Playthrough: School Days

Final Fantasy VIII

The Starlight Megaphone is pleased to present our Autumn 2011 feature: School Days: A Final Fantasy VIII playthrough.

Released for the PlayStation in Japan and America in 1999, for Microsoft Windows in early 2000, and on the PlayStation Network in 2009, Final Fantasy VIII was a critical and commerical success. It sold lots of copies and got pretty good reviews from just about everyone who reviewed things in 1999.

Following the adventures of Squall Leonhart and his loveable band of misfit companions, the plot of Final Fantasy VIII revolves around a formidable sorceress who is seeking to undo the very fabric of temporal existence. Leaping into the fray, Squall and company do their level best, whilst simultaneously coping with severe psychosis, leading to bizarre and disconcerting dreams in which they believe themselves to be blithering idiots.

With a soundtrack reportedly composed by Nobuo Uematsu, and with a script based on School Days, and purportedly written by the unholy trinity of Nomura, Kitase, and Nojima, Final Fantasy VIII may well stand as one of the towering pinnacles of gaming, etc.

This is the final week of our playthrough, in which we will aim to complete this giant and triumphant tour de force. Use the comments thread to discuss where you are, strategies for battles, and your opinions about how things have changed in JRPGs since the original release thirteen years ago.

So, now we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone as we go back to school and join the student body at BALAMB GARDEN. Welcome to Final Fantasy VIII!


  1. @Ethos: I tried to write something positive. Or at least neutral. The result is a combination of hyperbolic praise alongside crushing despair.

  2. I’m in BALAMB GARDEN (in all caps, for some reason) right now!

    The game is hilarious if you read all of Squall’s lines in Oliver’s voice.

  3. I just realized i have a file on my PSPGo that puts me right at the junction tutorial…… hooray

  4. I am waiting until I have my new PSP battery and I’ve finished one of my other games before playing this one, so I’ll start it this week or next, probably.

  5. I didn’t realize it was the time of year where Lusi tries to play through FFVIII already…

  6. I just wanted to say that this is the worst game I’ve played more than ten hours of. And I will die knowing what a waste that time was that I can never have back. FFVIII ruined my life forever.

  7. I tried starting it on my original PS1 copy and it completely stalls out in the opening fmv. It’s trying to tell me “stop while you’re ahead.”

  8. On the plus side, though, I’ve got FFVII and FFIX on PSN and I’m going to pick up FFX when it comes out, this might be an excuse to grab one more for on-the-go

  9. @Oyashiro: That gives the writers far too much credit. Besides, the story is pants on head retarded basically from the get-go (Zell and Selphie and Rinoa, anyone?).

  10. It doesn’t start off that bad, but I suppose I’ll have to w-VIII and see before judging it!

  11. Well nothing can make the game worse, and that theory (I actually read most of that page) at least makes all the bat-shit insane stuff (see: everything) easier to swallow.

    Although ultimately I’d say Evilpaul is right in that it gives the writers too much credit.

  12. Wow, I really got the heebie Jeebies watching VIII’s ending again after reading the Squall is dead theory. I just didn’t seem to notice all that weird shit when I played it all those years ago.

    I am also quite taken with the concept of an emotionally retarded young man finding his redemption in the moments before death.

    That interpretation transforms a relatively bland ending into something very, very special. When taken as a self-contained episode, the ending makes a lot of sense when interpreted through the theory – and more importantly it establishes strong thematic connections between VIII and its follow-up FFX.

    I find Seifer’s presence in the ending sequence to be quite swaying.

    The trouble that I have with that interpretation to the ending is that it strikes me as a tad convenient that in one stroke all of FFVIII’s rather dismal plot-points are explained away as an adolescent fever dream. I would like to think that the persons capable of dreaming up such a concept would also be capable of subtly weaving it through a series of events which still maintained an air of plausibility, and maybe having things come apart a bit as the game neared its end. At the very least there should have been one hidden Easter egg of knowledge to provide some slightly less circumstantial evidence as to the reality of Squall’s world.

