Review by plasmabeam
"Easily one of the best games on Playstation"
A few years ago I played my first Final Fantasy. It was FFVII. I borrowed it for about a month from a friend. I enjoyed that game a lot, but I didn't think it was as spectacular as many people say. I didn't really like Cloud (the main character), and that made it a little less enjoyable. A few months later, I was in Best Buy, and I wanted a new game. I was looking at the PS1 games, and I was searching for FFVII, since I wanted to finish it. They didn't have it, but they had FFVIII and FFIX. I wanted to try FFVIII, because it seemed interesting after I studied the box for a few minutes. I bought it, and went home to play it. Within the next three months, I beat the game twice and spent well over 100 hours in it.
Graphics - 9/10
As soon as you start the game, you'll be treated to an awesome opening cinema scene, that shows a few of the characters and just plain looks awesome. There are a bunch of other cinema scenes in the game. The back of the box says that there are over an hour worth of them. After the cinema scene, you'll see Squall and a nurse. If you've played any previous Final Fantasy games, you'll immediately notice that Square ditched the cartoony, midget characters. Now, the characters are tall, realistic (for PS1), and nicely detailed. Even more surprising, the characters have normal hands in this game! In FF7, the characters had blocky hands that looked like hooves. FF8 fixes this problem, and makes the characters look great. The environments and worlds have also been greatly improved. The towns that you visit look great. The world map look nice compared to FF7's. The terrain looks nicer, and water looks much better. The battle graphics are very nice with plenty of special effects. When you use a GF (summon monster), you see a scene, where the GF performs its attack. Although these scenes can get repetitive, they are a pleasure to watch for the first few times. The characters look great in battle, also. The enemies are nicely detailed, and bosses look even better most of the time. The graphics have improved greatly over FF7's so-so graphics. I must say that these are some of the best graphics that you will see on PS1.
Sound and Music - 9/10
The music in FF8 is just spectacular. All the tunes fit the areas well. In a town called Winhill, there are few people living there, giving it an abandoned feel. The music is soft and relaxing. It fits Winhill perfectly. There are parts in the game, where you are trying to get to a sorceress. You'll hear this awesome chanting in the background. The chanting is probably my favorite music in the game. It sounds evil and fits the situation well. The battle music sounds great. It has an upbeat tempo, and you'll be hearing it in your head even after the battles. The world map music is rather dull. It's simply quiet music with a decent beat to it. There are also a few songs in the game that you'll hear at certain parts.
The sounds are exceptional in this game. You'll hear a ton of sweet sounds during the battles. Swords slashing, guns fireing, whips cracking, and many types of magic are being used. They all sound realistic, and they are very satisfying. For instance, you'll hear a realistic burning sound, when you cast a fire spell, and you'll hear a realistic shattering sound, when you cast an ice spell. You'll also hear hundreds of other sounds from enemies and your GFs. The sounds and music were done very well, and they have only a few flaws.
Story - 10/10
FF8 started off slow, but by the time I was five hours or so in, I couldn't put it down. You start the game as a mercenary-in-training, named Squall Leonhart. He goes to a mercenary school, called Balamb Garden, and he is training to be a SeeD. He has just recovered from an injury to his face in a fight between him and Seifer, his rival. He is now taking a test to become worthy of being a SeeD. He eventually becomes a SeeD, and he goes on missions, fights with Seifer, falls in love, has mysterious dreams, and battles a struggle between his group of friends and an evil Sorceress.
Squall is a quiet loner, but he's easily an awesome character. He develops nicely throughout the game. He starts off as a quiet, moody person, who eventually opens up a bit, and starts to care about people and believe in his friends. I like Squall a lot, because I can relate to him. I can understand why he acts like he does, because I'm a bit of a loner, myself. You'll probably like him, if you can relate to him. Although Squall doesn't talk a lot, you can see his inner thoughts in the dialog. Squall lightens up later in the adventure, and you'll notice his change, when you compare him to himself at the beginning of the game. He has very good character development.
