I'm playing through it again and I must say I'm having a much better time with it this time around. To me, it's really great JRPG with some pretty noticeable problems. Due to drawing and overeliance on GFs, the combat aspect of the game simply doesn't feel as fluid as the other ones. Not to mention that the junction/GF system is overly convoluted and is too easy to exploit if you don't practice self control.Drawing is kind of cool, but it gets pretty old pretty fast. I wish there was a more efficient way of doing it. Plus, the level scaling was very ill-advised. All this combines to make the combat/character building portion of the game feel really weird. It's not terrible, but it feels "off".
That being said, the art design is so creative and gorgeous (I don't think I can name a single JRPG that looks as distinctive as this game does; it's the least 'fantasyish' but it still manages to have the most striking look), the music is beautiful in usual FF fashion, the story is extremely interesting, and the game has so many interesting scenarios and so much creativity. So many moments stick out. For instance, the "assassination" at the end of disc 1 or that part where you have to disconnect the train cars. I think FFVIII might actually be the best as far as creative scenarios is concerned. It's just unfortunately badly let down by systems that weren't thought through. The pacing and story compells you to keep playing like the others, but there's no escaping the feeling that the combat is just not as fun.
I'm even warming up to the character cast a more. Squall is still a giant douche, and Rinoa can be annoying at times (tho kind of endearing at others), but Zell seems like a cool person to hang out with even if he's dumb as rocks, I like Selphie's slight craziness, Irvine is an entertaining person, Laguna is a great guy, and Quistis still feels like she's just kind of there if you get what I mean. Also, Edea is probably the most imposing villain outside of Kefka IMO.
All in all, I still feel it's the weakest PS1 FF and it seems kind of unpolished (by Square standards) compared to FFIX (my favorite), but I think it shows the power of FF that the game can be so flawed in some ways but still be a great JRPG all things considered. The main reason FFIX edges it out so much is the better character cast, better visual presentation, the more lively world, funner battles, and just being alot more well put together, but I have to admit that FFVIII is a little more unique and creative. Same with FFVII, although I really don't like the character cast in that game any better than VIII's and the visuals are much worse; the game is just more well thought out and has less flaws.
What do you guys think of FFVIII?