Review by Nicholai777
Around the World
Considering the vividness of the Final Fantasy series, you might be a little hard pressed to find the perfect grail between the many in the group. From the steampunk perfection of FFVI to the MMO-esque feel of FFXII, you can not go wrong with any of the many. However, FFVIII takes the cake, no the entire dessert buffet, for the RPG Grand Prix or whatever contest it may grace itself in.
Story: Here is where the game truly shines. Squaresoft, while not totally lax in the prose department before, hadn't reached storytelling Nirvana before. Sure, with FFVII, you had the enigmatic tale of Cloud and co. but the dialogue felt forced at times, even stilted and groan-worthy. With FFVII, they wised up, taking an incredibly serious look at the plot, without bringing in a surge of ellipses or cheap-shots. Squall Leonhart, who's name is based upon the re-occuring theme of water-based phenomenom, is the main character, an angst-filled young man of 17 who doesn't want the "hero" position thrust upon him. But beyond the "save-the-world" plot, there is the complex romance that unfolds, with the happy-go-lucky Rinoa Heartilly. The satisfying aspect is that it is never forced or cheesy, with a natural relationship spawing from the time they spend, all starting from the disrespect and contempt both share. Trust me, it is a rollercoaster ride of a story and I enjoyed every twist it took. (10/10)
Graphics: The graphics are, while not perfect, satisfactory, especially considering the strides that Square took. Pre-rendered backgrounds never looked better at the time, rivaling the realism that Resident Evil 2 and 3 brought to the PSX. The characters are actually fully embodied on the world map, too. No more eye-strain from staring at poorly animated circles attached to polygons and etc. However, during battles, the game does have a pixelated look, with a washed fade over most of the background. This, though, is a minor problem, especially considering the detail of the towns and landscapes throughout the journey. (9/10)
Sound: Here is another area the game truly shines. Just one word: Wong. I, of course, mean Faye Wong, the famous Chinese solo singer. Hired for the special project of creating one of the first voiced pieces in console gaming at the time, the talented woman performed the song "Eyes On Me", considered one of Uematsu work. Also, they introduced "Liberi Fatali", a Latin piece that instantly instills shivers into you upon hearing it. All in all, FFVIII has the most expansive and ambitious soundtrack out of all the FF's, even if it is missing the character themes. I, even to this day, am found whistling the many city pieces, or even mouthing to the words of "Eyes On Me". (10/10)
Gameplay: So, what's different here from the previous FF's? Sadly, almost nothing, considering the core gameplay. We have the traditional world map traveling and random encounters, along with the ATB active battle system. However, where the game takes an experimental turn is the Junction System. This is a system in which the user "junctions" or equips summons to a character to expand their stats, rather than gaining them through leveling up. Keep in mind, that you still level up. This system just adds a level of flexibility to the game, allowing a mega-party to be built early on; still, the game levels up with you, increasing the challenge, never being too hard or easy. Overall, I believe that the risk was one worth taking. Sadly, they have yet to revive the Junction System, taking the original stats system. (10/10)
As a last word, I will say this: FFVIII is, quite possibly, the best JRPG in the world, taking all the signature points of the series and pumping it out to the highest epoch, resulting in gaming perfection. FFVIII, hell, it deserves a remake! (Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. Still, the game is more than worth it. Every purist or fan should take it upon themselves to play this once.)
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Final Fantasy VIII (US, 09/07/99)
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