Final Fantasy VIII Review

Final Fantasy VIII Review
Squaresoft

Squall is nearing the end of his studies at Balamb Garden, a campus host to mercenary youths who study combat skills and magic as everyday course material. Here, girls can still be found gossiping in hallways, and boys picking fights over petty insecurities. For Squall, those childish urges leave him a scar, a nasty gash across the face from a rival classmate's gunblade, the weapon itself a true representation of the bizarre balancing act that is Final Fantasy VIII. Where realistic and familiar components -- a blade and revolver -- combine to make something new and incomprehensible.

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In its attempt to mesh the realities of high school life and military regiment, Final Fantasy VIII creates a premise -- like the gunblade -- beyond belief, but of rich fantasy. Squall's first mission is actually just part of his school's curriculum, a field exam where students raid the beaches of a city under military occupation. The whole segment is a complete rush, battle screen to battle screen as heroic music bites at your heels, although afterward, it's back at school with an impatient and obnoxious group of kids, waiting in corridors for test results to be posted.

The game is often surreal in this way, a sort of boyhood fantasy come to life. Daringly realistic in its depiction of the growing pains of youth, but wholly unreasonable in the situations it places its cast of young adults. Childish moments during grisly missions may have you ready to flip the nearest table in disgust, and there are many. These youths showcase no qualifications to be soldiers, just the naivety of their age. Only when they are linked with what's called a Guardian Force do they become a group capable of saving the world.

These guardian beasts form what's called a Junction with their human counterparts, opening up customization options for your party. Of these, the Draw command serves most valuable, since in Final Fantasy VIII, enemies hold the magic. Drawing allows you to steal spells that when stored can be attached to the stat sheets of your party members. A turn based system under an active time frame; you must decide when to pull magic, and when to deal damage. The more you collect of a spell, the more it benefits the stats of say, Strength, Magic, or elemental modifiers to your strikes.

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Drawing is rather gratifying, both in its colorful, sucking animation on the battle screen, and how it makes your characters stronger in the menus afterward. But it's also daunting. Each person can hold a 100 of each type of spell, so collecting maximum amounts of Fires, Blizzards, Cures, and others can become a nightmarish grind if you pursue it. And when many creatures don't bear much in the way of teeth, you don't really have an excuse not to drink your fill from their temptingly infinite reserves.

Addicting, perhaps -- raising your stats to premature levels of dominance -- but the system's fragility will take a toll on your experience in one way or another. Powerful spells can be collected at certain points in the game, such as the Life magic that can triple your party's HP amounts early on. Savvy players that figure such tactics out will later find themselves facing encounters of little value, where in fact it's smarter to run away as leveling scales you with the rest of the game's enemies.

Conversely, those who can't wrap their head around the freedoms of the Junction system will end up either drawing everything in sight, or clinging to what works early on -- summoning. This means calling an actual Guardian Force, thus a torturous, 20-30 second long cinematic attack. With Junctioning stats being the more rewarding and effective way to power, it's odd the game tries to push you towards a reliance on summons at the start, providing little in the way of helpful hints to playing properly. Enjoyment is instead dependent on player strategy, both an intimidating and refreshing idea, and luckily for some not a huge focus. Large dungeons are in fact nearly non-existent, so rarely does the system get laborious.

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The typical cast of intolerable child heroes also seem to have a ghost of presence, largely ignored by both Squall and the game. Never of primary concern, it's as if they exist to annoy the main character. Squall is a blunt professional who hates small talk and petty social obligations, and to great relief of likely most players, he becomes agitated when you would. A relatable and adult minded person placed in absurd situations, he points out the very outrageousness of the game around him. When you feel like facepalming, you may be surprised to see Squall do so first.

Taking advantage of this amusement, the game is primarily comprised of light hearted skits, scenes of dialogue that move with very lifelike animation, obtuse Japanese humor, and fantastical set pieces. It runs with its imagination and never looks back, rampantly day dreaming. Here is a world where simple fishing towns reside on one continent, and futuristic cities, hover cars, and fluent space programs on another. It introduces huge plot elements at the drop of hat, nonchalantly informing you about its theories of telepathy, time compression, and out of body experiences. At one moment you'll be hijacking speeding trains with a group of rebel misfits, and the next shooting up to orbit.

Yet often too fantastical to believe, the game seems eerily aware of its own incredibility. Even its soundtrack -- of Uematsu's best work -- is a combination of the dreamy and nightmarish. It hides something beneath its outlandish narrative and unorthodox battle strategy, something more real and down to earth. That is, a clear inspection of an introverted young adult. As if using its fictional qualities to disguise its true intentions, the game drapes Squall and the player underneath its decorative wings of fantasy. As you both take note of its unbelievable nature, you are gradually being lured out as subjects of study.

