Game Over Online ~ Final Fantasy VIII

GameOver Game Reviews - Final Fantasy VIII (c) Electronic Arts, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim / Mrs. Biggs / Lothian

Game & Publisher Final Fantasy VIII (c) Electronic Arts
System Requirements Pentium 233, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 91%
Date Published Thursday, February 3rd, 2000 at 12:32 AM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Square is always thought of as the trend-setter for RPGs, or at least as far as console RPGs go - after all, we've been treated to fairly little of their work, other than the previous Final Fantasy title, VII. It was something entirely different, and, though having its faults, immensely entertaining for the sometimes excessively traditional PC RPG genre. Many diehard fanatics hated it for its lack of stat keeping, non-linearity, side quests and so forth, but a larger audience, one in excess of more than a million people, simply liked the game. In my case, I would hesitate to name the single one thing that I liked about the game - though I could name a few that I hated; yet, I enjoyed it enough to play it five times over, the most times I've ever played any game. It goes without saying I was anxiously awaiting the release of the sequel (though, technically, this can't be called a sequel since it has absolutely nothing to do with FF7 - yet, it does have the next number in sequence, so we might as well call it that.) This time, Square didn't wait a year to release a PC version: it has been naught but 4 months since the Playstation release came out in September of 1999. So how does this game measure up to the current, and past, successes and failures of the industry? Let us examine that in an intoxicating amount of detail, rants and praises that follow.

First of all, allow me to warn you, the reader, about one thing. If you happen to have played the PSX version, and deeply, innately hated the game for whatever reasons you may have, it would perhaps be best if you continued no further, and sent any hate mail based on the first paragraph here. (After all, isn't that how hate mail always works? Based on the first three lines and ignoring the rest?) I believe this review might ruffle a few feathers, but I write (I could use the perpetually abused phrase "from the heart," but I can't begin to imagine the amount of jokes that'd generate in #trg, so I'll modify it somewhat) "from the mind."

Whatever the case may be, without further signal noise, let us proceed to the actual gist of the issue. Though graphics don't make the game, they represent a larger part of FF8 than of other games, so I believe that would be a good place to start. Without much hesitation, I should say FF8 sports some of the best graphics I've ever seen in a computer game - not counting FMVs. FMVs are a separate story, and I believe them to be absolutely THE best FMVs I have ever seen in a computer game, with no exception. The character animation, detail of all the surrounding elements, gizmos and thingies, all the intricate detail, up to the decals and little screws of all the mechanical units and so forth is absolutely astounding. People look incredible, too - hair animation, muscle animation, everything is unbelievable. I thought FF7 had amazing animations, especially in the well-known epic scene at the end of Disc 1 or during the Junon fight with the Weapon, but this beats it hands down. I would normally not take screenshots of FMVs, but these were too amazing to miss, so I chose to forgo my usual preference for in-game-only shots.

On a downside, and a very important one, Square doesn't seem to understand how the PC world works. We have had 3D accelerators for quite some time now, and by now a Voodoo 2 is pretty much standard. That also means that they could easily use 800x600 in the game - but you will never see that: the game always runs at 640x480. Granted, the spell effects are so unbelievably amazing that you'd think they might saturate the lower-end cards - but for one, I doubt that is the case, and two, I doubt anybody cares. What might be a more realistic reason, I fear, is that they didn't want (or understand that they should) re-render all the backgrounds for higher-resolution PC graphics, and just stretched the lame PSX backgrounds; and that seriously detracts from the visual lushness that could've been experienced. As well, FF8 doesn't make use of antialiasing, and as such, when slower-motion things happen, such as your characters walking around and the like, you may notice quite a few jagged edges. The screenshots will portray that (and amplify that), as well; though, I should say, it isn't quite as apparent during the game, especially during spellcasting.

