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Final Fantasy VIII

An RPG video game released by Square (Playstation 1)

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A Final Fantasy That Tries Too Hard

  • Sep 2, 2009
When Final Fantasy VII debuted in 1997 it was hailed as the greatest of great RPGs. When Final Fantasy VIII came around in 1999, it had so much to live up to. So much hype that the bar was set too high, even for Final Fantasy VIII to hit. Almost ten years later, it's a little easier to look at Final Fantasy VIII with fondness. In part because that bar it had to reach is no longer there. The hype has settled. We can now look at Final Fantasy VIII for what it is. It's a great game to be sure, but it still has some problems it has to address.

Final Fantasy VIII is, first and foremost, a love story. It takes a moment to get going but when it does (about halfway through) it turns out to be good. Final Fantasy VIII is about Squall, a young member who attends the Balamb Garden Academy and is about to undertake a field exam for an elite group called SeeD. When he finally gets in his first mission to help a resistance group lead by a young woman named Rinoa. The adventure eventually leads to an epic good versus evil battle as Squall and his allies realize a sorceress is plotting world domination. For the most part the story is good, but even now it's hard not to notice how it skimps on certain things. Squall is a well developed character, but Final Fantasy VIII does little to develop its other characters. You come to like Squall and understand his angst, but you'll hardly come to understand the other characters quite as well.

Final Fantasy VIII also utilizes the ATB battle system which has been in place since Final Fantasy IV. The eighth installment in particular tries to differentiate itself from the rest of the series and succeeds. Very well. First there's Final Fantasy VIII's junction system. Rather than having the convential level up system, this game opts instead to have the enemies raise levels with you. It seems like this will make the game harder, but the junction system serves as a balance. First, there's drawing spells. In battle, characters can draw spells from the enemy. It's a tedious task and often gets boring, but you can use any spell you have to increase your statistics. But there's more than that. You can't junction spells to your stats unless you junction Guardian Forces (Final Fantasy VIII's summons) to a character.

Junctioning isn't just a gimmick, however. It's a necessity to getting through the game as your characters stats won't grow fast enough. Different spells also have a different impact on certain stats. More powerful spells will do a better job than their weaker counterparts. You can also junction to increase your defense against status ailments and even increase your elemental defense enough to absorb spells.

The Junction system is a great addition but it's overly complex. The big problem with it, however, is that the game never gives you an incentive to use one character over another aside from their limit breaks, which are very powerful attacks, but only useful if your HP falls into the yellow (or you cast a certain spell). Battling in Final Fantasy VIII can be fun, but the biggest problem is that it never encourages you to take advantage of it. You can draw spells, but depleting your stock of spells also depletes the stat its junctioned to. In short, if you want to keep most of your stats in tip top shape you'll want to refrain from using some of the game's more devastating spells (as they'll be used to junction). The junction system does work, however, in letting gamers challenge themselves. You can make the game as hard or as easy as you like.

There are also abilities that each GF carries that allow you to learn several abilities. Some can give you new commands in battle while others can also help increase your stats by a certain amount.

There's quite a bit more to Final Fantasy VIII's gameplay. There's also a card game called Triple Triad you can play. It's a simple game complete with complex rules. It's also incredibly addictive. There are a couple of other mini-games, but where Final Fantasy VIII really succeeds is it's unremarkable number of sidequests (though most of them become locked on the final disc). There's a ton of optional things to do here.

If anything did go against Final Fantasy VIII, it would be some of the things at the core of its gameplay. As mentioned earlier drawing is downright boring and long. There's little incentive to use magic and there's not much point to level grinding or any incentive to actually work for abilities either (why bother if enemies will level up with you?). The biggest problem is actually getting new weapons. In most RPGs weapons are found or bought in item shops or earned as rewards for defeating certain enemies. Final Fantasy VIII does away with all that and makes you scrounge for items to make weapons. At first it seems creative, but getting some of the more lucrative weapons becomes very taxing and repetitive. You might find yourself getting into several battles just to get one part for a weapon. It's helped a little by letting you change items and cards into tools, but some can only be obtained by defeating enemies. Getting new weapons and making characters more powerful should be a bit more fun than this. Final Fantasy VIII manages to turn it into a chore.

Graphically, however, Final Fantasy VIII is a milestone for the Playstation. While it's environments can be a little grainy, its character models are very beautiful and actually very human like. The game doesn't look smooth, however, and some of the art design doesn't look as good as other Final Fantasy games past or present. It's a visual looker, having some incredibly detailed towns and dungeons and even some incredible looking spell effects and limit breaks (as well as some top notch FMV sequences) but it doesn't always set the mood the way previous installments have. As much as some may not like to hear it: Final Fantasy VII was a greater visual achievement. Final Fantasy VIII is incredible to look at, but some of its visuals just look a bit sloppier.

