Review by Dude Love Fan
"Truly, my favorite game of all time."
I have been a fan of the Role Playing game genre for about the last 10 years. I got my start with Dragon Warrior 2 on the original NES, and then moved on to Dragon Warrior 4, which I still consider the epitome of the NES RPG. Then one day my friend introduced me to a little game called Final Fantasy 2 on the SNES.
Since then I have loved the series, and played most every one of them. Before this intro(or review for that matter) goes any farther, I must warn you that it will be long, and often wordy(just like now). I have to write 1750 words on the greatness of this game for this review to even be accepted, and while it is my favorite game ever, it still will require me to ramble on occasion(like now), so I ask you ahead of time to forgive me, as I know it is going to happen.
Okay, let us begin, Final Fantasy VIII was released on September 9th 1999, the same day as the MTV video music awards, and the launch of the Dreamcast(which some have described as an insult to Sega). It featured gorgeous graphics, spectacular sound, and a story that, in my opinion, was top notch. As it is a Final Fantasy, I assume there was massive hype(which I cannot confirm as I didn't get my Playstation until a few years later, and wasn't really paying attention to games as much back then), which I believe was lived up to. So as the WWE says about Goldberg, believe the hype.
Anyway, the game took a departure from the short, blocky characters of Final Fantasy VII, and replaced them with more realistic looking characters. As said earlier, it had a story that would make some Hollywood writers blush, full of twists and turns that kept you hooked until ''The End'' was shown on the screen. And to boot it had a musical masterpiece of a sound track. Now that you have a general idea of the game, let's delve a little deeper into the core aspects of the game.
While I know I have given many a perfect score, none have been more deserving than Final Fantasy VIII, one reason, the gameplay. While most RPGs have the gameplay based in combat, Final Fantasy VIII may have inadvertently put an almost equal amount of weight into the mini game of FFVIII, the triple triad card game(more on that later).
To begin, let us look at the battle system, the meat and potatoes of any RPG. Final Fantasy VIII sports a battle and inventory system unique of all other Final Fantasies. First off, the magic system, gone are the days of ''MP'', now Magic is handled by a curious new ''Draw System.'' The draw system works like this, you draw magic from either enemies, or spots around the world called, get this, draw points. When drawing magic from enemies you have 2 options, Stock and Cast. If you chose to cast, it will be cast on the enemy you chose. If you chose to stock the spell put it in your characters stock of the spell, which can either be junctioned to your character(we'll cover this in a minute), or saved to be cast later. When drawing from enemies, you can get up to 9 of spell at a time(your character can hold 100 of any given spell), you have the possibility of drawing more at a draw point on the world map.
Next up, the perfect compliment to the Draw System, the Junction System. Junctioning is the main way your characters power up in the game. The way this works is, you junction the summons(called Guardian Forces, or GFs in the game) to a character. Once a GF is junctioned, you can now junction magic(any magic you have drawn outside of battle, or chose to stock in battle) to any stat that the junctioned GF will let you(you have to teach the GF new skills to be able to junction to stats they don't initially support, and each GF starts out with different stats available) thereby, raising that stat.
While some complain about how they don't want their HP to lower just because they cast a spell that is junctioned to it, I think it balances the game quite well. When you think about it, in other Role Playing games, mages are not usually as strong as other characters, and by making it where magic is the main way to bolster your stats, a mage will usually always be weaker than a character who relies more heavily on physical attacks. One last good note about the junction system, as it allows you to junction spells to your stats, you can also in this manner customize your character by adding elemental spells to their attacks, and boost there defense to them by junctioning elemental spells to their defense.
The next new gameplay mechanic, is the weapons and armor system. The armor system is radically different, as there is no armor in the game to begin with(which may have some purists in a huff), but if you want higher defense, just junction more magic to it. Now about the new weapons system. This is different as you don't actually buy anymore weapons, you just upgrade your existing ones. To do this you need to find magazines(Weapons Monthly) that tell you what parts are required for which upgrades. Once you have all the required parts, you take the parts, and a little money to an ironically named, Junk Shop and have your weapon upgraded.
In case you were wondering, yes the limit breaks are back. This time however, they occur when the character is in dire straits(IE are low on HP) or has a spell or item used on them to cause the break to appear more often, other than that, they are pretty much the same.
As stated way earlier in this section one of the two main focuses in the gameplay was the card game. As you may or may not have known, the multiple mini games of Final Fantasy VII have been replaced by the one, game encompassing, card game called Triple Triad. Throughout the game you can verse other people in card games to get better cards(which sport pictures of monsters, GFs, and even the main characters) You handle these bouts on a 3 x 3 grid, where you place your card trying to flip over the cards of your opponent, while keeping him from doing the same thing to you. These battles can get very strategic, and, for the sake of brevity, I will not discuss the mechanics of the game in the review(although the in game tutorial explains it somewhat well. New cards are either one from opponents, won after battles, or gained by using a command aptly named ''Card'' to turn a weakened enemy into a card(which is, now that I think about it, somewhat similar to another famous RPG, Pokemon).