Another area where SquareSoft is overstressing the gamers' tolerance is the interface. A PSX doesn't have a keyboard, we all know that. But I refuse to believe, no matter how convoluted and complicated the code, that in the 6 months that they spent "porting it" they couldn't at least make the user be able to (gasp!) *type in* his name using keys, rather than hunting for each letter and hitting 'Select'. Similarly, when you have a lot of spells in your inventory, it'd be pretty nice to be able to press a letter and have the cursor jump to the first spell with that letter. Also, staying true to the FF7 tradition, there's no Load menu choice, so if you want to load an earlier save game you have to quit and reload. As well, it appears SquareSoft went on an interface pruning frenzy, and removed some elements, which are absolutely redundant, and no gameplayer would ever even really need - such as, for example, a Quit menu option. I mean hey, who needs one? After all, you're supposed to play this game nonstop 24/7, why would you do such a blasphemous thing as quit? (Works for me, by the way.) Either way, you have to press Alt+F4 or Ctrl+Q to exit the game. Astounding. Though I should mention that Alt+Tab works very well, and even though Square claims that might generate visual artifacts, I've yet to see them. Rare to see a game that properly switches to Windows apps.

As we were taught in elementary school essay writing, 'text should flow from paragraph to paragraph', and this is a lame attempt at juxtaposing two paragraphs. Spellcasting in FF8 is a very mixed blessing. On the one hand, you're unlikely to find anything this beautiful in any game out on the market right now. Water effects, fire effects, ice, lightning, non-elemental - all of those were lovingly worked on by the graphics artists and are absolutely stunning to watch. However, the effect, unfortunately, does wear thin after a hundred or two castings. Some might actually start to hate it after three or four. Just to give you an idea, the animation of Shiva, the ice elemental, takes approximately 15 seconds to play out - while the animation of Eden, the most powerful Guardian Force in the game, takes a full 76 seconds. Of course, the more powerful the Guardian Force, the more likely you are to have a tolerance as to the length of the animation - but an option to shorten them may have been quite nice. Same thing for movies: you cannot skip them, which can get to be quite a drag, especially for the intro movie (though, again, it does look absolutely ILM [Industrial Light and Magic - the people who brought us all the Star Wars effects]). Though fortunately, once you discover the GF ability called 'Boost', it will entertain you endlessly, or for at least another couple of hundred castings, as you mindlessly smash the 'A' button to make your GF execute an additional 500 points of damage.

Next up on the list is the modified magic system. To fill you in, in Final Fantasy VII, you would equip what was known as Materia (the easiest parallel would be spells in traditional RPGs) which would add certain capabilities to your character. There were several types of Materia - Summon, Command, Independent, Support, Spell. Without going into too much detail, they would do things such as allow your character to heal himself, summon certain creatures, automatically retaliate when attacked without needing an extra turn, cast minor elemental spells, and so forth. In FF8, while the idea of having spells was kept, the way it was implemented was drastically changed. Now, the main item in the inventory of any character is the Guardian Force (or GF, as it is referred to in the game, and which is often cause for some rather amusing associations). There are many GFs in the game, but the main similarity in them is that they don't come to you asking for wisdom and guidance, but you have to either defeat them or Draw them from your opponents - more on Drawing later on. That can be quite a drag, since you will often not think about drawing it from an opponent, but in general, appears to be a good system.

Drawing is new to Final Fantasy, and it works thusly. When you fight an enemy, whether a boss or a regular enemy, you can draw magic (or a GF) from him, and Stock it in your character's magic inventory. You can then cast the Stocked spell using the Magic menu. The upside of this is that a character is not limited to the extremely low number of Materia slots like in FF7; on the other hand, drawing too much magic (different kinds) becomes extremely cumbersome in the sense that it's absolutely impossible to find anything in the menu anymore. On the other hand, once you junction a GF, you can attach drawn magic to certain characteristics, be that stats like Strength or Vitality, elemental attack/defense, status attack/defense and so forth. As well, as you draw more of the junctioned magic, its effect will increase. So, for example, if you junction Fire to Elemental Attack, and obtain a 25% in the statistic window, that will mean that you have a 25% chance of inflicting Fire damage on your opponent when attacking physically. As you play on, you might draw 40 more Fire magics from enemies, and that statistic will automatically rise with each new magic joined. You aren't only limited to drawing from monsters, too - often, you will run across Draw Points, which look like several intertwining pink streams, but they aren't quite as frequent, and can only be used once, while the monsters can be drawn from indefinitely.

