Review by Ofisil

Reviewed: 04/12/10

Masterpiece or absolute disaster?

Final Fantasy is a RPG developed by SquareSoft. Final Fantasy games are a weird bunch… some love or hate them all, or love some of them and hate all the others and that because each FF despite many similarities is a different game all together. There are 2 things that make a RPG: plot and game mechanics and FF8 disappointed me in both. Is it a bad game? Well honestly it isn’t… it is one of these games that I can see why others like it and others don’t, (it’s all about personal taste after all), so I’ll just state my opinion to prevent others like me from buying it while explaining what I think went wrong with this game.

Story: 5.5/10
Presentation: 5/10

FF7 is quite a problematic product when it comes to gameplay. It is quite repetitive, linear and extremely, (I mean it), easy… however I didn’t mind because its plot and characters where more than perfect. With FF8 things are… different. After 6 and 7 Square decided to create a love story and while not a person who likes lovey dovey stories I expected something quite good from the people that after all created FF7. But I’ve been punk’d!!! Lets see what’s all the fuss about. You are Squall, a mercenary in training, (called SeeD in the game), who lives in a military academy. After graduating he is given his first mission: helping a resistance force against a certain army who is supposedly controlled from someone very powerful. There Squall comes upon Rinoa again, a girl he has met in the SeeD graduation ceremony and…

Well I can’t go on with the plot because I might spoil it for you, but I guess you’ve already know how things will go on. Squall and Rinoa will fall in love with each other and they along with some other folk will have to fight a certain person who wants to take over the world. Of course things aren’t so simple. The plot of FF8 is quite complex, (something that I like), but the presentation kills it. First of all the characters, the driving force behind great FF games are a mess. They had the potential but they just couldn’t make it… In FF7 we started with some generic heroes, the serious sword guy, the brute, the cute girl, the strong willed girl, the funny one and so on, but as the game progressed you would see them evolve into something different, you would learn things about their past and generally get to like them. In FF8 all characters besides the main one start of as generic ones but there is little character development. After 4 discs I didn’t even care if they would actually live or die! The main guy Squall while better than the other ones is just a poor imitation of Cloud. Cloud was a troubled and a bit unsocial individual, constantly fighting with his angst because of things that happened in the past… the same goes on with Squall but this time they seem a bit too… forced. I never really understood why Squall behaved like a jerk, why he was so serious and afraid to express his feelings and most importantly why he changes so suddenly after some time becoming a whole different person, (and falling in love with Rinoa).

Another bad thing is how forgettable, the main villain of the game is. Sephiroth of FF7 was excellent! He was the backbone of the plot, actually making you hate him for MANY things and not just the bad guy who wants to destroy the world. In FF8 you don’t know what his purpose is, you don’t actually meet him until the very end and when you do you’ll probably don’t even care! Finally I feel as if Square didn’t actually had a plot ready for the game and just combined various things together and let players speculate. There are tons of plot holes in the game, (big ones), especially one in the ending that still drives fans insane and has lead them to create all kind of theories. Sorry for this extremely big paragraph but for me a FF game has to have a great plot and FF8 fails to deliver.

Gameplay: 6/10
Replay Value: 1/10

FF8 is basically your typical FF game, talk with people to get the story going, travel between key locations and fight a lot of random encounters along the way. The battle system is pretty much the same semi-real time\turn based one, where you select your moves from a list and see your heroes execute them… simple. However there have been some major changes this time. Many hate FF8 because of these changes… at first I welcomed the new stuff but later I saw that, while very interesting in theory in practice they are the reason why this game is so boring. Before explaining why let me say some things about rest of the game. Adventuring in FF8 is very boring and very linear since there are only a few parts in the game where you can go out and do some searching. Also FF8 suffers from lack of available clues. There will be many times where you won’t even know where you have to go. For example your mission is to find a certain hidden town, which is in a certain continent. But which continent is that, where is the town and how will I enter it? And if that wasn’t enough your vehicles, (every single one of them), are very slow and make the whole searching around even more boring…

Dude, where is my equipment?:
Forget about equipment, Materials, magic, etc. Here everything is all about Junctioning. At the start of the game you are given some GFs, (Guardian Force, the summons of the game), that you can “link” with a character. These GFs let you use magic, but you have to actually Draw it from an enemy during battle. So your 3-member party meets an enemy that has Cure on him and want to stock up 100 Cures for all your members? You can Draw about 4 to 9 spells per turn and per character… is that exciting? No it isn’t! First of all it makes battles boring and boss battles that have the most useful spells even more boring and anti-climatic. You might think, “Why should I stock up so many spells? The game is easy anyway!!!”. Well, good for you buddy but as I’ve said there is no equipment and since enemies level up along with you there is no point in actually leveling up your characters. So in order to beat strong enemies, (mainly bosses), is to Junction… magic. You see you can also link spells to your Stats to improve them. Junction 100 Quake spells to HP and you now have much more health points than before, use Bio in your StatusAtk to actually poison enemies when you hit them, Junction Haste in your Spd to become faster and Junction all kinds of spells to protect your self. While this feature is very interesting, in practice it is a very flawed concept. Besides rendering battles completely boring, they also make the game extremely easy, (or extremely hard if you don’t use Junction).

