Review by Pastulio_

"It's all about the love!"

Final Fantasy VIII, the game that defined the phrase "Love it or hate it." After Squaresoft gave the world Final Fantasy VII, the people wanted more. Soon Final Fantasy VIII was released, which was pretty much as different from VII as possible. These changes did not go well with fans of VII at all, most of them can't stand Final Fantasy VIII. This 4 disk adventure has gotten more then it's fair share of hate. But in my honest opinion, this game is underrated. Final Fantasy VIII was compared with VII far too much, they are different games with different systems, think of each as their own.

*Note: In this review, I will try to NOT do what so many other people have done, comparing it to the other FF's,(Mostly VII) I will only do so once, when I tell when the game gets really fun.*

In Final Fantasy VIII, you take control of seventeen year-old Squall Leonhart. Squall is living in Balamb Garden, training to become a SeeD, elite military units sent around the globe to do various tasks. The game begins with a very nice opening FMV of Squall and his rival, Seifer, sparing. Squall is injured during the fight and wakes up in the infirmary. Soon after passing the SeeD exam, Squall meets a girl about his age at a party, the two dance together, but then the girl leaves before they learn each other's names. On his first mission as a SeeD, Squall runs into the girl again, her name is Rinoa Heartilly, and the love story begins.

It doesn't start out as a love story though, Squall is the quiet guy who prefers to be alone, he doesn't really like talking to people and acts like he doesn't care about their problems. Squall isn't like this for no reason though, something happened to him years ago, but I won't spoil anything. Rinoa is almost the exact opposite of Squall. She's talkative, easygoing, and openly expresses her feelings. Doesn't seem like they would end up together, right? Things change over the course of the game however, but you will have to see these changes for yourself.

This story isn't all just about Squall and Rinoa though, Final Fantasy VIII is full of different characters with different personalities. One of the first characters you meet after the opening FMV is Quistis Trepe, SeeD instructor. Quistis is the type who is always serious and on the job, she doesn't fool around much. Quistis has a crush on Squall, which becomes pretty obvious during the first disk, but Squall doesn't care for her that way. Another character introduced early on is Zell Dincht, the really hyper and loud guy. At least things are never boring around him.

This epic quest wont be a dull one, as FFVIII has some truly amazing gameplay. Final Fantasy VIII is an ATB RPG, and if you have no idea what I'm talking about right now, here's a quick explanation: RPG stands for Role Playing Game, what exactly a RPG is, is debatable. Most of the time though, an RPG puts you in the role of some sort of hero, who travels around saving people. An RPG typically has a level system, where as you defeat monsters, you gain EXP(Experience), and when you have enough EXP you level up, which increases your stats, such as you Hit Points and how much damage you can do. ATB stands for Active Time Battle. ATB is a type of battle system in RPG's, where you encounter monsters randomly while traveling. In a battle, your characters and your opponent have a "bar" next to their name that will start filling up, when it's full, that character can do an action. Some of these actions include attacking, using magic, summoning a creature, and using items.

Final Fantasy VIII uses a level system, like most other RPG's do, but this one is a little different. As you fight enemies across the world, you will gain levels, which will raise your stats, but very slightly. The downside to leveling? Enemies level as you do, but they become stronger much faster, because of this, leveling up in Final Fantasy VIII is, for the most part, a very BAD idea. How are we supposed to get stronger and slaughter everything in our path? Through Final Fantasy VIII's very unique system, called Junctioning.

Junctioning makes your characters stronger by letting them junction various magic to their stats. "Huh?" your probably asking, let me explain. First, your characters need a Guardian Force(GF), the summons of FFVIII. They can then junction the GF to them, and if the GF has a junction ability(Such as Strength Junction) then your can increase your stats by junctioning drawn magic to their stats. The main way of getting magic for junctioning, is by drawing it from enemies.

Drawing it from enemies? Yep. If a character has a GF junctioned, they can use the draw ability during battle to stock up spells from the monsters. For instance, if I'm fighting, and I use draw and select Cure, I'll draw some spells. Let's say I draw 8 Cure, I can now use Cure magic 8 times. The maximum number of one spell you can have is 100. Drawing from enemies is pretty boring, but don't worry, their is a solution, which I will get to in a little while. If I have 100 Cure, and I junction it my my Hit Points stat, that stat will go up( From, let's say, 400 to 700). Certain magic works better for certain stats though. 100 Cures will increase HP better than 100 Fires, and 100 Full Lifes will be better than 100 Cures.

Now, it's time for me to tell you how you can get good magic WITHOUT have to spend a lot of time drawing it from enemies. The solution, is Final Fantasy VIII's wonderful card game, Triple Triad. Triple Triad is a very fun, very addicting mini game. The main idea of TT is to have more cards turned over than your opponent. Each side of the card has a number, and when two sides meet, the larger one turns over the smaller the one. If you win you take some of your opponents cards, but be warned, if you lose they will take yours too.

How does this eliminate the need to draw you ask? By the miracle, of refinement. In FFVIII, your GF's can learn refine abilities, which let's them change items, magic, and more importantly CARDS, into other thing. If I have a Gayla card(a Gayla is a type of monster),and I Card Mod it, I'll get 1 Mystery Fluid. If I use Status Magic Refine on the mystery fluid, I'll get 10 of the Meltdown spell, which is the BEST magic for you defence stat. So, if you play cards a lot, you can get a lot of different magic, without having to draw it from monsters. Trust me, Triple Triad is way more fun than drawing from enemies.

Something else to mention is Final Fantasy VIII's Limit Break System. Limit Breaks are powerful attacks that can be used when a character is at low health, or if that characters has had the Aura magic used on him. Some dislike that your HP has to be low to use a Limit, but I think that the HP part isn't a big deal. The fact that the only requirement to use a Limit is for your HP to be low makes it way to easy to use Limits over and over again, destroying most bosses easily. Being able to spam Limits easily makes Final Fantasy VIII a little on the easy side.

Final Fantasy VIII has given me more fun than a lot of other games, but not from the start. In FFVII, the first disk was really fun, but the second and third were not as enjoyable. It's just the opposite here. The first disk and the first third of the second disk are a little slow, but then things get really fun, really fast, as this is when you get more freedom to roam and such. Once you get past the first disk, you will be playing a truly amazing RPG.

Graphically, Final Fantasy VIII is not a disappointment at all. The many FMV's are clear, detailed, and simply beautiful. Guardian Force summon animations a detailed and colorful too, the animations are still way too long though, causing summoning GF's to get really boring after you have seen the animation over and over again. FFVIII's opening FMV is probably the best I have ever seen on a Playstation game.

As with most RPG's, beating FFVIII will take out quite a bit of your free time. Expect at least forty hours of playing time your first time through. As long as it will take you to beat all four disks, it's so fun that you can't help but play through it again. You may want to beat all the sidequests, find every hidden GF, or just spend a few hours playing the card game, don't be surprised when eighty hours of your life are gone because of FFVIII. But don't be sad, because the amount of fun you get is worth every moment.

If you are an RPG fan and own a Playstation, you have no excuse to not even try Final Fantasy VIII. If you are open to change, this may very well become your new favorite game. The love story, great gameplay, and one of the most addicting card games of all time gives this game a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of others.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/26/06

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