Final Fantasy VIII - Demo Impressions

What does Final Fantasy VIII mean for the future of RPGs?

By Brian Glick, RPGamer Writer

FF8 demo title
RPGamer takes a look at the FF VIII demo

   "The day's almost here," I mused to myself some weeks back, as the release date of Brave Fencer Musashi neared in Japan. "Only a week or so until that nice little package arrives on my front doorstep." And so I waited.

   And waited.

   And ... waited.

   While others had gleefully received their copy of Musashi with the accompanying Final Fantasy VIII demo, I was left in the dark, sit to wait on my front porch before I could share in the fun. Living in Canada isn't all it's cracked up to be sometimes, you know.

   But finally, it came. The truck pulled up in my driveway, and I hastily scribbled my name down for the package, ironically marked "Extremely urgent." Dashing like a small child, I stuck the game into my PlayStation console and powered it up. Nearly an hour later, I walked away, dumbfounded and in visible awe of the awesome spectacle that my eyes were just previously affixed to.

   Am I overreacting? Has Brian finally lost all sense of journalistic objectivity? Writing this, almost a week after having first played the game, I'm just as excited and impressed from the demo as I was then, if not more so. While the demo itself excites me, it's not simply that. It's what this game, and the games in the industry after this promise. With games like Final Fantasy VIII, the progression of the role playing genre is undergoing a metamorphosis into an area that promises to appeal to a massive amount of the gaming market -- far more than what we see now.

   You see, Final Fantasy VII was a major step up in role playing. Jumping from the Super Nintendo to the Sony PlayStation, FF VII was revolutionary; stunning RPG players that were used to games that did not put a large focus on the visual imagery in a game. Multiple camera angles, beautifully rendered backdrops, and a stunning lineup of CG movies brought forth a storytelling environment that many termed as an "interactive movie."

Jump, Squall!
CG movies engross the player in the imagery

   While Final Fantasy VII was a revolution, Final Fantasy VIII is an evolution. FF VII felt patched together, uneven, as if all the pieces of the puzzle didn't fit cleanly together. It was the first try at such a radical new design in games, and although it sold remarkably well and introduced many to the genre, most would agree the game was far from perfect. FF VIII fixes many of these problems. Characters merge cleanly with the world they inhabit, and the line between polygonal dialogue scenes and CG-rendered movies is blended even thinner. Everything feels right, and the pieces of the puzzle come together to display a much larger picture.

   The metamorphosis comes into focus when you look at the future of the RPG market. Role playing games tell a story that you, the player, interacts in. In everyday life, the sense you utilize the most is your sense of sight. With the increasing use of stunning imagery in RPGs, the games feel closer to life, and by becoming engrossed with a wonderful combination of game mechanics and gameplay, your sense of interaction is only heightened by an assortment of fantastic visuals dancing across your vision and imagination. Essentially, games like Final Fantasy VII and VIII become an interactive movie that you participate in, which parallels, yet differs at the same time from a typical movie where all you do is sit back and let your eyes and ears be assaulted.

   Final Fantasy VII sold extremely well in both Japan and North America, and from what I've seen of the FF VIII demo so far, it's going to outsell Final Fantasy VII by far. While Square leads the way now, other game developers and producers are sure to copy the game format, and at the same time, advance it. Competition is sure to be intense, and in the end, the gamers are sure to benefit.

   What will it lead to, however? Although it's obviously difficult to say, it seems as though we're heaving for an eventual evolution into a game that truly feels like a movie that you control -- one you interact with so deeply that you lose most sense of where you are, or even who you are. In many ways, these games could be similar to a wonderfully-told story in a book, except that you are in control of the world you imagine yourself inhabiting.

   In any case, the world of RPGs seems to be in for a very interesting time in the years ahead. The classification "role-playing game" is about to take on an entirely new meaning and depth.

On to Part 2...

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