Square reveals FFVIII battle, plot information

   Square Co. of Japan held its annual shareholder meeting on Sunday in Japan, revealing a demo version promoting their latest title in the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VIII. The demo is reported to be very similar to the one scheduled for release with Brave Fencer Musashi in July.

   At the meeting, many details of the game's plot and gameplay were revealed by Square, in addition to clearly visible gameplay elements. Some of the more radical changes to the series involve the battle system. The first change reported involves "drawing" magic from enemies. In addition to the standard battle commands, a new menu option of "Draw" is reported to be included, which, after selected, presents a submenu of "Use" or "Stock". Selecting Use allows a character to take an enemy's magic and focus it back towards your opponent, while choosing Stock allows the player to store the monster's magic temporarily, to be used later. Magic which is drawn will be limited to one use, before disappearing.

   Second, as visible in RPGamer's collection of FFVIII screenshots, the hero of the game, Squall, fights with a weapon known as the "gunblade". A mix of a sword and a gun, the gunblade will increase the strength of an attack if the R1 button is hit at a certain time. The timing for this is reported to use a gauge onscreen.

   The last tidbit of information revealed about the battle system involves summoned monsters. Summoned monsters will, for the first time, be capable of gaining experience. The more a monster is summoned, the stronger it gets, and the player is able to inflict even more pleasantly destructive damage on their foes.

   Chocobos are expected to undergo a design change as well in the latest Final Fantasy title, similar to the character designs. The classic chocobos will be presented with a more realistic look. How a two-legged, yellow horse-bird can be presented more realistically, however, as well as if the same change applies for moogles, is unknown to RPGamer at this time. We did discover, however, that Biggs and Wedge are rumored to appear in FFVII in cameo appearances.

   Additionally, several key plot details were revealed. Squall attends a military school known as "Garden". The school is for children as young as six, up to young adults of 19. If a student doesn't pass an exam in their later years, however, they are expelled from the school. One skill that students learn at the school, in addition to combat skills, is magic. Magic is a hard skill to master in the world of FFVIII, and therefore only graduates of Garden are skilled enough to use it.

   The highest achieving students of Garden are eligible to join an elite forces group known as "SeeD". Squall is rumored to be an extremely apt student at Garden, and attempts to join SeeD. This draws many parallels with Cloud, and the First Class ranking he "had" in SOLDIER from Final Fantasy VII. A main character being involved with the military, however, isn't new to the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy IV involved Cecil, a captain of a airship fleet, and Final Fantasy VI began with Terra, who was used by an evil empire as a soldier.

   Look for exclusive FFVIII screenshots, movies, and info when RPGamer gets its hands on a copy of the demo when it is released in Japan next month. (I'm about you?)

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