Review by DarkReign128
"Welcome to the Garden."
Final Fantasy VIII comes after Final Fantasy VII but as usual, is not related to any of the previous Final Fantasy games out there. This game's a big hit and is very different not only in story this time around but in gameplay. This game features many changes that are pretty much in the "like it or hate it" zone. The story, being one of its best parts, is one of the biggest reasons to play this game. The gameplay will be either loved or hated, but is a tiny bit flawed, but not to be judged to harshly. There are still some good battles to be fought. This game is a tiny bit friendly for newcomers who have not played other Final Fantasy games, but will still be confusing at first. The beginning of the game does a pretty good job of explaining the playing mechanics for those who have the patience to go through with it.
Story: The story this time revolves around a man named Squall Leonhart. He is in a college called Balamb Garden and this college students are trained in this academy. Balamb Garden's scenery and the characters within this give the story a campus life feel for the player and almost allows players to relate this story to school life with a military battle feel. Squall's main weapon in itself is a gunblade which mixes guns of the military with swords of warriors. So the game becomes mixed with legendary elements and military elements this time around. It has some futuristic features such as air flight and some other moments that involve travels through ancient ruins giving the game a mythical appeal. Then you'll have missions that go back to giving the game a futuristic military appeal all over again, switching back and forth. So this game can't really be put entirely into one kind of setting in itself because there are so many mixes and transitions within the story. The game's story also features many characters that players can feel the personality of and relate to on some levels. This game's story features friendships amongst people, rivalries with enemies, war, and love. All these elements mixed together make for an excellent story that can touch the player. This mix is very good for any story, and this roleplaying game is a big display of it. Players going through the story will relate to one or more of the characters on one level or another as they go through many emotions involved with all of the characters in the game. Whether it be Squall's silence or Zell's ambitious attitude or the cheery attitude of Selphie, or even Seifer's stuck up attitude mixed with his rivalry with Squall, these types of things all will be not only observed, but felt within the fans as they play this game.
Gameplay: The gameplay this time around is changed. It still features the standard random battle idea but the battle system is different this time. Final Fantasy VIII uses the "junction" system. This system will either be loved or hated. The characters link themselves to their summons and magics and that is what their abilities become. Equipment is very rarely used in this game. In order to get magic, it has obtained by the "draw" feature. Magics can be "drawn" from monsters and sometimes in hidden areas. The only downside is that if a player wants a lot of a certain magic, they'll have to sit their at the same monsters using "draw" to obtain them in large quantities. This goes for pretty much all magics. Another thing is that making characters level up isn't as important this time around because the important battles this time are level adjusted. So players don't need to sit around strengthening their characters unless they want to.
This game runs on a time based battle system and some of the battles do become interactive. Squall's normal slash attack can add a bullet from, the gun of the gunblade if you time the trigger correctly, and limit breaks almost become minigames. Squall's slashes in his limit break all have bullet timing attacks and characters like Zell have button combinations to hit for what type of beat 'em up attack you want him to do. These are all very fun features that make the fighting really fun.
The only thing that seemed like a flaw in the gameplay was that summons become overused. You get summons at the start of the game, but they do not require MP since this game has no MP at all. Magics are accumulated in quantities so using a fire magic won't effect your curing and so on. Your summons are called "guardian forces" and work on a charge meter and a separate life bar. They are almost treated like pets in a way. When you choose a guardian force, it's life bar and charge timer come up, your compatibility with the guardian force determines how fast or slow it is to cast. When one character uses the same guardian force long enough he will be casting it faster in comparison to a player who has never used that guardian force at all. A faster casting will also mean less chance of that guardian force getting attacked and dieing. Should a guardian force die, the character will lose any properties the guardian force was giving that character. The reason I think this was not a good idea for this game is that summoning these guardian forces becomes too essential in the game and you end up using these things way too much. Summoning is usually something that was a big risk and rarely used in Roleplaying games, but it becomes a normal standard attack in this game. A normal attack is a normal attack in most RPGs, but a normal attack in this kind of game starts to become summoning a big giant attack upon a small little creature after a while.
Another nice extra that can give a feeling of interactivity is Triple Triad. This is Final Fantasy VIII's card game. You can choose to play it or skip it.You can interact with the NPCs and play this card game after learning how it works. while it is a somewhat complex game at first, it becomes pretty fun after learning it.
Graphics: For a Playstation game the graphics are pretty well done. This time the characters aren't miniature when out of battle and they all follow Squall around without disappearing. One of the best features about the graphics are some moments in the game that blend the FMV with the in game scenes. Moments such as running through a crowd where the crowd is FMV and the players are regular players, or running through a battle scene and seeing all the soldiers fight around you. These moments take place every so often and the detail involved make it very deep. Add this in with the action oriented feel and this game doesn't become a typical boring RPG. There are still good plain FMV scenes, but it didn't catch my eye as much as when the scenes came about that were incorporated with the gameplay at the same time.
Sound: The sounds are typical sounds. They won't annoy you at all except for some of the musics that may get repetitive. The musics do reflect the nature of some areas which is nice. Calm moments are often reflect with calm musics and hectic moments are reflected by battle like musics. The only semi-annoying portions related to sounds are the same random battle music that will go on when in a random battle. another thing I wish this game had was more intense boss battle music. It didn't seem as intense as I would have thought it would be.
As for sound effects, they are pretty typical. A slash sounds like a typical slash, and a typical gunshot sounds like a typical gunshot. They won't become annoying either. You'll also have those magical sounds for fire and ice and such and be able to hear the sounds of magics that are charged up for limit breaks.
Play Time and Replayability: The play time will most likely depend on how much extras you do within the game. Whether it be collecting cards or getting all of the guardian forces or just trying to finish the game will depend on how fast or short you finish this game. Without going for the extras you can probably average about a 50 hour game completion going through the game. The replayability is pretty low for this game because this is a roleplaying game, but doesn't feature anything that gives reason to play it again.
Final Recommendation: This game lives up to its hype. It is also a good idea not to compare it to other RPGs. A lot of players will put down this game because it's not another Final Fantasy VII which is a nice classic. It's a whole new story, with whole new characters, and a whole new fighting system all added with mini-games and quests. I consider this another classic in itself but not a perfect game, but it is still very nice and features a good story. This story is one of the strongest points of the game, next being the interactive scenes and the gameplay. Other Final Fantasy battle systems will still be better than this one's was. It still does not destroy the game though. Any RPG fan will definitely enjoy this game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/03/05
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