‘As far as the junction [system], it wasn’t really something we were worried about’
Final Fantasy VIII was a masterpiece: a lot of people just didn’t know it at the time. Although the school setting, the time traveling and the magic-junction system didn’t go over so well with absolutely everyone in 1999, it’s incredible to see so many people come around to it in the modern era, especially since the remaster was just released recently: making it even easier to revisit it and for those people to see the error of their ways (dunked). Game Informer recently caught up with director Yoshinori Kitase to talk a little bit about the impact of the game on the history of the franchise, and he had some really interesting insight.
Kitase notes that the inspiration for VIII came from VII (as we sort of saw recently in the mini-documentary) in an effort to contrast VII‘s dark tones, but also from the team’s “days as students.” When he was in the final planning stages with Tetsuya Nomura, they thought “actually yeah, a story about kids in school would be a nice, cheerful story to go with.” Now not everything was cheery and it did get pretty bleak at times, but I get where he’s coming from, as the bright Balamb Garden was a starkly different intro than the darkness of Midgar.
Going on, Kitase explains that the team didn’t really worry about the junction (new magic) system, as they were mostly pensive regarding the reaction to the whole “school-drama story” instead, which was new territory for them. Kitase says that they really wanted to try something beyond “defeat the monster, you get some money, you get some experience points,” thus the junction system was born.
As for its legacy, Kitase is extremely proud: “Final Fantasy VIII sold very well, and in that sense, it was successful. But as far as reviews at the time went, they were kind of all over the place.” He cites confusion with the salary mechanic (in which students get paid periodically) as a chief reason why some people didn’t dig it, as well as the slow burn of the junction system. Laughing, Kitase says he still comes across forum posts stating “actually, Final Fantasy VIII was pretty good,” and responds to himself “this person knows what’s up!” My man!
My favorite tidbit of the interview? Although it’s well-worn territory, I love that Kitase was inspired by Magic: The Gathering to create the Triple Triad minigame. Instead of just doing Triple Triad as a one-off, he wanted it to be something the whole world played, and always played, just like Magic in our universe. That sort of forward-thinking insight is just one of the reasons why Final Fantasy VIII has such an enduring legacy today.
Going Back to School [Game Informer Issue 319]