Review by BigCj34

"Great gameplay, along with a motion capturing storyline makes a fantastic RPG"

Final Fantasy started off as an RPG for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in the mid 1980’s, and was quite successful. The first one released in England was Final Fantasy VII, and was extremely successful.

It used to be that I never played on RPG games before, but that’s changed. People at school kept constantly talking about Final Fantasy, and I never used to understand anything they said about it. So I decided I’d borrow it off someone. So there I was, booting it up at home like you would, then watch the opening FMV. Okay, maybe you don’t know what’s going on, but it is a good start. This is the first Final Fantasy game I had played, and I’m probably going to get another Final Fantasy game.

The games about a boy called Squall Leonhart who a member of SeeD, a mercenary force group at Balamb Garden, the school he attends. Squall is one of those people who want to be on their own, he has a few companions on his quest, but sometimes they can get at him a bit. He is on of those people that just don’t care about other peoples feelings, with an ‘I don’t care’ type of attitude. Once he passes his SeeD exam, it’s one of the things you have to do on the game, he gets set these missions. He has a rival, called Seifer, and they are both worst enemies. Squall meets this girl named Rinoa Heartily, who is a complete contrast to Squall, and at first Squall is not bothered about her. But later in the game though, they actually like each other, and some of the later parts of the game are based around it. The storyline is very well put together, not the generic ‘person try’s to blow up/take over world, stop it happening before it’s too late’ sort of thing, which I’ve seen to many games based on that. At the start, you don’t have a clue about the story, but you find it out as you progress. This is clearly one of the best parts of the game, it is probably the best story line for a game I’ve seen, it does put some emotion to when your playing, an excellent movie style story line.

Of course you wouldn’t buy a game because of the story line would you? You might as well go to your local bookshop. It’s how it plays. There is a junctioning system, at first it’s very complicated, but you get used to it. Basically, for each different stat you have, like attack, hit, vitality, health, magic, etc. you assign a certain magic spell to a statistic, and depending on what spell you use, it improves the statistic. If you junctioned an Ultima spell to HP, it would improve maximum health of the character. The more of the magic you have, the better the junction is. You have GF’s, or Guardian forces, and they give you junction abilities. They learn the abilities off AP, and give you in battle abilities, like magic, item command, draw, and you can summon the GF to do a large amount of damage. It can get tedious having to muck about trying to junction magic, but you can get good stats, if you junction the right magic spells, you can auto junction to improve your health, magic or strength if it all gets a bit tiring. To acquire magic, you have to draw them off enemies, or take magic off them, and then it’s yours. You can also acquire magic off draw points, or by refining items. GF’s can learn abilities like junctioning abilities, like magic, vitality, magic, evasion, etc. They can also learn GF abilities that benefit for them, like extra HP or damage power. The command abilities they can learn are the basic use magic, summon GF, draw magic or use item, plus unique abilities too. They can give you abilities that give characters more HP, magic boost, etc. and also menu abilities, like item refine, card modifier, etc. There are 16 GF’s to get, by fighting them first, getting given them, drawing them off enemies or acquiring them using items. The junction system in my opinion is quite a good thing, because you can have really good stats. But because it’s there, it means it has to be used. It can take a lot of time to change the junctions to other characters.

It’s not just junctioning that gets you anywhere. You have the domestic battle weapons as well. Most weapons start off being a bit rubbish, but when you get higher-level monsters to fight, you ill need better weapons. You get certain items to upgrade your weapons from certain enemies dropping them, using the ‘Mug’ ability, or refining items. If HP gets so low in battle, you can use a limit break, which does a lot more damage than your usual weapon. You can get limit breaks with the weapons, using items, buying magazines, or just by levelling up.

If you need a bit a break from the battling and the story, then don’t worry! There are a few side quests plus a mini game. The mini game you have is the ‘Triple Triad’ card game. You get given a few cards at the start of the game, and you can play most non-playable characters. You can win cards by playing, but if you are a bit rubbish, you lose them. There are different rules for different areas of the world, and some play mixed rules, so it isn’t that repetitive. When you win cards, you can also use a specific ability to refine them into items. Some are rare, some are common. If you can’t be bothered with all those games, then you can also learn a command ability called ‘Card’ where you can turn enemies into their specific cards, or even better, rare ones. I hadn’t played on the card game that much, I wasn’t very good at it, but some say that it is an addictive game to play. There are various side quests some that are secret and are hard to find, where you can get certain battle items or GF’s. If you are into your chocobos like from FFVII, you will still find them here. There are various chocobo forests, and there are puzzles in each, like to find items. Catching chocobos is necessary at some point in the game to get certain things, also you can ride them on the world map as well. Using the ChocoboWorld mini game, obtainable via the PocketStation, you can train up the Chocobo. His first ability is the ChocoFire, and can be trained up to have his best attack, ChocobUltima. Unfortunately, the PocketStation is too hard to get hold of, so unless you can get hold of a PocketStation, you can forget about it.

