Review by Menji
"Same Fantasy, Different Style"
A different approach.
A different cast.
A different system.
Same Final Fantasy Brand.
Final Fantasy 8 might be the most controversial FF around. Fans either love it or hate it. I had my doubts but I was finally able to snag a new copy and I tried it out. Straight off the bat I knew I was in for something that wasn't true to its Fantasy roots. Square tried a more modern feel and placed you as an silent adolescent off at a boarding school for warriors. Yes, you heard that right - Squall, is a 17 year old male trying to become an elite class of mercenaries known as SeeDs while honing his skills at his Garden. And yes, the seeds in a garden joke was done on purpose. You've got your rival, Seifer who's way more badass than you (as seen in the opening video) and has given you an ugly scar across the face. Then there's Quistis, who's basically the same age as you but she's your teacher (don't ask). The new girl, Selphie who's assuming you guys are friends. And, then there's your best friend Zell who has possibly the worst outfit in Square history. Unlike most games in the series, basically everyone knows each other straight from the start. It doesn't give you the sense of unity you got from VI and VII where your entire party were strangers and came together. The game starts with everyone knowing each other (and you'll be in for another shocker later on).
Which creates a big problem and doesn't give you the usual FF nausea. Everyone's each other's friend and the bickering that they do (if ever) is so pathetic you never really reach the atmosphere you're expecting.
The cast of characters is atrocious. Squall could be so cool if he didn't utter "whatever" everyone other word -or- at least said something! He's suppose to be the leader but he doesn't do anything. Zell might be the biggest idiot in gaming history and the rest of the crew is just weird to play as. I didn't get a third of what their emotions where trying to say and how they interacted.
Almost done ranting, but the beginning of the game has you and your teacher journey to a fire cavern in order to pass a test for SeeD. Once you get to the entrance of the cave, you'll have to choose how long it's going to take you to get through the dungeon. Of course, you have no clue but it's not that long into that you meet your first Guardian Force. Which like most FF you'll acquire beats that have different abilities for you to use. FF8 puts the most importance on these Guardian Forces. Essentially, they're what you need to perform all your attack abilities. To summarize, GF learn abilities through battles and some are commands for your characters (Magic, Defend, Item, or Cover) or abilities for your characters or GF's (HP+ 80% or GFHP+ 40%). They also enable you to "junction" which is Eight's signature form of fighting. Say, you equip Ifrit to Squall. Ifrit allows Squall to junction any magic he has to his elemental attack. Now, if Squall has any lighting magic and he attacks a water elemental creature, he'll do more damage. Eventually, you can junction such magic as esuna to your defense and be near immune to all status ailments. Naturally, there are ways to abuse the system and become invincible early on without having to level up at all.
The last part I really had a problem with was the world you had to explore. There were maybe five cities to go to and four dungeons that actually made an impact to the story. There is so many empty space all over the world map and the majority of places that you can visit only require one pass and you'll never need to return again. But, there's always the shops you need to come back too. Which brings me to quite possibility the dumbest move I have ever seen in a game. Near the end, the game actually shields you from entering any town for some unknown reason. Oh, and you don't receive money for defeating monsters in this game. Your seed level is what determines how much you get for every [insert number] steps you take. It's a little absurd, but it gets you familiarized with the game by having you take tests that must be aced in order to pass and raise your SeeD level to get more money!
As for everything else, it play like a normal Fantasy. The battle system does have one peculiar aspect that is totally awesome but a little frustrating at times. There is one commands known as "Draw" which lets you draw magic from enemies and either cast it right onto them or yourself, or you can stock it for later use. As you can tell - that can be abused to the point of perfection or it can be frustrating to need a cure when no monsters nor your party has any. But yeah, the music is impressive and includes amazing track such as "Liberi Fatali" and "Eyes on Me" each with their spectacular movie scene to accompany it. The story itself is interesting enough - it mainly revolves around the sorceresses in the world and the occasional dream world you are sent to where you experience the past. The style of graphics has changed dramatically from VII. Instead of strangely shaped polygons, FF8 decided to try out insanely vertical characters that appear to look like stiff statues when they aren't moving. At times, they characters appear to look more realistic but I prefer VII's style to this. Out on the world map, it's just awful. Entire continents appear out of thin air at times when you fly over them. (something you never see in Final Fantasy) Even walking on the ground had mountain ranges popping up like toast
Unfortunately, there aren't that many sidequests available. Hunting for characters ultimate weapons doesn't have you searching dungeons or anything. You merely have to find the required pieces and synthesis it together. There is one addicting side activity.
Sounds intriguing, yes?
Well, it's officially the first card game to be included in a Final Fantasy and it's amazingly simple but provides excitement each and every time. You can collect cards of every character, monster, and GF in the game. And then compete with nearly anyone to play and win (or lose) cards. And with the help of a special GF ability that let's you turn cards into items - you're set! That is also another amazing ability that you can learn. The ability to refine weaker spells into higher ones or items into magic spells can really help you out early on.
I woulnd't recommend this nowadays. People are to concerned on perfect graphics and being a PSX game - FF8 doesn't have. It must've been great at its time, I enjoyed it playing it for the first time this year. But then again, I love the series and I got the FF high just putting the game in. I would definitely recommend trying it out if you are a fan of the series or if you completely hate the style of the previous and current FF games.
This really is something different.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/31/08, Updated 04/01/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy VIII (US, 09/07/99)
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