Seifer is Squall's main rival. They have been bitter enemies, since they were children, and they both have noticeable facial scars from their most intense battle. In an early mission, they have to team up with Zell Dinct, in order to succeed. That is basically the only time they got along. Seifer constantly makes fun of Squall and his friends, and he is, in my opinion, the main villain of FF8.
Rinoa is one of the most important characters, and she was once Seifer's girlfriend. She is also the leader of a group called the Forest Owls, who try to foil plots by the government. She has an upbeat personality, and she almost everything that Squall isn't. She and Squall argue a lot at first, but eventually they start to develop feeling for each other. Eventually, Squall and her start to get along, and the obvious love story begins to develop.
Zell is one of Squall's first partners as a SeeD. Zell always is confident and energetic. He often acts like an idiot, and he is responsible for most of the game's comic relief. Quistis is an instructor of SeeDs. She is Squall's instructor at the beginning of the game. She eventually loses her job, and she joins Squall's group permanently. Selphie is a SeeD, who just transferred from another Garden. She is loud, obnoxious, and annoying. She has a few serious moments, but she's mainly annoying. Selphie's the only "bad" character in my opinion. Irvine is a gunslinging cowboy-like teen. He flirts with like every girl, but doesn't have much luck.
Gameplay - 10/10
FFVIII has a very fun battle system with an interesting way of making your characters more powerful, called the Junction System. The Junction System is very hard to learn at first. It took me literally about 8 hours, before I finally understood it fully. Thankfully, there's tutorials that you can access for some help early in the game. The Junction System works like this: During battle, you "draw" magic spells from enemies. After the battle, you go to the Junction menu, and "junction" the magic to a certain attribute. Let's say you junction Fire to your Strength stats. You'll be more powerful now. The only thing that I don't like is the fact that your characters can be stacked early in the game, if you have plenty of magic.
Another thing new to Final Fantasy is GFs (Guardian Forces). They are basically summons that you junction to your characters. You can have them learn new abilities that either the GF or your character can use. For instance, you can have a GF learn "Mug", and then your character can use it. It's a pretty cool system, and it's fun learning new abilities.
The game has an interesting level up system. Instead of facing harder enemies as you progress through the game, the enemies level up with you. It's a nice idea, and it's good, because it keeps the difficulty on par with your characters. There's an awkward way to earning Gil in FF8. Instead of obtaining Gil by defeating enemies, you earn it by walking a certain amount of steps. It's pretty dumb, actually.
The battle in the game are fun. There's plenty of attacks and magic to keep you busy. Limit Breaks, or powerful desperation attacks, are back from FF7. The GFs are useful in battle, and there's even a way to boost them during battle. The characters are pretty much all the same (no character classes), but it's ok, since there's plenty of customization.
At certain points in the game, Squall and some of his companions mysteriously fall asleep. From there, you go to a dream world, and a you play as a different group of characters until Squall wakes up. This provides a break in the action as well as an intriguing side story.
Replay Value - 9/10
This game has very good replay value for an RPG. There is a card minigame called Triple Triad, and it's extremely fun and addictive. There's over 100 cards to collect, and there's certain ways to get each. The game works like this: You select five cards from your collection, and face off against another card player on this grid with nine squares. Your card has four numbers on it, one for each side. If you place it next to a card with a lower number on the side facing it, you flip that card. Whoever flips the most cards wins. There's more rules, but that's basically how it's played. Even if you hate FF8, you'll probably like Triple Triad. There are also a ton of side quests for you to take part in. You can get more GFs, find special weapons, and more. There's a lot to do in FF8.
Overall - 10/10
Some love it, some hate it. I loved this game, and I really got me to love RPGs. I'd suggest it to any fan of RPGs. It has a good story and good gameplay, and at $20 it's a great price for a great game. You won't find many games on PS1 that are as good as this, so don't miss your chance.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/02/04, Updated 06/28/05
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