Everyone has their own personal Final Fantasy. For me, it was Final Fantasy VIII and I remember picking it up from GAME on its original release back in 1999. If you’ve never played this entry into the series, then you’re in for a treat as the remastered version is due out soon! I’ll be picking it up for my Switch and I can’t wait to dive back into my Triple Triad addiction.
Thinking about my memories of the game made me realise something; Final Fantasy VIII would make the perfect YA fantasy story! There are plenty of JRPG’s which could also fit the bill, such as the Persona series. Even Final Fantasy XV with its boy-band cast would count, but nothing quite beats the love tale of emo boy Squall going on a quest to save his crush.
Here are ten reasons why I think Final Fantasy VIII is the ultimate YA fantasy story.
The Emo Protagonist
The main character of Final Fantasy VIII is Squall Leonhart, an introverted broody teen who dresses in black and is anti-social but ends up falling in love anyway. He’s a reluctant hero who’s given a lot of responsibility and does his best for the sake of the mission. Squall shares a lot of teenage angst and insecurities we can all relate to; he’s scared of getting close to people but suffers from loneliness. Underneath that cool exterior is a heart of gold that eventually melts as he learns the meaning of friendship. Ahh.
And his catchphrase is “Whatever”!
The School Setting
Final Fantasy VIII begins in the SeeD Balamb Garden, which is basically a military school where teenage students learn to fight using weapons like cool gunblades, draw magic, and summon creatures known as Guardian Forces. What could be more YA than this? As a student of the Balamb Garden, the characters are expected to wear a uniform, attend lectures, sit dangerous exams, and take on missions which require even more exams to rise in rank.
Life in the Balamb Garden seems pretty chill. Students have their own dorm room and can play card games or join a band in their down time. The school cafeteria is the place to be as they serve hot dogs.
There’s more than one Garden in the world, and later on Squall works with foreign students and fights alongside his own tutor! The school bands together to help each other and save the world. Very YA!
No school would be complete without a bully, and the opening sequence to Final Fantasy VIII shows Squall getting injured in a training bout gone wrong with his long term rival, Seifer. The two of them regularly clash throughout the story as Seifer acts as the foil to Squall, and we learn that Squall’s love interest Rinoa used to date the jerk.
What is a YA story without a bit of romance? Arguably, Final Fantasy VIII was the first in the series to feature a proper romance side plot, something which has become a prominent feature of most Final Fantasy games since. The romance in VIII plays a large role in the story as Squall slowly begins to fall for Rinoa, a headstrong young women who drags Squall out of his shell. Apparently the original idea for the romance in Final Fantasy VIII included a love triangle between Squall, Seifer, and Rinoa, but this was scrapped from the final game. Now that would have made it YA!
There’s more to the romance in VIII than just Squall and Rinoa. There’s another love story hidden in the background which inspired the beautiful theme song to VIII:
Squall’s first mission when he graduates as a SeeD is to help Rinoa gain freedom for the little town of Timber. What could be more YA than joining a hodge-podge group of freedom fighters who don’t have a clue what they’re doing in order to free it from military rule?
Of course, things don’t go to plan as Squall and co are called to deal with the woman responsible for some of these hostilities; a powerful witch!
Speaking of witches, the main antagonists of Final Fantasy VIII are all powerful magic-flinging women. What’s more YA than powerful witches trying to destroy the world?
The Orphans & Found Family
Most of the playable characters in Final Fantasy VIII came from an orphanage and don’t know their parents, including Squall himself. That’s very YA! These kids all study and take on missions together and they all have their own insecurities to work through. Quistis is the big sister who tries to watch over them all. Selphie is a cheerful transfer student who hides behind her plans to make the school festival a success. Zell is an enthusiastic martial artist who is bullied by Seifer for eating too many hot dogs. And Irvine is a handsome ladies man who chokes under pressure. The group become close friends and choose to work together to save the world.
Squall and Rinoa first meet during a graduation ball where she asks him to dance. Being the emo boy he is, he’s shy about it, forcing Rinoa to literally drag him onto the dance floor. It remains one of my favourite scenes from the whole game, and what could be more YA than a ballroom dance?
The Card Game
In the world of Final Fantasy VIII, the Triple Triad card game is popular. As Squall and co undertake missions and travel across the world, the player can challenge random NPC’s to the best mini-game in any Final Fantasy. And this was back before card games were cool! By challenging players to cards, you can earn new cards yourself and build up a collection. Each region also has its own unique rules.
Every school-based story needs its own special sport or entertainment. It might not be quidditch, but for a bunch of fantasy teens, I think card games are better!
There’s quite an impressive amount of merch based on Final Fantasy, including a whole jewellery range. You may have noticed that in modern Final Fantasy games, the characters always have some sort of personal item, such as a necklace, which coincidentally makes a great merchandise piece. It was Final Fantasy VIII which started this trend. Squall wears a chain necklace in the game in the shape of a lion which he calls Griever. He also has a ring with the same design that he later gives to Rinoa, and she wears that as a necklace.
I remember a whole jewellery range being announced when this game was released, and I even had a plastic version! Look at how cool it is:
Do you agree that Final Fantasy VIII is the ultimate YA story? Or is there another Final Fantasy which deserves this honour? Drop me a comment whilst I’m playing the new remastered release!