Square Enix are but a fading spectre of their former glory. Square Enix can tie a crate of Final Fantasy trading cards to themselves and get in the sea. Square Enix are all horrible bastards who don’t understand what makes a good RPG anymore. Never again will I have to say any of these clearly untrue and potentially libellous phrases, because Square Enix - who I’ve always said were the best - have now confirmed that they’re remastering Final Fantasy 8. Well heck.
As a man of refined taste, I’m naturally quite chuffed about this. So, I’m going to make you a deal, right? You listen (through the power of words) to me gush about my favourite Final Fantasy VIII bit. Then you use the comments below to tell me about yours. Then, I’ll read it and cry and go "damn fine game" and you’ll nod solemnly and smile and go "damn fine". And then we’ll have a big laugh at the clueless philistines that think Red ‘I take advice from a floating weeble’ XIII is a gooder boy than Angelo, who is basically a bazooka with a snoot.
Let me set the scene for you. I’ve just got done visiting the basketball court of a bombed-out school and had a bathtub of syrupy, slightly Freudian plot reveals squonked into my brain. They have shattered everything I thought I knew about the blocky sprite monsters I’ve just spent the last thirty hours calling friends. I hop in my gravity-defying community college and I’m on my way to see an abandoned orphanage about a time bending witch when I realise that - oh no - my rival’s gravity defying community college has got there first! There is, of course, only one normal response to such a situation: We’ll have to throw motorbikes at each other until one of us gives up.
The chill, ploddy, flutey world map theme fades out and gets replaced by a danger ditty that I can’t really describe well, except to say it gets you proper pumped up for a bit of danger. Cut to protagonist Squall standing in the control room. Here, the game makes you select some battle commands to give out to the rest of the garden. The orders make basically no difference but I’m so pumped from the danger music that they feel like the most important decisions I’ve ever made. You make a party. You do some tense elevator riding and give some heroic pep-talks.
And then shit gets real.
“They’re heading right for us!” says the foolishly-named redshirt doing the steering.
“Just keep going!” commands Squall, and chops the air horizontally with his hand. When Squall chops the air with his hand, you know he (a) really cares about something or (b) really doesn’t care about something but wants whoever he’s talking to (usually Rinoa) to know how much he doesn’t care about the thing.
As expected, the two rival rocket school crash into each other and Galbadia garden launches a bunch of dudes riding flying motorbikes at you. Rinoa gets knocked off the garden! Squall jumps onto a flying mech, punches the pilot in the face several dozen times, then rescues her! Quistis and Zell do some battle moves!
I think what’s so special about this sequence, even looking back on it, is how much it reminds you that every battle you played through in those older Final Fantasy games were effectively the same thing, but a quick switch out of a rendered background or a bit of pre-battle dialogue could make some of them feel tremendously significant. Whether it was the Gardens from VIII, or the hulking Kaiju weapons from VII, the world map always got across a sense of scale and grandeur that it may have been hard to appreciate otherwise. But there were only a few sequences that captured that scale from your regular perspective.
I don’t know if I could make a claim so brash as ‘ the best scripted sequence ever in a video game ever’. I can say that it made such an impression on my 12 year old brain that I can genuinely still recall how excited I was. Just thinking about it makes my hands and stomach go a bit tingly. That’s magic, right? Like, actually by definition. Conjuring something tangible just by focusing your thoughts on something. Games are good that way. So Nice one, Square Enix. We’ll be here, waiting.
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