In comparison to its predecessor, 1999’s Final Fantasy VIII is a divisive game. It came after the most popular entry in the series and changed the mechanics of the series’s trademark gameplay more radically than any game prior.
You couldn’t equip armor or new weapons, and magic was consumable and somewhat tedious to restock. The story, while still having world-ending consequences, was far more focused on the personal stories of its characters than were previous games.
If you’re not familiar, the games of the Final Fantasy series are all very separate stories - they share some themes and gameplay concepts, but each story is independent.
This game follows Squall, a trainee in a mercenary army. In his first official deployment, he meets Rinoa, the head of a small rebel group working for independence for her small city-state. As the game progresses, so does their relationship, and Squall’s relationship with his friends and rivals. The story doesn’t focus on good versus evil, and in fact most of the antagonists are either redeemed by the end of the game, or else were never bad in the first place - just in opposition to Squall’s own mission.
The game is all about destiny and if the past is truly doomed to be repeated, or if it’s possible to defy fate. Throughout there are attempts to change the past to influence the future, which all end up failing. The characters learn that to change the future, they need to act in the present. And they learn that to truly effect that change, they need to learn from the past - a past that many of them initially can’t remember.
Probably because of the gameplay changes, many people dislike Final Fantasy VIII, and consider it one of the worst games in the franchise. For me, for the characters and themes it added to the series, it’s my favorite.