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Final Fantasy VIII

An RPG video game released by Square (Playstation 1)

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The Final Fantasy You Hoped was Final

  • Jul 15, 2011
  • by
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, the good stuff about the game out of the way while I can still remember it. The graphics look great. All the people's complaints about the graphics in Final Fantasy 7 have been ironed out, so the characters don't have Popeye forearms in the eighth FF outing. In fact, all of the characters look like humans, with their heads proportional to the rest of their bodies. This is good news for any gamer because that means the, er... Lonelier gamers can make any of the main characters into whackoff material and not be considered desperate perverts. Especially during the cutscenes, which are perhaps the most realistic in the entire series. Although the massive amount of detail still can't hide the fact that all the clothing is horrendously ugly. If that's what the clothes of the future are going to look like, I'd rather strut around nude.

Anyway, I do have one lone complaint about the graphics: For all the detail, they're kinda drab. Almost every area, with the exceptions of New Deling, Esther and the space station, looks like it was done with a color point scheme. Read: It makes the graphics look just a wee bit on the lifeless side. It would have been better if the development team had splashed color around like they did in Final Fantasy 9, but this issue is really a minor complaint.

The other thing I can safely say that I liked about Final Fantasy 8 was one of the more interesting story twists I had seen in some time. About halfway through the first disk, the main characters in your party are casually sitting on a train when they are lulled into a deep sleep and share the same dream. Placed into the bodies of three soldiers named Laguna, Kiros and Ward, they see several events through the eyes of these three soldiers. It seems that Laguna and the main character, Squall, are connected in some mysterious way. In the long run, the Laguna sequences don't have any effect on the main story, but they're interesting enough to keep you playing through until you finally receive closure on this little issue. Too bad you have to endure the main story just to see where this one takes you.

If the rest of the game ware as good as those two points of interest, I might have felt like Final Fantasy 8 was worth paying for. But noooo. Every other aspect of Final Fantasy 8 makes it feel like a lab rat that was the victim of several experiments gone wrong, although the positive point in all this negativity is that I get to fly into a rage and beat
on this game like a rag doll. So let the games begin!

While still on the subject of the story, let us tackle the stuffing out of that first. Final Fantasy 8 starts out with a spectacular showcase of the eye candy that you're in for with a thundering swordfight between the main character (Squall) and his arch rival (Seifer) during which Squall gets hurt and winds up in the infirmary of his military training school (called a garden). It seems that Squall is in training to become a SeeD, which is Final Fantasy's response to elite military organizations like the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers. After getting out of the infirmary, Squall is sent to his final exam. After passing, he gets hired by some rebel group to assassinate a witch named Edea. So far, so good. Problem is, after this the story begins to drift. And drift. And drift. The idea that Edea is the one you're really after slowly begins to fizzle out, and instead of developing, the story just kind of wanders into the usual Final Fantasy ‘save the world' scenario. This is not a good thing because most of the time it makes you scratch your head, confused and asking, "I'm doing what now? And why?"

Squaresoft is (by their own admission) to be blamed for this. In their attempt to recreate the whole Locke/Celes love story in their be-all or end-all game, Final Fantasy 6, they decided to give the main story the old heave-ho. What they forgot was that the characters from Final Fantasy 6 were so incredibly well developed that you forgot that they were mere 16-bit sprites no bigger than your big toe nail. You develop feelings for them, the same way that you would develop feelings for certain characters in dramatic movies. The characters in Final Fantasy 8 lack that distinct advantage. They utterly suck. Squall is a lone wolf and a prick that acts more like a high school outcast on the verge of a killing spree. The love interest (Rinoa) spends the majority of her screen time whining and looking for subtle ways to hit on Squall, who wants nothing to do with her. The rest of the crew is an underdeveloped bunch straight off the airwaves of the WB, minus the cliché black guy. Quistis, the young teaching prodigy, secretly has feelings for Squall, even though she never admits it. The eternal optimist is Selphie, who laughs and claps her way through the game like a stereotypical cheerleader. Selphie shares her optimist spot with Zell. Irvine is the babe magnet who will screw any woman who can walk. Seifer is the throat-cutting villain who is always plotting behind our heroes' backs. And Buffy and Dawson are... Oh, wait, there's no Buffy or Dawson. My bad.

So far I haven't said anything about this game that hasn't been said about Final Fantasy 7. But Final Fantasy 7 was able to redeem its inconclusive, hole-filled story through a wonderful customization system. And, during the summon spells in Final Fantasy 7, you were actually able to get up and grab a cup of coffee. Not so in Final Fantasy 8. In Final Fantasy 8, Square introduced the junction system to customize your characters. While I give credit to Square for trying something new that probably looked like a good idea on paper, in practice the flaws with the system become apparent immediately. To get it to work you first need to equip a summoning monster, which in this game is called a Guardian Force. This is because every battle command, with the exception of attack, is only available through GF junctioning. Anyway, after equipping the GF, you then equip the Draw command, which allows you to draw magic spells from your enemies. After you draw those magic spells, you then attach them to your hit points or attack or whatever stat you feel like increasing. See, great idea on paper. But realize that whenever you want to draw magic in battle, you are basically giving the bad guy a free shot at you. And your stats go down whenever you use magic. So try not to become too dependent on magic.

