We learned in 2018 that a slew of Final Fantasy games would be coming to the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One before and during 2019. I was excited and when my friends and I talked about it, we typed Final Fantasy VII – X-2 a few times. It was assumed that Final Fantasy VIII would be included, and it took a few moments before it occurred to us that no, there actually wasn’t any mention of the game. But why?
It isn’t as though Final Fantasy VIII is loathed—it’s actually pretty good. Sure, the “junction” system, which is how the game handles summons, stats, and spells, wasn’t a hit with everyone. Yeah, the romantic storyline was pretty damn stupid at times. But overall, Final Fantasy VIII is a good RPG. To date, Square Enix has made a port or remaster of most of its main Final Fantasy games, but VIII never quite received that treatment. In fact, it’s received almost no effort, whereas games like VII, IX, and X have been reworked to appeal more to modern gamers.
One reason might be that Final Fantasy VIII just isn’t as popular, so it’s not necessarily worth the effort it would take to bring it over. Maybe this new batch of games will help Square Enix reappraise the risk of working on an updated version. What we’ve received so far, certainly, have been indicative of a laziness on Square Enix's part. The Steam version of Final Fantasy VIII was virtually identical to the old PC port, which was inferior to the console version in almost every way. It was a strange choice, although it did provide easy access to the Chocobo World minigame, which was never really accessible for gamers in the United States. I doubt Chocobo World was the incentive behind using the PC code, though.
Honestly, I hope it was laziness or caution on Square Enix’ part. Alternative theories are a little scary. What if, say, they don’t actually have all the code for the original game? What if parts are missing and they can’t update the game all that well and the PC version, which was ported by an outside developer, happened to be the most complete version of the game? It’s not that absurd of an idea, although there isn’t evidence to support it. What is true, though, is that the version of Final Fantasy IX that came to modern consoles isn’t as pretty as it could be, because the publisher didn’t adequately preserve the original higher resolution backgrounds. This kind of thing happens, and if that is the case for Final Fantasy VIII, then a better version might require quite a bit of work. Final Fantasy VIII doesn’t have the reputation that Final Fantasy VII has, so I can’t imagine anyone investing heavily in the title.
Final Fantasy VIII also had a song in it that features pop icon Faye Wong. The song, entitled "Eyes on Me," is sung by one of the characters in the game and serves as part of the narrative. Its use in the game is emotionally effective, and it’s hard to imagine the game without it. I don’t care who sings it, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is whatever was written in the original contract with Faye Wong, and those are details we do not know at this point. Alan Wake was removed from digital storefronts because of licensing issues with the music included in that game, and those artists were nowhere near Faye Wong in terms of popularity. The song, despite its popularity, has also been missing from games like Final Fantasy Theatrhythm, which is odd for a game that focuses on the series’ music and even includes relatively unknown songs from Final Fantasy XI. Maybe the contract is prohibitive in some form? Maybe rerecording the song would be a hassle. Maybe we’ll find out some day.
At this point, we can only speculate. I imagine Square Enix will have to field some questions about this at some point in the near future. While it was sort of strange that Final Fantasy VIII wasn’t shown much love by the company in the last couple years, the omission from this fleet of Final Fantasy games has drawn a lot of attention to the game. It could all be a very simple business decision or it could be something much worse. At the very least, these theories are all more plausible than that whole “Squall is Dead” fan theory, and it’s probably understandable if people are becoming suspicious.