Finally approaching the end of my Final Fantasy VIII playthough; I have been picking it up on-and-off this past month (mostly off lately, but I hope to at least ummm finish the game at some point in the near future). There are several things that I really like about FFVIII: The pseudo-futuristic/modern setting, the characters (most of them at least), and the fact that it is ultimately a character driven story (versus being politically driven for example). That said, I had forgotten how odd and polarizing this game was. I am trying to think of another JRPG as or close to as polarizing as FFVIII and I really can't think of any. I suspect the main reasons being: Bizarre gameplay mechanics/character progression, ludicrous plot, and Squall. Squall of course having been crowned as the gaming champion of emo.
When I had originally played this game as a teen I disliked Squall as a protagonist, but as an adult, I don’t really understand why Squall garners so much hate. He is sort of tactless if not a bit rude and definitely socially distant, but he's not really all that emo or angsty in my opinion. He is a good student and works hard to complete the missions as professionally as possible. Amongst his peers, he’s probably one of the least emo given that the task of baby sitting a group of bipolar teenagers is suddenly thrust upon him. Let’s review:
- Quistis, his instructor (he was not aware that she had been relieved of that position at the time), takes him aside out of class for the sake of hitting on him and using him as a receptacle for all of her personal issues. So awkward and inappropriate.
- Zell “I need Ritalin” Dincht is unable to appropriately channel his bountiful energy and enthusiasm in an appropriate manner or direction that does not involve annoying people in the middle of a life-and-death mission.
- Irvine, a horndog cowboy who clearly cannot keep it in his pants. Freezes up at the most critical point in the mission.
It is also worth noting that at least half of Squall’s dialog is in head. It’s unfair to judge him by his internal monolog as he does manage to keep most of his shitty thoughts to himself, unlike the rest of the cast. It’s not that he is cold hearted, it’s that he is an introverted character among a group of distinctly extroverted characters that in contrast make him appear more apathetic than he really is. That said, "whatever" is probably the most irritating quotation in the game...