Final Fantasy VIII Review by Michael Soderlund May16


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Final Fantasy VIII Review by Michael Soderlund

After the success of Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation in 1997, Square Co. Ltd immediately set out to make the next game in the series. For this instalment they decided to take things in a new direction. The game focused more on a central love story than on saving the world and the art was altered so that the characters look more realistic. Some people were looking forward to it and some people thought it would spell certain doom for Final Fantasy. Nevertheless, in 1999, Final Fantasy VIII was released, and it became the quickest selling Final Fantasy game of all time (though VII remained the overall best selling). Was it good?

GRAPHICS – This game looks amazing for the PS1. This is mainly down to the use of Prerendered backgrounds (where they make the background in 3D software, but turn it into a 2D image) which are almost seamlessly integrated with full motion video cutscenes. It’s games like this which gave the Nintendo 64 a run for its money.

SOUND – This game is considered to have one of the best soundtracks of any game. It was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who worked on the previous Final Fantasy games. This game took a new approach to the music. Uematsu scrapped individual character themes, instead opting to have themes for emotions. This was done in earlier games too but it’s a lot more noticeable here. The game has 2 songs which can be considered Main Themes. Liberi Fatali is a Latin choir piece which plays through the game’s amazing opening, and was used to represent the USA’s swimming team (along with FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VENOSEC, another song from the game) in the 2004 Summer Olympics. The other main theme is Eyes on Me, a sort of pop ballad performed by Faye Wong. Apparently she was really famous in Asia at the time so that’s cool. The song has a good melody but the lyrics are quite badly translated. It did sell well enough to become the best selling single from a video game of all time until something from Kingdom Hearts 2 trumped it a few years later. The game’s other music is also fantastic, with Man With the Machine Gun, The Extreme, and Maybe I’m a Lion being very popular among fans. Overall, this is one of the best soundtracks to anything. Get it on iTunes.

GAMEPLAY –  The gameplay is significantly different to previous Final Fantasy games (and other RPGs). The game uses a Junction system whereby you equip friendly summon monsters (Called GFs in-game) to your characters in order to use abilities. One of these abilities allows you to stock magic in bulk, and equip it to your character to give them more strength, health, defence etc . Another way in which this game differs from traditional RPGs is the different Level Up system. In traditional RPGs you would fight monsters to gain experience which would eventually make you stronger than the enemy. However Final Fantasy VIII decides to change things up so that now enemies ALSO level up as you do and they get stronger at a faster rate than you. This means that you have to keep your levels low and Equip magic to your character. A problem with this is that if you find ways to get some powerful spells early you can get 2000HP when you should only have about 500. It’s amazing how much you can abuse it when you have certain abilities. Other than this, it plays a lot like other RPGs in that you run around dungeons, get into random encounters with monsters, and optionally, you can do side quests.

Another part of the game is a trading card game called Triple Triad, a fun little minigame sidequest. Essentially, you get cards, lose some, and get some rewards. On top of that, you can turn cards into items that can turn into some nasty spells to REALLY boost you up. It’s optional though, so I just played it until I got to the first REAL mission in the game and I was powerful enough to plough through the first 3 disks.

STORY – How to talk about story in a Final Fantasy game without spoiling it? Well, I won’t spoil anything MAJOR, but read with discretion if you don’t want this immensely popular 14- year-old game spoiled. The game mostly revolves around a 17-year-old named Squall Leonheart. He starts off as a rookie SeeD in a kind of school called Balamb-GARDEN. SeeDs are a mercenary force in the game’s universe. For the first few hours you play as Squall and some of his friends through a pre-requisite test and a field exam which happens to mean going to war. After all that he becomes a full SeeD and is sent on his first real mission. On his adventure he meets many friends: Zell Dincht, another student/SeeD from Balamb-GARDEN; Selphie Tildmitt, a transfer student from Trabia-GARDEN with a bit of a psychopathic personality at times; Rinoa Heartilly, Squall’s love interest and a key character in how things go down in the latter half of the game; Quistis Trepe, a SeeD who is demoted from being a teacher at Balamb-GARDEN, and who helps Squall out; and Irvine Kinneas, a sharpshooter who you meet in Galbadia-GARDEN when you are instructed to assassinate a sorceress. He hasn’t used GFs in battle so he remembers a certain secret midway through.

At certain points in the game 3 of the characters are put to sleep and you are given control of 3 separate characters – Laguna, Kiros and Ward. The trio go on somewhat emotional and whacky adventures. The best thing about these sequences is that when you enter a random encounter, the battle music is switched from Don’t be Afraid to Man With the Machine Gun.

How do these sequences tie into the main plot, I WONDER? Honestly, to get a better taste for the characters and story, you have to play the game.

OVERALL – I really enjoyed playing this game. The story and characters were engaging, as was the gameplay and music. If you have a PS3 and €10 to spare, it’s well worth the money for the 30-50 hour experience you’ll have. Some people won’t like the complicated Junction system, and sometimes convoluted plot, but overall it’s a pretty amazing game. If I had to rate the game out of 10, I’d give it an 8. It’s good, but isn’t as good as Final Fantasy VII in my opinion.