Girlfriend In a Coma or an Exhausted Child? The reason FF8 is not a masterpiece.

by Xerdo Pwerko

Warning: Contains Massive Grandia and FF8 spoilers (maybe even FF7, for some hermits out there)

Again, my friends, I must respond to the complains of various fellow RPGamers. However, this time, instead of a rebuttal, I think I got an answer to a very frequent question addressed lately: Why do so many people complain about Final Fantasy 8's lack of depth, when it had the potential to be regarded as the greatest game ever made? Very recently, while playing Game Arts' Grandia, I came across the answer. While playing FF8 (Which I really enjoyed, though) I saw the great graphics and a well done ADDITION to older FF engines. But nothing more. Instead, while playing Grandia, I realised what RPGing should really be about. Just like RPG editorialist Desmond Gaban states in his "definition of a Role Playing Game", and I quote, "An RPG is about you: The character" (Gaban, 1999:1) The depth of the latter game is such that even the lackluster Saturn-like graphic composition (considering this game was made back in '97) and the simplicity of the battle engine hide a true masterpiece, whereas Squaresoft's multimillion dollar 4 CD-ROM vanguard commercial extravaganza only shields the spine of a mediocre, superficial story with pretty looking, but empty, characters. It is this that makes the older game a better RPG, and also makes me wonder whether the PSX was a better RPG console than the Saturn, or it was all Squaresoft related hype.

Let's go to the examples. I have not really met anyone who wasn't depressed when Aeris died in FF7. I can bet you haven't either. Yet when Rinoa falls into a coma in FF8 I was sarcastically humming "Girlfriend In a Coma" by The Smiths, as I looked for a save spot so I could go back to playing Gran Turismo. I even felt bad for myself. Had I been de-sensitised? Were all those characters (Locke, Celes, Crono, Lucca) I got so attached to gone along with high school? I don't think so. When I played Grandia, in my second year of college (this semester), I felt something I hadn't felt since FF6 or Chrono Trigger. I really projected myself into the characters played. And then, when Sue (who was neither dead nor even the protagonist's romantic interest) fell ill and eventually left the party, I was almost moved to tears. Why didn't this happen with the "much more realistic" Final Fantasy? Because the characters, the real reason for for RPGing were just hollow polygons, whereas the almost 16-bittish drawings in Grandia were like people to me. Indeed, if Squaresoft's FF series would have gone back to the basics, staying with deep characters, not so impressive in looks but in content and surprises and simple humour , instead of forced orphanage backgrounds and "complex" love stories covered with 3 minute spells, I'd still be looking forward to FF9 and 10 the way I looked forward to FF7. I will still buy the upcoming PSX FF9 to see if the PS2 FF will really be worth it before I actually buy it. But frankly, I don't think Squaresoft (or Sony) has a hold on my money anymore: There's Grandia 2 for Dreamcast.

Sources Cited
Gaban, Desmond "The definition of a Role Playing Game", In TotalRPG, On-Line February 1999, available at

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