Fantasy VIII (PSX)
I can sum this game review up in one sentence for those of you who like it
quick. Final Fantasy VIII is a great game, but it sure is not as good as
should have been.
FFVIII is a far depature from FFVII, aside from the "we need
to save the world but we better all get to level 99 first" formula.
Not that this is surprising, as each game in the series has added
something new and better to the legacy. In FFVIII the characters become
realistically drawn, proportioned, and animated. Background characters
move around, gesture to each other, talk to each other, and generally
often seem to have better things to do than just wait for you to bug them,
adding a whole new level of realism and immersion to RPG's.
FFVIII also adds the Junction/Guardian Force system, which allows
characters to junction a Guardian Force, referred to from here on, and in
game, as GF's. Junctioning is essentially assigning a GF to a character
and that character only, or junctioning magic to a statistic. A GF comes
with some abilities, and learns others, that allow a character to alter
his stats by junctioning magic to the characters statistics., attack, cast
spells, use special attacks (such as turning a monster into a card, or
killing a monster outright), or summon the GF to take combat damage for
the character for a time, and then unleash a powerful attack on an enemy
after a time runs down. The GF's start out with a few skills, and others
are learned by gaining AP in combat, which allows hard core players to
blow eight hours now and then teaching his GF's all the skills they can
have at their current level.
The GF's are a great addition to the role playing world, and the
junctioning of magic to stats adds even more anal retentive
micromanagement to the game. Stat junctioning can also be done
automatically, although it often works out better to do it by hand. About
the only downside to the Junction/GF system is using the GF's in combat.
The GF animations are all pretty long, and you will use them often, and
they get old quick. Squaresoft should have allowed players to skip the
animations entirely, which, although it would prevent the players from
using the "boost" effect (mash the button enough times at the
right pace to make the GF do more damage! How fun!), would drastically
enhance the replay value.
Combat in FFVIII hasn't changed much from FFVII, with the exception
of magic. Magic is no longer bought, sold, and does not use mana. Instead
you draw magic from monsters in combat or from special draw spots. Not
very realistic, but insteresting. Having to draw magic in combat will send
you into combat more often, but that's fine, as combat seems to boost your
And just what is a SEED ranking? SEED is the mercenary group that
the main character Squall, works for. You have a ranking, based on your
performance in the field, which determines how much you get paid, among
other things. The problem is that the game manual and in game tutorial
never really tell you much about what affects your SEED ranking, leaving
it to the player to figure it out. It seems that lots of combat is good
for your ranking, and using GF's too often is bad for your ranking. SEED
rankings can also be improved by taking simple tests relating to the game
and how you play it, which will allow most players to max out Squall's
SEED ranking to whatever his current SEED ranking can be maxed out to in
relation to his level. Overall the ranking system just got plain annoying,
sort of like Squall.
Oh yeah. Squall. I just have to talk about Squall. I HATE Squall.
For much of the game Squall acts like an antisocial teenage guy, which he
is, but it gets on your nerves fast. I found myself sick of Squall early
on, to the degree that it actually kept me from wanting to play the game.
Unlike the likeable Cloud and friends, Squall and his compatriots are, for
the most part, annoying teenagers, are just as interesting as annoying
teenagers, and they act like
annoying teenagers. If I wanted to watch teenagers act stupid I would
watch "Saved by the Bell" reruns on cable, not pay $50 to play a
game chock full of them. Fortunately they get better as the game goes on
(or maybe I just got used to them) and the game gets better around disc 3,
for those of you willing to hang in through the first 20+ hours of being
annoyed by almost anything Squall does.
FFVIII also gives us something that really adds to the game, a
minigame played by the NPC's and Squall. Playing the card game allows you
to earn certain cool items, not to mention being a nice way to kill time.
I know people who spend more time playing the card game than they do
playing the rest of the game. It defiantely extends the overall enjoyment
and replayability of FFVIII, which is a good thing given that most
retailers will want $50 for this game.
Plotwise, FFVIII is incredible. You get another long, deep story of
a world nearing destruction. Love, death, plot twists and intrigue are all
present in FFVIII, so you never stop paying attention once the game gets
going. Add in that Squall has
a dream world alter ego you get to play as, whose own story intertwines
with Squall's, and the story will really draw you in once you get past the
early character flaws.
The sound in FFVIII is good overall, and reall shines at times,
especially during the GF animations. The game features Dolby Digital
Stereo, so it really kicks ass on a nice stereo system or good headphones.
Musically, FFVIII is decent. Much is the music was is in the same style as
the music of FF7, and the game retains the familiar victory song from the
series. FFVIII does have better music than most RPG's, but it still gets
old. Being able to just turn it off would be great, but as in most RPG's,
that isn't an option.
All in all you just can't go wrong with FFVIII. It has a few flaws,
but once you accept them you can't help but enjoy the game. So go for it.
Score: 9 out of 10