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Final Fantasy VIII - Review

Final Fantasy VIII Review

By: Stewart Bishop


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 10
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 8
   Plot 6
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-50 hours

 
Overall
even with all those 10's
Criteria

Title Screen


   If there is any RPG company that has it hard, it is Squaresoft. While it's true that they have always been successful in their creation of RPGs, most of their popularity has been gained through the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII being the most influential, of course. While other companies have a problem keeping up with the mighty RPG bull, Squaresoft has the most difficult task of all: Topping their previous games. Is Final Fantasy VIII a worthy successor to the mighty Final Fantasy VII? In a word, yes.

   Square's multi-million dollar masterpiece sports the classic battle interface that is reminiscent of all previous Final Fantasies. The new and innovative magic system, Junctioning, is similar to that of Espers in Final Fantasy VI, only infinitely more important. Without proper Junctioning, you will never, ever beat this game. Though complex at first, it quickly becomes understandable, and with proper junctioning, the game is a piece of cake. GFs, or Guardian Forces, act as providers of junctioning capabilities, command abilities, summons and magic. It works as follows: a GF is 'Junctioned' or 'Set' to a specific character. Depending on the abilities of the GF, the character can then Junction certain magic to specific attributes, such as Strength and HP. The strength of the magic and amount that you currently possess determines the effectiveness of the Junction. Abilities include Junctioning magic to statistics, elemental offense/defense as well as status offense/defense. GFs also allow for a range of Command abilities to be used in battle, such as Attack, Draw, Magic, GF (Summon), Item, Revive, etc. It is important to properly equip your characters for battle every time you change your junction. It's a true pain to only be left with the 'Attack' command. Obtaining magic can be a bore or a thrill. If you enable the Draw command on a character, you can either draw (steal) a spell from an enemy and immediately use it, or stock them for later use or junctioning purposes. You can draw from either enemies or draw points, which are found along your journey. GFs, when used in battle can grant certain abilities. Interestingly enough, GFs have their own set of HP, and whenever they are selected, their HP masks over your characters', creating a temporary 'shield' for them. The length of time it takes for a GF to be summoned is dependent on the compatibility that the character has with the GF, which can be increased by using it more often or by using certain items.


Silly Little Comment on Screen
Silly Little Comment on Screen  

   Limit Breaks differ from Final Fantasy VII in that they can usually only be accessed when a character is at low health. Some people say that this prevents Limit Breaks from becoming overly powerful, but I feel bold enough to say that this creates a huge imbalance. Half of the game I spent with Squall at low HP, continually using Renzokuken and if he happened to die, a Phoenix Down or Life magic brought him back, with low health to continue his pummeling. The catch however, is that you must actually WORK for your Limit Break to be effective. For example, Zell requires button combinations to chain attacks, Irvine requires you press R1 to fire, and for Selphie's, you must select which spell you want by choosing 'Do Over,' or 'Cast' if you are satisfied with the selection. I find this to be quite fun, especially when using Fast Ammo with Irvine.

   Also, you will notice that there is no equipment, aside from weapons. The defense and abilities are all in the junctioning and GFs. Instead of obtaining new weapons, however, you must upgrade your weapons by collecting certain items and heading off to a Junk Shop to assemble everything, or Junk Shop from Tonberry's menu ability.

   Interestingly enough, there is only one primary mini-game in Final Fantasy VIII, which is the card game, Triple Triad. While I won't go into the rules here, spend enough time with it and you are sure to become an addict, cursing at the Playstation's load time after you've resetted your game because you lost a card. I've done it myself, you needn't laugh. Collecting cards has its benefits, however. It makes it a lot simpler to gain some rarer items, though I rarely modded a card myself.

   Final Fantasy VIII's plot is epic and dramatic, backed by beautiful CG sequences. However, I did not find this to be very appealing; in fact I sort of forgot about the entire story and the characters in lieu of the sheer funness of the game. The characters appear very hollow and empty; I never felt for any of these characters, unlike in Grandia, where I nearly cried when it was all over. It wasn't bad, but it was hardly close to phenomenal.

   Speaking of beautiful CG sequences; they truly are.

Cutesy or Realistic Name
Cutesy or Realistic Name  
Final Fantasy VIII's visuals are top-notch and truly push the Playstation to its limits in the terms of polygon use, lighting effects and CG animation. The rendered backgrounds are incredibly detailed, as are the characters. Body movement, gestures, blinking eyes, they're all there. Encore to Square and their magnificent display of the Playstation's capabilities.

   The sound effects are the traditional Square beeps and clinks, and the battle sounds are quite good. The music, however, is a bit lacking. I've always enjoyed the music to the Final Fantasies, but none of the songs in this game seemed to stick with me, not even "Eyes on Me," Square's 'million dollar song.' It's a good soundtrack, but not exactly Squaresoft's finest.

   Unfortunately, these breathtaking effects clutch you in their compelling hold only once. After its completion, there is no need to ever touch the game again. The fourth disc leaves you in a barren wasteland of a world; you can't even enter towns! Quite saddening, I must say, seeing as Final Fantasy VII's Golden Saucer kept me entertained for hours after I had completed the game. Also, keep in mind that it is necessary to draw magics from enemies to stay alive in the later CDs. Ask anyone who has played the game and this is probably the single-most annoying experience of all.

You know the deal-title it.
You know the deal-title it.  
Enjoy wasting many more hours drawing magic should you decide to play this one again. The only thing I can think of that could possibly hold you after completing the game is Triple Triad, but even that doesn't last all too long.

   Overall, Square has done an excellent job with Final Fantasy VIII. Though some may argue that this game is inferior to the other Final Fantasies, it cannot be denied that Final Fantasy VIII is an incredible RPG experience. For kicks, play this on a big-screen TV with surround sound speakers, it's a blast. Complete your collection and purchase Square's latest installation in the Final Fantasy series.





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