Every great long gaming series has one. Every series has a game that cannot match the standards of quality set by its predecessors. Every series has a black sheep and that’s exactly what Final Fantasy 8 is to the great, and legendary FF series.
To start off, FF8 had a lot of hype to live up to; FF7 was its closest predecessor a game that many even today in 2003 consider the best RPG of all time. So, FF8 as the sequel was expected to surpass it, and it did but only on the aesthetic departments, and fell extremely short on what really counts: Story and Gameplay.
A Tale Gone Wrong
The plot is truly uninspired, a love story if one can call it that. But even the love part story of the game is weak. The main focus on the game’s story falls into Squall’s(the main character) relationship with (the love interest) Rinoa. The problem with this is that Squall is not a likable character at all. He is the main character, but his personality does nothing to make me want to see him ‘get the girl’.
For example there is one part in the game where Squall must decide whether or not to save Rinoa from sure death. Zell (who by the way was the most likable character), and other main characters had to practically yell at him to go save her, and even then, he had a hard time deciding whether to do it or not.
Now if the woman that I’m in love with were in danger I would do whatever is in and beyond my power to save her with out questioning myself. Heck, if my cousin were in danger I would still give my life up if necessary to save him. That’s love. Yet to this day, after four years since playing the game for the first time, I still wonder whether or not Squall would had saved Rinoa if the other characters wouldn’t have pressured him to do it.
The sad part about this is that a fair amount of time had passed already in the game when this scene happened. By that time it was evident that he was in love with her or so it seemed. Of course, at a later scene in the game Squall sort of makes up for his mistake. But to me, Squall never went through a noticeable change in the whole game that had me thinking he had matured. His attitude towards Rinoa changes at the end of the game of course but it happens so suddenly that when he actually does tell Rinoa that he ‘loves her’ it feels fake.
After all, he spent two thirds of the game ignoring her and trying to get away from her when suddenly one little scene happens, and it all changes. The ending while visually impressive remains uninspired like the rest of the story.
The rest of the story is at best ridiculous. There is really no villain to speak of, only a sorceress, who manipulates other sorceress, she does this from the future because she wants to compress time. The reasons why she wants to compress time I do not know for the game does not tell (but I suppose to rule time and the world?).
Finally if you are asking yourself, what the hell is time compression? Then you are not alone because it was never explained since I honestly believe the sorceress herself didnt know the answer to that question. The plot never gives you the feeling that the world is in impending danger either. The only saving grace of the story are its cast of characters.
The way the writers expressed the character’s feelings on dialog boxes is very well done, it gives each character a unique and distinct personality. Zell, at least to me is the one character that stands out perhaps because he is the one with a more natural personality. The way he reacts to certain events is believable, and he provides the comedic relief in some scenarios. The rest of the crew was interesting as well.
While playing I wondered what was the characters past like. I expected FFVII caliber of historical backgrounds on each one. Then, when the characters past was finally revealed, I realized why the game’s plot had no point.
The characters past was never mentioned simply because they (the characters) didn’t remember it. Of course you would expect that there is an interesting and captivating answer as to why they can’t remember. Yet my expectations were let down when the reason for their temporary Alzheimer’s disease was revealed. It was caused by (spoiler)………. equipping GFs.
If it sounds stupid, is because it is. The shocking revelation was the final nail in FF8’s plot coffin. The ending while long and cinematic was just a reflection of how mindless the story really was. Perhaps if Zell would had rode with Rinoa into the sunset perhaps then the whole thing would have been worth playing through. The worst part about the plot is that it seems that Square tried too hard to make a great complicated love story that in the process forgot that sometimes love truly has an impact on people when it is expressed on its simplest form.
Many other RPGs that really didn’t set out to be great love stories have told the simple tale of a boy falling in love with a girl way better, Lunar, Grandia, and FF7 being a few of them.
A Convoluted mess
A lot like the story, it appears that the developers tried too damn hard to make a revolutionary change in the series gameplay. Thus, they ended up crafting a needlessly complicated mess that is as confusing as it is unbalanced. First of all leveling up in FF8 is literary useless for the character if it doesnt have a guardian force (GF) Junctioned (equipped) because some one at Square had the brilliant idea that enemies should level up along with the character.
