Final Fantasy VIII on Steam is a stupid broken wonderful mess, and it’s all Chocobo’s fault

When Final Fantasy VIII launched in Japan back in 1977, it included a mechanism to interface with a peripheral called the PocketStation. As far as I can tell this was a Tomagotchi-style device where you could play bleepy little dot matrix games, but also plugged into your PlayStation so you could import bonuses into whatever compatible actual video games you might own. For FFVIII this meant Chocobo World.

Chocobo World is a neat little app. Your chocobo automatically wanders around the world, fighting monsters and collecting treasure. You can take control manually if you like, speeding up the process, but I imagine anyone would get bored of this pretty quick. As its own thing it’s even less interesting than a Tomagotchi, really, since your chocobo can’t be killed and never really demands your attention.

The PocketStation never made its way across the Pacific, but the North American version of FFVIII still had the built-in integration. This led to a lot of gamers confused as to why you have to name a chocobo, what Gysahl Greens were for, and why there was a MiniMog card. Back in the day there were a lot of footnotes in a lot of FAQs, and I imagine no small number of players with more money than sense imported themselves a PocketStation solely for this one game.

Of course, the Steam release of FFVIII doesn’t have the issue of region differences. The modern World is a standalone app you can run in the background, whether or not your copy of FFVIII is running. And it otherwise works the same; instead of plugging into your PC (choco-boco-dongle?), FFVIII just reads the World data off your hard drive.

But there’s a stupid glitch. A stupid, kind of hilarious glitch that every single Steam player will accidentally benefit from.

I’m not clear on the details, having never seen one of these devices myself, but I believe it was impossible for the PocketStation to run a game while it was plugged in, which was required to import data. Think of a cell phone you can’t use while it’s charging, that’s kind of how the PocketStation do. I think.

But on Steam, this isn’t a problem. You can have Chocobo World running while you play FFVIII, even during the import process. And so, for whatever reason, the data file keeping track of treasures your chocobo “owes” you doesn’t get wiped properly. You can take them again and again, until you have vast piles of everything. You can do this as early as disc two, upon reaching your first chocobo forest.

I’ve confirmed that if you close the World app before doing the import, the data gets wiped properly and you only get one batch of items. If it’s running, though — and that’s the most common way Steam players will do it — barrels of free items are yours to keep.

Here’s how it works:

Chocobo World is a series of events. One of these events is “find a treasure”. This treasure will either be an A, a B, a C, or a D. These are the only four items that exist, as far as your chocobo is concerned. One of the subscreens in the World tells you how many of each you have.

In FFVIII, there are four treasure pools labeled A, B, C, and D. And you probably see where this is going. When you import treasures from World, what you’re doing is rolling on each of the four treasure tables a number of times equal to how many letters your chocobo has. 5 As, five rolls on the A treasure table.

Since the data doesn’t clear as long as the World app is running, you get a new set of rolls every time you do the import. Have 5 As? Cool. Boot up the app, run the import, get 5 A items, save your game, run the import again, get 5 more. Do this as many times as you want.

Here’s what you can get:

At the time I noticed the glitch, I had something like 4 As, 11 Bs, 30 Cs and 45 Ds. After ten minutes of playing with it, I walked away with the following:

  • all of the items required to summon Doomtrain (usually not possible until late disc three),
  • all of Quistis’s blue magic spells,
  • enough rare GF items to get a full part with HP +80%, Ribbon, Devour, and Ability x4 abilities,
  • enough weapon components to make Lion Heart, Ergheiz, and some other endgame equipment,
  • piles of powerful magic, including 100 Flares, 100 Holys, 100 Triples, and enough magic items to refine as many more of these as I want,
  • god who even knows probably like a unicorn and a rocket car and a pile of Black Lotuses, whatever they are.

This was after ten minutes. If I’d kept going, I could have gotten literally anything I wanted for every character.

This is hilarious.

Final Fantasy VIII is not a difficult game at the best of times. Knowledgable players can break any Final Fantasy wide open, but even un-knowledgable ones will break FFVIII by accident eventually. With no experimentation and no research, an unsophisticated player using auto-Junction will stumble across blindly spamming limit breaks partway through disc three, no question. This is what I did when I was sixteen.

With one hour of leveling, the player can set up the same broken cheese at the beginning of the game, before the first boss fight. And then never look back. This is what I did when I was, I dunno, twenty-six.

So if any game deserves to be broken even further by a silly half-baked peripheral exploit nobody noticed, I’m glad it’s Final Fantasy VIII. Now to try and figure out what to do with all these Elnoyle cards I’m not gonna need anymore.

Thanks for reading!

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