    I will be keeping a close watch on such details this time around, though I don’t think that VIII’s writing was artful enough for this to be its hidden intention. If it was, then this subtly brilliant narrative really went to waste with its dubious execution. Maybe something was lost in its English translation? On the face of it, it is just so much easier to interpret FFVIII as a lazy narrative stuffed with dubious Deus ex machina moments …

  13. I think that the biggest argument against the Squall is dead theory is the fact that on disk 1 some wildly implausible coincidences are already established before the point at which Squall is said to die. I mean Squall et al have mystical visions of Laguna and Julia, and then shortly thereafter he just happens to start working for Julia’s daughter … that defies credibility.

    Also, if it was true then wouldn’t it have been mentioned in the FFVIII Ultimania?


    It would actually mean that there was a purpose behind making Squall so unlikable during disc 1 – and it would also fit very neatly with the game’s theme of missed opportunities …

  14. @KJJ: That’s impressive, since as much as I love VII, I relaly wouldn’t say that the in-game graphics have aged well (hoof hands, anyone?).

    @SN/Oyashiro: I’ve always liked the “Squall is Dead” theory. Even if it isn’t really what the writers intended, it’s a better interpretation than anything else I’ve seen :D

    @Lusi: Admit it, you just set up the playthrough so your staff can make “eight”-related puns

  15. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – VII has the best character models of the entire series. Period.

  16. FF7 has much better character models–both in and out of battle–than FF8. The sharp, clear edges of FF7’s models may lack detail, but have aged much better as a result. The jaggedy, early attempt of FF8 to add that detail in realistic models has resulted in something, years later, that is a twitching, jabbering abomination. FF9 suffers the same problem. The painted-on faces look distorted and awful, and shows the wisdom of the low detail that was used in the non-battle models for FF7.

    And the battle models for FF7 look tremendous, even now.

    SN’s right about this one.

  17. VII’s character models are a lot like other polygonal models from the time, like Mario or Zelda on N64. They fit the technology, and maybe have their own nostalgic value like sprites do now. Whereas VIII was an attempt to do something like what we have now.

  18. Even I – epic FFIX fanboy to the ages – admit that Caspius’s description of weird painted-on faces is accurate for FFIX. When close up, it’s just unsettling.

    Oh, and one thing that FFVIII does right that I’ve always enjoyed is letting Squall walk around during FMV transitions. It doesn’t affect anything really, but it always felt cool.

  19. I’ve been watching through Seinfeld while playing in hopes to soften the sting. It’s barely helping.

    Although, one of the game’s weakest points is actually helping this playthrough: the fact that the enemies level up with you. I just run away from battle most of the time. If only I could level up my GFs without leveling up my characters, they’re the only ones that make a difference. I draw to Junction, then run away.

    …what a dumb game.

  20. I’m still not sure how FFVIII is meant to be played. Like FFVII you can generally just go to wherever you’re supposed to be going without much grinding. It’s like FFII where I just can’t imagine the play testing and feedback. “Yeah, so go out there kill all but one of the Imps and then repeatedly attack yourself and select and cancel magic spells 100 times.”

  21. This is another of those games I played so late that its old presentation values were a barrier to entry for me. I did try, though. So for me, I don’t even have an opinion of how good or bad it is. But it seems either you think this game is flaming dog poo in disk form or an under appreciated gem.

    Also, Lusi, second to last paragraph: “This is the first week our our playthrough, in which we will aim to…”
    Grammar Check Man, awaaaaaaay! whoosh

  22. Read that line like he’s injured or something! “This is the first week…our..our playthrough! dies

  23. Squall’s dialogue with Quistis on disc one makes him out to be the biggest douche in main character history.


  24. “You have Jellopudn?!”

    “I underestimated Jellopudn…I will join you.”

    Naming GFs is fun.

