|ToriJ Lotus Crystal|
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Kansas City, KS
|Subject: Final Fantasy VIII Review 6th January 2014, 7:12 pm|| |
Final Fantasy VIII is a role-playing game developed and published by Square, better known back in those days as 'Square Soft' in 1999, it is the eighth installment in the Final Fantasy franchise back when it was a brand name and didn't have all the worlds connected to each other, available on the Sony PlayStation and Windows PC and is now available for purchase on Steam. It stars gunblade specialist, Squall Leonhart. A student at Balamb Garden Military Academy who is just about to take his SeeD (special forces that work for Garden) exam to become an honorably member of SeeD.
The game starts off with some opening credits highlighting some art design leading up to the main logo and then the title screen. The title screen only have two options, new game and continue. After starting a new game we get a cinema intro highlighting a beach, a field, Rinoa, Squall and lifelong rival Seifer battling and a bunch of other cut-scenes that would be shown later in the game alongside an epic theme song. Squall and Seifer exchange slashes to the face giving each other a scar and then the scene ends, once again with the FFVIII logo, and then you wake up in an infirmary. Couldn't even get past the intro before getting injured. I like how it's one of those 'light wounds' as to not take away the attractiveness of either character.
Well, to make sure you don't go getting yourself injured some more let's take a look at the controls.
Controls: You can move around with the directional buttons or the left analog stick, this is to run. Gently move the analog stick or hold down the triangle button while moving to walk. The X button is your command button and allows you to talk to people. Square also allows you to talk to people and challenge them to a children's card game, which I'll get into later. Circle lets you go into the menu screen where you can use the directional buttons to move up and down, X to select, triangle to cancel, L1/R1 to switch between characters and square to show the limit break screen. Start pauses the game and you can turn vibrate on and off from there.
When in a random battle X executes a command and the directional buttons/left analog stick cycles through your options. Triangle once again plays the role of the cancel button, circle changes to the next active fighter ready to make a move and square shows your status window, holding down select while pressing square strengthens your GF's attack power. Once again I wish I had read the controls BEFORE I started playing... L1 turn the target window on and off, R1 is the trigger for Squall's gunblade and holding down both L2 and R2 causes your characters to run until they escape, but keep in mind that some fights you won't be able to escape from.
The world map controls are mostly the same as your field controls, only you can change the camera with the L1 and R1 buttons, change point of view with R2 and enter/exit vehicle with the X button and move vehicles forward/backward with the right analog stick. And that concludes the longest controls segment I ever had in a review...
The game has four discs and four continents overall with a few areas in each continent. You're limited to Balamb, the smallest of the four continents, until you complete your SeeD training. One of the big changes going into the game is the new Junction system which can be both a pain and a game-breaking tool alongside the card game Triple Triad when done properly. No, I'm not going to tell you how to break the game with them, just the basics.
First things first, you have to equip your girlfriend – I mean, Guardian Forces (GF) for short. Unless you do that you won't be able to do anything except attack and run from battle. What's a GF? A summon, basically. You start out with two at the beginning of the game, Quetzalcoatl and Shiva. Lightning and ice. When you highlight the Junction button, you get your options of GF and magic. Go to GF and pick your summon of choice and then you can move on to ability. This allows you to choose your command options which are usually draw, magic, GF and item. You only have room to attack three to your command list. Draw is how you get magic in the first place so you'll want to equip that. During battles you can draw magic spells from enemies (you can also find draw points throughout the game) and stock them to later be used as magic.
Once you have some magic stocked you can access that through the Junction menu and then equip spells to your stats to increase them in order to make your character stronger. Entering battles, stocking spells and then equipping them to improve your stats is a pretty important part of the battle and it's advisable you keep it in mind.
The visuals of the game are kinda dated, mainly when it comes to the actual gameplay visuals. If you're used to a lot of games from today it may take your eyes a bit to adjust to the downgraded graphics, but once you get past that it's barely noticeable. VIII also does something that was (to my knowledge) never attempted again. It actually shows your comrades trail behind you as you travel (with the obvious exception being done on the world map) Once you have two allies alongside your character they'll follow closely behind wherever he goes and spread out depending on who you're talking to or where you go. This may not seem like much, but I always liked how this was handled and it was... less awkward than having people literally coming out and going inside your character like how it was done in VII.
The music is great, each area having its own theme that help brings the area to life, unless it's just rehashing a song you've heard already then it kind of loses its charm. But for the most part you can count on the soundtrack to be lovely whether you're exploring a city, in the middle of a battle or play Triple Triad.
Speaking of Triple Triad, since it comes up early in the game too I'll go over it. Speaking to the guy on the way to the elevator on the second floor will give you a deck of cards. The cards are based off of monsters you find in the game, Guardian Forces, bosses and even members of your party. Each player has five cards and place them down on a field that has nine spaces. Each card has a rank of four numbers and an element. Some game use elements and some don't. The four numbers go top, left, right and bottom. If two cards are side by side each other (left and right) then the highest number facing that individual card wins flipping the enemy card over, changing color and being counted as one of yours. The same goes for cards above and below each other. The player with the most cards on the field when all five cards are used up win the game and gets to select one card from the other player to build their deck.
