When I first played this game, I thought Squall was in college due to his class’ hall room structure. But Balamb Gardens functions similarly to Japanese school structure.
Japanese schools have Cultural festivals (文化祭 bunkasai?). These are annual open day school events. The students display their artistic achievements at these events. Parents may also want to see what kind of work their children have been doing. The festivals are usually open to the public, especially at schools and universities. Selphie, a transfer student, was in charge of something like this in Trabia and Balamb Gardens. The Garden Festival is a student-run event held annually in Balamb Garden in Final Fantasy VIII.
Western schools have similar concepts (i.e. Homecoming).
But then we have the feeling of high school, which is what makes this game cross-cultural. I played this when I was in high school, and identified with a lot of it. I understood the whole “going to class”, taking tests and “field exams” (field trips) concept. It definitely made sense. Their high school seemed ultra serious. On a less serious note, Final Fantasy VIII had a mock card game that high schoolers play. And check out these school tropes:
- Cid Kramer – Headmaster and co-founder.
- NORG – Garden Master and proprietor.
- Squall Leonhart – Commander and gifted student (loner kid/drifter/too cool for school).
- Dr. Kadowaki – Garden physician, psychiatrist, and retired CC Group “King”.
- Quistis Trepe – SeeD instructor and geeky Master King of a secretive Triple Triad card group. (An obvious nerd) and Squall doesn’t like the nerds.
- Selphie Tilmitt – SeeD member and head of the Festival Committee (prep) also: took over from Wimbly Donner – Retired head of the Festival Committee. Wimbly. Donner.
- Zell Dincht – SeeD member and jock.
- Seifer Almasy, Raijin, and Fujin – Members of the Disciplinary Committee, bullies and outcasts.
- Cafeteria Lady – Self explanatory.
I think we relate to Squall position in life (i.e. teenager in a school setting). If not, then his demeanor, but many probably related to both. Squall is always in his head and needs to get out of it. Yeah right. Try telling a teenager not fitting in isn’t the end of the world. They don’t see it that way, because high school is their world and their self-esteem depends on it. And Squall is just an insecure poser trying to put up a front to hide his vulnerable emotions. Only a super genius can see through his facade.
Consider that Squall’s a moody high school student. He should start maturing in a college setting. Making friends in Japanese high school is paramount. Many Japanese kids keep their friends they’ve had from high school. A lot of adults in Japan find it hard to break through and open up to them in later life. Final Fantasy VIII is definitely a coming-to-age for Squall. In his quest to learn about himself, he deals with his emotions and become a much more mature adult.
But maybe Final Fantasy VIII reminds us to not let life pass us by? But for us Westerners, the game takes a different, maybe even unintentional meaning. It revolves around opening up to live a much more fulfilling life. Everyone’s going through their own inner battles.
So what about you? Does Final Fantasy VIII (or any of the Final Fantasy games) remind you of school life? Looking forward to hearing your answers.