Final Fantasy VIII - Review

Breaking the Mold

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Plot 7
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-60 hours


Title Screen

   The eighth installment into Squaresoft flagship series, Final Fantasy 8 was released 9/7/99, just two days before Sega released their Dreamcast, amid talk of being quite different from it's predecessors. Most of talk centered around the fact that it was stated that the theme of FF8 was of love. That fact plus a number of differences made FF8 a topic for discussion for months after it's release.

   Playing with the new battle system, old Square fans will immediately notice the lack of Magic Points, traditionally needed to cast spells. They might also notice these 'Guardian Forces' which not only take the place of armor and accessories, but also act as summon spells. When casting such summon spells your character takes the hit points of the GF, therefore adding an element of strategy to the Active Time Battles. Besides the GFs the battles are no different than how they were back in FF1-7. Battlefields are polygon as are the characters; three is still the limit with characters in your party at once.

Iffrit takes some time to show off his new earings  

   One thing you might have to work on is the 'Draw' system which replaces the traditional magic one. Spells are required to be drawn from enemies and either stored or used immediately against them. There is no limit to how many spells you can draw from a certain enemy, just that you can only store 100 of each spell per person. The leveling up system takes a page from Final Fantasy Tactics, you only need 1000 experience points to a raise a level, a number which stays constant throughout the game. Be warned however, just like FFT your enemies are always on the same level as you.

   The interface scored as low as it did because of the abundant menus, so many in fact that it's quite hard to find your way around when you play this for the first time. Junctioning GFs and spells to your character also takes some time to learn, or you could just let the game do it for you. Also there is little to do in the towns you come across, no treasure chests or item shops. The one highlight in this area is the mini-game Triple Triad, which can be played against almost every single person in the game. . This simple looking card game is surprisingly addictive, often times I spent more time playing it instead of the actual game.

   The music in this game, just like the other FFs, is outstanding. Almost all the tunes have an epic flare or just fit the scene nicely. FF8 also has quite possibly the greatest battle music in a game ever, Man with a Machine Gun. Sound effects are also well done, you hear the crack of the whip, the slash of the sword, and the roar of the Guardian Forces.

Now this is what I call an airship  

   No one can argue about the originality of this game, they can only argue if they liked it or not. The draw system and the static level of experience points I felt detracted from the game and made battles tedious, even more so given the fact that you never recieve money from battles. You only get money after you've taken a certain number of steps, then you get paid by your employer. There is also the fact that there are no treasure chests in the various dungeons you explore, which makes exploring mostly pointless. I never really spent the time learning the complex Junction System, luckily you can just achieve the same results by telling the computer to do it for you. But you should take into account that besides my opinions about it, at least they tried something new.

   Most of the game is spent by controlling the selfish and cold Squall, his ordeal in becoming a SeeD, and of course his battles with love. You go on various missions later in the game, but most of game's events seem to take backseat to the outstanding character development. While FF8 eventually spirals down into a 'Save the Universe', the theme itself remains of one about love. Toward the end you get the feeling that the designers just wanted to get the game done, as some things just mysteriously happen without a clear and believable reason.

   I thought the localization was great, no spelling or grammar mistakes out of character. Some effort was actually put in to make the characters come to life with various speaking styles.

   Replay, as always, is a mixed bag. Since secrets are non-existent, there is no need to backtrack to dungeons or towns. The only reason why you'd even want to revisit a town is so you could challenge its citizens for control over their Triple Triad cards. The cards themselves however, have little meaning except for a few which you can turn into useful items. There is the hunt for GFs too, but toward the end of the game they become less and less useful in boss battles. It also gets annoying from the amount of time they take to summon.

Squall stares amazingly at the first real car in an RPG  

Visuals in the this game are a definite 10. The towns are beautiful, the characters are life-like, and the FMV scenes are unrivaled only by FF7's. The game has a definite sci-fi feel for it, and the various towns reflect that. You'd be hard pressed to actually find am ugly place in this game.

Difficulty is really easy for the most part. Since leveling up is bad, you might just want to keep yourself weak so the enemies won't acquire new abilities. If you just spend some time drawing spells from enemies you will have no trouble in this game, since you can just junction those spells to various stats and become invincible fairly early in the game. And besides, there is no limit other than patience for how many times you can summon a GF and wipe the battlefield clean.

If you realized early that there's nothing special in dungeons and that you don't need to play Triple Triad, you can breeze through this game fairly quick. However, if you feel the need to collect all the cards and all the GFs, you'll be playing this for a while .

Overall, I enjoyed my time while playing the game. Don't get me wrong about the plot, it is adequate. It is just apparent that the game was structured so that the plot was secondary to the interaction of the characters, which was excellent. I'd be hard-pressed to find another game with such beautifully scripted scenes. So my suggestion is just turn it on, and enjoy the voyage of love and discovery that awaits you. Happy gaming.

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