Musically Final Fantasy VIII sounds good. It doesn't sound quite as good as Final Fantasy VI or Final Fantasy X, but the tracks that stand out are among the most recognizable in Final Fantasy history. Much of it has the love story soundtrack going for it. There's a lot of slow low key musical numbers. For some gamers this probably won't cut it. Especially when compared to the more lively and upbeat soundtracks of the other games.

Final Fantasy VIII isn't a bad game, but it's one that tries so hard to be different from the rest of the series and tries too hard to be better than its predecessor. The truth is, when a game gets labeled the greatest of greats, its probably better not to try and out do it, but to focus on what made it great in the first place and continue in that direction. Final Fantasy VIII is a good game. A great game, even, but its gameplay issues make quite a dent in the game as a whole. It's an amazing experience but with these issues, it keeps it from being the best experience it can be.

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More Final Fantasy VIII reviews
review by . July 15, 2011
posted in The Gaming Hub
The fact that Final Fantasy 8 looks really pretty is obvious is universally agreed upon. But once you get underneath the glamour and glitz of Squaresoft's multimillion-dollar blunder, you'll see that there is... Well, I want to say nothing, but that's not true. There's something under there, but it's bigger and much more confusing than your average rocket scientist or brain surgeon could handle. I shall try my best to explain it.    First I have to get the boring stuff - er, …
Quick Tip by . February 22, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
If I remember correctly, I was even more impressed with VIII than VII. Squall was a much more interesting protagonist than Cloud, and everything that mattered just felt improved from VII, especially the battle system. It's also got Triple Triad, my favorite mini game in an FF. Sure, the romance went over head a bit at the time, but I was glad it went better than the last one.      EDIT: Was the story really that bad? I really need to replay this one...
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
The game generally viewed by many as a radical departure from the tried and tested Final Fantasy formula is one of my favourite games of all time. The character designs are superb, the world is well versed in its own culture and the junction system is one of the more innovative ideas that Squaresoft experimented.    However, as many would say, the story is where this game falls to disgrace. There are several nice plot twists, but Squaresoft fails to implement a proper story to …
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
My least favorite Final Fantasy. It had weird design choices that got annoying like the draw func. The story ...  Oh boy its spits you're face bad. I HATED the characters and the story is so poorly connected. There's no flow in it and no rhyme or reason behind why things happen. It felt like square just made a big list of cool plot twist/elements and THEN tried very lazily to connect them. Plot holes galore and just plain painful execution of ideas that seem like they would be interesting …
Quick Tip by . September 26, 2010
posted in The Gaming Hub
This is where the FF game series went downhill for me, it's damn impressive PS1 graphics don't overlook the cornerstones of FF games to come, overly corny soap opera dialouge, lack of sense in the story, and WAY too much mixing of sci fi and fantasy.
review by . February 19, 2009
Following a legend is never easy.....especially when that legend is considered by many to be the greatest RPG of all time. Even today, nearly twelve years after its release, Final Fantasy VII still receives all the accolades.....but Final Fantasy VIII does a tremendous job escaping the shadow of its predecessor. Let us take a closer look at the eighth installment in this best-selling series.     Story:     The star of this installment is Squall Leonhart, a …
review by . July 02, 2001
posted in The Gaming Hub
When people play a Final Fantasy game they expect several things to come out of the finished game! For one thing a great story, great charicters, cool battle system, drama, comedy, and greatness, cool graphics, and overall a great game! That said and done Final Fantasy VIII is the worst example of how to make a great RPG! When a great RPG company like Squaresoft, who been making the best RPG's for years now, comes in and makes a game, people expect it to be great!!! Esspecally if it's a Final Fantasy …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this video game


SquareSoft has always had a sure-fire hit when releasing any of theirFinal Fantasytitles, andFinal Fantasy VIIIshould be no exception. The basis of a good RPG (role-playing game) has always been the story; spectacular graphics are secondary.Final Fantasy VIII's involved and interesting story line is filled with great twists, well-developed characters, suspense, and romance. As an added bonus, the graphics are beautiful. Everything--from the low-lit jazz club to the steam-filled railroad tunnels--is gorgeous and perfectly sets the mood and tone of a scene.

The game mechanics are standard fare for an RPG: acquisition of items and spells, turn-based combat, experience points earned in combat allowing advances in levels. From exploration to battles to dialogue, Final Fantasy VIII has it all. However, Final Fantasy VIII falls to that great weakness of RPGs: random battles. While necessary for advancing in levels, the battles occur with such frequency that they can grow annoying, making for a tedious game experience.

The epic storyline spans four discs--over 40 hours of gameplay--and is based around a mercenary cadet who finds himself caught up with an underground rebel faction. He winds up in a plot to assassinate the sorceress who has just seized power from the president.

You could complain of limited replay value, but this gripe is of no consequence: the game is such a satisfying experience, it doesn't require replay. Final Fantasy VIII is easily worth both the hype ...

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ESRB: teen, T - (Teen)
Number of Players: 1
Publisher: Square
Developer: SquareSoft
Console: PlayStation 1 Games
Genre: RPG
Release Date: February 11, 1999
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