Review by Lady Raven
"Just like Titanic...nothing but the hype."
Before I rat about anything, I must admit I am not an avid fan of the Final Fantasy series, however I actively tackle RPGs. My first FF was VI a few years ago--right around the time FFVII was released. The latter was a bit overrated, but I found both to be pure genius. Since then, I eagerly awaited FFVIII. Engulfed in rivers of excitement, I bought it without an afterthought and popped it in the PSX with an open mind like I do with all games, and boy was I surprised. A series rather new to me, that I came to love nearly as much as Phantasy Star, had almost completely blown its chances.
Graphics---6: Visuals are just about the only good in this. I was so absorbed in the opening movie that I was completely oblivious to all else... I can't say much except that those FMVs are plain tiptop. However, I'd be lying if I said the in-game graphics were superb. The palette, to say the least, is dull. While the backgrounds looked great and had purely diverse environments, it would fall into ruin when something... or someone, rather... moved. Yes, someone, as in the characters or NPCs. They're well designed, and quite a few of them are very original in addition to the immense detail you'll notice in battles, etc... however you'll really notice the blocks. Yup, now I can brag to everyone on the 'block' that I've played a game that clearly displays the Playstation's limitations right down to that zillionth pixel. Terrible. It just didn't meld together. Trying to use the Playstation's graphical abilities to the fullest extent didn't slow it down for me as far as I can tell, but there were the shares of glitches. With that said, the SD characters have been done away with and everything put into proportion. The SD characters made the games seem larger and got you more into the quest. In FFVII with the smaller folk, you could travel from Midgar to the Ranch with a fair amount of battles along the way, and it'd feel more real. In FFVIII, it felt like all the towns and such were back to back. Seriously, if they made the characters less detailed (and smaller), they'd probably be less pixilated, and I'd give them a better grade; probably a 8. Just to summarize, you could enjoy looking at them as much as a N'Sync pic. Not very impressing. Nothing but the hype. It's graphics and hype that seduce gamers the most.
Music/Sound---5: Do I hear violins playing? For those of you who understand that line, you may sort of know what I mean. There's not much I have to say about this. A few tracks were memorable, like ''Liberi Fatali'' and ''The Castle'' to name a couple. ''Eyes on Me'' was a great song nonetheless, but the Chinese version is MUCH better (it's very soft in all aspects, if you can ever find the mp3 or CD, get it). The other 90% of the soundtrack was quite bland and mostly MIDI. Many of the sound effects in general were annoying and just plain noise. Like the music, it should've had much higher quality. Almost nothing suited the atmosphere and I often found myself muting the TV and popping the FFVII soundtrack into my stereo. I think all creators should attempt to balance out music with graphics. To me, music has one of the strongest impacts on the emotional and depth levels rather than dialogue or what's going on. Folks, it's another language, just like love is. The beauty or dour of it communicates a message that can only be perceived through the experience, and in this case, the audible one. I got no message, and therefore, no impact.
Control---7: There's not much to be said about this either. You have the traditional RPG menu, with access to the innovations (explained below), a tutorial, items, etc. The downside is that many submenus are rather complex and can be a mess to comprehend, so be prepared to spend some time with the manual and/or game tutorial. You won't have any problems in battle or navigating the map as long as you know what you're doing.
