Enlarge / Artist’s conception of my face when I realized people are still creating new gaming fansites in 2024.

It has never been easier to share your thoughts online. Anyone with a smartphone is mere seconds away from spinning up a new account on any number of popular social media platforms and screaming their opinions into the void. Then your casual, tossed-off thoughts are served up to The Algorithm, which decides whether it’s briefly pushed in front of the gathered masses or almost instantly forgotten to the ephemeral tide of the endless scroll.

So there’s something intensely charming about Final Fantasy VIII is the Best (FF8itB), a new highly personal fanblog focused on the red-headed stepchild of Square’s early 3D RPG output. After a single weekend, the site is already an incredibly entertaining mess that evokes the best parts of a largely defunct and much more personal era of the Internet.

Final Fantasy VIII? Really?

Over the years, Final Fantasy VIII has developed a pretty bad reputation among the community of hardcore Japanese-RPG fans. It’s not hard to find detailed, borderline-irate takedowns of everything from the game’s cheesy storyline to its overcomplicated junction system to a hidden enemy auto-leveling mechanic that makes it hard to feel truly powerful.

FF8itB stands proudly against this conventional wisdom, praising Final Fantasy VIII for its “weird, borderline experimental” use of “surrealism and hallucinatory Roger Dean-like imagery rather than stately fantasy grandeur.” The site gets a bit emotional and profane at points, earnestly defending a game that was “overflowing with sincerity at a motion [sic] at a time when the primary audience for games like this were teenage boys who thought feelings were gross.”

Ignore the lyrics, focus on the emotion.

That last bit highlights how Final Fantasy VIII has suffered due to its temporal place in history. FFVIII was the follow-up to Final Fantasy VII, a mega-hit that single-handedly popularized the Japanese RPG for a generation of Western PlayStation owners. That’s an incredibly tough act to follow, especially for a game that proudly zigs in many places where FFVII zagged. If that wasn’t bad enough, FFVIII only had a year on the market before the more traditional Final Fantasy IX helped many fans leave the former game’s emo weirdness behind them.

After a short, somewhat rude introductory post on Friday, FF8itB has come out swinging with eight full posts over the weekend, each examining and appreciating the game from a wildly different angle. Sure, that includes some incredibly silly content, like a photo of an FFVIII-decorated Forza Horizon 5 car falling off a cliff. But it also includes some incisive historical analysis of the game’s long reputational slide and some of the “almost cosmically horny” coverage the game got in embarrassing late-’90s video game magazines.

And when it comes to analyzing the game itself, FF8itB doesn’t just paper over the many perceived flaws. A post about the game’s iconic love ballad “Eyes on Me” acknowledges that the song’s lyrics “are a mess” and “kind of incoherent” while still arguing that this kind of mangled localization can have its own profound beauty. Another post that focused on the Triple Triad minigame maligns the card battler for ruining FFVIII‘s wider flow while still calling it a “perfect combination of luck and strategy [that] is absolutely worth getting lost in for an excessive period of time.”

That's just quality blog content right there.
Enlarge / That’s just quality blog content right there.

That “Eye on Me” post includes something that could already serve as a mission statement for the blog: “One of the things that will probably come up a lot on this blog is that we’re too concerned with literal truth and canon, not allowing ourselves to surrender to the emotion.”

“… I have absolutely no standards…”

VGHF Library Director Phil Salvador, as seen in his buttoned-down professional life.
Enlarge / VGHF Library Director Phil Salvador, as seen in his buttoned-down professional life.

FF8itB is the work of Phil Salvador, who has been featured on this site in the past for his scholarly work on game preservation as library director for the Video Game History Foundation. The writing on FF8itB is pretty much the diametrical opposite of that serious historical work, which Salvador says is kind of the point.

In one hidden-in-plain-sight section of the site—which you reach by clicking the appropriate text, “You can just make a website and nobody can stop you”—Salvador discusses how the idea for FF8itB was initially inspired by the availability of the excellent novelty domain name ff8isthe.best (we’re also partial to discarded contender yellingaboutff8.institute). But Salvador says the site also serves as a way to break through the writer’s block he sometimes encounters while under the pressure of the “higher stakes” writing he does in his professional life.

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