Review by Ranma

"Quite simply, the hands-down best game/experience ever in video gaming history. This is it."

Ah, I've put this off way too long, and now it's the new year, already four months after I beat the game. ^_^ Well, here's the review - but take note - Final Fantasy VIII haters should not read on, as they'll probably want to flame and torture me in every way possible, because simply put, I think this experience (it can't be called a ''game'') is one of the most breathtaking experiences of my entire life. Basically - Final Fantasy VIII is masterpiece, and nothing less.

Graphics: 10/10
Well, to put it bluntly... Final Fantasy VIII's realtime graphics are simply the best on PlayStation period, totally slaughtering other PlayStation games and most third- and first-party Nintendo 64 games. The FMVs are simply the best visuals in any video game to date, Dreamcast or otherwise. First off, the pre-rendered, hand-drawn backgrounds - to say the least - are much better than Final Fantasy VII's and Parasite Eve's. The dramatic camera views, also, give the game a realistic feel in extremely tense situations. The polygonal characters, in and out of battle, party or enemy, are wonderfully structured - no more ''blockheads'' from FFVII. No, these look like REAL people - well proportioned. I'm a big anime SD-fan too, but FFVII was ridiculous. When it comes to the spells and summons in battle, there is no comparison to FFVII - the summons, especially, look like FMVs in themselves. Notable ones are the Shiva and Eden summons - heh. And, finally, the FMVs are easily the best on the PlayStation, and blow any graphics on Dreamcast or Nintendo 64 out of the water. Quite literally, Final Fantasy VIII is one of the most graphically impressive games ever created.

Music and Sound: 11/10
I don't even know if an 11 is allowed at GameFAQs, but here it is - the first over-10 score I've given to any game. While Final Fantasy VIII improves upon Final Fantasy VII in EVERY aspect, the musical score is VERY easily the biggest improvement. Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame has created his most breathtaking score in this game - three of the songs, Liberi Fatali, Eyes On Me, and the Ending Theme are all performed by a prefessional orchestra. But even the songs performed on electronic keyboard sound almost flawless - the very thing that plagued Final Fantasy VII. FFVII had NO orchestrated songs, and the keyboarded ones (all of them) sounded horrid. The compositions themselves were wonderful, but the keyboard quality is, truthfully, lower than the ones used in Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. But, like I said, that is a thing of the past. Uematsu's lush compositions will get your adrenaline rushing for battle and bring a tear to your eye in the emotional moments (the ending... *sob*). Perfect. Just perfect.

Story: 11/10
Heh. What else can I say, and what else would you expect - the storyline, as usual with most Square Soft RPGs, easily surpasses a lot of professional novels today. In part VIII, the story centers around an emotionally and socially challenged teenage boy (well, 17) named Squall Leonhart. He belongs to Balamb Garden, a school that trains their students for fighting and war - Squall's dream is to become a member of the elite infiltration force ''SeeD,'' of Garden. Squall is a very quiet, ''get out of my face'' type of person. Now, you may think he's basically Cloud with a different image, but this is entirely untrue - Squall, and all of the other main characters in FFVIII, have more depth than those in FFVII. Squall stays the way he is until a chance meeting with a girl his age named Rinoa Heartilly. To put it outright, Rinoa eventually becomes Squall's love interest and vice versa - but the game doesn't jump straight into the relationship. Their tender relationship develops over four discs of gaming goodness, and they both go to the very brink of life to be with one another. Truly touching. Of course, there are other colorful characters along the way - Zell Dincht, a hot-tempered martial artist from the same Garden as Squall; Quistis Trepe, Squall's former Garden instructor-ess and a good friend; Selphie Timett, a cute, bubbly, spirited young girl transferred to Balamb Garden; Irvine Kinneas, a sharpshooter who belongs to Galbadia Garden, and Sorceress Edea Kramer, an evil, powerful sorceress who plans to rule Galbadia, and eventually, the world through force - but then again, even Edea isn't all that she seems. But that's not all - at certain points in the game, you'll switch control to three entirely different and separate characters - Laguna Loire, Kiros Seagul, and Ward Zaback, the main of which being Laguna, who shares a secret connection with Squall. It's all extremely enticing, and it will keep you playing and on the edge of your seat until the beautiful, climatic ending. Oh, and this time around, the translation isn't god-awfully horrible as in Final Fantasy VII - it's actually VERY good, and there's some really good humor in the game as well. Don't fret - I only found a few misspellings and typos. This will come as a huge relief to all those extremely disappointed with FFVII's poor translation.

Control: 10/10
There isn't a whole lot to say here, really - all the controls, in and out of battle, the Menu, and the World Map, etc. is all extremely responsive. Final Fantasy VIII supports Analog control and Dual Shock vibration, not surprisingly, and it supports them very, very well. Just fine here.

