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Final Fantasy 8- Review

Final Fantasy 8- Review

By: Castomel


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 8
   Plot 8
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

30-65 hours

 
Overall
Ocho
Criteria

Does title FMV count?
 

    Time. It seems enough of it hasn't passed to warrant this being a retroview, so I guess I'm in uncharted quantum territory here. That said, time(or the 'Kompression' thereof) figures prominently in Final Fantasy VIII, though it's never really explained how. Suffice to say, for some reason, K's are substituted for C's and we all have a merry Khristmas. Unfortunately, this almost-but-not-quite attitude is reflective of this game, which could have been truly excellent but was instead merely great.

    Unlike many of its predecessors, Final Fantasy VIII does not start off in the thick of battle. Sorry, no reactors to blow up, no Garland to beat up, no Package to deliver. Instead, you get to wander around Balamb Garden, the giant academy, military outpost, and ...well, you'll see. At any rate, when you finally do get around to fighting, it's the same old ATB system you should by now be intimately acquainted with. This particular incarnation relies much more heavily on summon spells than previous entries in the series- which is a bad thing, since many of the animations for these spells take upwards of 30 seconds to complete. Realizing the boredom that this is likely to foment in even the most patient of souls, Square throws you a bone, allowing you to learn the "Boost" ability, which essentially gives you the power to mash buttons while your summon spell painstakingly completes. Really, it's not much more than giving you the impression that you're actually doing something worthwhile, but I guess that's better than sitting through such wonderful summons as the 2-minute sequence for the GF Eden(and you thought Sephiroth's big powerful attack was annoying). For the most part, I was content to junction powerful magic to my strength and fight my way to glory- which leads nicely into my next complaint. Since we're on the topic of magic and such, it's pertinent to note that you don't possess the inherent ability to use it, nor can you learn it. Instead, you have to draw it, either from draw points(which are scattered, hidden, and otherwise located about the world map), or from enemies. This is fearfully time-consuming, and can drag out battles as you desperately try to stockpile enough magic to raise your characters up from their wimpy ashes(and stockpile is pretty much all you should do with it; most magic does very little extra damage when compared to fighting). Fortunately, somewhat later on you gain the ability to transmute items into magic, which eases the pain somewhat, but it's still a tedious process. Add to that grating load times before battles, as well as three to four menu screens to plod through afterwards, and you've got a seriously irritating system.

    You'd better enjoy non-combat gameplay, because there's more of it in this game than any other Final Fantasy. Mercifully, however, this element of the game is much more enjoyable than the fighting, and it more than makes up for the battle system's drawbacks. Sandwiched into this category are the Triple Triad game, the Junction system, and of course, good old wandering about aimlessly looking for love(or at least Marlboros to steal tentacles from). The first of these three elements is easily the most addictive. Perhaps inspired by the success of the Pokemon card game, Square has finally hit upon the perfect minigame. Deceptively simple, this game has a variety of rules which can be changed simply by talking to people, throwing a wrinkle into things. If that's not enough, the cards possess value in the game; they can be exchanged for items using the Card Mod ability. As it turns out, Triple Triad is not only addictive, it's evil. At one point, I spent two hours trying to win back rare cards I lost, only to continue losing them(stupid kid in FH!)

    Next on the list is the junction system. Love it or hate it, it is certainly the most complex system to date in a Final Fantasy game. Since there's no armour or buyable weapons, you're left largely to your own devices when trying to shore up a character's weak spot or improve his or her attributes. Some sorts of magic work well with some stats; others are more useful in the defensive department. Some are good for everything, making where to use them a difficult choice. Hours can be whiled away tinkering around with your character's stats, trying to come up with the best mix. I like that sort of thing, so I found this to be a lot of fun. Then again, that's just me. One thing remains certain- there is a steep learning curve involved. Anyone who hasn't played the game before will be faced with a bit of a challenge trying to figure it out. Oh, well. Experience is the best teacher.

    The world map is much the same as in previous Final Fantasy games. New here are your available modes of transportation. Essentially, these are comprised of planes, traines and automobiles at first, making for a new experience. I didn't particularly like this element, however; cars have no place within RPGS!(Come on, can you just see Cecil tooling around in a minivan? Didn't think so) I was most relieved to find chocobos eventually, and the airship was a nice change from other modes of transportation, even though it isn't around for very long, relatively speaking. These are the benefits of being a SeeD, though- good transportation, and a fixed salary to boot. That's right- no more getting money from fights. Instead, you have to write a series of inane tests which increase your salary as you complete them. I disliked this, but otherwise, I enjoyed the non-combat portion of Final Fantasy VIII vastly more than the fighting.

Must.. refrain.. bad.. jokes...
Squall chillin' with a schoolgirl  

    Music, as always, is excellent; Nobuo Uematsu turns out another good soundtrack here. Though not quite as good as the music from Final Fantasy VI or VII, this soundtrack has merit nonetheless; I particularly liked Force Your Way and most of the vocal tracks. The sound effects, as far as they went, were adequate, although the sound of footsteps on marble could grow somewhat grating after awhile; however, that complaint is largely nitpicking, as the sound itself is more than adequate.

    This game was very original, both in terms of its predecessors and in terms of other games. Not only did it introduce a new, complex system of doing battle, but the story was something never before seen in the Final Fantasy series. The plot was especially original. The storyline was very fluid, and was well-thought out and executed. The setting of a high-technology world allowed for some interesting additions to the storyline, and though I might have preferred a slightly more fantasy-based story, I was satisfied with what I was offered.

    The translation to FF8 was a great improvement over that of FF7, and contained few noticeable errors. About the only complaint I have with it is the fact that sometimes it was difficult to tell if Squall was thinking or speaking, since sometimes it appeared as though when he was thinking people would answer his thoughts. Other than that mild confusion, however, a job well done.


Velcome to my castle... stay awhile... stay forevah!
It must be truly painful to have fingers that thin  

    Replay value is moderate for this game, for although the plot is fairly linear, it is quite extensive, and there are many side quests to keep the player occupied. That said, it's not a game you can continually play through; however, it certainly does have some replay value.

Given the excessive amount of time probably spent on them, the visuals are understandably excellent. The pre-rendered backgrounds shine, the world map looks very sharp, the FMV is amazing in some parts, the summon spells... ah, the summon spells! The nature of these has been previously outlined, so I won't go into gorey details. They do look very nice, which is the only consolation you'll find while watching them drag on forever. And ever. And ever. The only graphical issue I have with this game is the fact you must leave the menu screen dull grey throughout the whole game. While it is suited to the more futuristic feel of the game, it is nonetheless somewhat disappointing to not be able to blind yourself with an ugly, yellow and purple motif. I suppose you can't have everything, though.

This game is of moderate difficulty. Battles can be time-consuming, but that's only because of the need to draw magic from enemies, and also the fact that attacks never really get all that powerful. There are some difficult monsters, however, and I died somewhat more frequently than normal. Some of the puzzles were also mildly challenging, which was nice to see. All in all, though not the most challenging game ever constructed, FF8 still had its moments in this area.


The exclusive Sand Prison
Selphie discusses the merits of holding a concert in jail  

Although it wasn't quite on par with its predecessors, Final Fantasy VIII was nonetheless an enjoyable game. The time you'll spend on it, 30-65 hours depending on how much time you spend tinkering with the junction system, will not be wasted, and in the end, though it is not representative of what the series started out as, Final Fantasy VIII is nonetheless worthwhile.





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