When elements are used (otherwise known as elemental rules) some of the spaces will have a random element occupying it. Placing a card of the same element on that space will give them a power up. Each region in the game has their own set of rules and some NPCs will ask you to play a game with mixed rules so you'll want to keep that in mind when you start challenging other people in different regions. If you have the spare gils there's a guy you can talk to in Balamb who goes around enforcing the same rules for different regions. The card game is optional and not something you have to do, but it can grant you a lot of neat stuff such as rare items in the game, spells and even upgraded weapons that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get your hands on until much later in the game. I probably said too much.
I should probably talk about the actual battling part of the game while I'm here. While you're out in an area that has enemies the screen will have a seizure and you'll be taken to a new screen for a fight, this is what us oldies call 'random battles' you young whipper snappers with your Skyrims and your Mass Effects... The battle starts, some times you get to strike first, some times they strike first and most of the time neither attack straight away. You'll have to wait for the meter to fill up before you can attack and from there you have the command choices you selected from before and the option to flee.
Attacking is just attacking, unless you're Squall. If you're Squall you need to press the R1 button at just the right time to deal extra damage to your enemies. It because it's a gunblade, the gun part helps deal extra damage. What you can draw from an enemy is hidden until you stock it and the amount you get is completely random. Think of it as a lottery for magic. Come on, baby! “You stocked one fire” Just one!? Lousy no good son of a–!
From there you can only cast the spells that you could draw from said enemy you're facing. Magic is the option you want if you want more variety in your spells. Also, summons don't happen instantly like in previous Final Fantasy games. Instead you get another meter that goes backwards and when the meter is empty the summon animation happens. While the meter is decreasing the GF HP is shown in place of your own, meaning when you're being attacked by enemy the GF takes the damage for you. Cool, right? GF have their own separate potions and phoenix downs to use to revive them, but they can't be used in battle at all.
After taking heavy amount of damage bringing your health down you'll be able to use your character limit break. Each character has their own limit break and some of them require the use of combos or pressing the R1 button to get the best damage you can, unless you put it on auto then the computer will just do them though you may not get the best possible amount of damage delivered when compared to manually doing it. Although, are you really going to take the chance to use it when their HP is in the yellow or even the red? That's usually when you use a healing item/spell to keep them from dying but if you do that the limit break is gone.
Once the battle is done you gain experience and level up accordingly, as well as the Guardian Forces. Leveling up is irrelevant next to the Junction system which is the best way to become stronger. Keep in mind that your enemies and the enemies you'll face in the future will level up alongside of you. Bosses too. You can teach your GF's different skills through the menu screen to make them stronger. If you never mess with it then the game will just set to another skill automatically.
The main narrative follows Squall, the only character you'll actually be able to name besides Rinoa. To say he is anti-social is putting it lightly. He doesn't like to talk about his feelings (really, what guy does?) doesn't believe in relying on others and keeps himself at a distance from the others in the group and people in general. His character development in the game is actually... not that bad. There's a reason he is the way he is and in time warms up to the people in his life, largely in part due to Rinoa and the two possess great chemistry together.
Some characters sadly lack development. Zell, Selphie and Quistis, don't see a lot of growth in the game. Most of that is reserved for Squall, Rinoa, Seifer, Laguna and to a lesser extent, Irvine. But that's to be expected when you have so many characters running around. Another thing to remember is that most of the characters from the main cast are teenagers. They're inexperienced, have a lot of growth left and learning to do, a little angst here and there and... they can be annoying. “OMG teenagers are annoying? No wai!” And it's done very, very well. I don't know about you guys but I DO know people who act like Zell, Selphie and Irvine and a few people who are kind of like Squall in the anti-social department.
Another thing done well in this game is that, with the exception of the sorceress, there is no clear-cut good and evil between the two sides. Both sides are just people with different views and motivations that collide with one another, something that is pointed out by Squall later in the game. The Galbadia soldiers for example, while your enemy, aren't straight up evil. They're actually more depicted as your average grunts just doing the best job they can and having to deal with unfair bosses who pay them less than they can live off of. While you have your noble and douchebag characters things aren't so black and white as they can be.
During the course of the game your characters will fall into a deep sleep and enter a dreamlike state where you then take control of Laguna, an ex-Galbadia soldier who later becomes a journalist and who is passionate about the less fortunate. These moments in the game provides a mystery as the characters try to figure out who Laguna is and what are causing these moments to happen in the first place. Don't look at me, I'll never tell. *sings* 'Cause there's nothing to tell...
Cons: There isn't as much exploration as there could be. As I already noted the continents only have a few areas to explore and towns can be rather small. Some towns you'll have a bunch of buildings to go into but nobody to talk to and nothing to get or see, so what's the point of them even being there?
Why can I only name Squall, Rinoa, Rinoa's dog and the summons? I could name all the main characters in the previous installments and again with IX. The only reason you can't do that anymore now is because of voice acting, but Final Fantasy VIII has no voice acting so there's no reason why the naming should be so limited. Think of all the funny names you could have given Zell.
Conclusion: Final Fantasy VIII is a fun game with an interesting main story that takes plenty of unexpected turns, fun side-quests, even funner mini-games and an innovative, yet confusing battle system that makes the game stand out (for good or for bad) and a lot of interesting concepts when it comes to the Gardens and the overall world that you kind of wish they would have expanded on because at times it can just feel so... small. It also offers good character development with the people who take most of the spotlight and some fun banter. So, if you like ANY of the things I just talked about then I would recommend you check the game out if you haven't already. If not then give it a pass.
Final Score: VIII/X
Now reviewing video games and movies because why not?