PopMatters recently posted an extremely in-depth look back at Final Fantasy VIII, exploring the themes, emotions, and insight into human behavior that make one of the most neglected entries in the franchise great.
Final Fantasy VIII was light-years ahead of VII both graphically and in terms of complexity, and perhaps that's the reason the game is one of the most underappreciated games in the Final Fantasy line. I must confess, that before reading Jack Patrick Rodgers' write-up, I considered it one of the weakest entries myself, citing IX as the sweet-spot for PlayStation-era roleplaying games. Now I've got an itch to play through the title once again with a keener eye on the underlying themes, thanks to insightful observations like these:
At one point, Squall's party reaches the site of a recent battle, and one of his traveling companions casually drops a bombshell on everyone else: they're all orphans of the previous world war and grew up at the same orphanage, but their memories of their time together have been erased by the Guardian Forces. The childhood friends that Squall can only dimly recall are in fact his new companions for this mission.
It's a terrific, resonant metaphor: the experience of warfare stole their childhood innocence and is slowly turning them into soldiers who have no purpose except the next battle. More than that, it's a commentary on how the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood can cause us to forget who we once were. Anyone who has ever rediscovered a childhood memento and found old memories flooding back can sympathize with characters who are amazed at how much they've forgotten.
It's a fascinating read, highlighting moments such as the Laguna visions, which while at first strange turn out to be the efforts of a son trying to come to terms with his absent father, or Squall's calling out of Seifer as a bully when the other students are trying to remember him fondly upon news of his apparent execution.
It may not do much to change Final Fantasy VIII's low level of regard amongst fans, but "Remembering the Orphan" will definitely have some looking at the game in a completely new light.
Remembering the Orphan: Final Fantasy VIII [PopMatters]