Review by Luniara
"Don't let your obsession with FF7 'cloud' your mind."
In 1997, Square released Final fantasy VII, however I did not get my hands on it until the end of 1999. I thought it could not get any better then 7, and that it had the greatest story and characters ever, and then I played Final Fantasy VIII...
Simply put, what are people smoking when they give Final Fantasy VII's graphics so much credit? There were only two years inbetween the release of these two games, less Final Fantasy VII came out at Playstation's Launch there really is no excuse of the graphics. Thankfully Square managed to put together some wonderful graphics for Final Fantasy VIII. This is simply what Square does best, pushing a console to it's limits. Character design is simply beautiful and actually looks QUITE excellant in comparison to the drawn images of the characters on the status screen. The backrounds are simply astonishing for PSX, and the magic and attacks are simply astounding.
Simply put, Nobuo Uematsu is a genius at creating memorable tunes, that are not only fitting for the game itself but excellant to actually listen to when not playing the game. Tunes that play during romantic moments can give one the chills and make them visualize the scene, the music just really sets the mood. When the characters are running from a beast heart pumping music plays completly dragging the player into the scene. Sound effects are well timed and appropriate, everything sounds as if it should be, if only there was voice acting... Only thing I can complain about in the sound department is the annoying world map theme.
While the game still holds the simple command and wait turned based battle system as well as random battles it has added some new elements to the game that make it well worth while. This is the junction system, and dependency on GFs , (Guardians, summons, aeons, eidolins, espers whatevery ou know them as). Junctioning a GF to your character enables special abilities like the strength junction, this will enable you to junction magic to your characters strength, ultimately raising it, quantity and the magic type itself determine the improvement. it is possible to go through the game without junctioning too much but aquiring magic and junctioning it to your party member makes battling less tedious and quite fun. Junctioning elements to your resistance can also make you immune to certain elements and or status ailments.
Squall also carries the gunblade, in battle if your timing is right, pressing R1 will enable him to pull the trigger during a strike enabling much greater damage then a basic slash. Also Squall's limit break relies on pulling the R1 trigger during hits.
Leveling has been shortened to the point where you gain levels every 1000 experience points. Now one might complain about that being far too easy, it really isn't, as even being at maxed level can be challenging if you don't junction at all.
A mini game called triple triad is also available here. It is basically a card battling game, and when you win you get to take whatever NPC (or sometimes party member) you fight's card, or cards. They can also take yours if you win so be careful. The card game itself is fun and can be quite challenging as you progress through the game. However owning cards is actually useful as they can be modified into items and the likes once you aquire and easily obtainable skill called card mod. These arn't just crappy items either, if you play your cards right, you can get every characters ultimate weapons in the first disc!
GFs can gain abilities based off of AP aquired in battle, and these abilities often will help characters learn specific skills, either way characters are completly reliant on GFs, which really helps mix gameplay aspects into the story of the game.
Limit breaks make their return to the game, only they're not as ridiculous to aquire as they are in Final Fantasy VII. While the previous game required using the limit various times to gain the second limit break of a particular level followed by 80 death blows per character to aquire a second limit level, each character in Final Fantasy VIII aquires limit breaks in different ways. For example Quistis can aquire skills from items enemies drop, Rinoa aquires skills from dog care books, Irvine's limits depend on what kind of bullets you give him. Also just plain being in low health gives you the chance to use a limit, and most of the time while in low health you will recieve the option. This enables abuse of the limit breaks but also enables enemies to easily finish you off if they're strong. Also you can still use a regular attack instead of having to use a limit break when you have the option, unlike in Final fantasy VII where if you gain a limit break in the middle of a battle when you were hoping a boss would give you that last hit to it, you'd have to attack if you want a basic attack death blow. Final Fantasy VIII gives you more choices.
Difficulty is pretty much customizable, you can make the game hard or easy depending on how you wish to play.
You are Squall Leonhart, a student at Balamb garden, pretty much a military school that trains students to be mercenaries in an organization called SeeD. SeeD has another more in depth purpose but that would be spoiling the game. Squall will have to take tests, including a field exam on a REAL battlefield before he can officially graduate and this is where the real story begins. After you graduate you are hired by Rinoa Heartily and the Timber Owls, and organization wanting to stop the Military nation of Galbadia from gaining more power. After a failed kidnapping of the President Attempt it is found that a greater source is behind Galbadia, Edea the evil sorceress.. (Hmmm Final fantasy has a female villian now o.o)At this point you've pretty much gathered all the playable characters you are going to get. There's Squall of course, a mild-tempered skater like Fist fighter named Zel, a hyper yet spunky nunchuk wielder named Selphie, the timber owls president Rinoa, the young instructor Quistis, and the ladies man gunslinger Irvine. Hmm this is also an interesting twist, these arn't battle hardened soldiers or brave young heroes, these are pretty much normal teenagers fresh out of school, military school yes, but they're still pretty young and average. They don't hold some secret power to save the world, they just have the will and a bunch of NPCs backing them to do it. This in my opinion is a nice refresher from the earlier titles. The story progresses as you pursue the sorceress and get involved with Galbadia affairs. There is also a mysterious man named Laguna and two of his friends named Kyros and Ward. Occasionally Squall and two other party members will fall into a dream like state and become these three in the dream, as the game progresses the mystery behind these three men will unfold, all.
also new to the Final fantasy franchise is the period in which this game takes place. Pretty much the future, space ships, space stations, flying buildings, and incredibly advanced cities, (not all).
The characters as stated, arn't some people blessed with some godly power, they arn't some battle hardened warriors, nor some heroic adventurers, or some emo kids who have some dark past connection with the villian and a score to settle. All characters within the game show development, while final fantasy VII seems to only develop the character of Cloud. In a way, it's like watching kids mature from adolescents to adults. Squall isn't some emo kid who just dramatically changes. He's a teenage boy who's lost and doesn't know what he wants, throughout the course of the game he matures into a young man mentally. This isn't some cliche major change in a main character, it's called GROWING UP. If you love story and character development this is an RPG for you.
There is just so much to see in the game, so many items, GFs, and other hidden secrets that you will find yourself playing multiple times just to see everything. There are also various scenes that appear when you enter areas at certain points of the game, for example if you enter the cafeteria in the beginning of the game and talk to Seifer, this initiates an option scene, some people might over look it on the first play through, also you can shove Selphie off in the beginning when she asksyou for a tour or you can help her out, it doesnt change much but it's alittle something. The game's pretty much customizable difficulty will also make it not so tedious to play through time and time again.
Over all 9/10
This is a wonderful game, and quite possibly the greatest of the Final Fantasies. However in my opinion it should have no bared the final fantasy name. It has a different feel from the other titles and stands on it's own as a game, I think the final fantasy title brings it down as it's difference from others leaves it to bashing and cheap comparisons then. If you overlooked this game and went straight to 9 or 10 after playing 7 I strongly advise to pick up a copy, it shouldn't be as hard to find as 7. Don't let those Final Fantasy VII fanatics fool you when they say "it sucks! FF7 was better!" fanboyism is common and most rabid fanboys will reject buying a game if you say it's better then the game they love so much, so don't listen to them.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/09/06
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