Review by Perdurabo
"The ultimate RPG that the powers of the universe have finally blessed our meager reality with..."
Please, allow me to start off by saying that for anyone who has any preconceived hype about what Final Fantasy VIII is about in any respect and haven't had the opportunity yet to immerse yourselves in the experience,cast aside all notions and ideals about what you "think" this fantastic game is all about because until you really give it a chance, you are considered ignorant.
I do not know Japanese, though I plan on learning soon enough,yet I seem to know more about the actual depth of this grand paragon of gaming tranquility far better than some of the other blaggarts who claim to understand the language and have played through the import. I'm tired of fools babbling and ranting about how Squaresoft has dropped in quality, how they are charlatans who no longer care about depth and quality. Baaah, those who say souch trite slaver do not deserve the honor of even touching an RPG. Saga Frontier is aweful, FFVII wasn't anything like FFVI, Squarsoft sold out to the public, technology in RPG's is evil... BLAH BLAH BLAH I swear to the powers that be that if I hear anymore perceived psycho nonsense in regards to the direction that RPG's have made in the latter years of new technology I literally will go on a bloodthirsty and murderous rampage!
People now seem to be so caught up in the ages passed that they've failed to realize just how much more vastly improved Role Playing games have become lately that they quite truely make all the older games look like pathetic trash. Sure I'll agree, I've been playing video games and RPG's wholly since I was old enough to comprehend the world, and FFVI was beautiful for the time, the best some might say if that mantle doesn't belong to Chrono Trigger. Secret of Mana was lovely and I indeed did live those games for months before I retired them into my fondest memories. I loved them then and I love them now, the only difference is that now I love the RPG's of today many times grander than I ever did any others previous.
Graphics, dialogue, characterization, plot, melodrama, have all been boosted to a level of maturity that only keeps pushing the barriers of superiority to unimaginable scale. The charcter text in games is now more than astounding, quite on the level of novels and well written screen plays, with each charater delving into their minds an pasts like never before, describing feelings emotions and sensations that other RPG's before could never accomplish. Graphics pull you in, cause you to step into another world and submerge your psyche in a way unparalleled as technology advances forward. The older games are often now found to by dry, tacky, and in the uttmost way very old and hollow feeling. Everything had to be suplimented by the acting of ones own imagination, not a bad thing in itself but books do that much more effectively.
I don't know about any of you as I am not living from your perspective, but I want games to be as sensually divining and diffinative as is possible. Let the reality of the present dictate the minds delights, and leave the treasured memories of the before in the past. People whine and complain about matters that I'm quite sure that they themselves do not excel in, creatively or mentally, and they subjugate themselves to a life of devoiding pleasure in a genre that is only now finally starting to blossom in a way that it has never previously had a chance to.
Final Fantasy VIII is a godsend, and indulgence for the fertile mind and a shism for the aching heart of the emotional collective. Anyone that says otherwise either didn't understand the inner psychological workings that weave themselves deeply throughout each and every exotic fiber of the games being, or are just jaded ignoramuses who are still trapped in their own age. Failing to recognize true quality, they will be deprived of not just one nearly flawless gaming venture, but all others as this pattern of behavior is sure to continue far into the future. Please, do not listen to negative hype; true RPG fans will find this game to be innovative and breathtaking, the finest Final Fantasy game to date despite the fact that it has technology more advanced than in previous final fantasy games as well as a completely new and innovative system of gameplay mimicing all other final fantasies but finding a resplendid niche all in its own.
The gameplay mechanics feature a highly interesting system of magic and battle usages that until now were not latent in any previous Final Fantasy title, combinig just about every single aspect of featuring from all other games previous in the series. Subjected to a serious twist in mechanics, one thing of major notice are the fact that weapons and armor no longer needs to be equpped. For those who are aghast at the thought of never again wielding a murasame or a paladin shield again, I for one am dearly ecstatic at the thought of never having to worry about trifle matters of differing shops and equipment management, and find it endearing no longer worrying about what characters can equip such said items do to class restrictions and preferance. Instead, armor is replaced by the Junctioning system, a hierarchy of webworking spells you steal from enemies by drawing it out of their essence with force of will, and then graft it to your body to increase statistics and defense.