Unfortunately, what I said above doesn't come in too useful, or at least at the beginning of the game. Why, might you ask? In the specific example that I gave above, it assumes that you execute a physical attack on your enemy, whether with a gun, a sword, a whip, a fist, or whatever else can inflict pain. In FF8, though, almost never (at least at the beginning) will you use physical attacks - simply for the reason that they don't do nearly as much damage as they should to make them worthy. Even with upgraded weapons, I don't seem to be able to do over 500 damage with the special 'trigger' move of Squall - and that, to bosses that have 16,000 HP or more. Incidentally, in FF8, whenever you do happen to attack using your sword, you can virtually double the normal amount of damage that it inflicts if you press the trigger button (E by default) just at the right time - that is, when the blade just starts to touch the opponent. Another complaint that I have about normal attacks is that limit breaks are extremely hard to achieve. I'm dead-set on always having my characters at no less than 50% health, and limit breaks just don't occur there, or occur very rarely: the main amount of limit breaks occurs when your character's HP are in the yellow, i.e. below 25%. Not cool.

The story is where SquareSoft always shines, in the best of times and in the worst of times. The story of FF7 fascinated many and kept them glued to the screen of their TVs and their PCs for hours unend, battling the forces of evil, the Shinra, the Weapons, and all that bad stuff taken together. FF8 differs little: while I haven't finished the game yet, so far, the story (while not exactly out of a Hitchcock movie, where, to put it lamely, when someone opens a door you can't be sure it'll be opened all the way - much less about what's on the other side) is quite wonderful. As many might know, the theme is based around love (the "touchy-feely stuff"), and revolves around Squall, a newcomer to the ranks of SeeD, an elite for-hire mercenary force. Before we go on, however, allow me a quick sidetrack. Why is it that SquareSoft's main characters are consistently named after weather effects? First Cloud, now Squall? And more, why does the adverse competing power always have a similar name? First Sephiroth, now Seifer? Anyway, moving on. As the story unfolds, at a first glance, you see an arrogant young man, caring little about those around him, and brushing off any emotional approaches from anyone as irrelevant and 'soft'. But as the background of his childhood is revealed throughout the game, you realize that he isn't an arrogant asshole, but rather nothing but a scared child, who lost his sister in early childhood and spent most of it searching for her, needing her guidance, protection and loyalty. For those of you into Japanimation, think of Ikari Shinji - that was the first thing I thought of. So as he moves through the world of FF8, Squall realizes more and more that he isn't alone, and he can't be alone forever, and more and more does he go deep into himself, searching, looking for his real self. His emotional problems are often revealed in quotes like "... Why doesn't someone come and tell me what to do...? Wait... someone? That means I'll be relying on others again..." and so forth. It just so happens, as well, that he can't meditate in peace, either - an evil sorceress (didn't see that one coming) is trying to take over the world (didn't see that one coming), and he is more or less the only person that can save the world (didn't see that one coming), along with his ragtag band of friends and comrades. Interestingly, parallels can be drawn between characters from FF8 and FF7 - Quistis = Tifa, Rinoa = Barrett, Irvine = Vincent, Sefie = Yuffie and Zell = Barrett. Though, fortunately, they are significantly more articulate - the translation is much better than FF7 - and you will no longer see phrases like "Shinra're the VERMIN for killing the Planet! Guess that'd make you King VERMIN! So shu'up jackass!" Of course, the dialogue isn't of the intricate depth and quality of Planescape: Torment, but recall that this isn't so much a thinking and philosophical RPG inasmuch it is an action and, to a degree, emotional one.

So, what else is in the game? (This is the stuff-I-forgot department). First of all, the Card Game. If you played Magic: The Gathering back in high school, you'll probably think this is familiar. Well, it's not, that's what I thought too. But it is the best analogy: you have monsters, and you make them fight. Sort of like gladiators, but not quite. You have monster cards, of varying levels, and each card has 4 digits on it, aligned in a north-south-east-west fashion. There's a board, on which the cards are laid, and depending on the rules of the game, there might be or might not be spaces that boost or retract from a card's digits. The idea is, that once someone puts down a card, you want to match his card with a card of a higher value on the side that touches it: so if someone puts down a card that has a 3 on top, you'd want to put a card right above it with a 4 on the bottom (or higher). There are also other things you can do, such as defeat not one but multiple cards, through Combos, Pluses and others; but those are more advanced rules, and they serve no purpose other than unnecessarily complicate this explanation. As you travel around the world, you will gain new cards, and will encounter different opponents of varying strengths - and some will teach you new rules, whether bad or good. Once you learn the new rules, you will distribute them to all other players you play with, so watch out that you don't distribute rules you hate to play with, such as Random (which no longer allows you to choose your deck of cards, but they are picked at random instead). However, should you happen to distribute an inconvenient rule, you can look for the Queen of Cards, a woman that will revoke a rule from a region for a fee.

