Saturday, May 19, 2012

Final Fantasy VIII Review

Released February 11, 1999
Developed By: Square
Published By: Square
Platforms: PS One
           Final Fantasy VIII is the follow up to one of the best JRPG’s of all time.  Unfortunately, it does not come close to its predecessor’s standard of awesome. The magic system is stupid. Characters can either draw magic from enemies, or refine magic from items.  Obtaining spells felt like a chore.
           In order to do anything but attack your character must equip, or “junction”, a GF.  GF’s are god like beings that grant abilities.  Some GF’s are given to you, and some you have to find and defeat in battle.  If you miss a GF, you have to wait until the final dungeon for another chance at obtaining it.  By the time I had reached the final dungeon, all of my GF’s were leveled and specced the way I wanted.  Obtaining a level one GF in the final dungeon felt worthless. There are also some GF’s that help randomly in battle, none of which can be controlled.
           Once junctioned, the GF lets you equip three abilities to each character.  For these three ability slots you must choose between items, summons, draw, magic, and special abilities.  The GF’s have some sweet abilities; things like restoring all of a characters HP, or casting haste and berserk on the whole party.  Choosing which 3 abilities to use is frustrating, and makes the characters seem restricted and less powerful.  I have always had the option to use items by default in RPG‘s. I ended up never using items in FFVIII , because the other abilities were much better.  I didn’t miss the items much, but it was weird. The characters can also equip two passive abilities (which can be upgraded to three passive abilities).  This limited the characters powers again, and many great abilities had to go in order to make way for different, uber abilities.  Upgrading an ability is one thing, replacing it is another.
Drawing magic from enemies
           There is no equipment system.  Each character has a weapon that can be upgraded using items once the correct “Weapons Magazine” is found and read. You actually have to click through the digital magazine to learn how to upgrade weapons, which seems unnecessary.   One of the better parts of the Final Fantasy series for me has been the loot hunting.  The simplistic idea to weapon upgrades in FFVIII seems out of place with the complicated and annoying GF/Magic system.
           There is a card game which is nothing special, and not really worth talking about.  Some of the cards can be destroyed in order to gain items that can be used to create spells.
           The graphics are trying to do something they can’t.  Things come off blocky and blurred together, forming a fuzzy background.  The CG scenes look great, but there are few of them, and they are no more impressive than the CG scenes in FFVII.  The background music is decent, with generic sounding classical music.  A lot of the sounds from the Final Fantasy Series are reused, which I loved for the nostalgia factor.  Like most of the game, the sound is just average.
           The story is decent, though sometimes the translations are a little off.  A sorceress is trying to conquer the world and you must stop her, and along the way characters change and fall in love and blah, blah, blah.  It’s a cookie cutter story, but it is still a pretty good one. A fatal flaw is that characters start to explain things and then are cut off by others, saying there’s no time to talk about it.  Nothing really ever seems to get explained.
           The story has you switching between different teams quite often, so you must exchange your GF’s and magic to the active team.  There is a quick auto exchange, but I still felt like I was spending more time in the menus then in combat.
           The final dungeon is more annoying than fun. You lose all your abilities (attack, magic, etc.) and you have to defeat bosses to unlock them again.  With the ability that removes random encounters the final dungeon felt like a time waster rather than a final dungeon.
           FFVIII is just all around average.  Not Square’s (now Square Enix) best showing, but still enjoyable in some ways.

Full Scoring Guide