Review by Bishounen

"If RPG's are your thing don't waste your time reading this, just go buy it"

If you love RPG's, can't stand being without a great hunk of role-playing goodness, then skip down to the last line.

In Final Fantasy 8, you play as Squall Leonhart, a very lonely and solemn student of SeeD, a mercenary group. You begin your journey right before Balamb Garden (a fighting school of sorts) inducts you as a member. Soon after, you meet Rinoa Heartilly, Squall's complete opposite. Rinoa is a carefree soul who enjoys the company of people (especially Squall ^_^).

Add to this the fact that Squall and co. mysteriously fall asleep at the strangest times- and in their dreams, assume the roles of Laguna, Kiros and Ward. Eventually you meet them in the real world, and the story becomes more clear.

Now picture an evil witch coming to town and fouling it all up. She attacks all SeeDs, and guess what? Your job is to stop her and the empire she controls. After you do that, things get way more complicated. How's a trip into space and time compression strike ya?

Here the game is a little bit of everything. The overworld has a few problems; the texture seams are showing, and the cities look awfully simple. Surprisingly, there is still a framerate problem (on a P550 with a TNT2?) unless the extraneous options are shut off (fog, texture animation... etc.)

The battles are stunning. The characters have plenty of detail to them, the enemies have high polygon counts (cough, ultima weapon)and spells have their usual Squaresoft Flair. The amazing visuals really come into play when someone summons a GF(Guardian Force, previously known as Summons, Espers, etc.) These are the big guns, and have LOTS of detail, which is great since you're gonna see a lot of them for the first half of the game (Shiva in this game is a naked blue ice-woman. Is this not appetizing? ^_^)

The field, that is the dungeons, caves, towns, and everything else, looks good at times, but at others is horrible. The pre-rendered environments are still at TV resolution, and when viewed from so close, it looks kinda blotchy. I don't notice it anymore, but for some it really detracts.

Ah, yes. One more aspect: CG movies. The creme of the crop. I use the term movie, and thats what it feels like. The cinemas appear as if they had the team that made Star Wars Episode 1 making them. It really amazes me to be able to see Squall's hair blowing in the wind, or Seifer's evil, wicked smile (complete with decaying teeth.) Just one look at the scene near the beginning where Squall and Rinoa dance, and you'll know what I mean.

Nobou Uematsu is a genius. He made the music to just about every FF, and this is another masterpiece. Included on the CD's is an easter egg for PC users: the song ''Eyes on Me'' that Faye Wong sang for this game. The music really sets the tone for the game, and with a mere instant's passing, you already know something exciting will happen.

The battle sounds are very appropriate. By that I mean you won't hear a toilet flushing when Squall strikes an enemy ^_^. There's nothing really special, but it all sounds right. The spells have their typical explosions and implosions and.. whatever other plosions.

The game is typical FF flavor, and if you've played Final Fantasy 7, you'll immediately recognize the controls. A gamepad really helps, especially for the boosting (more on that later.) But the one thing that really bugs me about FF8 is the GF animations. The longest one in the game takes over a minute and a half(!) and is truly devastating. However, sitting through it over and over and over really can bore people. I don't mind much, since you can use your time boosting. Boost is an ability that enables you to tap a button to make a GF stronger, as the attack is cooking up.

Which brings me to... *fanfare* ABILITIES! Instead of Materai, this time around the GF's give you abilities to Junction magic onto different stats. For example, Junctioning Ultima onto your Str-J (attack junction) makes Ultima act like a weapon and increase your attack power. It's more complicated, and easy to use but difficult to master.

Instead of Magic Points allowing you to use magic, now MP have completely dissappeared, and you now 'draw' magic from enemies. That is, you steal their magic and use it for yourself. It takes time, and impatient people might not like it much. However it works very well, and between the drawing and junctioning, everything all clicks together like it should.

And another feature that makes the game even more like a living world: the card game. Dubbed Triple Triad, it really captures the essence of what a card game should be like. You use modified Tarot cards of Monsters, GF's, Players, and bosses, to play a game with others, spreading different rules and abolishing others, all while taking and losing cards. Square put an effort into this, and it CAN affect the actual game. Some items can only be found by refining cards.

Lasting Value
I've been playing for about 40 or so hours. I'm on Disc 3 out of 4, and I still have sidequests to finish. With most games you're bored by then, but this game's storyline keeps you riveted (if you don't know what it means get a dictionary) and if you love RPG's like I do, you'll lose contact with the outside world until you've finished this monster. Too bad there actually IS an end to it...

Some people think this game could've been better. I agree; there are some problems needing a fix or two. It really comes down to two things: PC or PSX. The easter egg of ''Eyes on Me'' really proves to be a great song, and there is the added Pocketstation game that can be run as a separate Window, allowing you to find other items previously unachievable.

If you have a PSX and don't care about the extra features, get the PSX version.

If you have a PC but no PSX, get the PC version.

Either way, Get this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/23/00, Updated 02/23/00

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