Of course, this review wouldn't be complete without outlining where SquareSoft really dropped the ball. These have been mentioned throughout the review, but I reiterate them here, for I think they are extremely important, and as Square prepares itself (and the series) for the exciting, uncharted, and terrifyingly unknown foray into the double digits (after all, nobody's ever had 10.0 versions of anything, aside from Omnipage and Autocad - everybody else just jumped on the lame 2000 bandwagon). Why did I skip over FF9, which was just recently announced? Mainly because it wouldn't sound cool to say 'the terrifyingly unknown foray into the digit 9'. Nonetheless, nothing would rejoice me more than a proper port of FF9 - but, unfortunately, it's still being developed for the original PlayStation, so I don't think we can really hope for that: all factors noted, Square doesn't seem to be keen on re-rendering its backgrounds for PC users, even though the current hardware is absolutely capable of displaying higher-resolution graphics. In addition, if anything, they could at least code in a keyboard interface. And, perhaps, make the Save menu not look quite as PlayStation'ish - what's up with the two memory-card-looking slots? Ah, but I'm not done yet. As a few recent reviews pointed out, the music sounds much better on the PSX than it does on the PC. The fact that I believe the reviewers were playing with a SoundBlaster 16 is irrelevant; more to the point, what happened to SoundFonts? Final Fantasy VII used a 4MB SoundFont, so fishing out an extra 8MB of RAM for my SoundBlaster AWE32 was worth every minute spent disassembling the old 386 - the sound difference, in my view, was just as drastic as switching from FM synthesis to wavetable. Nothing of the sort in FF8. Apart from that, maybe a button to skip FMVs once the player saw them at least once.

There is much more to FF8 than what I was able to describe in this short little blurb. (Though, I surmise, most readers wouldn't think that this was incredibly short). From going deeper into the story, to the character evolution, to the GFs and the incredible array of abilities they can learn, to the secrets, the optional quests, and all the intricate little details that make FF8 what it is, all of that can't possibly be fit into a four-page review. I also acknowledge there are a few reviews out at the moment that bash the game in many ways, some of which I acknowledged in my review, and some of which I think are despicably close-minded and, sometimes, even moronic. Let that not be a symbol of closed-mindedness, however; I believe that everyone has a right to form his own opinion, and this outlines mine. And, on a side note, if anything, SquareSoft showed us, yet again, that it IS, in fact, possible to produce amazing-quality computer graphics which approach reality, without having ambiguosly gay characters hated by all - such as the famous Jar Jar Binx. Let this be a tribute to his demise (which, unfortunately, hasn't happened yet - perhaps in a few years, though).

For a post-scriptum, I rather wish I could rate story a few points higher than the max, same as the Fun Factor and Game Play. But my editor won't let me.

Graphics [15/20]
Sound [13/15]
Gameplay [30/30]
Funfactor [20/20]
Story [5/5]
Overall Impression [10/10]


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Divider Left By: Mrs. Biggs Divider Right

By now I'm sure you've all heard of the dreaded final-fantacitis virus that went around the gaming community last year. How many of our friends developed those big blocky hands, grew long spikey hair, and ran around with gigantic swords while singing cutesy Japanese ballads. And at such a young and tender age! In fact, let's pause for a moment of silence as we remember our fallen comrades...

... OK enough of that. Final Fantasy junkies, wipe dat drool off your chin and call your boss to let her know that you won't be in for the next week - FF8 PC has arrived.

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: Final Fantasy is not a "game", it's a goddam institution and as any wily veteran reviewer knows, there will be much blood shed before the final verdict comes in. So after renewing my life insurance and checking my flame retardant vest for loose threads, I grabbed a double shot of tang and dove in.

If you have been living under a rock for the past decade and have never heard of the Final Fantasy series, I have one thing to say to you: "Who the hell said you could come up for air??? Get back under there!". As for everyone else, let me spare you the boring FF history lesson and get straight to point.