Misc Stuff:
As I’ve said there is no additional equipment apart from your weapon that you can upgrade after collecting some certain stuff. Also forget about the Limit Breaks of FF7. Here each character has only one limit break, (maybe apart from Rinoa), and the only thing that changes is their finishing moves something that has to do with the current version of your weapon. Also you can use them only when your life gets very low, which means that since the game is so easy you’ll rarely use them. I started using my Limit Breaks more often near the end of the game since there I’ve found a spell called Aura that enabled me to do so without having low HP. A thing that I like though is how more interactive some aspects of the game, including Limit Breaks are. When you hit an enemy you can Press R1 a millisecond before the actual hit and perform a critical hit, also in some Limit Breaks like Zell’s you have to press certain buttons in order to perform certain kicks and punches, or in the case of Squall you have to press R1 in certain moments making your hits stronger. You can even boost the power of your GFs while their being summoned with the continuous press of a button. Speaking of GFs you’ll use them a lot in this game… a LOT!!! Something that unfortunately makes them even more boring. However there is a nice innovation about them. Since you don’t use MP in FF8 when you select a GF to summon, your HP swaps with the GF’s, which means that while you concentrate on Summoning a GF your enemy can only hurt it and not you. Finally GFs get experience and get stronger but also gain certain abilities that you can use like in FF6, (although FF6 is much better at that), like Counter attack, suicide kills, increase of certain Stats and many more.

Graphics: 10/10
Design: 8/10

Final Fantasy 8 marks the start of a new era of FF games where unfortunately graphics are everything, something that means that FF8 is wonderful, simply one of the best looking games for the Playstation. FF8 is mainly a Sci-fi themed game like FF7 but less “dirty”, with brighter colors used and an overall lighter atmosphere. I can’t say that I like that but that’s just me. However besides my personal taste everything looks great. The developers have put a lot of effort creating the world of FF8 with each area having its own architecture, ranging from simple towns to extremely high-tech structures with strange halos around them or extremely large cities that look like they where built from an alien civilization. The FF team of developers is obviously more comfortable with CG movies and this game is full of them… all looking extremely good, not to mention that in many parts of the game the CG movie plays in the background and you still control the normal character models on screen! Speaking of characters I love how the new ones look, (although they are a bit too… errr… cool and beautiful, if you know what I mean), and I don’t mind their new and more realistic look they have… I know that some people hate the cartoonish and simple style of FF7 and some hate the new style but set personal tastes aside they do look good.

Sound: 8.5/10
Music: 7/10

The sound effects are very good especially the in battle one’s which sound very powerful like the appearance of the Guardian Forces who create absolute havoc with lightings, tsunamis, earthquakes and so on. The most important thing in a FF game though is the music, which in this game… is a huge disappointment… especially after 2 wonderful game OSTs, (FF6 & FF7). It certainly isn’t bad, it certainly isn’t irritating… but it’s not a masterpiece either. Most of the themes are decent, only a few are truly good and many are poor imitations of some of the FF7 themes… and some are clearly out of place, like the “Eyes On Me” ballad which is just a typical, crappy love song when in FF7 we had Aeris’s Theme which was one of the best and most emotional themes ever, combining feelings of loss, love and happiness… *sigh* maybe I ask too much???

-Wonderful graphics
-Good music

-Incomplete and flawed plot with bad character development
-The Junction and Draw system is good only in theory

Also Play:
Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Final Fantasy 3 (6 in Japan)(SNES)
Final Fantasy 7 (Playstation, PC)
Final Fantasy 9 (Playstation)

Overall: 6.4/10

As I’ve said in the beginning the purpose of this review is not to flame the game but to explain why I don’t like it. I loved FF7 but there are many that hate every single minute of it and I can respect that… sort of :) Sooo is FF8 a masterpiece or an absolute disaster? Well the few changes keep me interested to actually play this game nonstop, (I’ve finished it in about 45 hours in 7 days), but not without getting bored of the tedious Draw system and not without a huge disappointment from the plot, not to mention that I don’t think that I will ever replay the game. My advice? Get the PC demo to try it out and if you like it buy it… but you can also save your money for FF7 or FF9.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Final Fantasy VIII (US, 09/07/99)

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