Final Fantasy VIII: Pinnacle of Evolution?

    Fans of the Final Fantasy series have watched it evolve for many years. We have seen it go from being 8-bit to 16, to 32-bit. We have seen it transform from a time when the characters had almost no backstory, to a time flashbacks are used to give an eloquent history. But one of the largest changes has come in the battle system, from the humble beginings of a purely turned based system to today's extensive Active Time Battle (ATB).

    So what unique spins and improvements has Final Fantasy VIII brought to the table? Final Fantasy VIII has brought many changes to the battle system, though the title still features the ATB. First, the battle displays have been simplified, to give a much more pristine look to battles.

    Second, and one of the two biggest changes in the battle system, is the addition of "Draw". In Final Fantasy VIII, magic resides in all things, and cannot be learned and used at will. Instead, it must be "drawn" out of enemies or picked up via "Draw Points". Before drawin magic from an enemy though, the player must decide whether to release it immediately, or to store it for future use. Stored magic can then be used in "junction" with weapons and armor, to give them elemental properties.

    Third, is the new "Junction" system, which is somewhat similar to the Materia system of Final Fantasy VII. With the Junction system, players can give weapons and armor elemental properites and magical enhancements. Players can also "junction" with Guardian Forces, who will then give the players abilities. Using the Junction system, Guardian Forces can gain experience points of their own, and level up to learn new abilities which can then be transfered to the character they are junctioned with.

    Using the Junction system, players can custom design their characters, giving one character a certain set of abilities, while making another character the complete opposite. There are 6 types of abilities in Final Fantasy VIII, junction abilities, command abilities, character abilities, party abilities, Guardian Force abilties, and menu abilities. The junction abilties, as previously mentioned, are those abilities acquired through the junctioning of stored magic with weapons and armor.

    Command abilities are abilities that can be used in battle. They are acquired through junctioning with a Guardian Force, and then adding the Guardian Force's ability to your command list. Command abilities include Magic, Draw, GF, Defend, and Steal, among others.

    Character abilities are abilities that enhance your character when junctioned with a Guardian Force. These include Counter, Shield, HP 10% UP, etc. Similar to Character abilities are Party abilities. These abilities affect the entire party, and include 1/2 Encounter Rate and Alert.

    Guardian Force abilities are abilities that enhance the power of the junctioned Guardian Force. They include such things as 10% Attack UP and 10% HP UP. They are activated automatically by the Guardian Force when learned.

    Last, but not least of the abilities, are the Menu abilities. These abilities appear automatically in the menu when junctioned with a Guardian Force, and include Item Combine, and Bargain.

    Fourth, are the Guardian Forces. The Guardian Forces are similar to the summoned monsters of previous Final Fantasy, but with several key differences. After being summoned into battle, the Guardian Forces absorb all damage meant for the Summoner. This could prove to be the difference in some key battles. Also, Guardian Forces can gain experience points and level up, thus becoming stronger, and learning new abilities, as aforementioned.

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