Final Fantasy VIII: Yoshinori Kitase on taking the series in a bold new direction

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Final Fantasy VIII: Yoshinori Kitase on taking the series in a bold new direction

As Final Fantasy VIII Remastered comes to PlayStation Now, the Director of the original game explains.

As someone who worked on the original Final Fantasy VIII as Director, it’s been quite the nostalgia trip to think about the game again – particularly since the PlayStation team asked me to share some recollections of the game’s development.

By the time we started work on Final Fantasy VIII, the gameplay of RPGs was very well-established. Players were used to strengthening characters by defeating monsters, earning money and EXP, levelling up and buying equipment – we felt that both developers and users were growing a little tired of the traditional format.

With Final Fantasy VIII, we wanted to try new things in the RPG genre – explore new mechanics as well as improve on aspects of our previous work. 

Here’s the story of how it all came together.

Final Fantasy VIII: Yoshinori Kitase on taking the series in a bold new direction

Blurring the line between CG and gameplay

One area in which we innovated was the implementation of CG cutscenes. 

We used 3D CG scenes for the first time in Final Fantasy VII – I wrote about this at PlayStation Blog earlier this year. While I’m proud of what we were able to achieve, that game represented something of a transition period for us in how we used the technology. We wanted to fuse game scenes and cutscenes together, but the implementation wasn’t exactly how we wanted it.

There were parts of Final Fantasy VII where the cutscenes and real-time polygon characters looked out of place – for example, there were inconsistencies in the character proportions and polygon quality between scenes.

We worked very hard on improving this for Final Fantasy VIII. The game features multiple moments where you are able to move around the scene while the CG cutscene played, and we were able to get to a place where these in-game models appeared more naturally within these moments.

Part of the reason for this was experience. We created a CG production team for Final Fantasy VII and attempted to merge it with the conventional game team. Final Fantasy VIII was the second game we made with that team structure, and our proficiency had definitely improved. 

The team also understood that our ambition of blending gameplay and cutscenes meant that the new game’s scenes needed to be higher quality than before. The team pulled together to make that happen and that unity was reflected in the final product.

Draw & Junction

While we worked on the cutscenes, we were also busy overhauling many of the traditional mechanics of the Final Fantasy series. As I mentioned, we wanted to try new things with the game – you’ll notice that it’s full of unconventional mechanics.

For example, instead of receiving Gil by killing enemies, you instead receive it as a salary at regular intervals. 

We also developed the Draw & Junction system. This let you pull out magic spells from the environment, items, and enemies, and essentially ‘equip’ them to boost various stats. For example, junctioning an offensive spell to your strength attribute will make characters hit much harder, while junctioning a curative spell to your health attribute will boost HP. 

The system forms the core battle mechanics and offers a tremendous amount of freedom for players and increased the game’s strategic element greatly. 

This novel mechanic was created by the talented Hiroyuki Ito, who also directed Final Fantasy XII. As a side note, his latest game, Dungeon Encounters, just released on PS4. It’s full of very well-thought-out mechanics that will provide a challenge for even the most experienced gamers – I urge you to try it out!

A characterful love story

Another new element was the relationship between Squall and Rinoa. In the Final Fantasy series, it wasn’t common to have a love story between the starring couple be the main focus. Especially a love story that even reaches out to space!

I recall that Squall and Rinoa’s memorable dialogue was a hot topic amongst fans when the game first released. In fact, players responded well to the characters – I credit (Character Designer) Tetsuya Nomura’s unique designs and (Scenario Writer) Kazushige Nojima’s light-hearted dialogue for that!

The gunblade

It was also Nomura-san’s idea to add action elements into the game, such as timed button presses. 

When Nomura-san designs a character, he doesn’t just define their appearance, but also their personalities, the way they speak, their weapons, specs and more. Squall’s gunblade – and the ability to boost its damage by pressing a button at the right time – was his invention.

Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII had left a very strong impression, so poor Nomura-san must have felt a lot of pressure to create a design that surpasses it. Fortunately, he pulled it off brilliantly!

Final thoughts

I think it’s fair to say that Final Fantasy VIII had an impact on the future of the Final Fantasy series. Not necessarily mechanically – the gameplay of the Final Fantasy games changes with each entry – but certainly the realistic proportions and designs of characters set a visual direction for the series.

This is unrelated to development, but I also liked how Final Fantasy VIII appeared briefly in the movie “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), starring Cameron Diaz. We often receive such Easter egg requests from Hollywood for Final Fantasy VIII – it seems to be a favourite amongst young filmmakers for some reason!

Overall, I’m happy with the game, although there was one thing I was unable to achieve. During development, I wanted the characters to have voices. The visual and audio elements like sound effects and music were reaching film-like levels of quality, so the lack of character voices stood out as unnatural to me.

This became a big motivation for my next title – Final Fantasy X!

Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is available now on PlayStation Now. It enhances the original game with updated HD character models and convenient features, such as the ability to speed up the game or turn off random encounters.

I’m excited to see a new generation of players experience this epic love story for the first time!

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  • What a brilliant piece of nostalgia. I remember that my first Final Fantasy was X, and eventually I wanted to explore the older games and delve into the series’s history. FFVIII really stood out with its unique mechanics, aesthetics and overall vibe. Fisherman’s Horizon is both one of my favourite music tracks and location in games.

