Review by Dark Paladin
"FF8 is one small step for Squaresoft, one giant leap for Playstation."
Coming from a long line of reputable RPG's, Final Fantasy 8 is a great addition to the long saga that has kept many loyal fans entertained for years. This is not your typical RPG, however, because while there have been tons of improvements, some original qualities of the series have been completely changed, or even removed from the game. Some of the improvements include the graphics, FMV scenes, and even sounds and music, which make for one four-disk masterpiece.
In this new, somewhat large world, you take the role of Squall, a cadet eligible to join SeeD, an elite group of mercenaries. To join SeeD, though, he must pass his final field exam. Squall is sometimes considered to be much like Cloud in FF7, but he is not, for Squall is unemotional, and seems to care for no one. Fortunately, like in every good story, where there's a hero, there must be a heroine, and Rinoa is it. She, a strongwilled young woman, is the one that causes the developement of Squall throughout the story, and changes him from a uncaring soldier, to a man who has a reason to fight. Of course, like in the whole Final Fantasy Series, the main object is to save the world from a great threat, in this case, "Time Compression". While FF8 holds true to this main plotpoint, the situation between Squall and Rinoa, while in a second place spot, helps the player understand that you can find change where you least expect it.
In graphics, Squaresoft has done a remarkable job, and bring us beautiful, smooth, FMV scenes. These not only allow the player to get into the story, but also aim to create a reaction within the player. Along with the incredible FMV's, the look of the characters has greatly improved. The "blocky", low 3-D personages from FF7 are no more, and have been replaced by high 3-D, smooth characters that have facial expressions, eye-blinking, and even their own death sequences when defeated in battle.
In the sound department, it seems Squaresoft also spent a lot of time on sounds, music, and effects. The effects have changed a lot. Punches no longer sound like explosions(FF7), and more sounds of this type have been implemented to the battle system, taking away the annoyance factor away. The songs, while they sound somewhat like rearranged songs from FF7, they are new, improved, and more pleasing to the ear. Also, with the help of Nobuo Uematsu, FF8 delivers a beautiful, emotionally moving theme, called "Eyes on me", performed by Faye Wong, whose beautiful voice has touched many, and may have even attracted more people to join the RPG cult.
The play contron has been changed in some ways. You can now use analog sticks to move about, and FF8 is Dual-Shock compatible. Like said earlier, many original features of the FF series were either changed, or completely removed. Features like the magic system have been greatly altered, because in the world of FF8, magic points(MP) are no more. Instead, you can stockpile spells much like you can store items, and each character can hold up to 100 of each spell. How do you get spells? Just use the "Draw" command, which allows you to take a few spells from enemies. But mainly, drawing spells and the such require you to junction yourself to a Guardian Force(GF). First off, junctioning is much like the Elemental Attack materia, but now works on every stat, from strength, to Luck. If you junction a spell to a stat, it goes up. Second, GF's(Guardian Forces) are not only FF8's version of summon spells, but also grant your characters certain abilities, like "Draw", "Item", "Magic", and the such. Now the question is, "Why does this exist?". The answer is simple. This system replaces the use of armor, which was removed from the game, meaning that your defense now solely depends on your Vitality stat. Weapons no longer can be bought, but upgraded, with parts that certain monsters drop. Though many of these changes seem to be for the worst, they make the game a little easier to deal with, but this can also be a double-edged sword, if you cant find the right parts.
Depending on how you look at Final Fantasy 8, the replay value is different from person to person. If you are a die-hard fan, and want to find every secret, crevice, ect, then you may replay this game a couple of times, but if you found it a little hard to keep up with this four CD behemoth of a game, then you may not. The bottom line is, its all up to you.
Overall, Final Fantasy 8 delivers what other games can't, and that is characters developement, a great story, some of the best music yet, and the most beautiful FMV scenes to this point. While it did not receive as much hype as FF7, this game sure deserved it. Whether you play it to meet the characters, see that amazing story, or just to hear "Eyes on me", this game will satisfy all who play it, and entice those who haven't.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 04/07/02
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