For those of you that were safely hiding in your bunkers, two big announcements rocked the geek nostalgia tree this year at E3: one was the Battletoads remake I covered last week; and the other was the squeee-inducing news that Final Fantasy VIII was being remastered. I’m pretty sure that if 20+ years old is the qualifying benchmark for remakes and remasters going forward, there should be a betting pool for which games the design studios decide to resurrect for profit. An added bonus should be that should you guess the game correctly, you get a copy free... free - a word so foreign to the AAA industry I literally felt their sphincters tighten at the mere mention of that word. Free has become a concept so frightening its probably bolted to the boardroom wall under the heading: ‘Things That Must Not Be Named.’ Also, this week’s NostalgiaView is a first... in that I’ve never played Final Fantasy VIII…
Easy there, calm down and use your inhaler!
It’s true. I haven’t played any of the Final Fantasy games at all.
Oh good grief, can someone call an ambulance for those currently foaming at the mouth?
This situation left me in a quandary: I want to cover the remakes currently popping up like so many rabbits at the trampoline park because I enjoy documenting the Ghosts of Gaming Past. At the same time, I don’t have the time to play everything. Not that FFVIII isn’t worth the effort. Oh, no. It is an epic game, in every sense of the word. But with a completion time ranging between 11 and 112 hours, I needed a Plan B. After researching FFVIII’s history and quizzing some friends on their experiences, I felt the the whoops of joy the remaster’s announcement caused were fully justified.
The story is an amazing and layered tale, sprawling across multiple timelines, with several versions of characters interacting with their past, present and future selves. Basically, there are mercenaries (called SeeDs) that take on a sorceresses attempt at world domination. What follows is a winding road paved with betrayals, dream sequences that are actually echoes of the past, time travel, reality shifts, gun blades, heroes that look like boy band members, and about 70,000 words or 140 pages of scripted dialogue to read.
The soundtrack is, in a word, phenomenal, and could easily be considered for an Oscar nod. The theme “Eyes on Me” sold 400,000 copies and was the first video game song to win Song of the Year (Western Music) at the Japanese Golden Disc Awards in 1999. It was the first game to use anatomically accurate CG-rendered characters in its cutscenes. This was the infancy of the 3D animation that would be used for the crop of game tie-in films that would follow, from the Resident Evil franchise to the first fully CG theatrical release of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within and Advent Children. This was, and still is, a big deal because up until FFVIII’s release, characters had hair big enough to land a jet on and stupidly oversized weapons that made me wonder, “How are you slapping that person to the ground when they have the upper body strength to swing a small bungalow as a weapon?”
The game’s plot draws you in and does it so well that it has left entire estates and floating cities of wonder forever gliding in the paradise of fans’ imaginations. It made players empathiZe with characters to such a degree that, 20 years later, there are still debates as to the merits of the many fan theories surrounding the game. Look up the ‘Squall is Dead’ theory if you don’t know what I mean.
Briefly, the theory states that when Squall battles the Sorceress Edea, he sustains a little whoopsie when she survives an assassination attempt and responds by firing what the wiki page calls “an ice shard” through his shoulder. I had a look at the scene and I can tell you that IT'S NOT A DAMN SHARD! Its a metre-long, 15 centimetre wide shaft of frozen agony that does not pierce his shoulder, nay, nay! It punctures and passes through his right lung! From that point on, the theory goes that Squall is actually dead and what you’re playing is the longest ‘life flashes before your eyes’ moment in the history of death scenes. Shakespeare didn’t write death throes this verbose. Recently, the game’s director Yoshinori Kitase put an end to the theory by laughing at the notion, saying, “No, that is not true.” Then he upped the ante, adding, “But that is a very interesting idea, so if we ever do make a remake of Final Fantasy VIII, I might go along with that story in mind.” You may commence your squeeing.
An interesting story I was told (thank you Chris) was that the source code for the game is gone. After a little digging, I learned that not only is that true, but that the same thing happened with FFVII. A year after it’s release, Square had either lost or deliberately thrown away the source code for these games. FFVII was reverse-engineered using the PC version which in itself was based off a version of the game, but not the final version of the game. This is why FFVIII wasn’t in the collection when Final Fantasy VI, VII and IX were re-released.
That, and they’d spent more time marketing Cloud than Squall and FFVII as a whole. This might explain why Squall’s so emo in the game. That is one thing I will say about the characters: everyone always feels like they’re five minutes away from a mental meltdown. Irvine Kinneas, the horny cowboy sharpshooter, is a prime example. He gets brought on the sniper mission to Kill the Sorceress Edea because he’s the best marksman the SeeDs have. Then when it comes down to taking the shot, he freezes up and has a panic attack. Why? Did he see the sorceresses valley of plenty and have a nosebleed? Possession is also major MacGuffin in the game, with some characters being possessed and repossessed so many times you’d think they were an old Ford in a white-trash neighbourhood.
There is a ton more I could say about Final Fantasy VIII and the series as a whole, however, I will close with this. Your childhood memories are more precious than you know and there are always going to be those that want to take advantage of them for profit. As a fan, your main responsibility is to hold those groups to the highest standard. Make sure they do your memories justice. It’s the respect your nostalgia deserves, for what are we without our imagination? Without our dreams, how would we reach the stars?
Comedian, Writer, Actor, Voice-artist. Host of the Urbane Myths podcast, Co-host of GeekXP's 'Release The Geek'. Opinionist Purveyor of Wanton Meanderings. And above all, Geek.
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