Review by Cyber-Sushi

"A wonderful experience, and a controversial masterpiece."

Length of Review: 1,833 words
(This is so you know what you’re getting into, and if it seems too long for you just read the ratings and quick sheet)

Final Fantasy 8 - everyone was waiting. And when it finally arrived.. some were disappointed. Others were not. Everyone has their own opinion and thoughts, but what it comes down to is one of the more controversial Final Fantasy games. Some believe that Square is losing it, others say they're simply making their games more serious. But, in my opinion Square was going for something new.. and they wanted to see how their followers would react. I personally loved the game from beginning to end. Gone is the Materia and MP magic system, the characters resemble real people (to a certain extent) and the 'fun' has been zapped out.

Final Fantasy fans may be upset or joyful.. either because they feel the Final Fantasy series is straying too far away from its roots or they wanted something new. This Final Fantasy's them is love, and it executes rather well. People say Square took out the 'fun' because of the absence of enough mini-games and little extras (such as the golden saucer and chocobo breeding/racing) that provided a break for those who were tired of leveling up.

The graphics are great, the characters actually look like people now! Although they still have some unrealistic features, I liked the anime kind of style that they had for the characters in FF7. Going on, the FMVs are stunning. The best there is around - trust me, the intro alone will make you weak in the knees. The GFs (which I’ll get onto later) look great, especially Leviathan and Cactuar : ). Now everything seems to be more detailed, with the monsters, characters and even buildings. However, the chocobos look somewhat different, and there are no moogles (at least none that I can recall) in here whatsoever! : (

Final Fantasy 8 has some of the greatest music so far in the series, in fact right now I'm listening to an orchestrated version of Julia's ''Eye on Me'' It really is a great song. FF8 definitely does not have the best music in the series, but it can still hold it's own when compared to the music of FF5, FF7 or FF6. Sometimes you'll find a track or two to become extremely annoying and repetitive, but just think.. you'll live, right? There are some tracks that you'll remember, such as 'Eyes on Me' or “Liberi Fatali,” but a few tracks of FF8's music just didn't have the same feel as previous Final Fantasy games.

Noteworthy songs:
Premonition
Liberi Fatali
Maybe I’m a lion
The legendary beast Omega Weapon
The Extreme
Eyes on Me
Don’t be Afraid

If you liked the Materia or MP system and hoped either one of them would return, you'll be unhappy to hear there is a new magic system, that almost nobody likes. The new 'draw' system has you sitting down drawing magic spells from your enemies, until you have a suitable amount. Yes, it does get tedious and boring, but you'll really need the magic to help your character due to the junction system. There are also draw points here and there, but they only help a little. I really hate the draw system, and I hope it's not going to be included in later Final Fantasy games.

The characters in FF8 are fresh and new, and the main character, Squall is kind of like Cloud with that 'I don't care' attitude except he’s a loner and always has something on his mind. This is the set of characters you'll remember (besides Quistis, Selphie, and uh.. Irvine.) For their charm, humour (Zell and his hot-dogs heheheh), and great stories (especially Squall). There's a long story that has to do with all the characters that goes along these 4 discs.. there will be moments when it'll make you cry (if you're the emotional type), ones that'll make you dance with joy, and others that'll have you swearing at Squall cause he didn't give Rinoa a hug.

The story is well thought out and it has quite a few strange plot twists. You'll be sitting on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next, because of FF8's great story line. It starts off right from after the intro in which Seifer, a rival of Squall’s, slashes Squall in the face. Squall is a student at the Garden, a mercenary school. He's very quiet and cold-hearted. He does have a few 'friends', who are Quistis and Zell. He and Seifer are the top students at the Garden and were always considered rivals. But, change happens when Squall meets Rinoa on a mission, a very interesting person with an optimistic attitude. She doesn't worry about anything, and is friendly to everybody. At first Squall doesn't really care.. but as the story goes on - things happen. And let's just say Squall's world is turned upside down, inside out and he doesn’t really know what to do about it. A number of events occur, as they learn more about the Garden, Edea the sorceress and Laguna. At first you may think this is your typical 'boy meets girl, boy saves girl from big evil sorceress, boy falls in love with girl' but it's really a lot more complicated than that. Expect the unexpected, and you'll still be in for the ride of your life.

