Review by Garbol Shora

"People seem to mistake 'Final Fantasy VIII's PC port and the PSX counterpart. This is, unfortunately, a big mistake..."

Synopsis
Final Fantasy VIII on the PS was a rocking, wonderful, enchanting and extremely romantic story that Square themselves had composed. The graphics were sparkling, the sound was monumental and the gameplay itself, although lacking in some areas, was very much enjoyable.

To give Final Fantasy VIII (PSX) a high mark is well deserved, and very much something that people should recognize. What seems to be the problem here, is that people seem to mistake 'Final Fantasy VIII's PC port and the PSX counterpart. This is, unfortunately, a big mistake. Final Fantasy VIII (PC) version came out after the PS version, and many PC owners/PS non-owners were enthusiastic to get one of the most discussed games in Final Fantasy. However, Square has done one of their grossest and most disgusting feat ever by converting the PS version to the PC. Never have I seen so many areas, so many problems and such horrible presentation in comparison to the PSX version. Nevertheless, many things have improved, but presentation, the two criterion that Final Fantasy VIII excelled at is now a poor and shoddy excuse for a FF game.

(main gameplay information and the PSX version can be found in the Playstation game of 'Final Fantasy VIII')

Gameplay Elements:
The general game has been kept intact, gameplay-wise. Everything is tip-top and the expected Junction System/Draw System has been again presented in the PC port. For a PC conversion, nothing has been changed and everything is relatively kept to nicely in terms of the battle system.

Once again, 'Junction' becomes a primary term in FF8, meaning to 'connect' or 'link'. In truth, Final Fantasy VIII chooses to involve the summon monsters much more than its counterpart 7, and titles them as 'Guardian Forces'. The aforementioned junction, becomes a link between a character and one or more of these guardian forces. Once these Guardian Forces (GF) are junctioned, one can input spells, magic and of the like to boost power, magic, defense, status resistance and elemental resistance. The more quantity of spells that a character inherits, the more potent the junction of that criteria becomes. As well, the better quality of the spell that a character inherits in their junction, the more potent the junction of that criteria will become. Because magic in Final Fantasy VIII is a quantity, characters are required to 'Draw' from enemies in early-game to create a magic quantity. In battle, once a gamer selects 'Draw' from a monster, that certain magic will be pulled from the monster and into the character's junction base, adding to or creating a magic quantity. Unfortunately, this becomes a tedious issue, as gamers will find boredom at this part of the game, drawing and drawing from monsters to achieve a decent supply of magic. The draw magic ultimately becomes a small nuisance more than a large accomplishment.

The most innovative of Final Fantasy VIII, is the way they have now inputted a 'Card Game'. This Card game is purely optional, but once again, is essential to unlock and discover the better and newer things FFVIII has to offer. Surprisingly, this card game is extremely fun, as you must collect cards, get rare ones, make them into powerful items, forge these rare items to rare magics and then junction them to create a much more easier and more efficient plan than drawing continuously from an attacking monster. This card game makes for so much time-wasting that it simply boosts gameplay and sidequests to a better extent. In this respect, Final Fantasy VIII has one of the most addictive card games yet. Pretty much, a card inherits certain numbers or letters, ranging from 1 'being low' to A 'being high', and are placed in a 3 by 3 square board. As cards are placed, the number/letter on that particular side must beat the card that it is next to, to own the card. Otherwise, you may simply just lose and lose the card as well. However, if the majority of cards are won over by you, you are the proud owner of the card(s) of your choice. Different rules throughout your travels make this a very pleasurable game.

While all of these are already implicated into the PSX version, gamers of the PC port can indulge in the one good thing that this PC port offers. This is 'Chicobo World' a mini desktop game that has you build a Chicobo, fight it in battle and collect items for your MAIN Final Fantasy VIII game. This is, in many ways, the only way to gain an item, as some items are not accessible without cheating in the main Final Fantasy VIII game. By importing the Chicobo, Chicobo brings along its items for the gamer to use and enjoy. This is a very good plus for the PC version, and things such as these are the little bits of extras that gamers should expect from a company like Square. While this little bit can be done on the PSX version as well, but ONLY using a Pocketstation, Final Fantasy VIII (PC) brings out two games in one more so than two separate games. What is good about this 'Chicobo World', is that the aforementioned Pocketstation is only available in Japan, and one must purchase or order these types of toys from Japan themselves.

