Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is due to be released for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2020. Even with this news, though, there are many fans still surprised that the game is being remastered at all.
Square Enix has ported many of the classic Final Fantasy titles to other systems, but it felt as if Final Fantasy VIII was being snubbed. The Nintendo Switch received ports of Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X/X-2, and Final Fantasy XII within a short space of time, yet Final Fantasy VIII still isn't available on mobile phones, even though the other PlayStation Final Fantasy games are.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is finally on its way, but why did Square Enix take so long to create an updated port - especially when the company was doing it for so many other titles in its back catalog?
The Unfair Negative Response To The Game
In the eyes of many fans, Final Fantasy VIII committed a grave sin upon release by not being a direct sequel to Final Fantasy VII.
The impact of Final Fantasy VII upon the gaming landscape cannot be underestimated. It's the game that proved that there was a passionate audience for JRPGs in the West, and helped to propel the Final Fantasy series to mainstream popularity. Many aspects of Final Fantasy VII that have aged poorly, but the game still has a devoted fanbase whose love hasn't diminished over the past twenty years. Plus, the success of the remastered version proves that the game can still impress new audiences.
Final Fantasy VII ended on a bold, ambiguous note that wasn't fully extrapolated on until the release of 2005's Advent Children. The fact that Final Fantasy VIII was an entirely new game, and didn't continue the story of its beloved predecessor, meant that a lot of people didn't give the game a fair chance when it was first released.
Final Fantasy VIII has also faced a lot of criticism over the years for various aspects of its gameplay and story. The character of Squall has often been criticized for his "emo-ness," and how his story feels like a teenager's wish-fulfillment fantasy. The plot twist concerning the memory loss caused by the Guardian Forces is often pointed to as a low point in the story, while the Sorceress Ultimecia is criticized for having one of the most confusing motivations for any villain in the series.
Final Fantasy VIII is a more polarizing game than Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X, so it makes sense why those titles were more of a priority for a remaster.
The Anniversary Snub
If any proof was needed that Square Enix doesn't hold Final Fantasy VIII in high regard, it's the anniversary snub.
Final Fantasy VIII was released for the Sony PlayStation on February 11, 1999, which means that 2019 marked its 20th anniversary.
Square Enix made no mention of Final Fantasy VIII's anniversary on any of its social media accounts, even though fans were gushing about the game on their own. It would have taken five minutes to upload a picture and message to a few social media accounts, yet Square Enix neglected to do so.
The release of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered in 2019 is in itself a celebration of the game's anniversary, but it still doesn't explain why it was ignored on the actual day.
The Vanishing Source Code
One of the biggest issues with a remaster of any older Square Enix game is that there might not be a source code to work with.
Square Enix president and CEO Yosuke Matsuda told Game Informer that the source code for most of the company's older games has been lost. The people at Square Enix never considered that their games would be ported to newer systems down the road, so archiving the source codes wasn't a priority. It has been easy for Square Enix to allow their older games to be sold on services that are essentially legal emulators (like Nintendo's Virtual Console), but a full remaster is a tricky prospect.
There is a PC port of Final Fantasy VIII that was released in 1999, which was later released on Steam in 2013 with some of the built-in cheats that were used with other Square Enix ports. The PC port of Final Fantasy VIII was notable for its terrible music quality, which was kept in the Steam version, but that issue is being fixed in the remaster.
The Potential Legal Issues
Final Fantasy VIII featured a song called "Eyes on Me" which was performed by Faye Wong. The song is played during the scene where Squall and Rinoa return home in the Ragnorak.
There have been rumors concerning legal issues with "Eyes on Me", or rather, the Faye Wong version of the song. "Eyes on Me" was composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu has written many of the classic songs in the Final Fantasy series, so there would be no problem with recording a new version of the song, but there might have been issues with Faye Wong's recording. It's possible that Square had a similar lack of foresight as with the source code issue, and that whatever agreement had been reached with Faye Wong's people had only covered the original game and not any future releases.
The Possible Remake?
The reason why a remaster of Final Fantasy VIII wasn't a priority for so long may have something to do with a potential remake.
It has been revealed that Final Fantasy VII Remake will take place across several different games, which will result in a series that might not even be finished within the next five years. Once Final Fantasy VII Remake is complete, then it might be Squall's turn to be brought back into the spotlight - although it's likelier that more beloved entries would get that treatment first.
Square Enix has gone on a porting spree over the past few years, and the success of remastered versions of Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy XII might have come as a surprise to the company. The publisher might have been content to wait until the Final Fantasy VII Remake series was complete to start drumming up interest in Final Fantasy VIII again, but the popularity of the remasters might have convinced the company to take a second look at the residents of Balamb Garden.