Being born in a small European country in 1989, you could say I'm from Playstation era. European video game industry was never as big as the Japanese or North American, so we missed a lot of content here (and still do). However, despite lacking many of their titles, Squaresoft was a constant name in our shops, and was the responsible for my getting into the genre, as is the case with many more RPG enthusiasts. One of my first games, and very first RPG, was Final Fantasy VIII.
I was very young back then, and being completely unfamiliar with such things, I bought this game for the incredible fact that it had 4 CDs! A very irrelevant factor when it comes to the selection of good video games, but what do you want? I was a mesmerized kid by the shining irresistible box! I'm glad that my fantastic selection methods worked like that back in the days, as it was the indirect trigger to my passion for RPGs. FFVIII would then catapult me to the Final Fantasy series, which in turn led me to branch into "similar" games.
Final Fantasy VIII was produced by square in 1999 and published in North America by Square EA at the time, the result of a partnership between Square and Electronic Arts for marketing purposes. Following the smashing success of Final Fantasy VII, Square quickly put out there another game following the main series of their golden franchising, while having Final Fantasy IX already on the works! I guess the guys at Square were full of ideas.
Final Fantasy VIII was financial success, becoming a top seller everywhere, even if it could never achieve the smashing unprecedented success of its predecessor. Despite this reception, the game did receive many complains from fans, since it deviated a lot from the traditional gameplay, being most of this discontentment associated with the Draw and Junction systems of the game.
Following the Draw system, we have the Junction System. This was a very detailed and a complex way to customise your characters and make them stronger, and another part of the game that displeased fans. Some complained for being too complex, some for being completely broken. Both statements are within reason, as this system could really be very intimidating for a beginner starting the game (it was for me), making him stray away from it and face numerous difficulties through the game, as it could completely and utterly take the challenge of the game, since it allowed early configurations that could make the characters strong enough for the end game.
GF (Guardian Forces)
Each GF can be used as a summon, but their real purpose is that of giving the character commands, junction abilities, skills and stat upgrades. Without a GF, you have practically nothing, only the ability to attack with your weapon and your levels, almost insignificant parts of your arsenal. The true bulk of one character's power lies in its ability to equip various GFs and make use of their different skills. Although the characters of Final Fantasy don't have an oriented class, the early use of GFs could define their roles in battle, as some GFs are more inclined to Strength, some to Magic, etc.
The main character is Squall, a revolted teen that could be considered an emo main character, who is also bittersweet and anti-social. He is always being provoked by his rival Seifer, a punk who likes te tease and show-off. Both of them are Gunblade specialists, and are studying in a kind of military school that trains GF specialized mercenaries called SeeDs, an elite unit sent in various missions through out the world. What initially starts with the SeeD exam for Squall and his party, quickly turns into a journey that will take the group through wars between nations, rebellious groups standing for independence and improbable romance. The true purpose of SeeD will ultimately be revealed, and will take them into a battle against the most powerful and dangerous enemy of all, Edea. She is the current era all-powerful Sorceress, and the puppeteer who is behind the main events of the world.