By the time I played FF8 I was reasonably inured to the peculiarities of the modern incarnation of the Final Fantasy series to the extend that, while it’s objectively not much better than FF7, I did enjoy it much more in the end. The story is still a mess, trading convoluted metaphysics for good storytelling, relying entirely on incomprehensible plot-twists and a style-over-substance approach that is all attitude with no real foundation. But notwithstanding that the whole game feels like a fever dream it managed to captivate me and even the ending, again, objectively speaking as inane as the ending of FF7, managed to satisfy.
The one thing I really liked was the new magic system, which allowed you to catch spells from enemies. It wasn’t perfect, since it effectively forced you to fight again and again to get the spells you wanted, but it was a neat idea. Ideally would have been a system where you could only learn spells from enemies, but once you’ve learned one execute them via a mana point system.