The greater number of spells of that kind you draw and have in your possession factor into this and how much they will bolster that area of your character, as well as does the sheer strength of the spell you Junction. Fire 3 is evidentally not as strong as say ultima, but if you have 99 Fire 3's and only one Ultima then the Fire 3 will lead to better defense or a higher stat. A Junctioning manager lets you select the area of your character that you want to raise, and will Junction magic according to this preferance which is exactly like the Optimum equipment command in previous Final Fantasy games. The look has changed as has the means, but it is still the familiar system that we've all come to know and love.
In addition to Junctioning spells to your stats you can also use them in battle or on screen against your enemies. Using spells you have Junctioned to your stats may lower that stat a little if over used, but the option is still available. In light of this, you can now hold up to 100 spells, but if you have them Junctioned to an ability you can't get 100 more free using spells of that kind. It all balances out quite nicely, it just takes a little practice and experimentaion to get used to. You can place spells on mental attributes, like death to become immune to death, or graft fire to attack and add that element to your attack. This in itself adds to the sheer customizeablity of the game.
Weapons are upgraded by fusing items and parts into them that you either but in shops or win after a battle. Each character uses one weapon the entire game, but as you find new parts for each characters type you have a chance to strengthen it and change it form. Tool shops forge the parts into your weapon, and to help find the parts necessary for transmutation you find magazines throughout the world that tell you what parts you need to make a certain kind of weapon for specific characters. This is a refreshing change from the past, as all characters if equipped with the right spells can become comparitavely powerful, and it is solely a matter of desire what members you want in your party as all of them are basically the same.
The thing that difines the individuality of each character are the diferant ways they impliment limit attacks. Squall performs a wide range of multi hitting sword attacks which can do further damage by means of pressing R1 at the proper time, a normal feature of combat that makes things a bit more intefrated. Quistis uses enemy skills, and Zells learns new martial arts attacks which are activated by inputting button presses while a timer counts down. New abilites can be learned by either reading skill books, upgrading weapons, or by having the enemy use attacks on you. This feature of limit command makes the depth very rich in the game, and unlike the god characters you become in FFVII able to execute limit commands even if at max health, your characters now have to be at lower levels of life to increase the chance of a limit break.
Since limit breaks have only technically been added as a convenience in FFVII and FFVIII, Square has still plenty of room to play with this idea in the future to further revise it. The fact that you need to be on the verge of death to increase your limit break chance often adds a feel of suspense and desperation into the game and in my mind does nothing to detract from the games feel. Treasure chests have been replaced by draw points, spots where magical upflows rise and allow your characters to tap into their rescources and gain new spells.
Accessories are gone too as you only now need to equip spells and FFVIII version of summoning spells called Guardian Forces, creatures of magic that can either be used to harm enemies or fortify characters during battle, but also gain experience points and increase in power. Unlike earlier adaptations in the Final Fantasy world where earlier summoning spells become dwarfed in strength by their more potent later obtained counter parts, its the ones you get at the beginning of the game that are usually the strongest as they've had a better chance to increase in level and strength than the newer ones. Besides earning experience, Guardian Forces get JP, Job Points like in FFV or FF Tactics, and each Guardian Force has a whole unique slew of abilities which unlock as you gain JP. Some of these abilities are etched into the nature of the Guardian Force and do not change but simply work when equipped, while others can be swapped and then given to a character as a menu or battle command.
Guardian Forces can raise HP, MP, Stats, fortify with elements, give you new commands, and in fact open a whole door way to a gaming world where literally every slight detail of your characters and their developement is under your control. They can be as strong or as weak as you desire, as well as can have differing menu skills and abilities that separate them from others in your party. Most of the Accessories of the older FF games take theform of abilites learned by Guardian Forces, and they also can learn new abilities if one uses Guardian Force oriented items. In fact, the Guardian Forces are almost like individual characters in themselves rather than just a means of doing damage, and even have their own healing and restoration items available to buy.