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Beckoning you from your RPG is a girl, the romantic interest that takes hold of Squall's life. She defines Final Fantasy VIII not merely as a love story, but rather as the theatrical, musical, and visual trip it is. She resides in it as the game's obsession, the idée fixe that tears apart the mind of a man forced into a heroic role without the mental strength to succeed in it. Always challenging his cold approach and mathematical demeanor, she annoys him as much as the others do, but relentlessly and adorably. Dismissing her as well as his own feelings, Squall takes her presence for granted; eventually finding himself uncharacteristically bereaved when she is placed in danger.

In this telling scene, Squall's crew is again ranting on about the insanely crafted conundrum of a plot that surrounds them, but here the screen fades to dark. Dialogue boxes continue to pester your view, but now scatter around Squall's thoughts. His appear squarely at the center of the screen, and are clear: this girl is all that matters now. And from here to the end, his battles will be fought over a regretful conscious. As he reaches for her the game becomes more and more incredulous, to the point of utter psychosis as you face villainess witches that drip with personal foreboding. The finale -- a chilling introspection to a repressed mind.

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Indeed, there's something about the girl named Rinoa Heartily. The way she ardently struts towards your removed world of fantasy, invading it with her dark eyes and conceited smile. Pressuring you into decisions and confrontations throughout the game, she drags you from the comforts of role playing escapism and into self-analysis. In a world of elite magical soldiers, evil sorceresses, brilliant mythical beasts and time travel, she remains tangible. A comforting constant within a schizophrenic universe, she pulls you by the arm towards emotional clarity. Onto the ballroom floor and into the spotlight, "I can't dance" isn't a response she'll accept.

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8.5/10

Great review I liked how in to detail you went with the character interaction.

I must say, I am surprised. When I saw "Final Fantasy VIII Review", I was waiting for you to butcher it, using phrases like "worst game EVAH" and other childish nonsense.

Instead, this post was rather refreshing.

linkblade91:
I must say, I am surprised. When I saw "Final Fantasy VIII Review", I was waiting for you to butcher it, using phrases like "worst game EVAH" and other childish nonsense.

Instead, this post was rather refreshing.

I'm glad it came across that way, thanks. I had only beaten it for the first time, so I didn't really have any pent up rage or nostalgia going into it. I know that often plagues discussion of these sorts of games.

This made my day. I thoroughly enjoyed this game...when I was 14. I love that you took the time to focus more on characterization and how it affected the narrative and immersion. (Confusing as that narrative may be.)

holdthephone:

linkblade91:
I must say, I am surprised. When I saw "Final Fantasy VIII Review", I was waiting for you to butcher it, using phrases like "worst game EVAH" and other childish nonsense.

Instead, this post was rather refreshing.

I'm glad it came across that way, thanks. I had only beaten it for the first time, so I didn't really have any pent up rage or nostalgia going into it. I know that often plagues discussion of these sorts of games.

I think the reasoning for that is because of how different this title is to other final fantasy games. The art direction in particular went away from a super deformed look to normally proportioned people and the battle system was hit or miss. It wasn't really bad at all, just not what I was used to (same way I felt toward oblivion and final fantasy legend 1-2), and I think other FF fans reacted the same way. That being said though, this game had some amazing visuals (like the ragnorak assaulting that other vessel near the end) , and very quality music. The end movie was my favorite part. :)

Jfswift:

I think the reasoning for that is because of how different this title is to other final fantasy games. The art direction in particular went away from a super deformed look to normally proportioned people and the battle system was hit or miss. It wasn't really bad at all, just not what I was used to (same way I felt toward oblivion and final fantasy legend 1-2), and I think other FF fans reacted the same way.

Eh, what can you do. I'm just glad Square has always been insistent on pissing people off.

I think there's an article somewhere saying how FFVIII only had a 50% approval rating from the testing audience, and Kitase considered that good news because "if everyone liked it", it meant it wasn't "different enough."

This is great character analysis, and I'm glad you didn't rant about how good/bad the game is. There's so much polarization regarding this one.

Good review, well written.

I really liked this review. FF VIII was my first FF and thus I am biased to love the game, which I do. I do like how you take some of the things that can be construed as odd or weird and start interpreting. You even note that there are some good and some bad things about the game. As funny as Spoony's review is, this review I would say accurately represents the game.

A side note. Triple Triad is the most fun mini-game in a video game ever.

Very very nice review, and actually seemed dare I say it? Rather Objective.

Personally I loved FF8 when it came out, (actually I asked for ff7 for my birthday but got ff8 instead, oh well it's one of my favs of the series anyway so it worked out for the best :P )

I replayed it again recently in my nostalgia run of the first 10 games, as I still haven't gotten round to playing 12.