I have to admit I was a little skeptical about this sequel simply due to the fact that it's a PSX port. I think we can all agree the Playstation has had its time in the sun and feature-wise, it just can't keep up anymore. The question is, would Squaresoft be able to put our $4000 dollar gaming systems to work? The short answer..... yes and no.

Visually speaking, the game is very similar to FF7 with some notable differences: Gone are the old "brick-hand" character models. In their place are large well-proportioned models with somewhat detailed skins. I almost cried when I found out Squarespft chose to go with the old blurry ass-nasty PSX backgrounds though. This is some beautiful artwork and it's a crime to reduce it to such low resolutions. The fact that the models are much more detailed in FF8 only calls attention to the woeful state of the backdrops. The world view is equally uninspiring with redundant boring textures as far as the eye can see. Don't pack up your camels and leave just yet though, you haven't seen the movies yet. Ohhhhhh the movies! Square advertises an *hour* of 3D animated movies and I believe it. These clips are simply stunning. Silky smooth character animation by some of the best animators in the business. I found myself whipping through the game just to get to the next movie - they are that good. I also liked how the animated sequences were seamlessly integrated with the rest of the game. Instead of having your screen go black and then loading the clip, FF8 transitions back and forth between animated short and normal gameplay without so much as a monitor flash. Excellent! The Guardian Force attack sequences are a sight not to be missed. Similar to the Materia you could summon in FF7, the Guardian Forces are awe inspiring as they appear on the battlefield, dwarfing all but the biggest opponents, then unleashing a jaw-crunching blow on any beasties unfortunate enough to be within range. Unfortunately after you've seen these guys in action a few times, you get sick of watching the attack sequence and you will undoubtedly find yourself searching for some way to skip them.

A little tip for Squaresoft... audio FX are best used sparingly. Actually let me rephrase that: Spread a little cheeze-whiz on a piece of toast and it tastes great, glop an inch of the stuff on there and you will be gagging up cheese chunks for the next week. FF8 suffers from overuse of reverb to the point where it sounds like you are sitting in a metal bunker 30 feet underground. Although you can control the reverb levels through the control panel, they really should have toned it down. Remember - less is more. The game supports EAX and Dolby Surround, which aren't exactly critical to the game play of an RPG but certainly can't hurt. The music is the usual high-quality orchestrated work we have come to expect from Square. If you are new to the series you may be wondering what all the hype is surrounding the musical score, "WTF is this cutesy Japanese kiddie crap?@?" but I'll say this: It grows on you. Give it a few hours and you will be skipping along like a school girl to all of your favourite FF tunes. I just wish Square in all their wisdom had decided to include voiceovers for the characters - it would add another level of depth to the storyline. I realize that at 5 CDs, they are already pushing it for space but hopefully when DVD drives become more widespread we will finally see a Final Fantasy with voiceovers.

One area where the Final Fantasy series has always shone was in game engineering and this sequel is no exception. Attention to detail is incredible as you will find layer upon layer of sub-quests and mini-games. Case in point: During the course of your journey, you go around challenging various people to a Pokemon-like card game with the winner walking away with some or all of the losers cards. A game within a game within a game. Someone really sat down and put some thought into this piece of software. If your normal everyday RPG is a Ford Taurus then that would make Final Fantasy 8 a finely engineered German sportscar. I particularly like the way Square used clever little tricks like temporary roadblocks to keep the players on course and prevent you from straying too far off the beaten track without making it feel like you're stuck on rails.

I know there is bound to be a lot of bitching about the new battle system and I have to agree with at least some of the complaints. The system involves "junctioning" Guardian Forces and Magic but also expands into elemental bonuses and other stats modifiers; enough to make this poor gamers head spin. Even after reading through all of the tutorials I have to admit I was still a little bit fuzzy in certain areas. I thought the weapon modding system was a great idea though. Basically instead of buying and selling different weapons, you collect components throughout your battles and after finding a weapons magazine which describes the next available modification, you can then take your old arms to a shop where for a price, the tradesman will upgrade your weaponry - Very clever!