Unfortunately, the gameplay must be enjoyed through reading, as reading is one of the primary things an RPG has to offer. Font on the PC, however, is a shoddy and horrible attempt to bring the exact font onto the desktop from the television. The result is a blocky, disgusting, horrid mess of white font that can make anybody puke in disgust. Never have I seen such horrible PC font, and in some cases, the DOS games of yesterday attain a clearer font than this! A major dilemma to overall gameplay because font has never been so appreciated until now.

What is worse, the world map is slower than ever, and framerates seem to go on forever. What in the world is wrong? The world map has never gone so slow in any FF game, but it seems that on the PC version, the world map is slower and an extremely tiring task. The Ragnarok has never moved so unbelievably slow and airships are supposed to move at incredible speeds... HIGH speeds, that is, not low!

The game is again presented in 4 discs as it was on the PSX version, and it makes for some really gaming. It is not normal for a PC, a system with much better capabilities than the PSX, to hold 4 discs! The save menus are again in Slots. SLOTS?! Those were only existent in PSX... memory slots. There ARE no memory slots in PC. It seems as if the producers of this conversion deliberately wants to show the PC gamers that they don't care at all about how the result is. It's a deliberate show that the producer just wants a little money, and doesn't care at all if the result is anything good. Save files are on blocks once more, and the PC-to-PSX port is bad... really bad!

The gameplay, which was the worst criteria of the PSX version, is now one of the better criteria of the PC version. Unfortunately, lag in places where there should be none are now a common issue, and frustration is an unbelievable problem that hampers Square's true quality. Gameplay in itself has been left unchanged, though. However, that isn't saying much, as nothing has changed from the PSX, and everything has only gotten horribly... horribly worse. 6/10

Visual Presentation:
This is where everything falls apart. Square has made an unbelievably bad balance of model texture and backgrounds. To sum things up, the models and the CG are clear and crisp, beautiful and very much visible. Unfortunately, one can't say the same thing about everything else in this conversion.

The character models are beautiful in FFVIII as everything seems to glimmer in their wake. It is very nice to see Squall and his friends' clear face and sharp model textures. The character models themselves are beautiful and extremely well done. Now for the CGs... WOW! The CGs are better than before. The grainy texture that was visible (but very small) in the PSX version is now out the window, and clarity has never been so bright and glamorous. It is extremely nice to see top-of-the-chart CGs on the PC with better clarification and brighter ambience. I was very much impressed by the opening CG, as Square made the graphics a main priority in FFVIII.

Boom! Everything is over, and the backgrounds and horrid polygon errors are now swarming the place. The backgrounds now look like props, and grey outlinings are visible, ugly and stick-out like mad. Walk through Dollet, boom boom boom, polygon errors everywhere. Walk through Galbadia Garden and you're walking through flat stage props that look like they'll topple over. It is utterly disgusting!

Then there's the world map. The world map is not smooth anymore like the PSX version. Polygons stick out in places where they shouldn't, and the overall map looks like a graph. Graph on a map? Blech! Unthinkable, but Square seems to be putting in visible polygon errors, grey linings and flat props in every area one can imagine. It's a horrible thing to see the PC version fail this much, but it seems as if it reached a new low. Then comes the horrible fonts that seem to be falling apart in every area where font is visible. It is a bulgy mess of white font that Square should have corrected. Could they not have gone out of their way to put in some decent 'Times New Roman' or basic 'Arial' font textures instead of 'PSX Overload'? Why in the world does Square bother?!

Of everything the PSX version shows and succeeds in, the PC version deliberately fails miserably. So horrible in terms of graphics and the visual presentation is really bad. Character models and some game clarification may show through some eye-candy, but everything else just collapses in the execution, that it may seem as if this conversion is two bricks short of a load. 5/10

Audio Presentation:
Slightly better in terms of failure, the audio in the PC seems to sound a bit odd, a bit askew here and there, but fortunately keeps the beauty intact in some areas... but that doesn't mean they succeed in audio, however.

