Review by Sana chan

"No words can describe the greatness of this game!"

Final Fantasy VIII is the most controversial game in the FF series. It can be considered the “oddball” since it’s so different from all the others. It seems like most people either hate or love this game, no in-betweens. I am one that falls in the latter category, of course. In my opinion this game is strong in every category - plot, characters, gameplay, battle system, graphics, and music. The end result is an excellent game that hooked me for hundreds of hours.

Plot/Story - 9/10

Final Fantasy VIII easily has one of the most involved and complicated stories in an RPG. I won’t spoil, but the mercenary role from FF7 is back! The story has a lot to do with time. You actually play in the past and present. Everything seems aloof at first, but as you play, you realize how closely connect everything is. I have not seen another RPG with a more intricate and complex plot than this one. The story sort of develops slowly in the first two discs. When I first started playing it, it was just a so-so RPG... until disc 3. The plot in discs 3 and 4 makes up for EVERYTHING, if not more, of what the first 2 lacks. Everything starts to piece together then. The story works in an effect somewhat like an endless loop, and will require some actual thinking to understand. It also takes on a serious tone rather than lighthearted, which is a good thing since we’re being drowned in RPG’s where a couple of children get together to go on adventures for “fun”... erg. In effect, FF8 induces many emotions - joy, fear, sadness, surprise, worry, this game causes it all! :)

Characters - 10/10

There are not too many playable characters (only 6 in fact), but that’s a good thing because each one gets developed well. FF8 has the most realistic characters there are in any RPG, and you’ll realize that these types of people represented do exist in real life. Everyone has their good points and bad, fears and dreams, feelings and emotions. No one is “perfect”. There is a nice combination of static and dynamic characters, and characterization is done very well. By the time I finished the game, I felt like I’ve known the characters all my life. That’s how deep they run.

The love story in this game was very much focused upon, due to its “love” theme. The coupling is never hidden away from you, and in fact you find out in the opening scene. But does that matter? No! SquareSoft intended to show the development of this relationship, rather than make you “guess” like in FF7. Needless to say, the development was done in a marvelous manner. Many times after I beat the game for the very first time, I wondered if that “really” did happen? What happened afterwards? It just seemed so real...

Gameplay/Controls - 10/10

Gameplay is very unique! Rather than gaining gil (FF money) by defeating monsters, you get paid a set salary at given intervals according to your SeeD (the special mercenary group you belong to) rank, which in turn is determined by your behavior on missions, how many SeeD tests you take, and many other factors. I like this system because it’s more realistic than getting money from forest animals that you fight...

As for all FF games, there are tons of optional side quests available in FF8, including Ultima and Omega Weapons again, plus optional GF’s and more. Last time I played this, I played over 120 hours trying to get everything! There is also a card game called Triple Triad that you can play with many people in the world of FF8. Cards can be modded by using a GF ability to turn into items, including rare ones. The card game comes its own set of complex rules, and each region uses different rules. You can abolish/spread rules as you play from one region to next, too.

FF8 comes with a Pocket Station game as well! It’s called Chocobo World, and in it you raise your own Chicobo (a small Chocobo basically), who finds rare items for you, including an amulet that will let you summon Mog in game battle. This is a nice addition to this game, and is not available on any other FF!

As for controls, RPG standard and analog-compatible! Works fine with no flaws!

Battle System - 10/10

Excellent battle system with lots of options. FF8 introduces a new system called the junction system, where you draw magic from enemies to junction onto your stats. The concept is not that hard, and I don’t understand why some people just don’t get it. This system is awesome because you can customize your characters any way you want. You can have any one of them being a fighter, or mage, or healer. There’s just so much you can do with this system. You can challenge yourself and play games with no junctions or no level ups. This game will let you do it with no problems.

The summons in this game are called GF’s AKA Guardian Forces. You can of course summon them in battle, but they serve a greater purpose in this game by giving you ability commands, including basic ones used in battle such as Attack, Magic, etc, but also special ones like Encounter-none, Call Shop, Recover, Mug, etc. You gang AP in battle to learn these abilities.

Of course, the limit break system from FF7 is back. This is one of the best things about Final Fantasy. This time, you can execute limit breaks anytime you are in critical condition or use Aura magic. Limit breaks are acquired differently for each character. Some need new weapons, others learn from magazines, yet others just require events to happen. You can do a lot with limit breaks alone. Each person’s is different and interesting to see.

Graphics - 9/10

Being one of the earliest full 3D game and on an old system like the PS one, The graphics in FF8 are terrific. All backgrounds are pre-rendered, and therefore smooth. Places are designed in a futuristic fashion, thus there are not many boring old school dungeons. Most scenarios are more realistic than colorful, so if you like cutesy fairy-tale type art more, this isn’t for you. However, it does match the overall serious tone of the game.

Specific character designs are not that great, as they’re quite pixilated. However, they are not static by all means. The characters makes great use of body language, and you’ll almost never see them stand in the same position all the time during a scene or event. The world map is also pixilated, but animated. You can see trains running on it. What other RPG(s) has such details on their world maps? The FMV’s in this game are also awesome! Mind-blowing even! They look much better than FF7’s. Everything is so real. Good graphics certainly don’t make a game, but in this case they certainly enhance the game!

Sound/Music - 9/10

Nobuo does it again! Music in FF8 is not as good as FF7‘s, but solid nonetheless. One of the best things I like about the FF series is that the music pieces are never repeated too often and therefore never annoying. With over 4 CDs worth of tracks, FF8 certainly accomplishes that. One of my favorite battle music themes comes from FF8, and that’s “Man with the Machine Gun”. Plain awesome! FF8 is also the first Final Fantasy game to feature a full-length song, “Eyes on Me“. It’s a sweet song and fits the event where it’s played. It’s definitely worth it to buy the soundtrack to this game.

Challenge - Varies

The challenge all depends on whether you do side quests or not, and how you plan to play the game. For example, Omega Weapon is definitely ten times harder than the final boss of this game. As for how you play the game. Well, you can do it in different ways. You can do it regularly, or you can play a no-level up game and beat it at level 7 (yes, it‘s possible), or you can play a no junction game and just level up. You can let this game be however challenging you want! It’s your choice.

I noticed some people think the junction system makes the game hard. It really is not. Take a tiny bit of time to learn! It’s truly one of the most interesting and flexible concepts ever created.

To Buy or to Rent?

Definitely buy. I own two copies of this game, just because one is constantly being borrowed. :) I’ve played this game more times than any other game (besides Chrono Trigger) for its challenges, etc. and never got tired of it! The story to date still makes me laugh and cry. Plus, since now PS one games have really dropped in price and FF8 is of the Greatest Hits collection, it’s your best time to get it if you still haven’t! Renting is fine if you are going to play it only once, but I must say, this game is one of few RPG’s with a lot of replay value!

OVERALL - 10/10

Bottom line, this is one of the greatest games ever in my opinion. Again, I must emphasize how realistic this game is. Therefore, I will say one thing: It’s better for the mature gamer. What else is there to say? Really, it is impossible for me to truly describe how great this game is, with just words. So just go out, buy this game, and PLAY! Oh, and did I mention Jumbo Cactuar is in this game? He’s the best mascot yet! :)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/04/03, Updated 01/04/03

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