As someone who worked on the original Final Fantasy VIII as a director, it’s been a nostalgic journey to rethink the game – especially since the PlayStation team asked me to share some memories of the development. Game.
By the time we started working on Final Fantasy VIII, RPG gameplay was very well established. Players used to empower characters by defeating monsters, earning money and EXP, leveling up, and buying gear – we felt that the developers and the users were a little tired of the traditional format.
With Final Fantasy VIII, we wanted to try new things in the RPG genre – explore new mechanics and improve some aspects of our previous work.
Here is the story of how it all came together.
Blurring the line between CG and gameplay
One area where we broke new ground was the implementation of CG cutscenes.
We first used 3D CG scenes in Final Fantasy VII – I wrote about this on the iGamesNews earlier this year. While I’m proud of what we were able to achieve, this game represented a kind of transition period for us in the way we used technology. We wanted to merge game scenes and cutscenes, but the implementation wasn’t exactly as we wanted.
There were parts of Final Fantasy VII where cutscenes and real-time polygonal characters seemed out of place – for example, there were inconsistencies in character proportions and polygon quality between scenes.
We’ve worked really hard to improve this for Final Fantasy VIII. The game features several moments where you can move around the scene while the CG cutscene was playing, and we were able to come to a place where these in-game models appeared more naturally in those moments.
Part of the reason was the experience. We created a CG production team for Final Fantasy VII and attempted to merge it with the conventional game team. Final Fantasy VIII was the second game we made with this team structure, and our skills had improved significantly.
The team also understood that our ambition to mix gameplay and cutscenes meant that the scenes in the new game needed to be of a higher quality than before. The team came together to make this happen and that unity was reflected in the final product.
Draw and join
While we were working on the cutscenes, we were also busy revising a lot of traditional mechanics from the Final Fantasy series. Like I mentioned, we wanted to try new things with the game – you’ll notice it’s packed with unconventional mechanics.
For example, instead of receiving Gil for killing enemies, you instead receive him as salary at regular intervals.
We have also developed the Draw & Junction system. This allows you to remove magical spells from the environment, items, and enemies, and essentially “equip” them to improve various stats. For example, joining an offensive spell to your strength attribute will make characters more affected, while joining a healing spell to your health attribute will increase health.
The system forms the basic combat mechanics and provides enormous freedom for players and has significantly increased the strategic element of the game.
This new mechanic was created by the talented Hiroyuki Ito, who also directed Final Fantasy XII. By the way, his last game, Encounters in Dungeons, has just been released on PS4. It’s packed with some very well-thought-out mechanics that will be a challenge for even the most seasoned players – I invite you to try it out!
A love story full of character
Another new element was the relationship between Squall and Rinoa. In the Final Fantasy series, it was not common to have a love affair between the star couple. Above all a love story that even reaches space!
I remember Squall and Rinoa’s memorable dialogue was a hot topic among fans when the game was first released. In fact, players responded well to the characters – I credit (character creator) for the unique designs of Tetsuya Nomura and the light dialogue of (screenwriter) Kazushige Nojima for that!
The rifle blade
It was also Nomura-san’s idea to add action elements to the game, such as timed button presses.
When Nomura-san designs a character, it not only defines their appearance, but also their personality, their way of speaking, their weapons, their specifications and more. Squall’s blade – and the ability to increase his damage with the press of a button at the right time – was his invention.
Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII left a very strong impression, so poor Nomura-san must have felt a lot of pressure to create a design that surpassed him. Fortunately, he did it brilliantly!
I think it’s fair to say that Final Fantasy VIII had an impact on the future of the Final Fantasy series. Not necessarily mechanically – the gameplay in Final Fantasy games changes with each entry – but the proportions and realistic character designs certainly set a visual direction for the series.
It’s unrelated to development, but I also liked the way Final Fantasy VIII briefly appeared in the movie “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), starring Cameron Diaz. We often get such requests for Hollywood Easter Eggs for Final Fantasy VIII – he seems to be a favorite among young filmmakers for some reason!
Overall I’m happy with the game, although there is one thing I couldn’t achieve. During development, I wanted the characters to have voices. Visual and audio elements like sound effects and music reached movie-quality levels, so the characters’ lack of voices felt unnatural to me.
It became a big motivation for my next title – Final Fantasy X!
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is available now on PlayStation Now. It enhances the original game with updated HD character models and handy features like the ability to speed up the game or turn off random encounters.
I am delighted to see a new generation of players experience this epic love story for the first time!