  25. Well, I guess I am alone in thinking this game is tolerable. I mean, I have played through it probably 4 times. The music is great, the battle system isn’t bad. Everyone talks about how easy it is to break this game, but what RPG isn’t easy to break? with the proper amount of grinding (draw til you bleed) any RPG can be broken. The story is definitely a strange one, but I don’t feel like it detracts from the gameplay. Also, VIII has one ove my favorite maps. I love the world setting, and I love having the option of just telling Ragnarock to fly somewhere and then letting it happen if you want to. All in all, not a bad game. Then again, I played it for the first time right around when it came out so I guess I don’t have such graphically demanding standards

  26. I’m at the final mission of the first disc now. Three things:

    1) This storyline is easily one of the worst, if not the worst, of the FF storylines. I’d rather have the bare-bones FFI or the absurd ending of FFXIII before this complete and utter nonsense. As I watch it unfold, and knowing what is coming, each stilted line gives me to cringe. Disc 2 will be practically unbearable. And, it is only downhill from here. There’s always the knowledge that this game gets worse and worse as it goes on: never better. Never, ever better.

    2) This battle system is easily the most exploitable rubbish ever designed. The game not only makes it easy to blow apart the system, but it encourages you to do so. A few minutes in a card game and you can have Triple junctioned to STR on disc one. Durga may say that any game can be exploited, but generally those things are either true exploits of unintentional bugs, or they require a significant amount of grinding toil and effort. VIII requires neither. And worse yet, it’s as dull as stones no matter what.

    3) Squall is the most unlikeable character I’ve ever had the misfortune to play. I never did like him, but this playthrough I seem to have an even sharper apprisal of what a COLOSSAL DOUCHE this asshat is. The way he treats his associates passes shame, and yet he will only get better by becoming emo. What a character axis! From douche to whiny emo in forty hours!

    One more thing: The soundtrack: it’s crap. Forgetable rubbish; one of the weakest FF soundtracks, alongside similarly colossal stinkers like FFIII. I can count the stand-out tracks on a single hand. Lamentable. Utterly lamentable.

    But then the whole game is, this time, just a sum of its parts. It’s all lamentable.

  27. I made it to Timber, but a PSP freeze caused my save data to get set back and I lost about an hour of progress. Now I’m right before getting the Magic Lamp. It turns out 6 straight hours of PSP usage might not be the best idea.

  28. @Lusi:

    #1 – I would definitely say that XIII’s bare bones story is far better than the mush we are served in VIII – XIII’s story is just weighed down by one colossal deus ex machina at the end, but with VIII’s story deus ex machina and wild coincidence is all that there is. That said, I do think that VIII’s story presentation was better – I find the event scenes more entertaining in VIII due to the fact that they actually attempt to tell the narrative within the game rather than using event scenes as colourful holding patterns before directing players to consult the encyclopedia.

    #3 – I am having exactly the same response to Squall. I think my tolerance toward his poor attitude has decreased exponentially since knowing Oliver.

  29. The Squall-Quitis thing is hilarious. Is she over 15 or something? I’m not sure why Japanese writers wouldn’t think she’s sexy?

  30. Yeah, Durga, the music isn’t great. SOME of the music is great. And I really mean some. It’s like Lusi says, you can count the standout tracks on your fingers. FFVIII is actually my favourite piano collections but that’s because there’s literally no other good tracks available for the picking. And the best track (Silence and Motion), was drastically changed from the (horrible) original rendition.

    And you can automatically fly places in FFIX. And you can also lock the camera so it’s not a flimsy mess.

    Also Squall sucks.

  31. I think that there’s at least ten very nice tracks on the OST – the problem is that there’s a very large gulf in quality between those tracks and every other track in the game. It’s like Uematsu spent waaay too much time composing the stand out tracks, and then just threw some elevator music together for everything else (or more likely he had already started work on the IX OST, and didn’t care to squander his energies on a game that would only ever be disappointing).

  32. I do have to say that VIII is the WORST game in the series for having fanboys tell you that your playing it wrong, and that your criticisms are BIASED because you have not yet discovered the arcane formula to playing this finely balanced marvel correctly!!!

  33. @SN: True that, and in spades. At least no one ever tells me that I am playing FFII ‘wrong’.

    But then, no one really likes that fetid little turd, either. They just say they do in order to show how unique they are.

  34. Drawing Magic sucks, Junctioning sucks, and I don’t know what Guardian Forces are all about. I despise this game, and I only just got out of the Fire Cave. That’s what, 20 minutes in?

