Apart from Final Fantasy II, this is the most different game of the Final Fantasy series. Squaresoft should be commended for trying something new, as it has been persecuted in the past for not changing the series enough. However, no. I strongly dislike Final Fantasy VIII. The things that most people criticize about the series are accented in this game. To start: the story is stupid. It's not complicated or confusing, just stupid. Anime and the like have never been known to have the most sensical (is that a word?) stories, but the majority is a lot better than this. Some fans may argue that you're not supposed to think about that too much, kind of like the psychological aspect of Fight Club; just accept it and continue on. But it's not even good enough for that. At points I found myself sitting there saying to myself, "Why am I here, playing this game?" And, as seasoned console rpg gamers know, that's where the experience ends (weak pun unintentional).
Next, the characters are totally boring. A good Final Fantasy game (or any rpg for that matter) should be like a novel; your main characters start off one way, change substantially by the middle of the story, and are different people by the end of the novel. They need to evolve somewhat. Now let's take a look at Final Fantasy VIII, starting with the quasi-villain, Seifer Almasy; this archetype is usually the most interesting, like Kain Highwind in Final Fantasy IV. Seifer starts as a bully. He doesn't really like Squall, our hero, but he respects him a little. This is the extent of his character. From beginning to end, regardless of his rise in position, he doesn't change. Okay, how about Squall Leonhart. In the beginning he's a conveniently taciturn loner, and by the end he's a conveniently taciturn leader. Oh, and he gets the girl. I'm not even going to mention Zell "brash and insecure" Dincht and Selphie "I'm a girl" Tilmett, the two most insipid characters I've ever seen. Actually, I just mentioned them. I hate them.
The script isn't that bad. It's hard to make uninteresting people say interesting things, so I'm not going bother with that too much. This is the first game to have real swear words in the dialogue. A-OK with me. The message exchange on the Balamb Garden bulletin board is parodical of a real chat room, and is actually quite well done, because it is lame. The card game is pretty neat... for about five minutes. The Laguna-Squall time relationship is reminiscent of Chrono Trigger, but is admittedly cooler. The coolest part of Final Fantasy VIII, probably, besides the Guardian Force animations. Oh yes, the guardian forces. The junctioning system frightens and confuses me.