if you like f***ing around with numbers. The inventory system was also the most robust in the series thanks to refinement making virtually every item you pick up able to turn in to something you'll use.
- Deliberate pacing and use of tension to make some spectacular scenarios. The missions in the first half in particular were drawn out over several hours, with travel, briefing, debriefing linking the narrative together seamlessly. The missions themselves weren't afraid to grind to a halt with the music cutting out and the characters being mid-way in a pivotal event with incomplete information. This is in contrast to the "road trip" vibe of the other two games where you travel from spot to spot having 30 minute micro-adventures.
- For all of it's seriousness, it's also got the high school vibe going for it which no other FF tried to touch. Watching some teenagers float away in their flying school at the end fills me with more longing for my youth than any other FF.
But it also has some pretty damn bad characters. And the battle system doesn't even try to be more than a stat-check. And as a side-effect of their design decisions, you rarely have those big "loot finds" in regards to the gameplay. Since everything is very explicitly number-based (straight weapon upgrades, spreadsheet junction bonuses) there's no real flavor to the progression aside from GFs. If I'm progressing in FF7, I'm basically getting a new piece of equipment/materia like every 5 minutes. That is the kind of stuff that keeps you wanting to play because you know around the next corner is another discrete piece of equipment that you can fiddle with and compare and use as an asset. FF8 is just slower and has its progression smeared out in to more mundane number crunching.
Read my posts while listening to the UNATCO theme.
I feel like Edea was a cool villain for the first half or so of the game but then they basically pulled the Golbez twist from IV only they did it earlier in the running time but then none of the other villains really filled her shoes until you finally got to confront Ultimecia at the very end. And Seifer seemed like someone who could have had some potential as a rival character, but after the first disc he doesn't really get much characterization beyond a generic toady for the villain and I guess a temporary main bad guy because reasons.
Squall felt like their first attempt at a "Cloud 2.0", but the whole Muppet Babies plot twist was so out there that it was kind of hard to get too invested in it, and aside from that the main character focus was on the romance between Squall and Rinoa that I never really bought into. None of the other main characters really got much focus past the first disc except maybe Selphie for one story arc.
The worldbuilding is decent, though one thing I think could have been nice were if they found a better way to incorporate the whole magic drawing element into the plot, explain how the main characters do it given how prominent it is in the battle system. Maybe have some sort of special equipment the heroes use for it or something. The GFs also seem to phase in and out in terms of actual significance to the world and story.
Well music is subjective but I could name 10 songs from FFVII that I liked easily, Bombing Mission, Fighting, Boss Theme, Crazy Motorcycle Chase, Rufus Welcoming Ceremony, Jenova, Gold Saucer, Cosmo Canyon, Aeriths Theme, One Winged Angel and more.
There's some good ones in VIII but I couldn't pick out as many. I think my favourites were Waltz for the Moon and the Creepy Parade theme.
That part of the game in Deling, where you had to assassinate the sorceress and they had the parade at night, that chilling track, things were going wrong and Seifer showed back up...that was the best part of the game for me.
Disc 1 built up very well from start to finish then it came down a bit.