Review by Archmonk Iga

""Boy Meets World" meets "Star Trek.""

Love is a beautiful thing. It seriously makes the world go 'round, whether you believe it or not. Hell, they say 99% of all songs ever created are based on love. But you're probably just sitting there, all comfy in your computer chair, thinking "dude, this guy's totally dumb; I mean love is so stupid for a Final Fantasy game." Ummm... what are you, anti-love? Yes, FF8 is based on romance, but stop talking like it's a bad thing! People fall in love all the time, alright? Now go play this game, and go out and find a nice mate to fall in love with once you beat it. THEN you'll understand Final Fantasy's poetic beauty.

STORY:
The storylines in Final Fantasy have always been amazing, and number eight does not disappoint. Yes, a lot of it is based on love, but don't let that stop you from giving it a chance. It stars the moody teenager, Squall—a “SeeD” at Balamb Garden under the guidance of Quistis, an intelligent, but still young, instructor. Soon, Squall meets the quarrelsome Zell and happy-go-lucky Selphie. Then… he meets Rinoa, the “heart” of Final Fantasy VIII. I'll just get this out of the way: I think Rinoa would be the prettiest person ever if she was real. Damn, she's a looker. Anyway, Rinoa asks Squall and the gang to help them rat out a… well, rat. But that doesn't matter. The fact is, Squall and Rinoa's strange meeting sparks the beginning of a complicated mission that he and she must complete—together.

At first, Rinoa's clinginess to Squall really bugs him, but he may eventually grow to have feelings for her. Throughout most of the game, Squall only cares about himself, is antisocial, quiet, abrasive, and grouchy. But Rinoa is the one who may make him begin to realize what life really is all about. And of course, his feelings become obvious when Squall decides to put himself at risk when he saves Rinoa when she's in trouble.

To support Squall and Rinoa, they have four friends who join them. Quistis is the instructor-turned-ex-instructor after her immaturity causes some problems. She is complicated, and is very confused about her feelings for Squall. Selphie, the transfer student, always appears to be happy, but everyone must crack sometime. Zell is a good friend, yet very impatient. Lastly, Irvine is the horny cowboy, who is actually much weaker than he makes himself out to be. I loved all these people, and while they're all great characters, the latter four rarely take the spotlight. It was too bad they didn't get as much character development as the leading man and lady, but oh well. This is the only reason the story doesn't get a perfect 10. Other than this, it's pretty much flawless.

Then there are the dreams sequences with Laguna and his two buddies. I won't give anything away, but Laguna is the strange man that Squall and his comrades see randomly in their dreams.

Now, all personal storylines aside, there is still a threat to the world here. Warring militaries, insane sorceresses, space creatures, and technological uncertainty will all put the planet's people in the hands of Squall and his friends. And while this is a great storyline, it is ultimately the love between Squall and Rinoa that will take the spotlight—and it works out for the best. No doubt your heart will feel this game's story.
STORY: 9.5/10

GRAPHICS:
It really can't look much better than this on the PS1… unless you've played FF9. First off, the FMVs look amazing—way better than in 7. Hair, water, EVERYTHING is so vastly improved upon in this installment.

The in-game graphics look great too. Though at first, you might think of them as sort of… I don't know, dirty-looking(?), you'll eventually see how well Square did on them. The characters move very realistically, and were given immense detail. The backgrounds are simply stunning. Looking at Balamb Garden is just so impressive to me. I can't believe the PS1 is capable of it.
GRAPHICS: 10/10

SOUNDS:
Musically, Final Fantasy VIII has done an excellent job. Tracks such as “Balamb Garden,” “Blue Fields,” “Succession of Witches,” and “Waltz for the Moon” are some of Uematsu's best works yet. Not to mention FF8 has the first vocal track in a Final Fantasy game, “Eyes on Me,” which is a very pretty track, where the vocals are backed up by a very memorable, ambient percussion section. Final Fantasy 8 has a great soundtrack.

When it comes to sound effects, FF8 succeeds once again. I usually don't care enough to take note of sound effects, but this game does them very well. I especially loved the sound Quistis's whip makes. Heh…
SOUNDS: 10/10

GAMEPLAY:
Many people have had problems adapting to FF8's new mode of gameplay, and have thus tended to dislike the game as a whole. But really, it's an original idea, and the problems are too small to really turn anyone off completely.

