Blast From The Past: Final Fantasy VIII (PS1)

Retro
7.2

Good

blast-from-the-past-final-fantasy-8

With Final Fantasy VII HD releasing (hopefully) in a few months, I thought it was time I revisited a few other Fantasy games. Another reason that got me to replay Final Fantasy VIII was listening to all the tracks on Final Fantasy Theatrhythm – an insanely addictive game in its own right. Having said that, let’s take a look at how this old classic holds up to my 21st century expectations.

Like all Fantasy games, the world is under threat by a force and only a select few can stop it. Despite its age I’m not going to mention a lot of plot details as I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t played it yet.

Final Fantasy VIII

There’s Nothing Wrong with a School for Teenage Mercenaries…

It follows the story of Squall and his band of teenage mercenaries: Zell, Selphie, Quistis, Rinoa (who isn’t part of the merc squad) and Ervine. The world is under threat by an evil Sorceress and it’s up to these guys to put an end to her. The story kicks off with Squall and Seifer (a nemesis of sorts) going head-to-head in a fight, where both of them injure and scar the other, leaving them both with their iconic facial scars.

Why are they fighting? They’re part of a new type of school; one where students are trained as paid mercenaries to help fight in conflicts, wars, assassinations or whatever the client wants. The school itself is called a Garden, and it’s one of three in the entire world. When one passes their SeeD exams, they become an official member of SeeD – a merc.

Final Fantasy VIII 4

A lot of the story, obviously, revolves around the jobs they receive, especially one in particular involving the liberation of a town called Timber, which is where Squall and his team mates join forces with Rinoa. It pretty much goes downhill from there. But when things go downhill for the hero, things get very interesting for the player.

Final Fantasy VIII does a great job of delivering a very good story with a lot of interesting plot twists and set pieces. Unlike most JRPGs, where the hero is set, FFVIII is a little more flexible with its hero, often forcing you to put other people in charge, or completely changing who you’re playing as (For those who’ve played, I’m talking about Laguna). What you’re given is a very mature and well-paced story that suits the world it plays out in.

Final Fantasy VIII 2

Para-Magic: It’s a Kind of Magic

What’s so unique, and slightly frustrating at times, is how the story/ lore melds into the gameplay itself. Since the Sorceress is the only one who can use real magic, people can’t suddenly develop powers. Instead they’re forced to use ‘para-magic.’ By drawing magic out of another being, they can stock up on moves and use these stockpiled magics to improve their abilities. But drawing a power out of another person/ monster isn’t enough.

Guardian Forces, which also form part of the plot, are used in conjunction with your team mates. Junctioning a GF will allow that person to summon the GF spirit, similar to the Summons, Espers and Eidolons in other Final Fantasy games. However, their purpose is more than just raw power. When the GF is junctioned to a character, you can assign a specific magic to a certain stat – like adding fire to your attacks or blizzard to your defence. This way you get to shape and mould the character you want. The downside is that if you start to use the assigned magics in battle, the status increase will decrease. It’s also not the only downside.

Final Fantasy VIII 5

A big problem I had with the game is that it’s very limiting in what you can do in battle. When you junction your characters, you may only select three additional commands. The attack command is automatic, so you have free reign of what to pick, but it can sometimes be tricky and cost you. Do you add the Draw, Item and Magic abilities or do you select Draw, GF, Item? There are quite a few other options and juggling them can be a little tricky.

Where Are All The Weapons?

You have to think smart and strategically if you want to win – which isn’t something you often see in a modern JRPG. What I find odd, for a JRPG, is the lack of weapon variety. Unlike most games, you don’t just buy new weapons, you modify them by using weapon components. The funny thing is, I didn’t even change my weapons for the first two discs of the game. There are also very few weapon options available – it might even be the smallest selection in any Final Fantasy game.

Final Fantasy VIII 3

Now, despite my love for playing older games, the visuals of the game did take a long time getting used to. The battle graphics are pretty good, it’s the running around, world graphics that made my eyes water. However, the cinematics are still impressive! The opening scene is still one of the most amazing scenes I’ve watched in a game. Another aspect that still holds up is the musical score. The composer really knew how to match the music to the scene, especially during some of the more dramatic sequences.

