Saturday, February 04, 2006

Retro Review: Final Fantasy VIII

8 days to go...

Hey there, I found two game reviews on my GameSpot account, horribly named "TheManThatYouFe", I didn't even post these on GameFAQs which is bizarre. I'm not going to post it there now either, I'm not satisfied with my older work, I'd rather re-review it. Anyhoo, this is the first one, my review on Final Fantasy 8, an interesting read nevertheless. I did this review in February 2006, that would have made me 16. Enjoy.

"It's one of the best games out there, and some might say better than VII."

Final Fantasy games have been going since 1987. They have been very successful every since its first release. However its major breakthrough was in 1997, when Final Fantasy VII was released. This game, Final Fantasy VIII followed. After a dramatic change of style, graphics and sound from VII, which was the first Sony Playstation release of the series, people wondered what Final Fantasy VIII was going to be like. Was it going to be like the old games? Or like Final Fantasy VII? The answer was, neither.

First of all, unlike the previous Final Fantasy games, there is a minimum of characters available to play. Final Fantasy VII had nine characters, where VI had too many to count. Final Fantasy VIII has only six characters. However, the six characters have all got a strong personality and presence throughout the game. Maybe having only six main characters in a game, could be in a negative view a little tedious and not as in depth as other games. However, having a minimum of characters concentrates on these characters individually, and lets you get to know them a lot more than twenty. 
Every other Final Fantasy before VIII had many shops, selling weapons, armour and even magic. This is completely different in VIII. Yes, there are still item shops in the game. However there are no magic shops, or armour shops. There isn’t even any armour in the game at all. As for weapons, there is a junk shop, where you can remodel your current weapon, to a stronger one by getting items. Some of these items are hard to get, so it adds complex searching in the game. As for magic, another new addition to the series is the ‘Drawing’ system. This new command allows you to extract different magic from enemies. Also draw points are scattered around the world. The magic you receive can be cast on the enemy, however more importantly you can ‘Junction’ your magic. The new Junction system is essential to Final Fantasy VIII. The stocked magic can be stored on a characters stat. An example would be your ‘Strength’ stat. You can put a magic (example, Bio) to your strength stat and your strength will increase, depending on how much of that certain magic you have stored. 
Another change in the game is the monsters. As you level up throughout the game, so do the monsters, so the fights will become more difficult and more in depth. In Final Fantasy VII, there was a limit break bar, which increased as you got attacked. This has also changed in VIII. The lower your HP (hit points), the higher the chance you can use your limit breaks. Limit breaks are special moves that can be used only at rare times. Each character has their unique limit break, like the other Final Fantasies. 
In general, the gameplay is magnificent in Final Fantasy VIII. Final Fantasy VII is a very different look at basic FF gameplay, which is very effective from start to finish. 
Gameplay: 24/25

This is another epic storyline from another Final Fantasy game. Many twists and turns during the whole game. Square Enix developed the characters perfectly. The main character is Squall, a student in Balamb Garden (kind of like a fighting school), who is completely isolated from everyone else around him. He meets Rinoa, and falls for her, with her free attitude and social life sharing her emotions. These two are the main characters throughout the game, along with four others. The love story, like in every Final Fantasy is very emotional with a twist around each corner. In the start of the game, not much depth is in the characters. However you get to know them more and the story gets bigger and more complex the more you play it. I can’t really explain the story too well, as the first disk isn’t very deep. Disk two is when the game starts to blend in. In the end you have an amazing story, full of realistic characters, interesting events and it will make you feel emotional throughout. A masterpiece. 
Story: 20/20

The Playstation at the time had the best graphics a console could get. Before Final Fantasy VII, the Nintendo Company had the Final Fantasy games, on the NES and SNES in particular. The graphics on these consoles weren’t as strong, as it wasn’t as developed. Then, the Playstation came out. The graphics improved immensely, and Final Fantasy VII was one of these games that had an amazing improvement. However, even Final Fantasy VII can’t compare to the graphics Final Fantasy VIII has. Final Fantasy VIII has quite possibly the best graphics on any game on the Playstation console. The characters look very realistic, and the FMV’s are totally mind blowing. 
Graphics: 15/15

