Why is Final Fantasy VIII the Black Sheep of the Series?

FFVIII Squall Gunblade

When entering a conversation about the top Final Fantasy games, there are a few favorites that always seem to make the list–and Final Fantasy VIII never seems to be one of them. Despite high reviews from critics, most gamers I talk to never speak highly of it.

There are plenty of opinions about why this is the case, with some claiming that VIII was simply unlucky, hitting the market after the game-changer that was Final Fantasy VII. After all, it’s difficult to live up to perfection.

It might be my job to stay objective, but that may not be so simple here. See, I’m one of those in the camp of ‘there are no bad Final Fantasy games, only different Final Fantasy games.’ Whether you’ve skipped over Final Fantasy VIII because of bad press, or you’re new to the series as a whole, consider this a primer to one of the more curious games in the franchise.

The story is epic, as you would expect. In this fantasy world, the power of the sorceress is passed down through generations, and when one such magic-user takes the helm of a military superpower, it means trouble. The Balamb Garden Military Academy trains young mercenaries in the ways of war, and one such student, Squall, finds himself and his fellow students at the heart of a plot to put an end to this evil before it is too late.

At the end of the day, it’s important to make up your own mind. With the remastered edition’s recent release and frequent sales, there’s no time like the present to add this game to your collection. I’ll include links at the bottom of the piece to make it easy for you to find the edition of your choice.

Personally? Final Fantasy VIII is one of my absolute favorites, and I get plenty of strange looks for putting it in my top five. It’s one game that shouldn’t be spoiled, though I can promise a school for mercenaries, an evil sorceress, and a continental war. Leveling isn’t what makes you stronger in this installment, and magic isn’t dictated by MP.

Never judge a book by its cover–or by its extremely opinionated detractors.


The Characters of Final Fantasy VIII

  • Squall Leonhart – The brooding and reluctant hero of Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is a recent graduate of the Balamb Garden and a member of SeeD, the mercenary group at the heart of the game. Using a gunblade in battle, he is known to be an excellent warrior, though his social skills could use some work. Over the course of the game, he does grow to appreciate his fellow mercenary grads.


  • Quistis Trepe – Gorgeous and popular enough to have a fan club, Quistis became a SeeD at the age of 15 and is now the youngest instructor at the Balamb Garden at 18. A blue mage, she is known to be less strict than other teachers and sees Squall as a younger brother figure.


  • Zell Dincht – A student with unrivaled martial arts skills, Zell is the loud-mouth of the group, though he does take his studies seriously. He always fights for what is right, though he gets into plenty of trouble due to his constant fighting. He also loves hot dogs, and yes, that is mentioned often in the game.


  • Selphie Tilmitt – Though she has a painful past, Selphie is an energetic girl who prefers humor over tears. Heavily involved in Balamb Garden’s school activities, she is talented when it comes to computers and cars. Never backing down from a challenge, she enjoys distracting her friends when they get too serious.


  • Rinoa Heartilly – Squall’s beautiful love interest later in the game, Rinoa is the daughter of a military commander. She also gave up a life of privilege to become a member of a small resistance group, the Forest Owls, trying to grant freedom to a small nation from Galbadian occupation.


  • Irvine Kinneas – A gunman and insufferable flirt, is a student at Galbadia Garden, one of three academies for mercenaries in Final Fantasy VIII. He has a crush on Selphie and eventually acts as a sniper during an assassination mission in the game.


  • Seifer Almasy – Squall’s rival at Balamb Garden, Seifer is the only other character to fight using a gunblade. Hoping to become a sorceress’s knight, he is a skilled warrior but is reckless and arrogant. The mirror image of Squall, he becomes one of the main antagonists in the game.


  • Sorceress Edea – The ambassador of Galbadia, a military dictatorship, Edea is kindhearted, but is possessed by a power-hungry sorceress from the future. She wishes for complete domination over the world, and much of Final Fantasy VIII revolves around attempts to stop her.


Final Fantasy VIII Remastered: Is a Remake on the Horizon?

At E3 in June 2019, a remastered version of Final Fantasy VIII was announced. This would feature graphical improvements, though the music would stay the same. The release date was slightly delayed to improve character models to suit newer TV models.

FFVIII Squall Image

Overall, the remastered game includes more refined character and enemy models, battle assist mode to max out HP and trigger limit breaks at any time and the ability to turn off random encounters with enemies while running around the map. It also allows the player to speed through the game at three times normal speed.

The game was released on September 3, 2019.

In a recent interview with Yoshinori Kitase, the director of Final Fantasy VIII, the idea of a remake of this classic game was mentioned positively. While a remake isn’t set in stone by any means, it’s nice to see that the future could bring a much more advanced version of Squall’s adventure.


You Can Play Final Fantasy VIII on Playstation, Xbox, Switch and PC

While the original Final Fantasy VIII was released for the Playstation, I’d recommend the recent remastered version for those looking to either relive this masterpiece or discover it for the first time.

There’s no benefit to forcing yourself to play the same game with lesser graphical capabilities.

The story has been praised by many, the battle system allows players a ton of customization options, and the music is memorable and haunting. The first Final Fantasy to emphasize a love story as the overarching theme, this is a daring addition to the franchise and one that is calling your name.

Final Fantasy VIII is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch and even on Steam, for those wanting to enjoy on their PC.

FFVIII Soundtrack Album Art

I will also mention, thankfully, that the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack is available to stream now on Spotify.

Square Enix
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