Final Fantasy VIII - Retroview

Change Isn't Always Good...
By: Roku

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 2
   Interaction 3
   Originality 3
   Story 3
   Music & Sound 4
   Visuals 4
   Challenge Easy
   Completion Time 20-60 hours  

The same old summon for the millionth time...
The same old summon for the millionth time...
While change is often a good thing, (in fact the Final Fantasy series would have never reached the level it has without deviating from its origins) the change should be for the better rather than the worse. Final Fantasy VIII fails in this area horribly by implementing several changes which, although fairly innovative, take a lot of fun out of the game. For example, there is no longer an equipment system. You can only upgrade/downgrade weapons in shops. As far as I know there isn't any armor in the game either. At least there's a fun card minigame, but they kind of ruin that too with annoying rules which appear as you progress.

Battles have changed dramatically since VII. The ATB system is still in effect, which for those of you new to the series is a system that gives you a number of turn proportional to your speed rather than merely determining the order of action. Aside from that, battles are very different. You can't learn spells normally, you must Draw them slowly from enemies. When you find an enemy with a new spell you pretty much have to sit there for about 10 minutes drawing it. Once you're done drawing a spell you can junction it to increase your statistics in an area. While this may sound like a cool new system at first, it means you will rarely be able to use any useful magic without weakening yourself. You will basically be forced to attack physically or summon most of the time. Summons take forever to cast and there aren't very many of them, but they're the only thing that does a decent amount of damage to all enemies. Despite all of the changes to the battle system, unless you have Ultima or something junctioned to your attack, you will mostly end up watching ridiculously long summons over and over again or drawing from enemies that have a new spell. Limit Breaks (desperation abilities) are rare and seemingly random unless you use a certain spell first to guarantee that you will get them. To make matters worse, enemy levels are based on your level and you don't earn money in battle. This makes most battles meaningless in addition to long and boring. Overall, the new battle system ends up killing the fun of battles. Luckily you can teach one of your summons (yes, you can teach you summons abilities, which is one of the better changes) a zero-encounter ability which will allow you to avoid this battle system most of the time.

Since summoning a lot will destroy any normal set of enemies easily enough and you can junction your stats to ridiculous levels, the game ends up being quite easy overall. You'd think that enemies that are based on your level would make the game harder, but it doesn't. It prevents you from becoming over-leveled, but also allows you to skip all random battles entirely and save your strength for bosses. Bosses are reasonably powerful, but don't really become a challenge until the end of the game.

As you'd expect from the 8th game in a series, the interaction is pretty nice: a good interface and good localization. It's pretty easy to find what you're looking for in menus and all that. No real problems here.

VIII is surprisingly original for the 8th game in a series due to the massive amount of changes it makes. Few of these changes are for the better, but they're still quite original, especially the new MP-less magic and junction system. VIII also takes on a love story theme which is fairly new.

In addition to a poor battle system, VIII has a story that, well, isn't that good. Aside from the love story, a few interesting missions here and there, and the occasional switch to Laguna as the main character, the plot is relatively uneventful and moves very slowly. The characters aren't very likeable and almost all of the characters have the exact same backstory. Too much time is spent on the love story and too little time developing the other characters, even the villain. Most of the characters and story blur together into the average and lack a lot of heart.

Some nice FMVs
Some nice FMVs
Thanks to being able to skip most of the random battles VIII has to offer, the game can be completed in about 20 hours. If you actually fight all of the random battles for some reason and do all of the relatively unrewarding sidequests, you're more likely to spend closer to 60 hours though.

Like its predecessor, VIII manages to have some great music. While it isn't quite as good as VII's soundtrack overall, it is still quite well done. All of the music matches the scene perfectly from the dramatic war theme to the exciting boss theme to the soft love theme. The sound effects are nicely done as well.

VIII takes a different approach to graphics and chooses are very realistic style. All allies and enemies are beautifully rendered and animated. Some of the spells and all of the summons look really good as well. If you're going to watch the same summon 100+ times, at least it looks good. VIII also has even more FMVs than VII. They're done even better than VII's too. As far as graphics go, VIII is stunning.

VIII makes a lot of changes, but most of them are for the worse. It also feels like there was a lot of focus on graphics and music while most the story withered away uncared for. It's almost as if they traded the soul of the game for better graphics. VIII was a big disappointment, and the worst Final Fantasy game in quite some time. Overall though, it's pretty decent. While it's a poor example of a Final Fantasy game, it's still slightly above average as an RPG.

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