"This game doesn't deserve the hate it gets"

After the huge success that was Final Fantasy VII, it would be natural for Final Fantasy VIII to be heavily hyped. Final Fantasy VIII was not received as well as it should have. It was much different than Final Fantasy VII and the Final Fantasy VII extremists rejected Final Fantasy VIII. This rejection soon turned itself into resentment and Final Fantasy VIII just was not nearly as big of a hit as Final Fantasy VII.

On the other hand, Final Fantasy VIII does have a cult that thinks this game is the best thing ever. Well, it's not the best but it is a damn good game. Final Fantasy VIII is much different than your ordinary average Final fantasy or even different than your ordinary every day RPG. Final Fantasy VIII is quite realistic and not really a "Fantasy." This could very well explain why it doesn't get a whole lot of respect.

Storyline/Characters: Let's start with characters. You start off a moody, dark, reclusive teenager by the name of Squall Leonhart. Squall is shrouded in mystery and suspense and it truly a good hero. Throughout the game you see him evolve and radically change, it's nice to see a character with so much personality and development.

You'll also meet Quistis, the flirty teacher, Selphie, the outgoing ditz, Zell, the energetic warrior, Rinoa, the damsel in distress but very vital to the story and lastly, Irvine, the ladies man cowboy. All these characters work well to fit into the story. You'll meet much more characters and you'll see all of them develop from the kids at the beginning of the game to the adults at the end of the game.

The storyline is pretty good as well. Squall, Zell, Quistis, and Selpie all start out in Balamb Garden. What is Balamb Garden you ask? Well, let me tell you. Balamb Garden is basically a university for training SeeDs. What is a SeeD? A SeeD is a special combat unit of Balamb Garden. SeeD's are dispatched all over the world to do several militaristic missions. Squall Leonhart is the only user at Balamb Garden to use a gunblade with the exception of his rival, Seifer Almasy.

When the story starts, Squall is training to actually become a member of SeeD. Well, after a few fun missions, he becomes a SeeD. He then gets to go on bigger, more important missions. During his first mission as a SeeD, Squall encounters Rinoa. What starts as just a few military missions soon becomes a battle to save the world. You have to go after the evil sorceress Edea. After an epic battle with Edea, you soon come to realize the true danger and the epic quest that unfolds before you.

A downside to the storyline is that Square sometimes took the easy way out and there was some pretty bad plot twists. Still, this game's story was, for the most part, simply amazing. It may take a little bit to be hooked, but after you play, you will soon be sucked in and you will love this game. The storyline is brilliant and makes you think. 8/10

Game Play: Everyone seems to not care for the game play? Most of the time, it's too hard or confusing for people. Well, it isn't that hard nor is it that confusing. The game play of Final Fantasy VIII is the Junction System. The Junction system may not be the best way to utilize stats and magic but it still is a great system. (I'll explain next paragraph) Guardian Forces are also an extremely vital part to the game play and to the game in general.

So what is the Junction System exactly? The junction system is a system that allows you to increase your stats based on the quantity and quality of the magic you have stockpiled. In battle you have the option to “Draw” When you draw from an enemy, you take some of the magic they have. Certain enemies have certain magic spells. For example, a Glacial Eye would have Ice magic. From weaker enemies, you can only draw weak spells but from stronger enemies, you can get stronger spells. You can also acquire certain magic at Draw Points, which you will find in towns and dungeons.

Now to the junctioning part. Once you have an adequate amount of a certain magic, you can transfer it to your stats. Let's say you have 5 Fire spells stockpiled. You can junction that to your HP to increase your HP. However, Fire is a weak spell and you have very few Fires, so the amount that your HP increases would be negligible. Now, let's say you stockpile more Fire spells and your total becomes 80. Your HP will increase much more. Now, if you want your HP to increase even higher, you need some stronger spells such as Firaga. Firaga is a third level spell and junctioning roughly 35 Firagas will do more than 80 Fires. You can equip different magic to different stats (Such as Defense, Attack, Magic, etc).

Guardian Forces play a gigantic role in Final Fantasy VIII. If you're a Final Fantasy veteran, Guardian Forces are summons. Guardian Forces do a lot. First, you can summon them in battle to dish out a nice amount of damage to your opponents. When you get a Guardian Force (You can them by drawing them from enemies, from items, or fighting the Guardian Force itself in battle) it has a whole bunch of nifty moves it can learn. To be able to junction magic to certain stats, you'll need to actually learn it from the Guardian Force. You can also get your HP increased or get some additional effects such as “Encounter Half” which will half the encounter rate for fighting enemies in the wild. Summons are powerful and you are extremely dependent on them.

What about weapons? Well, the weapon system flat out sucks in this game. To get an upgrade on your weapon, you need to go out into the world and collect certain items. It can be a pain in the neck to go out and steal items from enemies. Overall, the junction system is actually really nice and the Guardian Force aspect is a nice change of pace. The only thing that brought the score down was the weapon aspect but the game play is still great overall. 8/10

Sound/Music: The sound is realistic, in and out of battle. The music is phenomenal. Final Fantasy VIII has been said to have the best music out of a Final Fantasy game. Having played all the Final Fantasies, I can definitely see why people would think that. The music is just awesome, no question about that. Many songs are great and you should definitely buy the soundtrack to this game. The music just rocks. 10/10

Graphics: The graphics are legendary. When Final Fantasy VIII was first released, it blew everyone's mind. There hadn't been anything like it before. Today, there are games with better graphics but the graphics of Final Fantasy VIII are so good, that they are even acceptable by today's standards. The graphics are really fantastic. 5/5

Difficulty: This game can be pretty difficult if you don't use the junction system a whole lot but it you've mastered the junction system, then this game is cake. There are some optional bosses that can pose a threat. (Ultimate and Omega Weapon) so if you need a challenge, you can fight them. The final boss can be pretty hard though because only a few strategies can really work well. There are some difficult bosses along the way too. Still, the difficulty is a wee bit on the easy side. 4/5

Replay Value: The replay value to this game is rather good. You can start and finish many files because this game is just that fun. You will be playing more than once. You will be playing more than twice. You will play several times. Replay Value is very important to a game because what good is a game if you can only play it through once? Fortunately, Final Fantasy VIII does not have that problem. 9/10


Storyline/Characters: 8/10
Game Play: 8/10
Sound/Music: 10/10
Graphics: 5/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Replay Value: 9/10

Overall: 44/50 = 88% (Rounds to 9)

Overall: Overall, this is one fantastic game. I would seriously pick up a copy of Final Fantasy VIII if you wanted a good game. You can get it fairly cheap nowadays too. Final Fantasy VIII was yet another breakthrough for not just the Final Fantasy series, not just for RPGs, but for video games in general. The graphics are astonishing, the music is flawless, the story will get you hooked and the game play is a unique take on things. Pick this game up now! This isn't a bad game, it's nowhere near that, it may not be the best, but it is a top tier, superb game. It truly is.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/22/04

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