It’s truly amazing when inspiration can strike. This post was originally going to be yet
another fluff piece about Final Fantasy IX. Yet, as I was talking to my esteemed colleague
BT Panda, I came about making a stunning realization.
Final Fantasy VIII is the Majora’s Mask of the series.
How did I come to that conclusion? Well, for starters, both FF8 and MM followed up what a
large portion of the fanbase considered to be the pinnacle of the series. And usually,
when that happens, the follow up isn’t deemed to be nearly as good. Whether it be in video
games, sports, tv, movies, or even music. It also didn’t help that both games were radical
departures from the previous.
Majora’s Mask was really dark/morbid and focused a lot more of side quests than dungeons
compared to Ocarina of Time. There were four dungeons in Majora’s Mask compared to the
eight (three child dungeons, five temples) in Ocarina of Time. It had a timer element that
some people to this day can’t get over. The game had more character interaction and less
fighting. As such, the same people who expected Ocarina of Time 2 were sorely
disappointed. Yet the people who took the time to play it ended up liking it, and were
eventually justified with time.
On the flipside, Final Fantasy VII was a tough act to follow . In the past, other games in
the Final Fantasy series were appreciated and loved, but not in the way that FF7 was. I
remember begging my parents for the game one Christmas because it looked so cool. BT got
FF8 before me, and partly due to the fact that it was new and different, had sold me on
the fact that Squall was a much cooler main character than Cloud and that FF8 was a much
better game (How teenage BT came to this conclusion must have been his not-so-latent inner
Squall fanboy leaking through). So I had bought the game and played it, but I soon set it
aside when IX was released. I didn’t like some of the changes.
I hated the draw system. It felt like no matter how much I leveled up my party members
didn’t do any more damage. Upgrading weapons was a pain in the ass. The only thing that
did any damage was your summons. All those ridiculous mini-games. Yeah, Squall was kind of
cool, but Rinoa was unlikable. I beat the game, but I didn’t really like it. It was too
different from FF7, where it seemed like every character was cool. The materia system was
awesome, it leveled up with you. Attacking enemies didn’t seem like a fruitless adventure.
For years I disliked FF8 for taking money and members of the Squaresoft staff away from
Xenogears. But it wasn’t until a couple years ago I realized I was playing the game wrong.
FF7 is about saving the world. Sure, you interact with characters but they are just there.
You want to move along and prevent Sephiroth from destroying the world. Ocarina of Time
was very similar, sure you wanted to save Zelda, but you were mainly doing it to end
Ganondorf’s tyranny. Majora’s Mask is all about character interaction. You learn about
people and their lives. In a lot of cases, you improve them. 85% of the game are fetch
quests. And it oddly feels rewarding. You fight things, you defeat Skull Kid, but it’s
mainly about getting the masks. It’s story was far more important to it’s charm than the
battle system and the memorable boss battles.
In order to truly understand FF8, I had to stop playing it like FF7. You’re not supposed
to level up in Final Fantasy VIII. The enemies leveled up with you. This made the game
much harder. Everything you needed could be refined from cards. Triple Triad was the main
grinding of the game. You were expected to slap on the Enc-None skill and fight mainly
bosses. The story was based around a romance. It was different, but not bad. The junction
system actually is much more in depth and customizable than the materia system. I still
hated upgrading the weapons, but there were less of them so I could deal with it. So, much
like MM was radically different from OoT, FF8 was the same way to FF7.
And that doesn’t make it a bad game. Just different. It’s odd, because I never really
thought about it like that before. I always felt that the game was good but not great. And
sure, the story has problems, but so does every entry in the Final Fantasy series except
maybe Tactics. I guess what I’m really trying to say, is that after enough time has
passed, looking back on some things makes you realize that you went about it the wrong
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