The sound effects and many of the spell sounds that were so engaging in the PSX version are now mere blips and bleeps of MIDI on the PC version. Not a plus in terms of audio presentation, but that doesn't mean it cannot be saved at all. The music composed by Nobuo Uematsu sound... different. They are not bad at all, in my opinion, and they are, instead, just a different variation of an already loved song. For example, the victory song after each battle in the PSX version sounded a bit like Xylophone plucking while the silent flutes and strings support in the background. Surprisingly for the PC version, the Xylophone type plucking sound is nearly non-existent in this version, as the flutes and strings really shine through loudly. It is a very different tune, nevertheless, considering it seems more like a variation, but it is still a relatively good musical port.

Despite some lacking areas in audio presentation, the PC version doesn't fail so horribly. They don't impress, however, and don't seem to bother carrying for the sound effects. The music however, is a different variation of the exact tune, as new instruments that didn't seem to be heard on the PSX (background supporting music) is now the loudest aspect of music while the once melodic tunes of PSX play the background supporting music for this port. 6/10

Story and Composition:
The complexity of Final Fantasy VIII's story is fit for a good novel. The theme is the same and intact as the PSX version, and takes on the story of a heartless, anti-social young adult named Squall. His story is a tale of loss and anger, bitterness and loneliness. This ultimately destroys Squall's overall positive character, and he becomes a negative, depressed and tempered character. Enter Rinoa, the charming, charismatic and oh-so beautiful female protagonist of the game. Her story is a bit different, as she represents a vibrant heart and a decision of freedom. These two collide into one chanced meeting, and the story spirals around these two, creating a plot of many twists, and turns.

However, his own secluded world makes him bitter to the entire picture, and requires the help of his friends. Unfortunately, some areas of the story is unanswered until the very last moment, where it has no relevance, or it could've been mentioned much earlier. The antagonist is much less despised and becomes just another thing to kill, and in truth, eliminates the harsh and evil symbol that most antagonists take on.

Interestingly enough, Final Fantasy VIII has a very elegant plot, filled with many themes that revolve around this lonely person and the friends that encourage him. In truth, despite some sudden cameos of antagonists and sudden story change, it is actually extremely intelligent, and very well thought out. This story should not be missed, and it is a welcoming idea that Square has put in an intelligent love theme to the whole world domination fiasco. 9/10

Replayability and Extras:
Final Fantasy VIII, while not having much replay value, puts in very much. So many sidequests, and much more than its predecessors have been offered. The card game alone is very time-consuming and very exciting. Other small things such as fighting evil entities have also been put into the mix, and they're just as hard as ever. Items can now be forged into magic, cards can be forged into items, and they are simply waiting for you to find out all these little bits and pieces of secrets to uncover... and it is well worth your time!

Better yet, the Chicobo World feature that can be played on your desktop makes for wonderful pre-game enjoyment, as the PC version offers many new and fun things out of the mix. The Chicobo World alone is probably the best idea that Square came up with in this dying PC conversion.
9/10

Conclusion
Final Fantasy VIII is a very proud addition to the PSX library and should not be missed, but why is it that this cannot be said the same for the PC version. It is strange how almost every game that was derived from the PSX version to the PC version is a ridiculous attempt to gather in another cashcow. It is horrible how the PC is left for hand-me-downs more so than actual gaming.

Final Fantasy VIII (PC) version is one of the worst conversions ever, and it is not a very well-liked game at all on the PC. With games such as the old, yet charming Half-Life posing a much better graphic quality than Final Fantasy VIII (PC), and Commander Keen for DOS making better text than Final Fantasy VIII (PC), it is obvious that this version can easily be missed. For people who don't have PS and simply adore Final Fantasy, but only have a PC to back it up... you may want to take this copy. But a PS1 is cheap... a Final Fantasy VIII (PSX) version is cheap. Nevertheless, it is many times better to miss out on such a mistakened port and dishing out the extra moolah for the PS version. In other words, it is best to forget that Square made such an error of an otherwise excellent game.

How it all adds up!
(average is determined through the importance of the criteria)
Gameplay Elements: 6/10
Visual Presentation: 5/10
Audio Presentation: 6/10
Story and Composition: 9/10
Replayability and Extras: 9/10
Final Score: 7


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/08/02, Updated 02/09/03


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