  35. Disc 1 complete. Squall is a douche, and Quistis is the most irresponsible leader ever.

  36. For some reason, if I use my PSP’s “Reset Game” command with this game, the whole thing freezes up and my saves are reset back a ways. Another hour or so lost, bleh. About to re-do the fight with the fake president.

  37. Rinoa: “You’re a SeeD?”

    How could you not know!? I was wearing a SeeD uniform at the party!

    At least I figured out how to beat Diabolos without Blind (just buff up your magic, draw a bunch of demi and spam it until you’re only dealing about 15 damage with it, then spam GFs).

  38. Also, it’s been only about two minutes since I met her and I already feel great about naming Rinoa “Seifer”.

  39. I actually don’t mind junctioning. I like equipping magic to improve stats or add elemental attacks or immunity. I also like the way that the GFs level up. The drawing and the long GF sequences and the leveling-up alongside and the horrible characters and everything else is what’s horrible.

    And Montok likes this game, so it’s zero surprise that he’s not jumping into the fray. He’s just reading all of this, disagreeing, and then deciding it’s not worth it to argue with us.

  40. Broke down and bought this on PSN; I cannot handle these goddamn PSP freezes any longer.

  41. One disc of torment over, three more to go! It sure is a good thing for Squall that the heart is located in the center of the chest instead of the right side of the chest, or else Edea’s ice bolt would’ve killed him!

  42. Zing!

    Man this game is bad.
    I’m trying to like it, truly. I would have love to be surprised by it. Like when I replayed Wind Waker.

    But no, I’m only impressed by the FMV transitions. And annoyed that Junctioning could actually be really cool.

  43. @SN and Lusi:
    It’s surprising and interesting in the same way that having a cattle prod shoved into your rear would be surprising and interesting.

  44. Wait, you mean there’s more than one disc?! And here I thought the nightmare was over!

  45. All roads lead to a single possibe outkome. Disks are numbered only in your mind. Kome hither mine pretties.

    Kome to me.


  46. One good thing about Disc 2: Selphie. She’s maniacal and hilarious. They need a sequel to FFVIII that’s actually well written, and the only playable character is Selphie. You’d go around the world riding a flying Doom Train and rain fire down from the heavens!

  47. I tried to like Slab’s comment, but it turns out I disliked it and now it’s hidden from common sight!

  48. Broke down and decided to try out Card Mod about halfway through Disc 2. Played about 20 minutes of the card game (on a non-emulator, equates to about an hour) and effectively doubled my party’s damage output. Yup. Should’ve done it in Disc 1.

  49. Or you could not play the card game at all and still kill everything in one hit.

    Yup, glad I didn’t waste any time on a stupid card game.

  50. Disc 2 is interminable. When does it end? Will it ever end? It stretches out before me like a yawning chasm, the depths of which may well be bottomless.

  51. @Ethos: I just noticed that. It’s the fault of ROOTBEERKING for not doing exactly what I told him, but instead doing something else.

    We’ll get it sorted once he gets back here, after I’ve shouted at him a bit for not listening.

  52. what a delightful experience this game is. I’m excited to say that I’m already halfway through disc 2, and I haven’t missed any of the character specific cards, the hidden GFs or any important muggings/draws. I’m glad everyone else is enjoying this game as much as I am clearly. I mean, look at all of this feedback!

  53. Well, I went out of my way just after freeing Balamb down and grabbed Odin (after drawing the rest of the Triples I needed for a full 300), then I decided to stick around and grab the Tonberry King (and 300 of its Full Life). Judging by what Full Life does when junctioned to HP, what Triple does to Str, (Zell’s already at 9,999) and the abilities the Tonberry GF has…I’m pretty sure I’ve already won the game here in Disc 2.

  54. Durga has become delirious!

    @Slab: You both won and lost FFVIII as soon as you started playing it.

  55. Disc 2 complete. I hate Rinoa. She’s getting worse and worse, and I didn’t even get to watch her die. Why wouldn’t she just let go!?