Guardian Force - without it you'd be toast. Well actually, probably not. I went through the last quarter of the game without using a single GF. Squall with 255 Strength and a Lionheart = doom for enemies. It’s simple – the last boss incredibly easy. My simple strategy is to cast Mighty Guard, and then hack away at high speed – or stay at low health [not too low] and use endless limit breaks. But that’s getting off topic - The GFs are your faithful companions, they're kind of like Summons or Espers (Shiva, Ifrit and some other classics are back, yet again!) and they allow you to junction (the Junction system completely gets rid of equipping armor etc.. read about it soon!) magic to your attributes. The GF summons look fantastic the first couple of times, and they do take up a reasonable amount of time.. but they start to get annoying. You'll be sitting there frantically pressing the square button while watching your GF do the same move.. again and again. There are also hidden/secret GFs. The GFs can learn abilities from a long list including HP up, New junction options, new abilities (such as Recover, Revive etc.) and other neat little things. IMHO, the GF concept isn't the brightest idea in the world, but it works out okay.

Did you like to buy equipment and little relics or accessories for your characters? Well forget all that - instead is the junction system. You take your magic spells that you have, and 'junction' them to one of your many attributes (such as attack, speed, defense etc. etc.) to improve it's rating. And the more spells of that certain spell you have - the stronger you'll become. And different spells have different effects. So this means that when you use your magic, your stats will go down. This is what I hate most about the Junction system and the main reason I hardly used magic throughout the game. Also, you can junction to elemental defense and attack to give you a special raise or drop in offense or defense when facing certain enemies. Then there is also Status attack and defense junctions, which allow you to have a defense against certain status changes, or allow you to attack with a chance to give the enemy a status change. As for weapons, you don't buy new ones, instead you find certain items that the blacksmith needs to upgrade or re-model your current weapon.

The card game - triple triad is Square's answer to your mini-game cravings. Although I think people really wanted a bunch of simple mini-games here and there, Triple triad is so deep and addictive you'll forget about those mini-games. There are hundreds (I believe) of cards to collect, and you can battle almost anyone in a card game. There are different rules from different areas of the world, so you'll have a good challenge. And once you build up your collection of cards, you can change them into items to help you upgrade your weapons!

And now, everyone's favourite animal.. the chocobo! Chocobo catching isn't as easy at all anymore.. you'll find the chocoboy in Chocobo forests, who'll explain everything to you. You have two whistles, the Chocoziner and the ChocoSonar. You use the two of them to lure out the baby chicobos, then after you find them all - the mother chocobo comes and you can ride it. I don't know of any races for chocobos, but I think what you see is what you get. I've also heard of a secret chocobo area, but that's the FAQ's job to explain : )

It's the little things that people miss.. receiving money for defeating the enemies, the materia and MP system, simple yet fun mini-games, a bigger variety of characters, any secret characters and more of a challenge. But there's also some little things that FF fans have embraced and enjoy. Such as car rentals, salaries, tests of knowledge, mini-quests, gorgeous FMV, great characters, a well-crafted story line and the mighty Moombas!

Now, whether you like FF8 or not is your personal opinion.. but I love it from the stunning introduction, to the spectacular ending which makes all of the bad parts of the game seem worth going through. I may not like it as well as FF6, but it's still a Final Fantasy, and everyone will remember this one. Whether it was because of how horrible they thought it was, or because of what a fantastic experience they had with it.

***
Sushi’s Quick Sheet™

Storyline : I really like the story, besides the few parts of it that I don’t understand.
Gameplay : The fighting system remains relatively intact, but I think that limit breaks are a little too easy to activate.
Characters : Quistis, Selphie, and Irvine could’ve used some more development, but the others are great.
Magic System : I really don’t like the fact that whenever you use your magic, you weaken yourself.
Controls : Well, uh, they’re good.
Audio : Another batch of excellent tracks from Nobuo Uematsu himself.
Replay : I’m hooked to the card game, even though I always lose heheh.
Overall : It definitely lives up to Final Fantasy’s reputation.
***

Ratings

Storyline : 9.5/10
Gameplay : 9/10
Characters : 9.7/10
Magic System : 3/10
Controls : 10/10
Audio : 9/10
Replay : 10/10 (The card game.. hehe)
Overall [not an average] : 9.75/10 = 10/10 [for gamefaqs]
Sushi says : Try it for yourself – it’s quite different from FF7.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/00, Updated 10/23/00


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