On Fantasies of the Final Variety

I’m playing through Final Fantasy VIII again. I haven’t played this game in 10 years, and I hated it back then. It’s weird. The premise of the game is decent, though I find the idea of teenage mercenaries a little hard to swallow.

But, it’s Japan, so you have to let a few things slide. (See Tentacle Hentai)

So, I enjoy the premise. I think the setting is great. And the game graphics might not have aged too well, but it was top of the line back in 1999. I even enjoy the story, for the most part. In fact, I can only think of one reason I hate it — the characters, or rather, a character.

Compare it to its predecessor. Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest RPGs of all time. You had an awesome story, with fun characters. You had the Death of Aeris, which is arguably one of the most shocking moments in video game history. And you had the Materia system, which created a great balance, between physical and magic attacks.

But, above all else, you had a cool main character, with Cloud Strife. Sure, he seemed like a jerk, when he started out. But, then you realized he was doing what he was doing, for Tifa, his childhood friend. You later learned his history, and his internal conflict. Overall, Cloud was a great, dramatic character, whom you could actually care about.

Now, look at Squall Leonhart. Squall is the exact opposite of Cloud–in that he’s a jerk from the beginning of the game, and doesn’t redeem himself until you’re so freaking sick of him, you want to pop off his head and place it on a broomstick. The broomstick would probably talk more, too.

The worst part, is the rest of the characters are colorful, bubbly and fun. Sure, they don’t have what it takes to be the focus of the story, but they’re still good characters. But, there’s no actual reason for any of them to hang out with Squall. Sure, there’s some sort of weird tension between him and Quistis. And Rinoa falls in love with him, for some unknown reason.

But, Squall just turns around and attacks them, verbally, at every single turn. AND HE NEVER MAKES UP FOR IT! It’s so infuriating. Anyone who writes knows that you can actually make a very dynamic main character, who is also a jerk. House is a fine example of this. But, you’ve got to provide a reason for people to put up with the crap your character is spewing. In the case of House, you’ve got a brilliant physician, who always solves the case. If he didn’t have that, he would die alone, in his bed, with no friends. Except for Wilson. But, that guy’s crazy.

Squall, on the other hand, really has no redeeming qualities. Zell and Selphie get assigned to his squad, so they really have no choice, if they want to get paid. But, Quistis tags along. Rinoa joins up. Irvine decides he wants to go along. And there’s no reason for any of it. Squall doesn’t inspire leadership. He doesn’t really talk, except to insult them, and whine.

And I think that’s my biggest problem with Final Fantasy VIII. I really enjoy a lot about the game. I enjoy the battle system. I enjoy the visuals. I enjoy the premise. And I enjoy the story. But, it is all ruined by the most unappealing character in the history of main characters.

You might think I’m making too big of a deal about a video game that came out ten years ago and you might be right. But, I think I have a right to complain. I paid 50-dollars for this game back then. And I invested close to 50 hours, while I waited for Squall to turn cool. As a young boy of 17, it was disheartening, to say the least.

I just finished the first disc, after which Squall gets stabbed in the chest with a giant icicle. I really kind of like that ending. I may not even play the second disc, and just call that the real ending. I think I would love that.

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