    • I still LOVE Blue Fields <3 I appreciated 10 and onward less because they were more lineair (15 was surprisingly more open). PS1 gen FF was magic…

    • I agree. The music was incredible, start to finish. One of my favorite game soundtracks.

    • My first introduction to ff series is ffviii and instantly loved it. It showed me that a game can be a good medium to tell a story. Growing up i only know games from arcades like fighting games, platformer,run-and-game multiplayer or racing games and ffviii just blew my young mind how a game can be as complex as it was. And until this day I’m listening to music that i came to love from that game.

    • It is the most underrated Final Fantasy and the most beloved among fans.

      Definitely deserves a sequel of some kind.

  • Make a shooter or racing game…. for adults.

    • So, Gran Turismo?

    • Final Racing Fantasy

      Open World Massively Online Racing Social and Life Management.

      Start your career as a race car driver after moving out of your parents house and gaining enough money to buy your very own race car. Complete side jobs, Mine bitcoin, work in the community and on the fantasy race tracks to earn money. Use that money to upgrade your racing gear, buy a home (over 1200 to choose from!), buy stuff for your home, boat, airplane, electronics, and soooooo much more! Visit other community members’ homes and see what they got!
      With over 1,950,000 items to buy, 5,000-character level skill tree, 5 billion different character customizations, 500 simultaneous online players, and never-ending, constant updates and upgrades, your mass won’t be going anywhere!

    • Go ahead and build on that. There’s so much more I coulda thrown in there.

    • So…you basically want a GTA Final Fantasy game?

    • Guess you missed Dirge of Cerberus.

  • Honestly that will be a really big acquisition for Sony.

  • My first FF and my favorite next to 7. I remember it like yesterday. I had heard of the series by name but never played it. Was staying over at a friend and had rented some games. He didn’t really enjoy the game but I loved it so I took it home and bought it after. I remember the characters being bigger had an influence on me because back then I was in a period where I wanted more mature looking games. Never lost my interest in the series after that, though the PS1 generation FF’s are by far my favorites.

  • My favorite FF of all time. Don’t Be Afraid, Man with the Machine Gun, and The Extreme is still some of my favorite battle themes to this day. Thank you for this masterpiece.

  • Amazing game even if the strange mechanics weren’t to everyone’s taste. Nobody can fault the incredible visuals, presentation, music and animations for the time though.

    Crazy that they could just spit these 10/10, offline, numbered FF games out, consistently, every 2 to 3 years. We’ve gotten 2 the past 12 years and they were below mediocre trash lol. What happened. Its like PlayStation is following this model right now, dragging a once respected name through the dirt until its barely able to recover.

    • So I take it you weren’t a fan of FF15? Lol.
      I actually thought it was a ton of fun, start to finish. Even got the platinum with my son.
      But everyone is different. Oh well.

  • still to this day is my all time favorite game and i never understand why 7 gets so much more love when 8 is in my opinion the better one. a remaster isn’t good enough it needs better love than a half baked remaster

    • I think 7 was just the right game at the right time. The teenage existential angst of 7 appealed to all the gamer kids, while 8 was much more mature. I agree, 8 ranks in my top 5 FF games while 7 is in the bottom half.

  • Players actually want traditional (J)RPGS. We are sick of hack n’ slash being force fed as RPGS.

  • It’s incredible what they were able to achieve on PS1. A shame that the industry of video games has become too focused on blockbusters, so much that artistic works that move the genres forward (Death Stranding, for example) are overlooked in favor of overhyped repetition or safety.

  • I love this game, really do, but your remaster is a big joke, I felt cheated when I bought it, even the PS1 version with texture treatment looks better in all levels, controlls, music and sound.
    I heard stories that Square Enix lost the game source and that is the reason why the game lost what it had from the PS1, is this true?

    • Something like that. I heard that the recent version was made at least in part by reverse engineering the original PC version.

  • Love this piece.

    FFVIII was a truly truly magical experience, one where it seems like every step I took was a breath of fresh air – it was just so exciting discovering and figuring out all the novel mechanics. Best of all, it all integrates well with the world building and are all deeply enjoyable (Triple Triad, Junction, crafting, etc)

    Best FF game personally and it really exemplifies why I love the FF series.

  • The nostalgia for FFVIII (even if I still haven’t beaten it yet because I’m playing FFXIII rn) is too good

  • I still don’t understand the battle system.

  • This was my first FF and it was amazing, loved the card game, being a SeeD member, flying the Ragnarok, the world, the magic, everything. It is such a incredible game, thank you Kitase Yoshinori for creating such a wonderful experience. 🙏

  • Plays great with awesome characters but one of the worst endings in FF history

  • My favorite part of Final Fantasy franchise. I remember I had demo disc added as a bonus from the store where I purchased PSX, and I spent tens of hours playing it (Dollet mission). Such a great game!

  • My wife walked down the isle to the Final Fantasy Main Theme Song to me when we got married in 2014, because of This video game. It made tears in my eye then and still does today.

    I’m very grateful for being able to play this game as a teen and come back and platinum the remake as an adult.

  • Hasn’t this been out for quite awhile?

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