Final Fantasy VIII - Review

Final Fantasy VIII fails to live up to expectations

By: Brandon Daiker

Review Breakdown
Battle System 8
Interface 7
Music/Sound 10
Originality 6
Plot 3
Localization 9
Replay Value 6
Visuals 10
Difficulty Very Easy - Medium
Time to Complete

30 - 40 Hours

Overall (Not an average)
Six.. jeez I'm gonna get flamed..

Final Fantasy VIII's CG sequences truly shine.

Final Fantasy. Since 1985, Square's Final Fantasy series has represented the pinnacle of RPG quality. From the original Final Fantasy to 1997's Final Fantasy VII, gamers have been immersed in an magical, sometimes almost real world involving an excellent story, memorable cast of characters, and delightful gameplay elements. 1999's Final Fantasy VIII, however, fails to deliver such a memorable experience. With forgettable characters, a tedious battle system, cumbersome menus and a very weak storyline, Final Fantasy VIII is a disappoinment.

The battle system in Final Fantasy VIII was modeled after the ATB (Active Time Battle) system used since Final Fantasy IV (released on the Super Nintendo as Final Fantasy II in the United States). 'Active Time Bars' are located in the lower right corner of your screen, and fill gradually. When filled, the appropriate character is given a chance to use a command. This is where the battle system falls apart. The command windows are customizable to a point, but because of only 4 spaces in each window, true customization is not possible. Aside from 'Limit Breaks' (attacks available when HP are low) and the obvious differences in each character's weapon appearances, each character is essentially the same; they possess no inherent abilities. This greatly detracts from the strategies a player had to use in a game such as Final Fantasy IV, where each character had special abilities that warranted their addition to the party. Another weak aspect of the battle system is the addition of 'G.F.'s', or 'Guardian Forces'. 'Guardian Forces' are monsters that can be 'attached' to a character and then summoned infinately in a battle. The attacks are incredibly powerful and, because you can use them repeatedly with no penalty, take much of the challenge out of the battles. The summon animations for some of the stronger monsters are also ridiculously long, some lasting more than one and one-half minutes. Granted, these are exciting to watch the first time, but over time become tedious, as there is no way to shorten or skip the animations.

The menus are difficult to understand and to navigate.
The menus are difficult to understand and to navigate.

The gameplay in Final Fantasy VIII is also fairly weak. The menus are confusing to navigate and the 'junctioning' of magic spells to character's attributes is confusing and best left to the 'auto-junction' option. Navigating the areas within the game is also fairly tedious unless you have an analog control pad or have the 'run' button permanently held down. The default character speed is PAINFULLY slow.

One of the two aspects whereFinal Fantasy VIII truly shines is in the music and sound. Nobuo Uematsu's wonderful abilities to create a captivating musical score shine through in the sheer quality of the songs in the game. The vocal track 'Eyes on me' was recorded by J-Pop sensation Faye Wong, and really conveys the emotion between Squall and Rinoa the game designers wanted. The sound effects are of equal quality. From the explosion of Squall's Gunblade, to the 'splish slash' as you walk through puddles, the music and sound truly shine. (But those god-awful footstep noises!! ACK!!)

The game really tries to be original, but falls flat on it's face in many aspects. The elimination of MP 'Magic Points' from the gameplay system was simply a bad idea, and is was replaced with an even worse one... all the magic you use in the game must be 'drawn' from points around the world. These spells are then stored like inventory, and the total number is depleted with each use. This makes the 'magic system' feel more like items that cast magic spells. Good for Square to try to be original, but it simply was and is a bad idea and makes the game unbalanced.

Zell prepares to unleash a limit break..
Zell prepares to unleash a limit break..
As with nearly any RPG in a series, Final Fantasy VIII borrows heavily from the basic ideas of the previous games in the series, and quickly becomes 'just another RPG'.

The plot is the one area of the game that is *SEVERELY* lacking. The charm of the previous games is gone, and in it's place is a weak storyline that seems to have been hacked together at the last minute. The game never really accomplishes pulling you into the story, and once it finally does, the major conflict of the story is solved quickly afterwards, leaving little desire to care about the rest of the poorly written story.

Final Fantasy VIII was localized quite well. From spunky dialogue from Selphie, the stereotypical rambunctious teenage girl, to more serious dialogue from Squall, the game's translation truly shines, and is one of the better translations Square's team has put out. The promotions that ranged from coupons in soda boxes, to giveaways of cars, were also rather successful and the public was quite well informed of the game.

As for the replay value of the game, there really isn't any good reason, unless you want to go back and collect all the 'Guardian Forces', or win all the cards from the Card Battle mini game. The game is fairly linear in itself and there really is not much exploring or optional side-quests to take.

The visuals in the game are the second area in which the game truly shines. The characters are proportional to real human beings and the CG sequences in which they are rendered are simply the best the Playstation is capable of. Kudos to the CG artists that designed those.

Rinoa wants a better Final Fantasy game, too.
Rinoa wants a better Final Fantasy game, too.
The town environments are also rendered quite well and convey a sense of futuristic realism.

The game's difficulty is weighted towards the entry level RPG'er and the newest player should have a fairly easy time completing the game, while the veteran player should breeze through it in under 30 hours.

In itself, Final Fantasy VIII can be a fairly decent game for the new RPGamer, but veteran players of the previous Final Fantasy games will feel like it is missing something the other games had. It is. Spirit. Magic. I can't help but feel this game was a quickly hacked together attempt to cash in on the success of Final Fantasy VII. Next time, Square, give us something we can feel proud to call Final Fantasy.

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