Review by Thunderlipz
Reviewed: 04/19/03 | Updated: 04/24/03
Convoluted storyline does NOT a good game make
For reasons unknown, the eggheads from Squaresoft seem to think ''Quantity = Quality''. If we're mass-producing rolls of toilet paper, I can sort of understand that. After all of the hype and such Squaresoft and its evil marketing team had built for this game, one would expect them to one-up its previous installment. However, the end result we do get is nothing more than a tired display of cutting edge CG technology with one-dimensional cardboard characters recycled from Part VII uttering ridiculous dialogue, and fooling around in a needlessly convoluted storyline (which also seems to be the staple of Squaresoft games nowadays). Understandably enough, Part VIII did end up provoking widespread revulsion amongst the RPG gaming community not long after its release, and so it was inevitable that those who did like it would band together to strike back against intellectually undeveloped philistines such as myself. That said, this same group will probably end up explaining to me why I am wrong and why this game is God, but here's my rebuttal in any case.
STORY (3/10) - A couple of words can be used to describe Final Fantasy VIII; borderline tedium, and ego trip. The self-importance of this game is absolutely astounding. Final Fantasy VIII takes a very simplistic storyline (insane villain plans to destroy the world), and tosses it into a meatgrinder to become this confusing mess of poorly constructed subplots. Some of which that made absolutely no sense. Now it's pretty well known that Squaresoft tends to use their storylines as an excuse for their artists to create more wonderful CG and FMV sequences. I can imagine a conversation happening like this during the fabrication of this bastard of a Final Fantasy game:
ARTIST: WOW! I just thought up of a cool scene. It has nothing to do with the game but it looks really, really cool!
PRODUCER: What you say?! Change story to fit this scene in immediately!
I can also imagine this scene occurring many a times during production.
Squaresoft had intended this game to be about love, although the game never fully explores any of the relationships, particularly that of Squall and Rinoa, who seem to have about as much chemistry as two protons thrown together. But that has no relevance to the story. To elaborate a little, it goes like this; Game Villain decides to unleash her unholy wrath on everyone through vague political maneuvering, and, uh, the use of this omnipotent power of ''Time Compression''. How she is able to accomplish that and how little and vague the game explains them both are both fun subjects to poke holes at in themselves. Meanwhile, the main protagonist of this sorry story, the obligatory reluctant hero Squall, has to do battle with his inner demons or something close to it, and then lead his band of TEENAGERS to save the world. Wasn't that the premise of the Power Rangers? One has to wonder why there were't any warning bells ringing off their hooks when the fate of the world is placed on the square shoulders of a couple of kids who aren't even old enough to attain their Japanese driver's license. But wait a second, Power Rangers, as ridiculous as it was, pandered to 8-year olds so no logic was necessary. I'm pretty sure this isn't the same demographic Squaresoft had wanted intentionally. Then again, seeing the character themselves, and judging from their actions, could anyone tell the difference? Which brings me to this point...
As weak as the story was, the real flaws of the game aren’t all that obvious until you meet the characters themselves. For some reason I don’t even want to know, Squaresoft has this unquenchable thirst for teenagers, whether the characters are annoying youths which could be teenagers, to more mature adult-like characters who are also teenagers. You see, with Final Fantasy logic, supernatural powers and a whole lot of button-mashing easily makes up for their complete lack of experience (we’re talking storyline experience and not the funny numbers that seem to go up after winning every battle). Of course, Final Fantasy VIII and its grandiose story attempts to show you that these teenagers are very green, and that they are very young and that the odds ARE stacked against them... yet this same group of teenagers and their rookie peers (these kids all go to the same school) were able to withstand a full assault by an experienced invading army of adults by COMBAT, which COMPLETELY DEFEATS that particular plot element of the game. Anyway, skips of logic like that are prevalent throughout Final Fantasy VIII and listing them is going to take more space than GameFAQS is going to allow me. Some notable ones you should keep an eye out for though if you do intend to play include:
- The ENTIRE train sequence where the teenagers concoct an elaborate scheme to save the President (who they think is on board) by switching him with another... only to find that the President is already giving a speech at another location. I wouldn’t necessarily call this skip of logic. More like skip of IQ.
- The ENTIRE space sequence where Squall leaps off into space to save Rinoa, and is summarily saved by a floating, derelict spacecraft that just so happens to be floating by.
- The ENTIRE end sequence too absurd to parody or explain.
GRAPHICS (8/10) - There's no question Squaresoft employs some of the best CG animators and conceptual artists out there. The sequences in the game were done very well, although all over-the-top with full-blown cheesiness. I did have a problem adjusting my eyes as the heavily pixelated characters clashed severely with the smoother textured backgrounds of the game but it is definitely a vast improvement over the deformed creatures we had for heroes back in part VII.
SOUND/MUSIC (6/10) - Squaresoft generally composes decent quality music and sound effects to go along with their superior graphics but I found the music here to be very dull and bland. There were some good tracks but that was few and far between. Some of the music sounded more like droning and more often than not, I had to hit the mute button just because I was getting flustered and irritated with the noise.
GAMEPLAY (3/10) - Final Fantasy VIII took a nose-dive into mediocrity with its story, but it’s the gameplay that made them crash through the Earth and out the other end of China. What was once a simple menu-driven based system is now a mind-bogglingly complex system with dozens of options to micro-manage with hundreds of menus. You are now allowed to customize your weapons, your clothes, your magic, your body, your stats, and I’m pretty sure other spots that I can’t name without a PG warning. For the anal-retentive, this could be fun. The game also introduces the Draw system where you don’t have to learn or purchase your magic. You can now DRAW (steal) them from enemies or magical orbs that are nicely dispersed throughout the world, and then you can JUNCTION them into your body or clothes or whatever for stat boosts. What Junction-ing actually means is beyond my guess but I am assuming it has something to do with needles. Anyway, this is where the customization comes in. Each magic spell allots a certain boost to certain stats, and the more you have of it, the more bonuses you accumulate. With dozens upon dozens of stats, and twice as many spells, what results is hours and hours of fun customizing while ignoring the game completely.
TRANSLATION (4/10) - ''Should anything happen to Instructor Tripe, the 'Trepies' will get you back!'' 'Nuff said.
OVERALL (4/10) - None of the characters were sympathetic or memorable, and all of them were equally annoying. True, ''realistic'' teenagers are often irrational and silly, but I've never known anyone who was as juvenile as Squall, oblivious as Rinoa, or flat-out retarded as Zell. Now couple this with a nonsense story about time compression, love (a heartless mask for the poor-quality writing), and a laborious junction system, Final Fantasy VIII could pass for a paper-weight.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
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