Review by Aganar

"Wow. Just...Wow."

So, you've bought yourself a PS1. You're looking for a nice RPG to try out. What's this? FFVIII for 20 bucks? Why not? You've heard the Final Fantasies were good. Let's try it out. HOLY CRAP THAT'S A NICE OPENING FMV! Ok, anyways, let's continue playing the game.

As you can guess, Final Fantasy VIII is the eighth installment in one of the most popular gaming series of all time. Made by our good friends Squaresoft, who's brought you such classics as Chrono Trigger, The Secret of Mana series, Final Fantasy VI, and many other unforgettable titles. This game was bashed heavily by hardcore Final Fantasy fans for being too futuristic. However, these are the same people who say Final Fantasy IX is the greatest RPG ever, so you can never trust everyone.

Graphic-wise, this has some of the best graphics the PS1 can offer to you. People complained about FFVII's characters being SD, or super-deformed (IE huge head, blocky hands, out of proportion body). So, Square obviously got the hint and changed around the graphics. Thanks to that, the characters now look just as they do in battle. Granted, they are slightly more pixilated, and their polygon count is slightly lower, but who really cares? The characters are very detailed and, unlike FFVII, they look realistic instead of trying to look anime-ish.

On the other side of the graphics, you have the FMVs. We all know about Final Fantasy VII's amazing FMVs, and FFVIII is no disappointment. For starters, the opening FMV is perhaps the greatest FMV ever seen on a console, rivaled only by Final Fantasy VII's disc 1 ending FMV (thanks to spoiler protection I am not allowed to say it). You have a very weird and stylish video, accompained by a very well-done gregorian chant in the background. If you dont like it for its amazing cinematography and greatness, you must at least awe at how visually impressive the FMV is. This is not to say that only the opening is great. There are many FMVs which are top-knotch. The Ending is another great one. There is also the famous dance scene, as well as several FMV backgrounds! That takes alot of talent.

Story-wise, its well-done. The story is not too complicated: You are a group of futuristic mercenaries created soely to capture and stop sorceresses. You take control of a young mercenary as he learns of an ancient sorceress who wants to fuse time together in order to achieve universal domination. Thats the story simply as it can be put. Unfortunately, the story doesn't really develop much and you're not clear of the real villain until the end. However, its still not too bad. I mean, I can't really complain. It still had a focus and you were not left with many loop-holes or confusions like in Xenogears.

Characters are probably the high point of the game. Squall, our hero, turns from a silent loner type guy into a leader. Thats character development for ya. His girlfriend and his rival also go through alot of development. The nice thing is that its not just the hero, his girlfriend, and the villain who are deep like in Final Fantasy VII. Everyone has somewhat of a personality. And, also, there are no characters which you want to strangle (*cough*YUFFIE*cough*). Some characters can be annoying at times, but none really drag the game down. Also, Square unfortunately failed again to fit some ethnicity into the game. In FFVII, people were pissed because the only black character, Barret, was just Mr. T with a bazooka. This time, they tried the opposite and made the black character, Kiros, a very nice guy. I really liked him, however, in battle, he's a total psycho with two knives.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from the same problem as FFVI. VI had no clear main character. As such, FFVIII has no clear villain. You have the 3 different sorceresses, but one is the main character in each disk, so there is really no true one. There is also of course, Seifer, Squall's arch-rival, who you would THINK would become the main villain, but he just remains the sorceresses' slave throughout the whole game. Its somewhat un-nearving since hes the only one of the villains who develops.

Anyway, on to Gameplay. FFVIII definitely has a unique battle system for the Final Fantasy games. First off that FF fans will notice, monsters no longer carry wallets on them. You get money from your job. Second of all, weapons must be upgraded from their initial status instead of buying a new one, and there is no armor. Finally, and most noticably, there is no magic runes you impliment your characters with. Magic is now an item. You do not have MP anymore and use it on enemies, you draw magic FROM them. Its certainly an interesting system, but then if you want to have the most powerful spells you have spend awhile fighting them till you can draw all 100 of that magic.

