When it was first released, many hailed Final Fantasy VIII as the best in the series to date. In itself, VIII is a good game. The developers made several changes by altering the gameplay and visual styles, and best of all, the difficulty scales -- so you're never really over-leveled like in some of the other FF games. However, there are some drawbacks that keep FFVIII from being as great as some of the others in the original set, with the main protagonist, Squall, being one of them.
He's annoying for a good chunk of the game. He has an angsty attitude fitting the setting, but it's not endearing. It also makes it a bit difficult to fully believe his abrupt change from the "whatever" school boy to more dynamic hero later ibn FFVIII's narrative.
On top of that, the draw and junction systems are unfortunately tedious as well. The story is interesting, as is the setting.
Yet neither really contributes to the other, unlike later games in the series, such as VI and VII. The plot contains some other issues too. Time travel is difficult to implement well in most stories and almost always leaves gaps in the logic -- sorry J.K. Rowling -- but a significant issue in the game is the theme it ends up centering around as a result of the time travel. The majority of Final Fantasy games emphasize how choices shape one's actions and the world.
However, VIII is all about predetermination, where almost everyone's actions are set in stone from the outset. Combined with the fact that it's ultimately a coming-of-age story, it is much narrower in depth and scope and keeps the game's appeal and major themes from being as universal as other games in the series.