I've been playing Final Fantasy 8 on an off over the past few months. I put it aside when I found myself with a borrowed Xbox, and picked it back up once I finished Crimson Skies and Jade Empire.
Final Fantasy 8 is widely derided as the worst of the series. And I'll tell you why: the Battle System is terrible. Well, the Battle System is the same as 6 & 7, what's wrong is the Guardian Forces. They are EVERYTHING about your character, and it's too easy to get in the trap of 'cast my summon spell over and over for the entire game.' Yeah, the cut scene for Iffrit is pretty cool… until you've seen it hundreds of times. Not fun.
But… I've discovered something very cool. If you choose not to ever activate your GFs (you need them to get special abilities and magic, but you just choose not to ever cast the summon spells), the gameplay actually becomes fun again. The draw system stands on its own without the everpresent specter of the GFs looming over, and you actually get to use the fringe special abilities (there's some keen ones out there.) And since you're not pumping xp into making your summon attacks stronger, you unlock the nifty wierd abilities instead.
Gameplay considerations aside, FF8 was still good for a number of reasons: it's a very pretty game. It's not as pretty as FF10, but its got its cool features. FF8 suprises me even today by having NPCs randomly be in a location or not- highly unusual for a PS1 platform. FF10 has clearly smoother CG, but there's just alot of neat little details in FF8. What CG there is impresses me as much as anything I've seen in more modern games, and theres some cool splicing of CG and sprite gameplay (you move your sprite in the foreground, but crazy stuff is going on in the background). There's some obvious border problems, and you can tell for sure when they're using the effect, but it still looks darn cool.
And the plot is neat. Cool stuff goes down. I also like most of the characters.
Minigames! Gotta love a collectible card game within the game! It's easy, fun, and the first time I played through I played it more than the actual game (because lets face it, the battle system was that bad.) I like collecting stuff. (Best in-game CCG prize of course, goes to Xenosaga.)