Review by CyricZ

"Old-schoolers may scoff, but the latest Final Fantasy installment is still an excellent game."

I must admit that I had reservations about buying this game, it being the PC version and all. I had no intention of buying a Playstation just so I could keep up the Final Fantasy experience. I was told to expect major dissapointments, mainly in the technical aspects. Fortunately, in my opinion, the big-name reviews weren't completely substantial. Let's break it down...

Plotline: 10

Definitely the finest plot ever to come out of a Square game, right up to the very end. Many twists and turns, points you say ''Huh?'' to, and others you stare at the screen and smile as you finally understand what's going on.

In case you haven't heard (not likely, but for formality's sake), the introductory plot involves the young SeeD candidate, Squall. SeeD is an elite mercenary force that takes on jobs throughout the world as warriors, bodyguards, etc., and we join Squall as he's nearing completion of his training. As can be expected, it's not nearly that simple, and Squall gets thrown back and forth along with his travelling companions: Rinoa, the spirited young resistance leader, Zell, the hot-headed martial artist, Quistis, Squall's instructor, Selphie, an almost-too-cute SeeD candidate, and Irvine, the sharp-shooting ladies' man.

The only gripe I have with the plot is that it seems to be mostly Squall and Rinoa's show, with the rest of the characters along for the ride. There wasn't much character development for the rest of the crew.

Graphics: 9

Both an improvement and a faltering point in the PC version is the graphics. With a decent 3D accelerator, the battles look just fabulous. Everything's crisp and clean cut. Unfortunately, there can be minor framerate problems when the action gets crowded.

Another oversight by the team that brought the game to this platform is the backgrounds were meant for TV resolution, and they weren't refined for PC monitors. So, you have perfect moving characters, and blurry backgrounds, a bit distracting.

Sound: 6

Ah, an overwhelming new soundtrack by Final Fantasy master composer Nobuo Uematsu, with a haunting overworld theme, thrilling battle scores, peaceful town songs, and many more excellent pieces, all brought to you in glorious....MIDI.

Yep. Almost all the music in the game, that perfectly orchestrated masterpiece, is in common MIDI format. The game offers an upgrade for the YAMAHA Sound Syntesizer that can make the music a bit more bearable, but, as with all MIDI, it's a far cry from the real thing...

Gameplay: 8

Now here's something the old-schoolers will not like, although I found it a bit refreshing. There's a new menu system on the block. It's called the Junction system. The basic deal is that you are issued creatures called Guardian Forces (GFs). Yes, these are the same guys that have been Espers and Summoned Monsters in the past. The idea is that you ''junction'' a GF and, in addition to using it's own special attack, you can use a slew of new commands, the one that will become most important early on being the ''Draw'' command. You don't learn spells anymore. There's no such thing as MP in this game. You ''draw'' magic from the enemies you encounter. Enemies carry different types of magic, and you can draw that magic and keep it, to use it later, just like you were using an item.

Sound confusing? It gets better. Once you have the magics, you can junction THEM onto your stats, increasing them, or use them as an added attacking punch. Fortunately, the game system offers you the option of automatically junctioning magic so that you get the best possible outcome, which makes life a little easier.

What else is changed? No armor. Weapons are upgraded, not replaced, and there are only a few upgrades available during the course of the game. Really, the most essential portion of the game, one will find, is the items, which will end up governing one's battle searches.

Yes, it's different, and at a steep learning curve, but veterans shouldn't have TOO much trouble getting adjusted.

Oh, I almost forgot. There is a big advantage PC owners will have over PSX owners: a mini-game called Chocobo World. This game was made for the Pocketstation, which has yet to make it to America. Basically, it's a mini-RPG that you can let run by itself. Play FFVIII all day, let Chocobo World go by night. You can get quite rare items that will seriously cut down on the searching time, a big plus.

Replay Value: 7

Well, with all the RPG's I play I want to play the beginning parts again, but as it gets further into the game I lose the taste. It seems that I go from grandiose world-saving stuff down to the simple life again. It's an adjustment that's awkward to make, especially now that I know exactly what'll happen. It's like watching a REALLY good movie, and thinking you can't see it again because it just won't be the same.

Overall: 9

All told, another excellent RPG from the gods at Square Soft, well worth the name Final Fantasy. Minor problems aside, it was still worth the seventy-something hours I put into it over the last two weeks. So, get it if you love Final Fantasy or any other kind of RPG's. You won't be sorry you did.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/27/00, Updated 02/27/00

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