Review by Arkturus
"A First-Rate RPG"
Final Fantasy VIII (I'll use 8, roman numerals can get confusing), is the eighth game in one of the finest series to ever grace our consoles, this is the eighth game in the series, and out of all of them (12 plus spinoffs at the time of writing), I would say that it is the most complicated of all of them - it deviates from the traditional formula by having a completely different battle system and has a complex and at times, confusing plot. I liked both deviations to the standard formula, but will you? All will be revealed.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Final Fantasy 8's storyline is both complex and confusing, once you get into it, however, it really does have one of the best storylines ever seen in a game. You play as Squall Leonheart, a student at Balamb Garden, an academy that trains young people to become part of an international military group known as Seed, as Squall joins this organization, he travels across the world with his friends working for the organization, eventually becoming part of a larger plot that I shall not divulge here. The story occasionally also takes time out to tell the story of Laguna Loire, a soldier who has a strange connection to Squall and his friends...
In their time, the graphics were revolutionary (the PC version even more so), however, in today's day and age, they look a little tired and dated, but do bear in mind that this game is eight years old. For a Playstation game, the attention to detail is stunning, and the full motion video is of an outstanding quality. Unless you're someone who only bases opinions on graphics, you won't find any fault with them at all.
One of the games best parts, the soundtrack for this game, like the soundtrack in the majority of Final Fantasy games, is nothing short of stunning. For the first time in the series, a song with lyrics is included, while some of the instrumental pieces, which I don't know the exact names of, are a pleasure to listen to. My personal favourite is the track played in the FMV of the boats approaching Dollet.
As with every game I seem to review, gameplay is it's selling point, like other Final Fantasies, the main part of the game is battling, and Final Fantasy 8 features a very unique battle system in comparison to it's predecessors. The key to battling are Guardian Forces (GF's), the games version of summon monsters, as always, they can be summoned to the parties aid, but in this installment, they also have a number of abilities they can learn, these abilities can then be used by a character by a process known as 'junctioning' (read:equipping), which is where a GF is given to one character to be used, abilities vary from an ability to see hidden save points to an ability that allows you to eat enemies. In another major change to the battling system, characters no longer have a list of magic spells they can use, instead, magic is 'drawn' (read:extracted) from enemies for limited use (for instance - if you draw 8 cure spells, you can use cure 8 times), these magic spells can also be 'junctioned' to a character to increase the characters stats and resistances, this 'junctioning' of magic is vital to progress in the game, as simple levelling up will no longer give you an advantage (in fact, it is best to gain as few levels as possible, as if you gain levels, enemies gain levels and become much stronger). Alongside this new battle system, several other features make up the gameplay, weapons used in battle are no longer bought and found - but are upgraded by parts found around the world, items can be refined into all sorts of things - from magic to medicine, and money is no longer dropped by monsters - you are now paid a salary that increases as you sit tests. The final thing that makes up the gameplay is one of the most enjoyable minigames I have ever seen in a video game, Triple Triad is a card game, played with cards obtained from various sources, each card has a value for it's up, left, right and down side and is placed, in a 5v5 card game, in turns, on a 3v3 grid, the aim of the game is to have more cards left at the end of the game by 'taking' your opponents cards, this is done by having the number on your card beat the corresponding number on your opponents card, the game is made more fun by the rules played in each individual region, and the desire to get a complete set. Have I got any complaints about the gameplay? A couple, I guess the battle system isn't really explained well in game, which can make it difficult for newcomers, and other then the card game, there is little to do other than the main story, as all of the sidequests that don't involve GF's or cards are time-confusing and/or confusing for little reward (unless you go to the Island Closest To Hell, but we wont go into that here)
Like all games in the Final Fantasy series, FF8 is a game that will take you weeks to complete (unless you're one of those speed run guys), you get a good deal for your money when you compare it to similar games, and you can also replay it and play with a different strategy (I suggest a no-levelling up game, very rewarding)
Unlike other Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy 8 still seems to be easily obtainable for a decent price (unlike FF7, which was a nightmare to get), if you see it, I'd suggest buying it and having a go, you won't regret it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/07/07, Updated 12/10/07
Game Release: Final Fantasy VIII (EU, 10/27/99)
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