Review by Maverick
"Not as good as it gets..."
I am a big fun of the Final Fantasy series, which actually got me interested in RPGs (The first RPG I played was the US Final Fantasy III) so I decided to write a review about the PC version of FF VIII.
I bought the Playstation version as soon as it came out; I grabbed some provisions and (almost) stopped contacting with anyone until I finished the game. Soon afterwards I realized that I haven't done some things like killing Ultima and Omega Weapons and finding all GFs, so I decided to replay it. But since playing for another 50 hours the same game right away would be very tiring and quite boring I decided to wait for the PC version in order to forget the story (not that it is something that you can forget, but you will not remember everything in after months) but also because I was curious to see the 3DFX rendered graphics since the Playstation's were sooooo great.
When I finally got it, I sadly realized that it was just like the Playstation version- with only slightly better graphics in battle, better FMV, worst backgrounds and gameplay and I don't know how to describe it but the game just feels better when I play it at Playstation. But don't get me wrong; it is still a great game but in my opinion it's better to buy it at the Playstation.
About the game
Like every Final Fantasy game FF VIII features a completely new story and new characters.
You are Squall Leonheart (you can pick whatever name you want followed by Leonheart but Squall is the default. You can write your own names for Squall, Rinoa Heartilly and for all the Guardian Forces) a candidate for SeeD, Garden's (some short of fighting school) Special Forces. He is a ''silent and a bit cold'' person that tries to keep his distance and feelings from everyone in order not to feel bad if they are separated. But that will soon be changed, as he will meet Rinoa Heartilly the ''Forest Owls'' princess, a beautiful young woman that shares her feelings with everyone- especially with Squall.
Squall' s first mission as a SeeD will be to go with Zell and Selphie (who are also new SeeDs) will be to go to Timber and help the Forest Owls in their fight for freeing Timber. They will so on encounter a strange and powerful sorceress that wants to rule the world and alongside with Rinoa and Quistis (the ex-instructor of Squall) they will begin the mighty ''strife'' against her.
You also control Laguna Loire in the ''dream world'' a world where Squall and his comrades are mysteriously transferred. Laguna is a Galbadian soldier kinda like Squall's alter ego. You also take control of Laguna's friends Kiros and Ward.
Wrapping it up
It's reasonable that opinions about FF VIII will differ as it introduces some bold new techniques like the draw command. You don't use Magic Points anymore, you just draw magic by enemies and draw points (you can also acquire magic by refining items) and use it. Sure the drawing from enemies is quite boring as you can draw only up to 9 per turn and the max is 100. But come to think of it stocking magic is the only way to make the junctioning system work, which I find very cool by the way.
The junctioning system it's easy to use but hard to master and it will take a while to learn use the best possible combinations. The theory is that instead of armor and weapons you junction magic to strength (replacing weapon power), vitality (replacing the defense of the armor), status and elemental attack/defense (replacing the magic swords/armors that provide magical attacks/resistance) and many more things like speed, evade, hit and luck.
Another thing that most people complain about are the long GF animations that are indeed astounding but they are also tiring to watch after the first 5-6 times Well, I disagree! Why? Because it's not like you are forced to watch the GF animation and can't do anything! You can boost the attack power by using the boost ability (that was quite obvious). That is you can hide the status bar and rapidly hit the boost button when there is no X mark. (Well not to rapidly because it seems that you the pc can't understand fast taps at least my pc) If the animations where very short or you could skip them when would you boost them? (Ok the GF Eden's animation should be shorter but, in my opinion, the others have the right length for a good boost) Also there is not a need to use your GF a lot especially after disc 2.
A new (for the Final Fantasy series that is, I heard that Square has used it in other games, like the Romancing Saga Series) thing that is certainly a great addition is the parallel level parameter That is your enemy's level is based on the average level of your party. In other words the enemies level up with you. So you don't need to maximize your level and your magic to kill the Weapons like you needed to do in other Final Fantasy games. (I still remember the time I've spent to kill all the Weapons in FF VII!), as you just need to have the right magic and GF. (Hm I will try taking Omega weapon with my other 3 characters that I seldom use, that are an average level 25. Not that I will actually win but it would be interesting to fight a level 25 Omega WeaponJ)
We should not forget the mini games! Well while FF VII offers many yet small mini games FF VIII offers 2 mini games that could easily be a game of their own! It's chocobo catching in the chocobo forests. Well this isn't so good as the chocobo breeding in FFVII but after you 've caught your first chocobo you get a chicobo solo-RPG in pocketstation err, actually a program that imitates Playstation's pocketstation. Anyway it's quite fun. (Since pocketstation is quite expensive to get from Japan, buying the PC FF VIII might be a good idea after all )
The other mini game is an excellent card game, Triple Triad that unfortunately most gamers overlook What if it doesn't give any big rewards? (To be perfectly frank even if you can refine many items using GF Quezacotl's card mod ability from cards, they should have given you a prize for a full collection) It's one of the best mini games (and normal card games) that I 've played, as it requires great skill and a lot of thinking especially when you use rules like plus and same. I think that if you don't play Triple Triad you will miss a major part of FF VIII.
Little things that would make FF VIII an even better game
For the PC version:
They should have used better resolution especially for the backgrounds!
Ctrl, alt, space, esc keys should have been programmable, in order to have a best gameplay, when not using a joy pad.
Generally for the game itself:
You should have been able to draw more magic per draw Let's say 10 to be the minimum number you can draw and 25 the maximum?
GF's Eden animation should have been a lot shorter
Garden should have been able to move faster.
The storyline is awesome! It's very attractive and it makes you want to see the game till the end. Not much to complain about it just that you can't interfere as much as in other Final Fantasy I am not sure but I' ve heard that this is the story they will use in Final Fantasy The Movie
The graphics of the characters are great and their face actually expresses emotions but since it's the PC they could have been better. The backgrounds have a ridiculously low resolution! Hopefully the astounding GF's animations and the FMV' s save the day for the PC (I can't believe it but Playstation scores better even to graphics than the PC!)
The sound effects are great and the music fits and changes perfectly your mood according to the situation but I think that there aren't enough songs (Well done for a great job goes to Nobuo Uematsu for writing the ''Eyes on me'' and to Faye Wong for singing it)
The gameplay is very good IF you have a joy pad. It's quite difficult to play with the keyboard especially since you can't use buttons like control, SPACE, alt etc. and it's quite difficult to memorize and use fast the many letters you use in the game.
Replay Value 7/10
There isn't much replay value in a game that lasts for around 50 hours, even if there are many hidden secrets you can find that you've missed the first time But, looking that from a more positive side in order for a ''normal'' game to keep you busy for 50 hours it must be replayed around 5 times :)
FF VIII may not do as many changes in RPG's as FF VII but it certainly is a great game. It's sad to see though that a game that pushed Playstation's limits to the edge (or should I say ''almost to the edge'' since we have yet to see FF IX :)) to use only a half of PC's power. It could have been a lot better
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/14/00, Updated 02/14/00
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