Review by Cyril

"An awesome game, but sadly, not for everyone"

Final Fantasy VIII. It was supposed to be revolutionary in every way. It was exceedingly hyped, and almost everyone I knew wanted to play it. When it came out, I had it bought on the first day. Was it as good as I expected? In the beginning, no. But now I play Final Fantasy VIII, and I realize the true depth of the game. Its not just all show, its an amazingly deep game that allows you a level of customization almost no other game ever has.

Final Fantasy VIII has a completely different starting point then any other game. it is rather like the opening CG movie is looking back on time, and it is, if you wish to interpret it that way. You then see a scene with 2 characters, one is the character you control for the most of the game, and the other is your rival. Of course, these facts are not distinguished yet, but they are about 2 minutes later. But you realize immediately that they are rivals. After this adrenaline pumping opening movie, (with *gasp!* Blood!) you then take control of your main character in the infirminary of a ''Garden''. These ''Gardens'' are places for people to train to be ''SeeD'', which are mercenaries. Hell, I have bored myself typing that. The story itself doesnt actually get good until the second disk, because then it actually gets less militarisque, and more into the RPG area.

Final Fantasy VIII's main character, Squall is his default name, is boring. Thats the main word I know for him. Boring. He is just...not right. he is cold, conceited, and selfish. He also almost never speaks, unless he is required to. I know many people who can't stand him. So obviously, Square had to make him have an exact opposite as the heroine. Rinoa, the heroine is extroverted, wild, and speaks her mind. She also does exactly what comes to mind. The rest of Final Fantasy VII's characters are exceedingly well done, and developed. Its quite funny to see an incredibly cold character travelling around with people he find very annoying. He is always thinking to himself how much he cant stand them. Characters like Zell and Selphie make squall the comic relief of the game, even if he isnt normally.

Final Fantasy VIII also has a different factor you normally don't see in a video game. From early on, you are placed into the shoes of a mysterious man named Laguna. This Laguna character is also the opposite of Squall. To make this even more complex, Squall is in the mind of this man, Laguna while he goes on his adventures. Its very confusing, but it gives way into the plot later on. You also see some clues throughout the game about who this Laguna is. In the end, you learn some VERY stunning facts.

Final Fantasy VIII's gameplay is almost too complex to describe. But there is just so much to do at any time it is almost alarming. basically, you start the game alone, with nothing. No spells, no GF's...and some very basic stats. You get GF's within the first 10 minutes, and at this point you can do almost anything.

To start, Final Fantasy VIII runs on a system called the ''Junction System''. This is a very complex system, and you have to be a certain type of person to use it, and to utilize it to its full potential. And by this, I mean you either love it, like it, or absolutely hate it. Those who like it will do well in the game, and those who love it will master every aspect of the entire game. The junction system basically starts with a GF (Guardian Force). After a character ''Equips'' a GF, they can not begin to junction magic, and use commands other then ''Attack'' in battle. such commands are ''Draw'', and ''Magic'', as well as ''Item'' and ''GF''. Of course, GF's can learn different skills, and stat boosting abilities for themselves, and for their ''host'' (the character that they are equipped on). Now, once a character has the ability to use this, they can begin to ''junction''. To Junction, a character needs some magic spells.

Another huge change from Final Fantasy games in the past is that Final Fantasy VIII has no MP. The spells in Final Fantasy VIII must be ''drawn'' from enemies. You can Draw magic from enemies by using the Draw command. You can also draw magic from specified ''Draw points'', that are sometimes hidden, and sometimes out in broad daylight. Many, many people say that the draw system in Final Fantasy VIII is the games worst aspect. I admit that it can sometimes get incredibly repetitive, but there are other ways to get magic. The worst part is having to level until an enemy gets a stronger spell. Stronger enemies hold stronger spells. And when I mean stronger enemies, I also mean one of the other huge changes in Final Fantasy VIII.

Final Fantasy VIII's leveling system is based off one more like Suikoden, but at the same time completely different. Every time you get 1,000 EXP you level up. And as you level up, the enemies level up with you. So if your characters have an average level of 15, the enemies will have that, or maybe even a higher level. The enemies get stronger physically, and magically. Then they also drop different items, and you can steal different items as well. This system makes some of the enemies in the game capable of wiping you off the face of the planet very easily.

Simply one of the best parts of Final Fantasy VIII is the ability to make magic spells and items out of other items. Some GF's have the ability to use special skills to make spells out of items, and better, more advanced items out of weaker items. If you hate the draw system, you can make spells this way. it is a lot less time consuming, and it is also easier on the fingers. This is also the only way to get some rare items. It is also very rewarding to FINALLY get that rare item that you have been collecting a special item for.

Now for the battle system. Final Fantasy VIII's battle system is rather like the system in Final fantasy VII. Basically, each character has HP, and a bar for ATB. Then when it is their turn, they can enter a command. It is actually, almost exactly like Final Fantasy VII, except the few changes I told you about with the enemy levels. Then there are the GF's. The GF's are not just summons, this time they can actually save your ass in battle. They each have their own amount of HP, like your own character does. So lets say the GF has 2,000 HP, and your character has 1,500. The enemy attacks for 2,500 HP. The GF would take all of the damage, and then be KOed, like a normal character would, but the character would only take 500 damage from the rest of the attack. Another this GF's are used for is, during their attack, mass button mashing called ''Boosting''. This gives the GF's attacks added power. Also, take note that the enemies in this game have more HP then almost any other game you will play. Some enemies have over 1,000,000 (no, that million isnt a typo).

One of the best parts of Final Fantasy VIII is the card game. You can play the card game at almost any time, as long as a NPC plays cards. These card games are incredibly addicting, and add a LOT to the entire gameplay aspect. In fact, the card game is probably more fun the the entire Final Fantasy VIII game in itself. When you play a card game, your goal is to get the higher number, and flip over an opponents card. Simple, but when you have some of the more advanced rules it can become hell. The best part of the Card game, is the fact that the cards you win can be used to make rare items.

Final Fantasy VIII is an excellent game, but it is not for everyone. If you don't like obsessive customization, past the point of even Final fantasy VII, this is not the game for you. It is also not the game for you if you are not patient, and willing to do everything. The game can get repetitive very quickly if you draw normally. There also tends to be a lot of random encounters. If you have not played the demo, I suggest probably renting before buying. But if you are into what I said, be prepared for hours upon hours of fun.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/20/03, Updated 06/20/03

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