The music blends in perfectly with each location, and event. As soon as you press the ‘New Game’ button in the start, the music draws attention. The fight between Squall and Seifer, who is Squall’s rival in the game, fits in perfect with the classical music in the background. The whole musical score is an instant classic. The music is another brilliant aspect of Final Fantasy VIII. 'Liberi Fatali' is the name of the song played in the start of the game. 
As for other small things, while fighting the weapons clashing against the enemies fit in perfectly. Unlike Final Fantasy VII, the sounds of footsteps are heard as you walk and run. The audio and sound in the whole game is completely perfect. 
Sound: 10/10

The controls aren’t that much different from Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII had very unique controls, as the circle button on the Playstation control pad was the main action button, and the cross was the cancel button. Most games on the Playstation use the cross as the action button. This is what Final Fantasy VIII uses. The flow of the buttons is quite impressive, and every button on the whole control pad is used throughout the game. Zell’s limit break ‘Duel’ makes you press certain buttons in an order, before the time runs out. The more advanced you are with the control pad, the more moves you can fit in the timer. If you don’t like the controls you can always change them around in the ‘Config’ menu anyway. Overall the controlling system is very good, not many negative aspects in the game. 
Controls: 4/5

The side quests in Final Fantasy VIII are immense, like every other Final Fantasy. The series have always let you access the world map, and navigate and search around it for side quests. There are both obvious side quests, and rare ones that are very hard to find. The most fun side quest would be ‘Triple Triad’, a card game. You can collect cards in the game by beating certain enemies or winning games against other people in the game. ‘Triple Triad’ is addictive, fun and complex all in one. There are other side quests in the game, but I’ll let you find them out for yourself. The extras in the game are ranged, and there is almost always something to do. 
Extras: 10/10

I don’t really consider Final Fantasy VIII a difficult game. Once you have found out the easiest way of playing, you can develop your characters very easily. The side quests can be difficult, however the main plot of the game is very easy, if you collect the correct magic and Junction them to the right stats. The challenge in the game is probably the downfall, as it should have been a lot harder. Final Fantasy VII and VI have a stronger difficulty level, and probably more ranged. 
Challenge: 3/5

Once you have completed this game, I’m almost certain you will want to play it again. Unlike other genres, RPG’s are very long and enduring. Once completed, you will probably not play that certain game for a few months or years. When you feel like playing the game again, you would have missed the game and want to play it all again. This game will stick with you for years, as one of the best classic Playstation games of all time. You might have mastered the game by then, but even so, you would want to do it all again. 
Replay: 10/10

In the end, it’s all the matter of opinion. The Final Fantasy series is one of the most popular RPG series’ out there, and probably the best. Final Fantasy is like no other. The gameplay is completely different, the sound is perfectly matched, the graphics are beautiful and there is always something to do. The story is worth following, as it twists a lot during the game. Getting everything in the game will take along time, as it took me nearly 80 hours to do so! The card game is one of the best side quests in a game, and there was nothing like one at the time. This game is definitely worth the money, and if you have played Final Fantasy VII and thought about getting VIII, then do so! It’s one of the best games out there, and some might say better than VII. As the game has been out for a few years now, the prices are very cheap, and its definitely worth getting to add to your vintage collection. A Final Fantasy in perfection. 

Overall: 96%
Posted: 4/2/06

I was very particular about how I reviewed games back in the day. I like the star system much more, I don't want to get too technical when reviewing now. I just want to think of the pros and cons of a game, and think also outside the box, about how other people would view the game. FF8 was a very good game, but I prefer other FF games to it, those being 6, 7, 9 and possibly 13. I think I was too nice in this review, if I re-reviewed it now I'd rate FF8 as ****1/4 or ****1/2, but I don't see me re-reviewing it for a while. I'll post the other retro review tomorrow.

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