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    Final Fantasy VIII

    Reviewed by id

    ESRB rating:
    Square Soft
    Square Electronic Arts
    09/99Memory Card:
    Dual Shock:
    Memory Blocks:

    Was Final Fantasy VII all it could have been and all it should have been? Probably not. For this reason and this reason alone, many gamers were expecting Final Fantasy VIII to be more or less the same, a game that would not stand well with the previous incarnations. However, things have changed this time around, and some major and subtle and changes have been made to accommodate the ever-evolving genre of role-playing games.

    Click image to enlargeThis time around, the story revolves around the game's main character, Squall Leonhart, a loner, and a student at Garden, a mercenary school. His classmates include the ever-brash Zell, the enthusiastic child-like Selphie, the stern and bold Seifer, and the elegant Quistis. After a very successful training mission, their first real mission is to assist a rebel faction to capture Galbadian president Deling. Deling, who is set on making Galbadian high and above all others by forming an alliance with the vile Sorceress Edea, could be making a big mistake as this could send Final Fantasy VIII's world into absolute chaos. Upon meeting the rebel faction, their leader is discovered to be a seventeen-year-old girl named Rinoa, the apple of the Squall's eye. With Rinoa entering the picture, the game's theme is centered around love, a true first in the Final Fantasy series, which makes this game so much more memorable. The characters in this edition of Final Fantasy actually seem less like "heroes" but more like everyday people. These are characters you can really relate to.

    Story aside, the graphics in Final Fantasy VIII are simply breath-taking. There are much more polygons in the characters this time around, which help articulate the little details that are required to mold the character's facial expressions. Though there obviously is a significant amount of pixelation, it is more or less expected these days, since we are considering that Final Fantasy VIII is running on a Playstation with only 2 MB of V-RAM. Another change that is beneficial to this game is the removal of the "super-deformed" characters. No longer do we see characters with heads bigger than their whole body, which as a whole, makes the game seem more realistic, and mature. If Final Fantasy VIII had been done with super-deformed characters, it might actually turn the game in more of a comical laugh-fest since the mature storyline of the game simply can't flow with the child-like characters of the previous Final Fantasies. Concerning the FMVs, they are much improved from the FF7. Like the previous game, the sequences are seamless, and flow with the in game graphics perfectly. However, unlike the first game, the FMVs sport much more detail, which can clearly be seen the camera zooms into a character. Even the movement of the characters seems more natural and fluid. Take the gala dance sequence between Squall and Rinoa for example. Probably my favorite sequence of the game, it shows the fluidity of motion when Squall and Rinoa take the dance floor, as well as the excellent detail incorporated into the cinemas when the camera zooms into Squall face, which is complete with actual facial expressions. The FMVs in Final Fantasy VIII are easily the best FMVs in any Playstation game, and in many cases, they are even better than most Dreamcast game FMVs.

    Click image to enlargeLike any other game, gameplay is obviously one of the most important features in a game. The gameplay and control in Final Fantasy VIII is simply put, stunning, though it can be somewhat confusing at first. See, since Final Fantasy VIII no longer sports the same magic system of the previous games, it might throw off veteran gamers somewhat. Instead of the tired old, gain level, gain spells magic system, Final Fantasy VIII now adopts the "Junction" magic system, and no longer has magic points. Like what FF7 did with materia, Final Fantasy does the same with "Junction", but to a greater extent. This time around, spells are no longer learned, but rather stolen from enemies. Using the battle menus "draw" command, you can steal magic from enemies. Though this system can be abused by drawing too much of the same or a very powerful spell, it is really the only weakness of the junction system. With the junction system, you can truly customize your characters, even more than you did in Final Fantasy VII with the whole materia system. Luckily for fans, limit breaks have once again returned, and look as good as they did in the previous game. However, minor changes have been made to this system. Since you can't buy new weapons in this game, they can only be upgraded by finding parts and so-forth. Unlike the first game, new limit breaks are gained when you upgrade or modify your weapon, making the procedure quite crucial. Armor has been also eliminated in Final Fantasy VIII, which in my opinion is a good change, since it allows the gamer to focus on the actual game more, rather than waste hours upon hours buying and finding new armor. Money has also become more or less useless, since it really is only used for buying items. Though it's hard to explain, once you get deep into the game, say 10 hours or so, you'll see that you're barely using your money, to only occasionally stay at hotels and so forth.

    Though Final Fantasy VIII only sports one mini-game compared the Final Fantasy VII's dozens, this one mini-game is deeper than all of the mini games in FF7 put together. A simple card game at first, it eventually becomes quite competitive, as certain cards won and gained can be "transformed" into very valuable items or spells.

    Click image to enlargeThough Final Fantasy VIII is a brilliant game, it is by no means a game without weaknesses. For example, the summon sequences still can't be skipped which gets very annoying after a while, since you are forced to watch a one minute movie every time you cast a spell. Also, like FF7, Final Fantasy VIII was far too easy. By abusing the junction system, you can gain great numbers of very strong spells, which can in turn allow you to breeze through the game. Also, Squall's limit breaks are far too powerful (I beat the last boss only using his limit break, one spell, and a lot of mega elixirs). But really, these weaknesses are rather taboo if you're new to the FF series or RPG genre. Experienced gamers will have no trouble with this game, and newbies might find it easy too, I'm pretty sure at least some people will have trouble with the game.

    In the end, Final Fantasy VIII is a great game on so many levels. Personally, it was my favorite of the eight game series, and I found the characters and story in this game was far more developed and mature than the previous. Maybe I was just getting tired of the same old "hero" mumbo jumbo, but all and all, Final Fantasy VIII was fifty hours well spent.

    << Rating: 97 >>
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