As in all other FF's, 8's battles have a great reliance on magic. However, instead of gaining magic from shops, battling, treasures, etc., characters must “draw” them from either enemies or “draw points.” They can hold up to 100 of each spell, and once you run out, then you'll have to look for more of that spell to cast—there are no magic points (MP) in this game. For many people, this is an area where the game falters. Drawing magic from enemies takes a lot of time, and the recurring battles will inevitably grow to last way too long. This hinders the pacing of the game quite a bit, since we are mostly used too much quicker battles in a Final Fantasy game. Still, the idea is great, and battles only take forever if you want them to.

Limit Breaks are also brought back into this installment, but with a bit of an edge. First off, characters don't learn their limits like they did in FF7, but rather each have his/her own individual way of learning them. For example, Rinoa's limits are learned based on how many steps you take, while Quistis's must be learned in a way similar to Blue Magic (like Strago from FF6). Another new twist is that, rather than having a meter build up when you take damage, characters can use their limits based on how many HP they have left. The less they have, the better their chances of having the opportunity to unleash their limit break on the enemies. This brings in some more strategy—do you risk your character being KO'd and have him/her at low health so you can use limit breaks or do you sacrifice the limits and keep him/her healed? Very interesting idea here.

Next we have the Guardian Forces, which are the summon creatures for FF8. Characters can equip the GFs, and may summon them into battle when they want. But this is not all they are useful for. The GFs have many non-battle abilities, such as finding hidden draw points, preventing enemy encounters, and reducing money spent. They gain these through experience points, just like the characters. They also allow characters to “Junction” magic to their stats. For example, equipping Ifrit allows a character to junction magic to his/her strength stat. So now you can select a magic in that character's inventory to increase his/her strength. GFs and junctioning are definitely an important part of the strategy and gameplay in FF8, and it works out much more technically than the Materia or Esper system. Really great job.

Still, the actual summoning of GFs is a problem because, once again, it makes the battles last way too long. When summoned, the beast performs a spectacular attack on your foes, and it really does look amazing. But when you get to relying on summoning a lot, it gets very aggravating to have to watch the same minute-long animation over and over again. It would've been great if they let us press the X button to skip the animation or something.

Another interesting aspect about FF8 is that, as you level up, so do your enemies. This brings in the question: to level up or not to level up? Just like you, enemies will gain more strength and abilities, so it's up to you to decide how you want to confront them (remember you don't necessarily have to level up when you have junctioning to make you stronger!).

Besides all that stuff, there are a lot of optional things to do too. You've got Shumi Village, the UFO quest, Winhill, and your SeeD rank to keep in mind if you want. But no doubt the two most notable secrets are the Chocobo Forests and Triple Triad. As with FF7 before it, FF8 included an original chocobo sidequest to distract you from the main game—and it can definitely distract you. Although at times it can get tedious, playing this mini-game can get quite addicting.

And then there's Triple Triad, the card game. Holy cow, this should be a game in itself. It is just so damn fun, I can't express it in words. Basically, you can collect tons of different cards and use them against others in this grid thingy. They all have numbers on the sides, and depending on how big they are play a factor in deciding who wins. I make it sound complicated, but really, you can get the gist of it within one or two rounds. It's very simple, and VERY addicting. This might just be the best minigame of all time.

When it comes down to it, you'll either have to learn to love FF8's unique style of gameplay, or you'll love it right away. Sure, there will be those people who just don't like it, and I'm totally fine with that. Honestly though, you have to respect the originality Square put into this game, and I really think it works out damn-near perfectly. Sure, some battles might last long, but it is forgiven when you realize that leveling up isn't even necessary. Overall, this game is no doubt fun to play, and the thought you must put into much of your time with it will definitely make you feel like you've accomplished something.
GAMEPLAY: 9/10

LASTING APPEAL:
The main game will last you a very long time—dozens and dozens of hours, even without doing the added stuff. But if you do decide to take those extra steps, you will definitely be playing this game for quite awhile. And that's not even going into whether or not you want to take the time to level up your characters or not. Plus there's the magnificent story—much of which you may not fully understand with just one playthrough. Really, this game is one to keep forever.
LASTING APPEAL: 10/10

OVERALL:
Final Fantasy 8 is a game about love and it doesn't try to hide it. There will be a strong love between Squall and Rinoa, between Headmaster and Garden, between students and friends, and between you and this game! Not just that, it's just so much fun to play, even with the occasionally long random battles. Whether you're playing the main game, doing a sidequest, or playing Triple Triad for hours upon hours (which you probably will), Final Fantasy 8 is a must-play game. Your heart will break, your eyes will never blink, your mind will be racing—Final Fantasy 8 is yet another masterpiece from Square.
OVERALL: 10/10

Thanks for reading =)


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/20/06


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