Gameplay---3: This is my biggest gripe. Thanks to the extreme originality of FFVIII, it didn't feel RPGish to me. There was a frustrating amount of time involved in learning the how-to for all those innovations, in addition to absorbing more time trying to make use of them and it just being purely ridiculous. There's only one mini-game called ''Triple Triad'' (with THE most annoying music) similar to nothing I can think of, in which you can acquire the opponents cards and turn them into magic or items at your whim with the appropriate ability, which you get from junctioing your GFs (Guardian Forces). How exciting. I prefer mini-games like FFVII where anything can happen. We can all play cards at home (there's a TT card maker on the net, BTW!). Also, you earn money by being a SeeD (The higher your rank, the more money you earn. You can raise your rank depending on how well you do in battle, and scoring 100% on the exams--You can find them in the menu.) which is paid at regular intervals. The only thing you're ever going to use money for, are the occasional items. No weapons, no armor. Well, armor has disappeared and you have weapons, but you can only upgrade them by finding specific items and going to a shop to upgrade with a fee. You learn about these weapons through magazines. The same applies to some limit breaks. Zell for one learns his through magazines. Squall's come with his weapons. Quistis's are similar to the ''Enemy Skill''. Unfortunately, wanting to use a limit can be risky. Because you have no limit meter, you must either be extremely low on health, or use ''Aura''. Once an arrow flashes next to the character's name, you have to hold right to select the limit, which is a convenience if you don't want to use it. The downside of that is that if you attack or else instead, you may lose the chance for the limit, and must wait until it appears again. Many of the limit breaks are useless. Squall's can pretty much kill a boss, which is the best one in some cases, but that's no fun. Irvine, Quistis, and Zell were the runners up. The MP has been done away with and replaced with an innovative ''draw'' system, which lets you draw magic from enemies. You can have up to 100 of any spell, and like materia, can be exchanged between characters in addition to being distributed among all of them if you wish. This goes in accordance to the new ''junction'' system, which makes the game way too easy and completely dumb in other aspects. You can junction a spell to a statistical attribute to increase the attack/defense/immunity of the element/effect, depending on the spell. This is also related to the GFs you junction (GFs are your summons). Each allows you to junction magic to different attributes and gain abilities or stats like Mug, HP+80%, etc. Why do you need to be paired with Shiva to have certain abilities? Or Diablos? They snag the most experience out of battles anyway, especially in the beginning when you need them the most. Then again, there's no reason to level up all the time because the monsters level up with you. There's no point in fighting monsters over and over again to max out your characters if all the monsters take just as long to kill each time and get better attacks to kill you more quickly, consuming even more time. It almost encourages you to fly through the game without taking the time to battle and identify with each character...which brings me to the point that you can't identify with any of the characters at all.
Story---3: All the FFs seem concentrate on some sort of theme. FFVIII focused on love.
Successful Love Theme = Great Character Development = Awesome Story = One Hot Game
Square's attempt was in vain. The game focused on one, Squall, and a girl, Rinoa. What do we know about these two? Next to nothing. How am I supposed to get attached to them if I don't know much about who or why they are, like I grew to love all of the characters in previous games? On that note, I couldn't see the love between them. While we're at it, what is love? In simple terms, the dictionary defines it as a strong, positive emotion of regard and affection. Again, I will say that I couldn't see it between them, but we could see plenty of how they constantly wanted to be together. They seemed to be lusting, which is more of what Square mastered here. Like Romeo and Juliet, they fell in ''love'' knowing nothing about each other, possibly for reasons of looks (e.g. what Rinoa said at the ball). That's typically how love at first sight works anyway. In fact, the game focused TOO much on THEM, and not enough on the supporting characters. And when it did focus on one, it wasn't enough. I couldn't relate to any of them except Quistis, who was about the only cool one. Rich character development is the backbone to an excellent RPG story. With a lack of character development, you won't have a successful story because you won't fully understand why's who and what's why. Overall, with or without the character development, the story was plain simple, and yet it still left quite a few holes. I was afraid that when I first saw the screen shots for this, it was going to be big on graphics and little in everything else. I guess I was right.
Overall---4: Now, you wonder, is this the worst RPG I've ever played? Possibly. Since I try to find a bit of positive in everything, though, I will say that Square seemed to work their butt off on this, but I wasn't impressed. Upon finishing this game, I found myself thinking about all those 8-bit games. I mean, those things used to be state-of-the-art, blow your mind apart with their amazing graphics, games. Everything was completely innovative and mesmerizing with their wonderful music and feel. And now that technology has advanced so much, a vast majority of us doesn't even give them a second look. I applaud them all, and Square for FFVIII for their hard work and innovations all the same, however it was too much at once and lacked in 90% of the areas, and definitely lacked the RPG feel 100%. We're all entitled to our own mixed opinions, and this is mine. Yet, I still believe it was the graphics that seduced so many folks into believing it's the best RPG ever made, and that furthered the hype and ''peer-pressure'', or maybe not. Just see for yourself. I hope you like it better than I did.
Rent/Buy: Rent...just in case.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 07/13/00, Updated 06/14/01
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