  56. Bah-hahaha, I love the frowny face after you dislike something. Dislike it on Caspiuscom!

  57. I think the next site playthrough should be one of the legacy of kain games. I’ve been itching for some old school action lately

  58. Disc 2 and all available sidequest through Disc 2 complete.

    I forgot how short Disc 2 is. Well, Disc 3 more than makes up for it.

  59. Disc 2 completed, along with its sidequests.

    I hate to say it, but I actually kinda like the warring Gardens sequence.

  60. The warring gardens sequence is a fantastic set-piece – I’ll not detract from any of VIII’s few genuine achievements (I’ll let the rest of the game do that).

  61. That’s part of what makes the game so bad, SN! It actually does a few things VERY WELL. So when the rest is such complete shit, it makes it worse.

  62. I’ve long thought of FFVIII as being akin to many pieces of expensive and luxurious cloth which have had the misfortune of being sewn together by a drunken novice – it has all the disparate makings of a timeless classic, but it was not put together at all well … and so we have a product which happens to be much less than the sum of its parts.

  63. I wish there was a way to skip disc 2, but disc 3 is alright so far….. expect for TIME COMPRESSION!

  64. Close to the end of Disc 3, I think. I’ve entered the Lunatic Pandora after Selphie maniacally tore a hole through it with the Ragnarok.

  65. Disc 3 complete! It’s hilarious to see Gilgamesh kill Seifer. I’m glad I picked up Odin.

  66. Just finished up the Rinoa IN SPACE! scene and picked up the Ragnarok. I like that scene when the ship first takes off and everyone rushes to find Selphie in the cockpit.

  67. Hah! Beat Ultimecia! She killed me several times before I broke down and got Lionhart and modded Bahamut’s card into 100 Megalixirs. Then every time she brought my party down to 1hp in her final form I threw a Megalixir and kept on destroying.

    All in all, I’ll give the game that it could have been good if it had better writing. Selphie is easily the best character in the game.

  68. don’t forget to grind at the Island Closest to Heaven and the Island Closest to Hell before taking on the last bosses! there are tons of hidden draw points for any high level magics you might’ve missed, and the scariest regular enemies in the game. also, if you’re looking for ap, go to cactuar island and kill cactuars. they’re 10 or 20 AP a piece and squall never misses them since no matter what he has 255 on his accuracy or whatever

  69. well, now that that’s over with, I think I’ll finish up the cards I might’ve missed and max out my level!

  70. Disc 3 is complete, and I now have every GF and credit for owning every card.

  71. oh if you haven’t played the last castle before you’re in for a treat. you start the castle with only attack unlocked, and with each boss you fight you get to unlock another command. choose wisely!

  72. Draw > Magic > Resurrection > Save should happen first unless you’re crazy.

  73. Unless there are GFs you’ve missed, you should go Magic > Limit Breaks > Resurrection > Save instead. But yeah, if there are GFs you don’t have, definitely pick Draw back up early.

  74. Now that I am done with FFVIII, I can move onto a game that is even worse: Fable.

    I am beginning to think that signing my soul away to Caspius was a bad idea.

  75. I’m not sure which is worse yet. Final Fantasy VIII was pretty bad, but EVERY SINGLE PERSON in Fable speaks with a Cockney accent.

  76. It does not appear that I will complete Disc 3 this week due to a massive amount of school work. This is disappointing, and yet a relief as well.

  77. This last boss, i think, out of all the last bosses in all the FF games i have played is the most fucking annoying!

  78. but it’s so simple! let whatever random party she gives you die until the right party happens, then limit break the shit out of that bitch.

  79. He said annoying, not hard. And I’ll agree with him. Ultimecia is annoying.

  80. First form: To easy

    Second: WHATTHEFUCK!! angry face

    Third and Fourth: haven’t even seen

  81. ***** END OF WEEK THREE ***

    Final Week! Wrap the game up and post your comments here!

  82. Well i can now say i only need to beat one more FF game to have all the numbered ones beaten, and that is the only good thing i can say about this game.

  83. I can say with full confidence that Final Fantasy VIII is, in fact, a game that exists, and people have played it.

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