Review by Naomi

"FF Gameplay at its Very Best"

Some people think that FF8 is all hype--all graphics and FMVs which are too focused on presentation. But FF8 doesn't focus on just that. It is clear that FF8's main strength lies in its very sophisticated character development and gameplay, where it brings the battle system to high development that FF7 revolutionized.

Game developers of Square interviewed on European cable channel MCM said that they thought of FF8 as a painting. They also concentrated on making the characters more
involved so that the player would identify more with the character and thus relate more in the story. This answers what FF8 critics say regarding FF8's story and plot as not being good mainly because it focuses greatly on characters. The fact that Square achieved this expectation with its audience gives them greater lead in RPG development among game developers.

Gameplay 10/10
Other people would say that FF8 is just more on the theme of love and a showcase of fine FMVs. However, FF6's Espers abilities and FF7's Materia pairing concepts were what
seems to be combined in the Junction system made this one of the defining points in the game. But FF8's Junction system does have a higher learning curve than most FFs. For my part, it took me while I'm in the middle of the game just to get a hang of it.

What is really a breakthrough here is removal of MP. The fact that you DRAW magic and junction it with your stats for you to learn abilities and summon GFs makes you in
control
of almost everything. Whoever is the healer or magic user isn't defined in this game. Mostly, the weapons and the Limit Breaks define a character's specialty, but unlike in previous RPGs, it is not preset here who is the healer or who is the one who has the higher attack. It is all up to you! Not only is this a major breakthrough where the possibilities of you being able to position the stats of your characters, it is very loyal to Square's objective of character development.

It is hard though, to think of everything--from stats, to magic, to GF compatibility, to abilities to summoning. But this is all part of the challenge. Much like in FF7 where if you raise one stat by pairing Materia, you can still save yourself by raising another stat if you have the right combination of pairing Materia. This is the same with FF8. In FF9, to learn abilities, you should change weapons or equipment, but that is a big sacrifice! If you change weapons, you'll decrease a lot of stats and that is not helpful at all! (I really find FF9's battle system bad because of a lot of things.)

Other things like building weapons by collecting material from enemies, card games where they can be modified into very useful items, and mini-sub quests (although, this is where FF8 lacks from FF7 since FF7 has more fun subquests!) make the gameplay totally challenging and different. New RPGamers might find these things more complex, though.

The short version: The junction system is clearly one of the best gameplays in all FFs because there are a lot of possibilities and a lot of things you can control for your characters. But its main drawback is that since it is more complex, it'll take more time for new RPGamers to learn it. But for seasoned gamers, this is the most challenging best gameplay of all FFs.

Story 7/10
As what is said earlier, since Square did not seem to focus on story but rather on character development, FF8's story can still be a memorable cinematic experience. The futuristic background blends well with all the fine elements of magic and machine, which did not seem like a very likely combination, but hey, it was done here! Other than that, there are many twists in the story that really make you think. Excellent climaxes and surprises that especially center on love make you hold on until midnight just to play. The FF8 World where all other Gardens exist is even probable.

But sometimes, it's just all way too complex! There are many debates on time travel and FF8 opens a lot more for that. There seems to be many questions after you play. Didn't you feel that sometimes you just go, ''Huh?''

The characters here are the main specialty. Each has its own unique personality that matches even with the abilities and their limit breaks. The villains themselves are enigmatic. Who can ever forget Edea or Seifer? Edea isn't shown much in the second part but everyone remembers her! For one thing though, Squall has an attitude that makes people want to hate him. In FF9, though, Zidane's character is totally different because you find a character without the cluelessness of both Cloud and Terra, and the
attitude problem of Squall.

The short version: Magic and machines? In FF8 World, it very well shows that these two can mix wonderfully in a futuristic theme. The plot has a lot of loopholes especially in time travel and sometimes, it's just too complex! But the concepts surrounding it, especially the development and charm of the characters are the best stuff!

Audio/Video 9/10
The FMVs are great and wonderful. Isn't this what other people are saying the ''hype'' is all about without considering how challenging the gameplay is? Finer CGs here. You can clearly see the faces of the characters here and how very well the CGs defined each character's hair and facial expression.

Each character is like Parasite Eve's cinematic theme. They're all gone from cutesy ''chibi'' mode to normal shaped characters. We thought this takes out the charm of RPGs but FF8 disproves just that. They all fit very well into the theme, unlike FF9's ''chibi'' modes until the CG where the characters appear distorted and physically abnormal. (hey! In FF7, they were all in ''chibi'' mode but in the FMVs!!!)

Nobuo Uematsu's music here isn't one of his best works, as some Playstation magazine claims. Hmm.... didn't Edea's ''Fithos... Lusec...'' theme just chill you out of your hair?

Replayability 9/10
Because there are endless possibilities, you can be sure that the outcome of your characters may be different next time. This is like in FF7 where when pairing different
materia, say as best example, the Final Attack Materia when paired with different magic can give you the best result.

Like FF7, the story may be unilinear (there is only one ending), but just as in FF7 there are many ways to defeat the Ruby Weapon, there are also many ways to defeat the
Ultima Weapon in FF8.

To buy or rent? BUY!!!
I think this is by far the best FF ever. I played this a year ago and I'm now on FF9 and I must say that FF9 did not pick up where FF8 left off especially in terms of battle system.

I guess, that must be an unfair comparison since FF9 is an attempt for Square to get back to basics on its nostalgic trip, being that FF9 is the last game on the PSX, but still
FF8 fares better.

FF8 has a lot of challenges, just like FF7! Although FF7 has more fun subquests but still something that gamers should take seriously, FF8 improved everything from CG to
gameplay.

Most important of all, FF8 is more memorable from start to finish. Those of us here who played it were chilled from the opening CG alone and the ending was just very beautiful.

Should you call it sentimental, at least the ending did not really leave a bleak note unlike in FF6 or FF7. And FF9... well... storywise it is better, but I find the gameplay totally faulty. Besides, up until now, I remember Squall, Rinoa and Edea and I'm on FF9!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/00, Updated 11/15/00


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