When casting them the Guardian Forces will replace their hit points with your own and a casting bar will descend. Until that bar reaches zero, all dmage inflicted physically or magically upon that character by monsters is instead received by the Guardian Force. If it reaches zero HP, it "dies" and will be interupted in the casting. This has saved my arse more than once as they can usually take pretty good flak, and as they rise in level they gain more HP and increase in damage.
Graphically the game is unrivaled by any other Square game previous, and excels above most other Play Station games. Lush backgrounds, colorful environments and super elaborate, detailed scenes and characters add to the immersive feel of the fantasy world, making it seem to the point where you want to live and interact within it in real time. The FMV's are the undisputed finest ever made into a PSX game, heightening the emotional feel of the game like none previous. Characters on the overworld make hand gestures and change expressions readily so there is never any doubt as to how the characters feel about the situation, and by the end you actually feel an emotional kinship to the people and places of the world, their trials and tribulations, lives and feelings.
The game is emotional and very in depth, with a super detailed plot revolving around the dreams and states of a small group of young humans dealing with the possibilities of death and love, and a time siphoning witch with the power to collapse reality as she draws upon the power of her other "sisters" located in other time streams. The technology is gorgeaous and adds personality and color to everything, really capturing the flashy feel and detail that the pre rendered graphics contain. All the characters are important to the plot, even seemingly minor ones, all of which show up in the unequalled ending which stirred a tear to my eye with its emotional magnitude. At completion you get a sense of completeness inside of you, and take heart in the fact that everything in the game eventually blended seemlessly.
The music fits the situations it is presented in, and is well composed and actually very exhilerating to listen to. I own all four discs of the soundtrack, and unlike the still grandiose but too midied music of FFVII is elegantly toned and faceted on deeper levels of quality. I personally feel that the music is the best in the series, especially when one is familiar with the situations in which the musical scores are introduced.
The mini game is a strange card game that involves enemy and character Tarot's that you place into a cross formed point battle. It is actually quite fun and rewards some really good items later on. Strangely, you can combine other items together to make new ones, and I actually found away to reproduce Megaelixers and had 100 of them at the end of the game. Many other items can be begotten this way, and transmutation of cards into items as well as the combining of previously found items gives literally an endless bounty od supplies. Money is nearly meaningless as no new armor need be bought, and the cost of upgrading weapons is slight. You also in addition to recieving money from battles get a salary from Garden which is dependant upon your Seed level, a level which denotes your statire as a member of Seed which can be raised to a maximum of 30 by way of taking an exam which quizzes you about various aspects of the game. For every set number of steps you take you recieve your salary, but if you dawdle in an area for too long your Seed level can actually decrease. Successfully performing missions can raise your Seed level too, and by the end of the game I had several million Gil to toil with. Quite innovative I say!
Currently this game is my favorite of all the Final Fantasy titles, and along with Xenogears comforms my top list of all time favorite RPG's. It saddens me to see the ignorance displayed by others who have no fathoming of what a truely fantastic game and series this title is enclosed in, and can only hope that at some future date the abberant hearts of humanity will evolve past supercilious drivle and will actaully gain sanity, but to those who love epic RPG's, immersive worlds, and delightful characters who you feel kinship with by games end then I implore you... Play this game and really play it to its fullest. It is a reward in itself.
Notes of Interest:
Omega Weapon from FFV returns in this game, as does Ultimate Weapon who now is wielding its namesake sword Ultima Weapon from FFVII as a sword.
The Phantom Train from FFVI is now a summon spell, as are the Master Pug, the Cactrot, and Chaos from FFI (silly Garland), although he is called Diabolos now and looks strikingly similar to what Chaos should resemble.
Your super crackling airship is called the Ragnorok, like the FFVI Esper and looks like a jagged red ship like something that would be in Einhander.
Rinoa has a dog just like Shadow that actually attacks enemies at random if damage is done to his master just like in FFVI.
Gilgamesh from FFV becomes a summoning spell later in the game, and actually replaces Odin. He appears at random and will perform an instant death attack or attack with Excalipur for 1 point of damage ^_^.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 04/07/02
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