Fun Factor: 10/10
Final Fantasy VIII is different from every single RPG out at this very moment. In fact, FFVIII breaks a good many of the basic rules set by most other RPGs. At the root of all these changes are the Magic and Experience systems. First of all, FFVIII is based on an entirely new RPG system - in FFV, it was Jobs, FFVI, it was Espers, in FFVII, it was Materia. In FFVIII, it is the Junction system. And, I'm not going to lie to you - it is confusing, and it's going to scare you to death when you first get into it, it's so deep. And I'm not going to try to explain it here either - that's for the instruction booklet. But, basically, it goes like this. First off, there are no Magic Points (MP) to be found in FFVIII, as there are in pretty much every RPG out today, which is a good or bad thing depending on if you like new things or old ones. There are no Skill/Tech/Spirit/blah blah Points either. Only Hit Points (HP). To get the basic Magic in this game (Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Bio, etc.) you must Draw (a new command) it from your enemies in battles. You can Draw up to 9 Spells per command, and Stock up to 100 of any given Spell for use whenever you want. But, as strange as it may seem, you probably won't use Magic for attacking purposes much in FFVIII - you will use it for Junctioning. You see, you Junction these Spells to your characters' various statistics (Attack, Defense, Spirit, Speed, etc.) and Junctioning a high number of the right Spell to a certain stat will make it skyrocket, which is how you empower your characters in this game. In fact, leveling up also takes a back seat in FFVIII as well. All of your characters will level up every 1000 EXP, and gain a VERY small boost in all stats (so small you probably won't even notice it, except for HP). Actually, you can beat the game at a low level (as low as Level 30, even) because all your enemies (even Bosses) will be near or at your characters' levels - your edge comes in at Junctioning your Spells to your stats to make your characters MUCH stronger, as previously mentioned. Mark my words - you WILL NOT survive in FFVIII if you don't learn the art of Junctioning. Of course, you cannot Junction Spells at all without first Junctioning a Guardian Force (GF) to your character, which makes all of this stat-boosting possible. GFs are basically summons, but they're also like Pokémon (except infinitely cooler) this time around. They have their own stats (HP, Level, etc) and gain EXP along with your characters. They can also ''die'' and have to be revived if they take too much damage while the character charges them in battle to summon them. You'll see old GFs return, such as the Water Goddess, Shiva, and the Fire God, Ifrit, of past-FF fame. You'll also see some new faces, like Quetzalcoatl, who takes the place of the Lightning God Ramuh, and Eden, the Ultimate GF. GFs can be acquired many different ways, but most of them, are, obviously, relatively hidden and you'll miss most of them if you blaze straight through the game (a lot of them have to be drawn from Bosses). The main gist of GFs are their Abilities, which you will have to learn in order to REALLY enhance your characters. GFs gain Ability Points (AP) in battle, and once the selected Ability's needed AP is reached, it's learned and can be used. Examples are Str+20% (which raises the Junctioned character's Strength by 20%), and Recover, a command Ability that recovers all of one party member's HP in battle. And it doesn't stop at Junctioning to basic Stats and learning Abilities - you can also Junction Elemental Spells (Fire, Blizzard, etc.) to a character's Elemental Attack or Elemental Defense to empower in or defend from that Element. You can do the same with Status Ailments (Poison, Petrify, Sleep, etc.). In short, it's all very complicating and confusing at first, but extremely fun and well worth it in the end. There's little like the feeling of taking the time to create your own party and watch them kick ass in battle. And completely aside from all the gameplay is a mini-game called Triple Triad. Triple Triad (TT) is a simple, but devilishly tricky and hard card game that you can play with most any person you see in the whole game - people in town, anyone. It really gives you a sense of community. And the cards aren't just for fun - the rare ones can make you unbeatable in TT, and they can also be refined into priceless and rare Items that can't be found anywhere else - these Items are usually for Weapon remodeling, which is tough. And that brings me to my next subject - money and buying. As in FFVII, the world currency is Gil. But, again, unlike most RPGs, money is not gained from battle, nor can you buy Weapons, Armor, or Accessories. Gil comes in the form of paychecks, issued by Garden, as you are, after all, a member of SeeD, and SeeDs do get paid. You can get your paychecks bigger and your wallets faster by taking SeeD Tests, which are written tests that test your knowledge of the game's mechanics. You can earn as little as 1000 Gil at certain intervals to as much as 30000 Gil. But you can only take a test as high-leveled as Squall is, so there are drawbacks. Generally, though, you will always have enough money, as long as you don't try to buy 100 of every Item. Which reminds me - there is no Armor or Accessories in FFVIII - only Items and Weapons. And you can only buy Items. So how do you get new and more powerful Weapons? By remodeling them at Junk Shops. It's not as easy as it sounds - usually, the items needed for the remodeling are realitvely rare and hard to come by, and can only be won and stolen at certain leveled enemies.... you'll probably (definitely) need to do a lot of Card refining to finally find the Items you need. So, yes, weapon remodeling is hard, but well worth it. Finally, I'll cover Limit Breaks. LBs aren't played out the same way as they were in FFVII - actually, each character has only one Limit Break, and you can only use it when his or her HP gets in the critical range. But each of them are unique in their own little ways, which you will learn about in the game - I'm not about to go into all of that here. Whew. Yes, it's all very confusing, but like I said, it will become second-nature and extremely fun once you get into the game. Happy Junctioning.

Overall: 11/10
I don't need to recap everything I've said after this stupidly long review, do I? This is IT, folks. This is, very literally, the best video game ever made, though I hesitate to call it a video game. And yes, I know Square Soft will most likely surpass it in one way or another (most likely with Chrono Cross... whoa), but for right now and to the beginning of video games, Final Fantasy VIII is the absolute best RPG ever made, and the absolute best overall game of any genre ever made. And I say that without any reserves. God bless Square Soft.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/09/00, Updated 02/09/00

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