FF8-A Wonderful Treasure Hunt
by Gabe Putnam
Although I may diverge somewhat, this is not a rant on FF8, mearly a criticism of what I though could have both; been improved with the game and in some cases left plain out of it.
A number of previous writers have commented on the fact that FF8's magic system was enormously repetetive. Although this is completely true IMO I don't think this was the only factor which turned this game into an endurance round for many gamers instead of an enjoyable experience which all good RPG's should be at heart.
One of my major gripes with the game as the title leads is that this game was great in most respects except for the damnable treasure hunting aspect which seemed to pop up all over the place during the game. I can't speak for all of you, but after a while I really started to dread the dugeons and overworld of FF8 as with every step I made I could be missing some vitally important item or magic which I wouldn't be able to get ahold of later at all or at least for a very long time. (a prime example of this being that magazine in the Timber Maniacs office which allowed you to get Shiva's Card later on-what the F? If you made one extra click there it was permanently gone for you.) This brings me to another good point with the TM's themselves. Although they weren't really important, if you had any curiosity at all about Laguna's life you wanted to get all of these just so you could see where the guy had been all of his life.
On a similar note my next problem came with all of the various books which you had to collect at various points throughout the game. I am aware that you could buy them all later at a steep price with Tonberry, but at the same time Tonberry himself was a pain in the rear to get. (Took me a good half hour-hour of straight Tonbery fighting to get him after getting Odin.) Anyways, if you don't search through every nook and cranny to find each of these items throughout the game you have to wait until the very end to be able to buy them. In some cases this could come as quite a detriment if you happened to miss, say, Rinoa's dog training guides which took a signifigant amount of walking to gain.
On the next note I also had a real problem with the tests and menu system in general for FF8. Overall, I extimate that of the 80+ hours I have spent playing this game I have lost a good 5-10 of them to both the tests and the constant menu reorganizing which was required of this game. I wouldn't have been so bad if you didn't loose Seed levels just for fighting in non-story mode, but at the same time you also lost a huge amount of time because the GF auto learning system was moronic. Who the
heck wants to learn GF HP or summoning over something as useful as character strength +40% right after you get done with strength +20%. Although this is a common gripe I also want to bring up the fact that they need to make to summons anim. OPTIONAL. I really didn't want to see Ifrit grab his ankles backwards 80 times, but was forced to as he was simply the most
effective mode of attack in many portions of the game as it was easy to make his summoning time extremely fast.
My final comment is on the subject of the magic and item changing systems which I have to say were a huge waste of time. I can respect change in the case of these games, but at the same time they modified the system to one which rewarded vegetable like RPG play and the mindless collection of huge hordes of goods. At most points in the game it was more worthwhile to hold on to your valuable magic "treasures" as it more of a pain to get them back up to their previous levels then it was a benefit to use them. This led to really odd strategies like the constantly "redline" HP one as it was easier to survive at battle with no HP than it was to simply use an aura spell [Even against BOSSES] In fact the only bosses truly worth using an aura on were Ultima and Omega simply because they were the only ones that could kill you. (possibly the last boss-but you'd have to be a low level.) Frankly I can simply say that there have been much better systems and still are. (Try out Grandia. The combinations of spells are a great idea and it's not nearly as collection oriented while still managing to be "complex".)
Overall, that covers most of the points which I can think up at the moment of why FF8 could have been better. In no way am I saying it was a bad game, as I enjoyed the story and plot through all of the hokey, campy, (and just plain annoying psychologically unstable main hero [deja- vu FF7]) points which arose during the game. It simply could have been thought upon for a little more time at square central.