The battle system is by using an Active Time Battle gauge. You have to wait for the gauge to go to maximum to make your move. There are certain spells that affect the gauge, like ‘Haste’ makes the gauge faster, and ‘Slow’ makes it slower. It can be a bit problematic, because when you are trying to decide what attack to use, the enemy can hit you, and you may see the ‘Game Over’ screen before you know it. You can set the ATB gauge to wait, but that still doesn’t help that much when selecting your magic, as you can still get hit. In my opinion, turned base is better, as you have time to think about your attack.

This game has a bit more of a military feeling to it. At the start you have these missions and the military type music. As SeeD is your career, you get paid to fight. You are given a SeeD rank, which is from 1 to 30, then the almighty SeeD rank A, and depending on how you’re battling, your SeeD rank goes up if you do well, or down if you aren’t battling, or take shortcuts when doing certain tasks. I don’t like this salary system myself, because when you don’t want to do battles, your SeeD rank goes down, meaning you get less money. On other versions, you get money for battling. If you don’t fight, then no pay.

The visuals are very well done, especially the CG effects. The characters animations are very good for PlayStation’s limits, the characters look like real people and are very well drawn. The background graphics in the field are excellent, CG generated backgrounds. The FMV’s are simply stunning to look at as well. The world map graphics and battle scene backgrounds are too low resolution and pixelated, which is a problem with the characters as well. The battle scene backgrounds are lazily drawn, because when you see a GF doing something in the air when summoning, you can’t actually see a full forest, just a circle of trees surrounding the battling area, that is just floating in midair. Although pixilation is a slight let down, this probably is the best graphics standard you can get for the PlayStation.

The sound effects are the standard fare, footsteps, jumps, etc. The music is brilliant. In FMV sequences, the music is adapted to the situation, and is done so very well. The background music for most parts is excellent, and the battle music is good. The music is different for certain battles. There is the normal enemy fight, and there is the standard boss music, plus a certain tune for special bosses. When watching the FMV’s, the music does play a big role, as it gives the emotion the added spice. The only real problem is that the characters don’t orally speak; words are put on the screen which say what the characters are saying. It is possible to get speech on PlayStation games, so I don’t see why they didn’t here.

In Final Fantasy VIII, it takes about 100 hours to complete. There is 4 disks of the game, each one taking around 25 hours to complete, although it will be a bit different, depending on the disks you use for side questing and levelling up. The game also doesn’t get boring once when you play on it, some games have lots of gameplay, but as they can get repetitive or is bad, you simply can’t be bothered, and fortunately here it doesn’t. It all gets different.

Summary

Graphics

+Good looking CG sequences and backgrounds, well modelled characters
-Pixilated low-resolution characters and world map graphics

Score: 9/10

Sound

+Excellent background music, very emotion affecting in FMV’s
-Characters don’t orally speak

Score: 10/10

Gameplay

+Useful junction system, lots of side quests, card game and great battle gameplay.
-Junction system gets tedious at times and annoying ATB gauge.

Score: 9/10

Length

+100 hours to complete, great story, and lots of side quests if in need of a break.
-Not possible to fully complete, as certain equipment required (like the PocketStation) are hard to find.

Score: 10/10

If you are going to buy or rent, I suggest you buy. Some people say that this game is poor, but I totally disagree. For existing fans of the series, or new comers like me, there is a lot to do, and hardly gets boring at all. This is the first Final Fantasy I had played, and I will probably be playing on others too. Although the learning curve is a wee bit steep, you will learn it eventually. An excellent RPG, brilliant storyline and great music, not much here is a disappointment.

Overall

+Awesome storyline, useful junction system, great gameplay and music
-Low resolution graphics, junction system can get time consuming

Overall Score: 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/16/03


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