Unless you’re a fan, or have played the game years ago, playing Final Fantasy VIII now might be a bit too much for you to chew on. The visuals are very outdated, but if you can push through it, you’ll get to see a well-executed story, with relatable characters who are far more complex than they seem.

Good

  • Wonderful Story | Ability to Shape Your Character's Stats | Musical Score

Bad

  • Drawing Magic Becomes Tedious | Having to Junction over and over when team members leave the group

Summary

Let's see if Squall still has a bit of lion left in him.
7.2

Good

Gameplay - 8
Visuals - 6
Audio - 8
Gratification - 7
Value for money - 7
I R 'Kaal'gat Kyle!
  • This was such an awesome game. I love it! Now I have an itch to play

  • #theELF

    Took my brother and I a full month to finish playing the same game together. Memories… the first and last Final Fantasy game i/we played. That needs to change!

  • One of the greatest FF VIII games ever released along with FF VII and X – <3

    • “One of the best FF VIII games ever released” to my knowlede only one VIII was released…. 😛

      • Crap, you caught me with my mouth open and everything.

    • baasg3n3

      Why is IX not in the mix!? To me IX was the pinnacle of FF!!

  • Umar

    I don’t know, I loved the Draw system. It was great balancing between using the magic you’ve junctioned for immediate battle scenarios or keep it to maintain stats and buff advantages. It provided a really in depth customization system that I found was quite lacking in newer titles. Coupled with GFs and their abilities, this game offered a wealth of options that more than made up for the lack of weapons or gear.

    • And that story. I wish I was retired and had days and days of nothing to only play games. One day I’ll be retired and I’ll curse that line.

    • TechniKyle

      I hear you, but don’t you find standing in a battle for 15 – 20 minutes just to make sure everyone gets 100 of each magic, very tedious? I love the customisation, I just think it takes a lot of grinding to get it to the point where I’m happy with the stats.

  • Wesley

    I re-played this about 2 years ago… Pure Awesomeness!

    I wouldn’t rate the graphics so low for the time though.
    I dont think anything could compare at the same time, and they were also really pushing new things, such as gameplay in cinematic like the train jacking scene.

    • TechniKyle

      True, I do find it difficult to rate an old game. Do I base it today’s standards, as I mentioned in the review, or when it first came out? A lot of people disagree with my score, which is fine, but I think people are also scoring the game because they played it closer to its release. Imagine playing it now for the first time, would you go, “oh that’s good graphics for the time” or shudder?

  • Dawid Eduard Roestorf

    I don’t agree with your assesment, I would rate this a lot higher than that. A brilliant story, the junction system was easy to use and understand, and worked well, the leveling system was brilliant, graphics was the best for its time. I do not agree with your scores at all

  • baasg3n3

    This guy is actually telling the truth, coming from a huge FF fan, the draw system works but it’s damn tedious. If they increased the limit of 9 draws to say 25 draws depending on level then it would be much better already, that means rather than drawing 0-9 at a time when you’re low level you could return and draw a lot at a time later when you’re at a higher level to prepare you for the end game content. I mean let’s face it you can actually play through this game just by drawing 2 proper magics and junctioning them to HP and STR and you would be able to play through 3 quarters of the story if not more (especially if you utilize boost, that is the most important ability of a GF). The draw system needs a lot of work, but the story,GF and world makes up for it.

    I’d still rate it a solid 9, and 10 if they fixed the draw system. I still get shivers when you press new game and that opening sequence plays, God I loved the old Final Fantasies. Please, please let XV live up to its beautiful heritage

  • Ashley Crookes

    Wow, remember the months it took my brother and I to save up to upgrade our PC’s graphics card (Riva TNT to a Geforce – woohoo!) just to be able to play this game and experience that beautiful opening scene without any jerkiness (this is after all the CPU upgrading we did for FFVII a couple years prior to that!). Never owned a PS One, but man, this was still a pretty awesome FF Game. I’m currently playing the original Final Fantasy (which I never played) on my Android phone. It’s actually quite a lot of fun, and the graphics and sound are pretty cool, so if anyone is interested then check it out.

  • Mario Zoli

    Me Oh My
    if they can reboot this for me, ill be happy
    man I loved this game and played it over and over again
    refused to stop until I have the lion heart (not sure if this was the weapon) and all the GF
    So many weekends and nights spend on this game

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