Final Fantasy 8 is an nothing less than an epic adventure. You can expect to spend somewhere between 50 and 100 hours start to finish. Unfortunately there are a number of minor problems that detract from the game. I found the story to be slow paced and tedious. Wading through hundreds of dialog boxes of juvenile conversation like "OH Betty-Loo sure is purty, I'm so NERVOUS, should I talk to her?" is not my idea of fun. Maybe this would be better suited to a younger audience. I was baffled by the lack of a proper quit option. As it stands you have to hit Alt-F4 to exit the game and this just smacks of a rushed port. The musical score is midi rather than redbook audio. It sounds fine on my SBLive! but it would have been that much better had it been CD quality. In the end though, the solid game engineering and beautiful movies far outweigh the flaws. Whether you are a longtime fan of the Final Fantasy series or this is your first venture into a world full of caucanese people with really fat swords, you can't really go wrong with FF8.

Graphics [17/20]
Sound [12/15]
Gameplay [28/30]
Funfactor [17/20]
Story [3/5]
Overall Impression [8/10]


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Divider Left By: Lothian Divider Right

The Final Fantasy saga began over a decade ago on December 18, 1987 (July, 1990 in the US) with the release of the Japanese version of Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System. As one of the first console RPGs ever, Final Fantasy was initially created by producer Hironobu Sakaguchi to compete with Enix's Dragon Quest (known better to most as Dragon Warrior). Dragon Quest was at the time considered to be THE foundation of the Japanese gaming industry ... but not for long. Hironobu's "last ditch" attempt at creating something to compete with the first traditional turn based console RPG would end up spawning one of the most popular video game series of all time.

From its humble beginnings on the 8-bit NES, the Final Fantasy series has branched out to just about every console on the market as well as a feature film slated for release in June of 2001. Final Fantasy also introduced certain concepts to the turn-based RPG, such as: different modes of transportation, multiple character parties, character classes and weapon/armour attributes.

Though Final Fantasy has definitely broken a lot of ground on the console RPG scene, the one truly redeeming quality of every FF title is the storyline. Were it not for the remarkably well fabricated plots that draw players deep into the situations at hand and into the characters lives, most would not be able to play through these games that can take dozens upon dozens of hours to complete. In my opinion, every Final Fantasy title I've played is less of a game than it is a graphically driven, interactive, choose-your-own-adventure style novel, and for those who agree, Final Fantasy VIII will not disappoint.

The Story so far goes as such...

There was a time when the earth was filled with those who would try to dominate and conquer. To combat this possible threat, an organization formed around the world know only as SeeD. All members of SeeD were special and possessed magical powers and they squelched all military domination to create peace. The SeeD were trained at the Balamb Garden and were required to pass an examination before being admitted as full members. Trainees at the Balamb Gardens were between the ages of three and nineteen and the examination was to be taken by those older than fifteen. Once the exam was completed successfully, only the cream-of-the-crop were selected to be trained as SeeD.

The world was peaceful since all seeds of evil were thwarted by these ronin scattered across the globe but the balance of power has begun to shift. The awakening of a mythological witch by the name of Edea, whose malevolence and great magical power has begun to draw praise and worship, now threatens the planet.

Squall, an ambitious youth dreams of someday becoming a SeeD warrior and after much trial finally achieves his goal. At a dinner party welcoming new recruits, Squall meets Rinoa who is later revealed to be the leader of the Forest Owls. The Forest Owls are a relatively unorganized rebel group fighting against the nation of Galbadia. Shortly after encountering Rinoa, Squall dreams that he's a Galbadian soldier by the name of Laguna Loire. Laguna wishes to abandon the soldiers life and pursue a career in journalism but is currently on a mission with Ward and Kiros.

Meanwhile, the nation of Dole has fallen to the Galbadian empire who have now set their sites on the rest of the world. It is apparent that the president of Galbadia has been receiving assistance by Edea so Squall is elected to assassinate her. Squall's mission becomes more complicated when his long time rival Seifer appears by Edea's side accompanied by his bodyguards Raijin and Fuujin.

Generally, witches were rumored to be the only women who possessed powerful magic. Witches however were not immortal and their powers weren't inherited due to their bloodline. Those powers could be passed off to anyone a witch deemed worthy. To young Squall though, witches were still only beings of legend...

Though Final Fantasy VII was an excellent title, there were a lot of little issues with the game. Final Fantasy VIII has tackled these by changing certain aspects in this game to better suit the player. First off, the materia system has been eliminated. The materia system was considered by most to make the game "too easy" so as a retort, in FFVIII, magic is learned by reading and "draw"ing from enemies. Spells and special abilities are hidden throughout the game in books, articles and newspapers. Articles can be bought or found in newsstands or on the street. There is no MP meter in the game since spells are stocked by characters and deplete as they are used.