However, later, magic is rarely used. Because, along with those new features comes a totally new way of customizing your characters. Its a system called junctioning. What it does is it allows you to take your magic and sort of ''equip'' it to the hero. So, you can take a powerful spell like Firaga (the equivalent to Fire 3), and set it to Squall's attack. Now, this will make his attack much stronger, but it will also make his attack a virtual ''fire blade''. Any Ice Monster he attacks will have double the damage taken. Likewise, equipping Ice to Squall's defense will increase damage from Fire Monsters, but damage from Ice monsters will heal him. Thats a cool feature. So, there are a ton of spells to experiement with, and you can make any character just how you like them.

Another new feature is the summons. The new summons are called ''Guardian Forces'', or GFs for short. They are alot like Espers, however instead of teaching you magic when you equip them, they teach you abilities. You can then select your favorite ones and set them to your character. Unfortunately, your character only has 4 slots for attack options, so you must decide which ones to use. Sometimes you must even sacrifice your basic skills like Attack,Magic,Draw, or Item to afford to use another move! In short, it allows for a maximum amount of customizability. You must often spend hours trying to get one special GF just so you can learn an important ability from them. For instance, I spent a LONG time trying to get Toneberry simply so I could get his ''Call shop'' ability. Some of the GFs are sequels of old ones we know and love. Shiva, Ifrit, Toneberry, Bahumat, they're there. Odin is too, but he only appears randomly during battle and kills everything. Also worth noting, an old favorite from Final Fantasy V appears. Those of you who have played it should remember Exdeath's right hand man, Gilgamesh, who was banished to the Cleft of Demension when he pulled out Excalipur instead of Excalibur. Well, it looks like he got the Masamune somtime during those couple thousand years. And now, he has Odin's sword. So, he will randomly come during ANY battle (meaning boss fights too), and use one of his four swords. He can use the Excalibur, which does considerable damage, Masamune, which does 9999 damage to any creature, Zantetsuken (Odin's Sword), which will kill anything (even bosses), and finally, Excalipur (or Excalipoor in the English version), which does 1.

Replay Value is also a huge portion of the game. There are a huge amount of GFs to find, and tons of abilities to master. There are many different types of magic, and in short you can spend an eternity using different combinations on your team to try to create the ultimate Team. Then there's also the Ultimate and Omega weapon, which are the strongest monsters in the game. And there's getting everyone's final weapons. And getting them to level 100. And....well, you get the picture.

However, there is also another part of the replay value. Triple Triad. Triple Triad, or TTT, is a card game in FFVIII. Its a very simple card game, but incredibly addictive. What you do is you go around and kill monsters. When you kill them you get certain cards. As you become better and play other people, you get their cards. Your deck becomes stronger. Then, you get special character cards or GF cards, which makes you even stronger. This will allow you to challenge even stronger people, including the Royal TTT gang. When you beat all of them you will end up with a very powerful deck. There is a character card for every major character in the game, so you'll be collecting for awhile to get those. Not to mention 1 for every GF, Special Boss, and monster. That'll keep you going even longer. Then there's the fact that you must literally travel all around the world to face everyone. And even when you do, they become stronger over time and start getting better cards. So, the game never ends. It would've been nice if there were a two player mode, but oh well.

Finally, there is sound and music. This is perhaps Nobuo Uematsu's best score yet. Basically, he came up with one line : Fithos Luesec, Wecos Vinosec. If you can remember that one line, you have about 5 of his songs. He uses that lyric in a bunch of chanting songs, as well as some parade ones. The music has a wide variety of well done tunes. There are gregorian chantings, as I mentioned before. There is some classical here and there. There's also just some weird songs. There's also a song which heavily reaps off the theme to The Rock, but oh well. I still can't really decide which score I like more, this or VII, but I think in the end this might edge out over VII slightly.

So, overall, you have a wonderful game and a worthy sequel. Old-schoolers hate it with a bitter vengence, but oh well, too bad for them. This sold better than any of their games. I still think VII is a better game, but thats not to say you shouldn't get this. Hell, you can get it now for 20 bucks. Just pick yourself up a copy.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/23/03, Updated 01/23/03

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