Review by chris2001

"Decent, but with more flaws than you would expect from an FF game"

Final Fantasy VIII (henceforth FFVIII), the second FF to be released on the PC. After the great success that was FFVII, great hope and expectation surrounded this game. In the end, it proves to be a little disappointing.

Let's start with the plot. The FF series is filled with good, if not wholly original plotlines, and FFVIII is no different. You start off as a candidate for an elite mercenary force, SeeD, and as you proceed through the game you will encounter several sub-plots and unexpected plot twists as you go. Unfortunately, although unexpected, parts of the plot fall into the ''So ridiculous it's utterly unbelievable'' category. Of course I can't specify anything here without spoiling the game, but if you play through it I have no doubt you'll see what I mean. The game holds many secrets, so playing through it again after completing it may be very different, depending on where you visit and who you talk to...

The characters are your typical heroic FF-type lot - you have your quiet, thoughtful hero (Squall), the tough but quite dumb guy (Zell), the spunky girl in skimpy clothing (Selphie) and so on. Character development is quite nice, especially in a couple of cases, but if you're anything like me you'll find most of the good guys too damned annoying to care. As Squall mutters ''...'' for the 431608967th time you'll be forgiven for bashing your keyboard and yelling at your monitor in a fit of frustration ''JUST BLOODY SAY SOMETHING YOU IDIOT!''. As Zell says ''Whoa!'' for the 2368432th time you'll want to throw him into a large food processor. As..... well, I could go on, but I won't. You get the point I'm sure...

The battle system is typical FF - turn based with the usual attack, magic, item options, as well as other special commands you can get later on. Which brings me quite nicely to the GF (Guardian Force) system. As you proceed through the game you'll be able to acquire ''GFs'' which you can ''junction'' to your character. This allows you to use various commands other than ''Attack'', and it allows you to summon that GF in battle if you so require. Also, you can junction magic to your characters stats to raise them, which is a somewhat original idea - you don't necessarily make things easier on yourself by leveling up in this FF. But the GF system has problems too. To stock up on magic to junction to your character's stats you need to ''draw'' it from enemies using a special command (there are other methods but this is your main one). That means if you want to make life easier on yourself you have to sit in battles for long periods of time repeatedly drawing magic from enemies. Indeed, I've sat in battles drawing magic and not attacking for so long at some times I was kinda surprised the enemy didn't just say ''Ahh, screw this'' and go home, or make a cup of tea or something. Top marks for Square for trying to be original, only a D+ for actual application though.

As in all of the more recent FFs there is a couple of sub-games, Triple Triad and Chocobo World, and they are both so mind-numbingly boring I threw out the idea of playing them any more after about 5 minutes.

Okay, summary time!

Graphics: 9/10

No complaints here. Top quality, far more realistic than FFVII. Very nice spell and GF summoning effects.

Sound: 9/10

It's an FF game. FF games have great music. This is no exception. Sound effects consist of your bog standard sword-clanging sound and jingling spellcasting sound among other things, but even these little things sound good.

Gameplay: 6/10

Walk around, talk to a few people, go out, get into a few battles, spend what seems like several centuries drawing magic - sounds great doesn't it? Okay, it's not that bad, and it can be fun if you don't let yourself get bogged down with the draw system, but it could have been so much better...

Replay value: 7/10

It's good for a couple of play-throughs (which is a heck of a lot of hours gameplay in itself I suppose), but there's little to draw you back after that - the sub-games are awful and there's no multiplayer...

Overall (not an average): 6/10

More average than you'd expect from a Final Fantasy game. Might be worth getting on the cheap though...

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 05/16/02, Updated 05/20/02

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