So, unless your GFs get stronger it will make no difference if you are at level 100 or at level 1 the enemies will have the same degree of difficulty. It doesn’t help that there is a limited amount of GFs so not all of your characters can be equally strong. Some might call that deep customization, but I call it uneven gameplay.
Junctioning GFs can improve a characters HP and MP statiscs as well they help the characters gain skills. The problem with this is that it takes a ridiculous amount of time to learn them, which can be a problem for those who want to finish the game quickly.
A big change also happened in battles where now the GFs (Formely known as Summons) once selected, take the place of the character in the fight. For example the GF takes the damage instead of the character while it loads its attack. This is useful in some battles, but ultimately pointless because you cant summon GFs in the final boss battle.
The biggest quirk I have with the game play is the difficulty, because it is incredibly uneven. Let me explain, I have asked a number of my friends whether the game was hard or easy. Some said it was the most difficult RPG they have ever played (I am on their side) while others claimed that it was the easiest one they had played. So, obviously I, and some of my friends did something wrong and/or the gameplay its unbalanced, I prefer to go with the latter.
I have finished the game only twice out of like 25 tries, and the game’s plot is so pointless that I dont feel like starting over, and wasting, give it or take 50 to 60 hours of my life. I have played through the game twice and seen the ending twice thats enough for me. FF7 had the perfect gameplay: Simplistic yet the Materia system was deep which allowed for a fair degree of customization. Thank fully, Square learned their lesson and FF9’s gameplay restored the series legacy.
On a plus side the card game was entertaining, and useful (some cards can be transformed into great items the bahamut card is a must). Of course this paled in comparison to FF7’s chocobo breeding, and racing mini game.
Not all in FF8s is bad. The graphics for example, at the time, and even today stand as some of the best on the PS1. FF7’s true weakness was its blocky characters and Square knew this because in FF8 the characters look like real people, and move like real people. The characters act on the screen by gestures and moves. This gives the painfully dull story some much needed aspirin.
The world map itself has more detail than in the previous effort yet with the detail also comes some slowdown but really nothing that detracts from the overall visual presentation. The pre-rendered backgrounds are as sharp as ever; places like Balamb, Balamb Garden, and Esthar look great. In battles, the graphics had been much improved specially in the backgrounds. Now while battling you see much more diversity in the backgrounds than in FF7.
The FMV are also a great leap over those in FFVII, the people look and move realistically in them. The summons have also received a facelift, and a time lift as now they are longer than ever.
Another Uematsu Masterpiece
There some musical pieces in the game that are truly brilliant, yet I honestly believe this is Uematsus lesser effort on the PS1, which is not bad by any means considering that Uematsu is a certified genius. ‘Liberi Fatali’ the intro song, ‘Eyes on me’ the game’s main theme, ‘Ami’, ‘Fragments of Memories’ and ‘Fishermans Horizon’ are all the reasons you need to go out, and buy the OST (Original Soundtrack).
So, I really shouldn’t be picking on the music, even though I still believe FFVII’s theme (the song that plays in the over world map) is still unsurpassed. Yet music wise FFVIII is above anything else in the PS1 except Squaresoft’s own FFVII, FFIX, Xenogears, and Chrono Cross.
The Sound effects (except in the FMV scenes) are still identical to those in FFVII.
In the end FFVIII is not a bad game, in fact, it is a pretty good RPG. But we are talking about the FF series here my friends, and unfortunately pretty good doesn’t cut it. The dull plot, the non believable love story, and the awkward leveling up and character customization system are what kept FFVIII from reaching greatness. A solid buy for RPG gamers and a must have for FF and RPG collectors alike.
Junction and leveling up system are unbalanced, not enough minigames.
Graphics can’t get much better than this on the PS1 folks.
As always it’s excellent.
Utter crap…if it wasn’t for the a few likable characters, and their writing the score would have been on the 5’s.
Replay Value: 8.5-
Only the card game is Addictive. But the game is long and provides over 50 hours of solid gameplay your first time through.
Not a bad game by any means, but it’s not ‘Final Fantasy Great’ either. It is the lesser sibling out of the PS1 entries.
Metacritic rated Final Fantasy VIII a 90.
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