Review by fghtita

"A great game... but nothing on FF7"

It was with sweating hands and a heart pounding my ribcage with anticipation that I put FF8 into my PSX and closed the lid.
The ever-present and exceptionally beautiful intro rolled over the screen, and I had the thought that I was in for the game that was to beat FF7.
Sadly, I was thinking wrongfully. FF8 does NOT beat FF7 on anything but the graphic side.
The game was great, quite great, do not get me wrong, but it lacks on a lot of sides that the previous games did not.

Graphics:
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The graphics are a great improvement over FF7. The sprites now look like actual people, as opposed to the tri dimensional stickmen of the previous game. The Full Motion Videos (FMVs) are also far more beautiful than FF7. It is in battle that the numerous minuses appear. In battle, the backgrounds lack a serious bit of anti aliasing. Often you can see HUGE outlines on the mountains and objects, and many things, like Squall's Gunblades for an instance, are completely flat and rendered more in 2D than 3D.

All in all: An improvement with room for improvement on the graphic side.

Gameplay:
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This is a strange one to rate. The system for magic and equipment is very much different from other FF-games. You junction magic to stats and weapons to obtain more power. This is a very unusual little system, and is seen by some as betrayal against the FF series. I merely see it as a good idea with flaws.

One of the flaws in the idea is that it is possible to get horribly over powered characters in the very beginning of the game, and that takes away a lot of the fun of battles.

The battles work as usual, one of the differences from the previous games is that when you summon the ''GF'' (Guardian Force), it takes a short amount of time to finish the summoning, depending on the summoning character's compatibility with the GF. During this interval, the GF takes damage to it's own HP. If the GF is knocked out, the summoning is cancelled. The problem with summoning is that you can breeze through most battles by just summoning over and over again. This also takes away a lot of fun.

Another minus is that magic has very little usefulness, as casting magic that is junctioned to stats will lower those stats. And usually, you will want to junction your most powerful magic to your stats.

Also on the magic note, magic is ''drawn'' from different monsters (GFs are too, sometimes), and it comes in quantities. As such, MP has disappeared. You can obtain 100 of each spell.

On abilities... these are learned by the GF and passed on to whoever has the GF junctioned. Therefore, without a GF, your only command in battle will be ATTACK. Even the ITEM command must be learned by the GF. Fortunately, the GF comes equipped with the necessary commands to begin the game.

After each battle, the GF earns a few Ability Points (AP), which are used to learn whatever ability the GF is currently learning. This system is not ver much unlike the Materia System of FF7, or the Esper System of FF6, only it is absolutely crucial to gameplay, where Materia and Espers were actually optional to victory in the previously mentioned games.

All in all: A raft made up of good ideas and held together with a rope fletched with leaves of incompleteness. If Squaresoft had worked some more on the good ideas, the gameplay would have been truly spectacular.
The ability system works fine, but it lacks diversity.

Sound:
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Most of the sound is MIDI, which is not necessarily bad, but much of the sound is so obviously made on a computer and so annoyingly repetitive that you find yourself turning off the speakers and putting on a good CD instead. Many pieces of music are great. For an instance, there is a great battle scene early on in the game that has some very good music that really gives the impression of ongoing combat. In battle, the sound of a gunblade slashing or a whip cracking are very good, but sometimes, the sounds can be very fake.

All in all: The sound is a mixed bag of incredible moments and annoying eternities. It could have been done so much better.

Replayability:
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This is a major plus in the game (as it is in all FFs).

There are HUGE amounts of items and places that can be easily overlooked on the first, second, third and fourth play throughs. This gives the game an immense replayability.
I will not give any examples, as I don't want to spoil the fun.

Characters:
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This is another good chapter in the game, though it is still quite inferior to FF7.

The characters are very alive and believeable, and you have all the usual types included: The seemingly cold, but actually very caring and gentle hero, the warm and freespirited heroine, the wacky little one, the unlucky, boisterous and gentle one, the Don Juan, the one who tries to be the adult, the arrogant rival and so on.

Though you do not dwelve as deeply into each character as in FF7, you still get a pretty thorough look into the individuals.

A big minus on the character side, however, is the final villian. You get absolutely NOTHING on why the bad guy wants to destroy the world. All you know is that s/he must be stopped.
After looking so deeply into Sephiroth of FF7, it leaves you with a rather dissapointed feeling in the stomach. When you beat the game.

All in all: A great galley of personalities, though the villian could be much better.

Story:
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The greatest and most spectacular part of all FFs is not overlooked in the eighth instalment either. You get a gripping story about a young man who is about as bad at feelings as he is good with a weapon and his female counterpart, a young woman who brings shine and adventure into the life of the man, whom she will later grow to love.

It might sound pretty standard, but it works great.

The only real minus on the story side is, again, the villain, but that has already been covered...

All in all: As with all FF, the story is absolutely spectacular. This is the greatest thing about this game, and it is possibly its saving grace.

Philosophy:
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There is no obvious philosophy in FF8, but that is not a bad thing. In all FF it has been customary to hide several philosophies or themes underneath the speech and events. In FF6, I bid that it was the meaning of life as the biggest theme, in FF7, it was pollution and reincarnation, in FF8, the largest and most obvious theme is love. There is at least one more hidden deep within the game. And it is yet to be found by yours truly. This is another plus for FF8, for it is extremely entertaining to pursue such deeper meanings through the vast context of the game (even though it takes one hell of a lot of time...)

Age Class:
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This game can be recommended for anyone who can understand English or Japanese and is not frightened by evil sorceresses or overly cocky guys in white trenchcoats.

Conclusion:
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A great game, but it could have been so incredibly much better. After the unbeatable FF7, this is an great appetizer for the next game, and it must absolutely NOT be missed by any RPG-fan.

It bears the title of Final Fantasy with honour, and is worthy of recognizion. In spite of some flaws (possibly due to the fact that Squaresoft was working on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within at the same time as FF8) this is a great game. As long as it is not solely judged from the standards of other games it will hold a place on the list as a good FF.

(On a side note: Is it obvious that I ADORE FF7?)

7/10

Also, it is that it is what it is. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be what it is, and then it wouldn't be anything. If it wasn't anything it would have no point. My review of the game wouldn't be anything either. And if it wasn't anything you wouldn't be reading this now. If you weren't reading this, you would be doing something else. You would perhaps be reading another review, or talking to someone. Maybe you would be cooking, or reading or just staring out the window. Regardless, you would be doing something, for it is impossible to do nothing. That might sound wierd, but it is quite logical. Even if you are doing nothing, you are still doing something, right. You are doing nothing. And even when you are doing nothing, you are still breathing. You are still blinking. Your heart is still beating and your blood still running.
Only when your life ends will you truly be doing nothing. And then it is because your soul is somewhere else doing something else with someone else. Perhaps it returns to the Lifestream to be reunited with the planet, or perhaps it is devoured by a soul eating fiend, bent on the destruction of the universe. I do not know, and I have no intention of finding out until I am very, very old. And even then, I want to be ready before it happens. When it happens, I also want to be asleep and alone, for I do not want to frighten anyone by suddenly dying of a heart attack.

I am writing this pointless jumble of words to reach the minimum of 1500 words, so I can post my review. I am sorry that I cannot reach this standard in other ways, but I simply have nothing more to say about Final Fantasy 8. I also think I did a pretty thorough review, as compared to the many polarized reviews that either say 10/10 ''Perfectly Composed Game'', or 3/10 ''A shambolic mess of bad lines''


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/03


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