UPDATE: Never say never, right? The Final Fantasy that deserves the most love, is finally getting an HD remaster and it looks damn good.
The funny thing is, I got a call [a couple years ago] from Square, because they wanted to rerelease the PC version, and they asked me if I knew where the gold master was. Yeah, they lost it.
Eidos President between 1997 and 1999 Keith Boesky, Polygon’s Oral History of Final Fantasy VII
It’s a tale as old as time: Square Enix spots a new platform to re-release classics on, announce a new collection of nostalgia and there we go, several Final Fantasy games ready to enjoy on your platform of choice. The glorious benchmark of Final Fantasy VII that rewrote the rulebook on hype in the 1990s, the magical Final Fantasy IX that returned the series to its roots and the wonderful fusion of sci fi and fantasy that is Final Fantasy X.
Wait a minute…there’s a number missing there. A Final Fantasy that is a masterpiece, still holds up well today and may just be one of the greatest love stories in the entire history of the game if you reject the official reality of what its development team had made canon and substitute with fan theories instead. I’m talking of course, about Final Fantasy VIII.
Many moons ago when I was chatting to Checkpoint Chat co-host organism Matty, he made an interesting point: Your first Final Fantasy will always be the best Final Fantasy in your opinion. He’s not wrong, and I’ll defend the eighth core title in the long-running series until the day I die. Even without my bias, you have to admit that Final Fantasy VIII is a special game.
It’s about love and loss, the value of memories and the bonds of friendship forged in the crucible of war. To me, it’s the game that broke me out of my shell during high school and rewrote my perspective and how I see the world. I’ve also played it an absurd number of times, on PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PS Vita and PC. Which coincidentally, are the only platforms that you’ll find Final Fantasy VIII on.
These days, you can find Final Fantasy VII on a wide range of platforms. In 2019, it’ll be joining Final Fantasy IX and the remasters of of X and X-2 on Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch. So what’s the deal? Why is Final Fantasy VIII given the cold shoulder constantly? The answer, lies in two possible reasons that fans have debated across the internet for ages.
One makes technical sense, the other…is pure red tape that not even the fabled Lionheart gunblade could cut through. There’s a great summary over on VG247 over how Square Enix had a very laid-back approach to preserving the all important source code of their early PSX era Final Fantasy games, leaving developers over on the PC port side of the equation to awkwardly stitch buggy pieces of the games together into a product that was resting on the creakiest of foundations when released.
The PC port of Final Fantasy VII is a prime example of this, as the source code given to Eidos in 1997 was actually just an early and buggy version of that game. The source code was nowhere to be found, Eidos had to make do and even the team working on that port managed to lose their source version of the finished game.
Final Fantasy IX suffered a similar fate, although not to the extent that Final Fantasy VII did thanks to its staff being butter-fingered with one of the most historic games of all time. It stands to reason then, that such a lacksadaiscal approach probably saw a lot of Final Fantasy VIII’s original code lost to the sands of time.
Funny thing is though, is that the PC version of Final Fantasy VIII ain’t half-bad. Sure, there may be some visual inconsistencies such as muddy backgrounds that the sharper character models inhabit, but it’s generally a smooth and solid experience. What’s to stop that version being ported over alongside the recently announced Xbox One and Nintendo Switch versions of VII, IX and X?
I’ll tell you what: A single song.
Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one, and Final Fantasy VIII’s legacy could all come down to the Eyes on Me song that Nobuo Uematsu penned. Performed by Chinese superstar Faye Wong, Eyes on Me is a song that is intrinsic not only to the story of Final Fantasy VIII but the very heart of the game. It sums up the emotions, the battles and the story of that game, anchoring a tale that takes place across time and space.
Its composition can be heard during key moments, setting the stage and eventually being used for one of the most tender moments in all of Final Fantasy VIII, but said track may have fallen prey to musical rights issues that have prevented Square Enix’s magnificent RPG from appearing on more recent gaming platforms. While the melody has been heard in Dissidia Final Fantasy and the musical mash-up Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Wong’s angelic vocals have been persona non grata in those rare instances when the pure musical composition of Eyes on Me was utilised.
A pity really, because Final Fantasy VIII still stands out as a highlight of the PSX era. Its Junction system was ahead of its time, its world was impossibly huge for the era that it took place in and its themes feel as relevant today as they were twenty years ago in 1999.
Last Updated: June 11, 2019