Personally I still found it endearing and enjoyed the story thoroughly, the junction system is massively open to abuse though, as now being a self described veteran of the genre, everything just clicks for me and I see how the systems all work perfectly. Firaga early on, junction to squall, learn darkside, autopilot through game.

Also Triple Triad kicks ass, I have a friend who would just play the card game on that and do nothing else, him relishing in being able to do all the card battles for me, and me subsequently synthing them into a god like item arsenal. On the subject of FF card games, does ANYONE know how FF9s worked? I get the arrows, but the numbers just seemed utterly random and made no sense what so fucking ever.

I actually really liked the themes of Childhood soldiers, and now that I'm older I can really appreciate the narrative, rather than when I was a kid myself and I just took everything at face value. I mean when you look at it, these kids have been trained since 5 years old, to be a mercenary fighting force, all damaged in their own ways having been brought up purely to experience the horrors of war, the Dollet mission bringing this forward right at the start. It was an exam! A frikking exam!

holdthephone:

Conversely, those who can't wrap their head around the freedoms of the Junction system will end up either drawing everything in sight, or clinging to what works early on -- summoning. This means calling an actual Guardian Force, thus a torturous, 20-30 second long cinematic attack. With Junctioning stats being the more rewarding and effective way to power, it's odd the game tries to push you towards a reliance on summons at the start, providing little in the way of helpful hints to playing properly. Enjoyment is instead dependent on player strategy, both an intimidating and refreshing idea, and luckily for some not a huge focus. Large dungeons are in fact nearly non-existent, so rarely does the system get laborious.

The summoning in the game had an actual "mini game" to it I guess you could say, I can't remember the button, it was select I believe, but, you had to press square at a certain time, had a red light green light theme going on, I linked a video


It's just been so long since I played the game, and I didn't know about the feature my first play through.

This was an excellent review with a novel approach: getting involved in the psychological and emotional content of FFVIII rather than merely the mechanics or surface 'narrative elements'. Bravo, sir (or madame). I wish there were more like you!

I finished this for the first time recently myself and I love the game a whole lot. Great review, liked how you were able to touch on everything.

holdthephone:

Jfswift:

I think the reasoning for that is because of how different this title is to other final fantasy games. The art direction in particular went away from a super deformed look to normally proportioned people and the battle system was hit or miss. It wasn't really bad at all, just not what I was used to (same way I felt toward oblivion and final fantasy legend 1-2), and I think other FF fans reacted the same way.

Eh, what can you do. I'm just glad Square has always been insistent on pissing people off.

I think there's an article somewhere saying how FFVIII only had a 50% approval rating from the testing audience, and Kitase considered that good news because "if everyone liked it", it meant it wasn't "different enough."

honestly though (50% .. wow.. i didnt know it was that low) it had alot of elements I loved about the other games like a really creative fantasy world, free roaming with the airship and decent character development, but without the super deformed look (I really never cared for it much tbh). I think they had the formula right and I'm glad they tried again with X. =^.^=

Tsaba:

The summoning in the game had an actual "mini game" to it I guess you could say, I can't remember the button, it was select I believe, but, you had to press square at a certain time, had a red light green light theme going on

I didn't know this! The review is ruined! lol

Seriously though, thanks for all the awesome feedback everyone. And for the User Review Spotlight, however that's decided. It was cool to see it featured there.

Perhaps I'll get around to the franchise's other installments in the near future, so keep an eye out.

holdthephone:

I didn't know this! The review is ruined! lol

The review is

Fantastic review, thanks very much - nice to read something with great detail.

holdthephone:

Conversely, those who can't wrap their head around the freedoms of the Junction system will end up either drawing everything in sight, or clinging to what works early on -- summoning. This means calling an actual Guardian Force, thus a torturous, 20-30 second long cinematic attack. With Junctioning stats being the more rewarding and effective way to power, it's odd the game tries to push you towards a reliance on summons at the start, providing little in the way of helpful hints to playing properly. Enjoyment is instead dependent on player strategy, both an intimidating and refreshing idea, and luckily for some not a huge focus. Large dungeons are in fact nearly non-existent, so rarely does the system get laborious.

As a kid i never really had the patience to draw insane amounts of spells. Still, the game was much more fun and challenging limiting myself in that way and mostly using GFs. Stumbling upon Odin and defeating him at a rather low level was one of the best experiences in the game. I always was someone who tries to limit grinding to the absolute minimum.

Some of the plottwists were pretty badly executed, but Final Fantasy 8 is still one of my favorties.

Squall is one of my favorite characters from the ff series, mainly for his cold demeanor that the reviewer mention. I could relate to that.

 

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