Oh, wait, but you won't be depending on magic! Magic in Final Fantasy 8 has all the effectiveness of a mosquito bite on an elephant. Without magic, you would normally turn to your weapons to knock the living daylights out of your attackers, but in Final Fantasy 8; the weapons have the effectiveness of a mosquito bite on a whale. Want to try winning a fight depending solely on your weapons and magic? Good luck, buddy boy, you're in for a long fight. All right, I lied: Weapons and magic work just fine in the beginning of the game. But after the first couple of missions, they quickly become useless. The only way to get in and out of a battle is to make use of your Guardian Forces, but unfortunately, while your GFs are useful in slaughtering the baddies by the dozen, they have super long animations that can't be skipped over. Another Final Fantasy 7 complaint, but at least FF7 didn't have you relying on summons to fight your battles for you. And you could get up and grab a cup of coffee while the pretty summon animations flashed across your screen. This is not the case in FF8. In FF8, when you summon a GF, you get to sit there pounding your buttons to increase the strength of the GF. It's a lose/lose situation as the battles always take forever.

Let me read your thoughts for a moment: To increase the speed at which the battles go by, you're thinking of using the age-old RPG solution: Leveling up. A good idea in theory, yes. But little do you know that every enemy in Final Fantasy 8 has levels parallel to Squall's. This means that whenever Squall gains a level, every bad guy in the game also goes up a level. Think of the way the bosses got more powerful as Alex got more powerful in Lunar, and you have the idea, except Squall's levels affect EVERY enemy. So you can power up all you like, but the rule is if it gave you fits in the beginning, it'll give you fits right until the bitter end. Oh, and while still on the subject of battles, why don't I mention that you no longer get paid for winning battles? Nope, instead you get a regular paycheck according to what SeeD level Squall is currently at. You can increase SeeD levels by taking tests that come with the tutorial. Get the point here: Combat is USELESS. There's no point. Fortunately, early in the game, you get a magic lamp with a Guardian Force called Diablos, who provides you with an ability to avoid battles.

The weapons system has also been revamped for the worse. First, you get no armor besides the suit you were born in. I don't agree with that change, but I don't disagree with it, since it saves cash. As for the weapons themselves, instead of buying entirely new weapons you now get to purchase upgrades. As you travel across the world you find and collect magazines that contain descriptions of your next weapon and what parts you need to get it customized. Then you set out to collect them without the slightest hint of where these parts may lie. As you'll find out, they often lie (rarely may I add) waiting in the bloody remains of some ultra-powerful enemy who will likely wipe out your entire party before your first turn.

That about cover it? No, wait, limit breaks! While these (unlike weapons) do damage, you only get to use them when your hit points get low. And I mean LOW. We're talking 150-250 out of some four or five thousand here. If you want to use them as a primary attack option, you're either very brave or very insane. Probably both.

Instead of throwing in a vast variety of mini-games like in Final Fantasy 7, Squaresoft (in their feeble attempt to hold your interest) threw in one single mini-game that can be played anywhere - a card game called Triple Triad. And don't ever expect to win at it, because while the computer offers several tutorials on how to play the game, the methods that it goes over never work for you. On the other hand, they always seem to work for the computer. So I'm not going to even bother trying to explain how it works. Although, since I'm such a nice, reasonable man, I will tell you that cards you win can be converted into non-essential items. And that the game is made even more of a nightmare by rules specific to every region. And they can be spread. Once you manage to spread a rule you don't like, good luck trying to remove it. The legendary strategy guides all say it can be done, but so far all that is just legend. I've never been able to remove a spread rule from an area.

Well, I went over the graphics. Now it's the soundtrack's turn to get hammered. I understand that even with all the Final Fantasy 8 detesters, some of those actually like this crap. Well I don't. The score is probably the worst I've heard in a Final Fantasy game. As I sit here typing this venom soaked rant; I cannot remember a single track from the soundtrack. Well, I can remember the overworld theme, but only because it was that horrible. It's a boring and overly simplistic piece that sounds like it was composed of leftover 8-bit NES computer blip notes. We know the PlayStation is capable of more.

Oh, a good thing I almost forgot: At least the game responds. The controls work just fine. Squall is automatically set on run mode, so when you press what is normally the dash button, he slows down. A good touch.

Final Fantasy 8 is a travesty. A mockery of the good name of Final Fantasy rivaled only by that awful Spirits Within movie. While the Final Fantasy series continues (deservedly) to dominate the RPG landscape, this is one title that deserves to be lost and forgotten. It's a pseudo fantasy, and not worth your money. Should you download it for free, it's not
worth the 50 or 60 hours you'll be investing it to reach the end.

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More Final Fantasy VIII reviews
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
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 . September 02, 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 …
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
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 …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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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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