And as one would assume, this card game is addicting, and can easily add multiple hours to your play time. And one of the most useful commands you will ever learn will be ''Card Mod'' which allows you to turn a card(or a certain number of them) into items. This often makes weapon upgrading much easier, and through perseverance can allow you to get all but one of everybody's final weapons before even leaving the first disc. Alright, enough about the gameplay, let's move this show along.
While I know this section will be nowhere near as long as the previous, I will be sure to be as descriptive as possible. Okay, these are flat out some of the best graphics the console has to offer, especially when compared to Final Fantasy VII's graphics. The pre rendered backgrounds are drop dead gorgeous, easily the best on the console. While the characters themselves pale in comparison, you can't honestly knock down the score based on the sharp contrast between the breathtaking backgrounds and the good looking characters.
Speaking of which, the characters themselves are highly detailed, right down to the scar between Squall's eyes, you can even see them blink(which, for some intangible reason, adds immeasurable realism to the game).
Then there are the Cinemas, they themselves look outstanding, but when you realize how perfectly integrated they are into the game, makes them that much better. These CG sequences are just now beginning to show their age, and they were made going on 5 years ago, truly a testament to their beauty.
While obviously looking back on the games graphics now would shock you due to their datedness, at the time they were amazing(which is hard to grasp sometimes). So far we have covered Gameplay and graphics, now onto sound.
Flat out, Final Fantasy VIII contains some of the best music in the series, if not in any series to date. I still love the Fisherman's Horizon theme, and think Eyes on Me is an awesome song.
Speaking of Eyes on Me, I still remember the scene when it first played(the vocal one). I was shocked to find out it wasn't in Japanese, as so many other RPG songs are. To be exact, I thought something to the effect of, ''Wait, THIS IS IN ENGLISH!!!'' While today this may not seem like much of a deal, back then to a still, as Solid Snake would say, ''green'' RPGer, it was superb!
Other than Eyes on Me, Final Fantasy VIII had some other memorable tunes such as the Balamb Garden theme(Which I also like). And it is the ONLY game that I actually want the soundtrack for. Okay, Gameplay Graphics, and Sound down, next up, Story.
While I never usually critique the story of a game I review, I feel it necessary to share the biggest reason one would play this game, story. You are Squall(or whatever you decide to name the hero of this tale), a SeeD in training from Balamb Garden(I guess the pun was intended). Your first mission is to pass your tests and become a real SeeD. After your exam you return to go on another mission to help some freedom fighters in town called Timber, which is currently under Galbadian Occupation(don't you just love politics:).
From here the story just snowballs until the very end. I don't want to just give it away, but I will say your journeys will lead you from the Capital of Galbadia to the frozen north and beyond. As you probably guessed one of the main themes is love, but don't worry it all comes together amazingly. This was the first game that had me up until 4 in the morning playing, I remember saying, ''I'll just stay up a little longer, gotta find out what happens next...'' that was at 3 in the morning, that is how good the story is. Well, all but one of the bases have been covered, replay...
Replay Value: 10/10
I am so tempted to give the game a 9 because when you finish it the first time you won't want to go right back and beat it again, as that serves no real purpose, unless you want to know everything about the Final Fantasy VIII universe.
But after a month or so, if your like me anyway, the game will start to call your name. Be it for the actual story, or maybe for that ever so addicting Triple Triad, you WILL want to play the game again. I think the card game will draw a lot of people back as it is easier to learn, yet hard to master(at least when you are up against tough opponents).
While I expect this to be the shortest(aside from replay value) area of the review, for those who chose not to read the whole thing, it will probably be the most helpful. Alright, enough stalling, here are the pros and cons of the game.
+Replay Value derived from Card Game :)
-Some may not like the Junction/Draw/Armor/Weapon systems
So there you have it, the good and bad of the game, summed up in one neat little table.
While this may have been my longest review ever(which you have probably read many times by now), it was with good cause. I just wanted to let my opinion be heard about what I feel is the best RPG ever made, if not the best game ever made period. I hope you have enjoyed my probably pathetic attempts at humor, and my incessant rambling about the length of this review(which as you know is actually at blatant attempt at filler).
But I also hope you found the information in this review helpful if you haven't played the game yet and are looking to buy it(Which to this I must say BUY IT NOW!!!!) or are just poking around the site, checking out other peoples opinion's. If you have made it this far, bless you, and go get/play this game now!
PS: For anyone who cares, Microsoft Works counted over 2100 words in this review, looks like I made it!
OOOWWWW Have Mercy
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/30/04
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