The second change is something totally different to the FF series. In earlier installments, when you would return to a part of the world later in the game, the enemies would still be as strong as when you met them. This didn't pose much of a challenge to players since level 5 monsters are no challenge to a level 80 character. When you return to an area in FFVIII, the enemies have gotten stronger just as you've gotten stronger. Also, you'll have to change your battle tactics since the stronger the enemies get, they change their battle patterns. Another interesting (and extremely helpful) addition to the battle system is the fact that you gain AP even if you run from a battle. AP is now distributed to fleeing fighters based on how much damage they did during a battle.

Graphically, FFVIII is quite an improvement over its predecessors in that your party as well as NPCs are larger and more realistic (ala Resident Evil). Background art is also much better, especially in the cloud and water art. Enemies have gotten somewhat bigger and GF attack animation is much more elaborate (not to mention long, sometimes tedious).

The old Summon command has (sort of) been replaced by "Guardian Force" (GF). The summoned beasts have the ability to gain experience, thereby gaining strength. GF's are key to development of the game in that they add strength to characters as they gain experience and skill. Without a junctioned GF, players only have the "Attack" option available to them in battle. GF's are "Junctioned" to characters. Junctioning is another element that has greatly changed this incarnation of FF to a more strategy driven title. Once a GF is junctioned to a character, magic can also be junctionned to various attributes, giving them more strength or magical abilities. The Junction system is rather elaborate and may deter younger FF fans. A new command, "Draw", has also been added to the battle menu. The Draw command is how players gain magic skills. Enemy magic is "drawn" in and then either "Cast"ed or "Stock"ed. If you select Cast, the magic is dispatched immediately on the enemy. If Stock is selected, the absorbed magic attack is stored away for later use. Stocking is how you develop your library of magical attacks and abilities.

Synthesized MIDI music assaults our auditory senses throughout the game. The background music is beautiful, as is the battle music. FFVIII supports EAX which creates a more enjoyable play experience. Though once again there is no speech, the sound effects that accompany certain character actions draws the player deeper into the FF world.

The controls are simple and easy to master. The world of Final Fantasy VIII can be explored via a gamepad or the keyboard. For those (such as myself) that have but a measly Gravis Gamepad, you will be pleased to hear that you can quickly switch from keyboard to gamepad without entering into the configuration screen. Online help for certain scenarios also changes to accommodate your choice of input device.

An interesting addition, though not pertinent to the completion of this title is the Card Game, in which you duel with certain NPCs at a game similar to Othello, but with tarot cards. Cards have a four numbers on them, representing strength to each border of the card. The game is played with five cards against an opponents five. If the number you place is higher than that of the adjacent number of your opponents card, you capture that card (it flips to your favour). The opponent can reclaim it by playing a card on another side of this "won" card to "win" it back. This can be rather amusing since it is really the only "mini-quest" or "side-game" throughout FFVIII.

So as not to get a lot of flack for this review, I've attempted to cover every possible angle of the game as well as a little history. Die hard FF fans will agree with me when I say that this title is spectacular, though it does have its own set of flaws, which as an FF fan, became rather apparent to me. These were mainly from an "innovation" stand-point than from a technical one. This section has been saved until the end since most readers would have skipped the whole review had I introduced the game as such. I must warn you though, you are entering my opinion area so don't let this reflect upon your purchasing of a great title. I was glad to see Cid reappear in this title (as headmaster of Balamb Garden) since he's been in just about every incarnation of FF. The dream sequence of Laguna reminds me too much of Cloud, though I must admit, content-wise, they are nothing alike. The same Creatures are appearing as GFs that were summons, though not some of the one's I'd like to see back (Asura, where are you). Though visually stunning, the GF animations are too rather lengthy and can become tedious during a long battle. Finally, the addition of ChocoboWorld seems rather useless, even as a separate executable. I found no use for it whatsoever (if I err in this statement, please e-mail me).

Graphics [18/20]
Sound [14/15]
Gameplay [28/30]
Funfactor [20/20]
Story [5/5]
Overall Impression [10/10]


See the Game Over Online Rating System






Screen Shots

Back to Game Over Online