Review by Nivla

"Despite what you may have heard, this is a pretty good game"

And so the eight installment of the Final Fantasy series is upon us, and what a great installment it is. With over one hour of cinematic, it is one of the most technological advanced games available on the PC (this game was originally released for the PlayStation and did so well, it was released for the PC). This game introduces the Junction system, which lets the player customize their characters in any way they want (very similar to the materia system in Final Fantasy VII, but just more options). One of the first thing that a new player would notice that the MP system is now gone, instead, magic must be drawn and used like items.

The story of this game revolvs around a young man named Squall Leonheart. A graduate of a mercernary organization known as the Garden. As he carries out his first mission after his graduation, he discovers that there is much more involved. Gradually, he gets tangled in the web of betrayal, lies, greed and power. He must contend with powerful sorceress and desperate rivals, with his own feelings and his own past, and with the love he bears for the lovely Rinoa Hartilly.

As you know, the Final Fantasy series is known for the great story line it provides. And Final Fantasy VIII does not disappoint. First of all, the development of the plot is beyond perfection. Not many facts are given out in the beginning, leaving the player to keep guessing and it also keeps the player interested in the game. Also, foreshadowing is present to maintain the suspense. However, certain points in the story may get very complex, and may need more then one time through to completley understand and enjoy the story.

The gameplay is significantly different from previous Final Fantasy games (which angers a lot of players). The first major difference is the introduction to the junction system (see below paragraph) and the banishment of the MP system, weapons, armor and accessories/relics. That is what angers most Final Fantasy junkies the most. This system is extremely complicated at first, but once you get used to it, it makes the game very easy. Summon monsters are now called ''Guardian Forces'', or simply GFs. This is the worst part about the game. Now, you have to add ''compatibility'' to the whole summoning process. The more compatible the GF is to the character, the faster it will be summoned. Compatability can be raised by summoning the GF and lowered by not juntioning it to the character. But the good point about the new GFs are that they could be summoned an infinate number of times until its HP runs out (yes, now the GFs can be attacked during the summoning process). That lets you do massive damage to the enemy, and makes the game a lot easier.

Final Fantasy VIII introduces the junction system, which allows players to customize characters almost any way they want to. By ''junctioning'' spells to different attributes such as strength and vitality, the player can raise these atributes any way they want to, at any rate they want to. They can controll the defense and attack to ANY elements by watever percentage that pleases them. They can controll the defense and attack of ANY status change (blind, silence, etc.) by whatever percentage that pleases them. They can change the character's command abilities. However, the downside to ths is the tradition is abandoned. Weapon, armors, accesories and relics are all things of the past. Also new to the game is the use of Chocobos. They are now played on the Pocketstation, which is included with the PC version, unlike the PlayStation version. In this game, the chocobos have a RPG of their own in this mini game. If you ask me, this mode is pointless and I would much perfer the chocobo racing featured in Final Fantasy VII. But the funnest side quests is the new card game. This game is featured througout the entire game, giving characters standing around something to do. Players can win cards, and lose cards in this card game called ''Triple Triad''. I really do not have enough room here to describe it, but my final word on it is it's a nice touch to the game and can be played when you have nothing else to do in the game.

The challenge in this game is extremely low (with the exception of some side quests). Mainly because of the junction system. They system can make your character literially invincible to elemental magic and imune to all abnormal statuses. That just made the game all too easy. The controlls are average. But I felt that they were a lot better on the PlayStation counterpart.

Final Fantasy VIII is no exception to the standard of great music and graphics set by it's preceding games. There is more then a full hour of stunning FMVs (Full Motion Videos). Unlike Final Fantasy VII, the action in the movies are not completey created by the computer. First of all, the creation of these movies begin in a studio. Actors are hired to portray the different characters. State of the art sensors are placed on differerent part of the actors (most of the sensors are placed on joints). After the sensors are placed, the actors act out the scene. After that is complete, the information collected from the sensors are then put into the computer and a stick figure is made. Next, the stick figure is turned into a wire frame of the character and the proper ''paints'' are used over the digital wires. After a few finishing touches, including the scene, lighting and sound, the FMV is complete. Besides from the FMVs, the field, world map and battle scenes are all full of life like characters. Square Soft took great care into creating these characters, not like the polygonic characters of the past (Final Fantasy VII).

The soundtrack to this game is worth bragging about. The music of this game takes us through the desperation of Squall Strife, the evil presence of the sorceress Edea, the determination of Seifer, the love for Rinoa Hartilly and much more emotions. The music is composed by no ordinary composer. It is composed by who is considered to be the ''John Williams of the Video Game World'', the god of video game music, Mr. Nobuo Uematsu. Mr. Uematsu is no rookie when it comes to music for video games. He has composed the music for more then 20 video games, including all the games in the Final Fantasy series (with the exception of the game boy ones). He definatley did not sell us short with the moving soundtrack of Final Fantasy VIII. The single to this song is titled ''Eyes on Me'', performed by Faye Wong and is in one of the game's key scenes. This song is in the Japanese pop genre and is really cool to listen to. Another song that is worth the glamour is ''Liberi Fatali'', which plays in the game's intro FMV. This song is performed by a significantly large orchestra and choral part and perhaps is one of the most dramatic songs in the game.

The fun factor is high, but could be a lot higher. It was short of perfect mainly because of the steep learning curve at the beginning of the game. The junction system is extremely difficult to learn. And Final Fantasy veterans will have a hard time learning the new summoning process. But once you are passed that, the game is a fun experiance. Just like in most RPGs, the replay value is high. You will want to play this again to see the magnificant story, or to pick up anything you have missed on previous tries. Also, there is a good variaty of sub quests to try.

In conclusion, Final Fantasy VIII is a great game, but I would not buy it right away. I would recomend that you borrow it first to see if like it because many players find it difficult to play. But overall, I think that this game is worth buying.

FINAL RANKINGS:
Gameplay:7
Challenge:6
Graphics:10
Audio:10
Fun Factor:8
Replay Value:10
Overall:8


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/18/00, Updated 07/18/00


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