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Final Fantasy VIII
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Squaresoft
Publisher:  Squaresoft
Features:  Dual Shock, Pocket Station, 4 Disks
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
There is a very good reason that this review is so long in coming and that is summed up in two words: 4 disks. Setting a standard for the sheer length that an RPG can be, Squaresoft has released their newest masterpiece to rave reviews. However, being skeptical I just wanted to see what everyone else was saying about the game before I wrote a review on it. I have to say that the praise that the game is getting is well deserved. FF8 has the storyline and gameplay that makes you want to continue. Addictive is not strong enough a word. Puzzle games are addictive. Final Fantasy VIII will enrapture you.

First of all I have to give two thumbs up and a pat on the back to Square for hearing the cries of would-be RPG gamers like me who love the concept and storyline of their games but cannot get past the super-deformed graphics. Big heads and chubby little bodies is something that should have been left back with the SNES. Thankfully FF8 has realistic looking characters that still posses an anime sort of feel. All of their body parts are proportional and it makes for a much more enriching gameplay. I just could not get over the funky looking characters in FF7 swearing and acting all tough. It took credibility away from the storyline. And as far as the FMV it is almost seamless from gameplay and some of the most breathtaking beautiful romantic scenes ever to be captured in a video game.

The story in FF8 is a split one like many of the games in this series. There are professional goals and personal ones. Professionally you begin as a trainee for SeeD, a sort of military for hire organization that is recruited to solve the world’s problems. They are the best and your character Squall is one of the finest looking young recruits. The beginning of the game is mostly a tutorial that starts you off slowly showing you all you need to know to succeed. If you do well then Squall will become a SeeD member and journey off into other locales to fight and go up in the ranking. On a personal level you must guide the shy reclusive Squall into love by talking with different women and making decisions that will favor one or another. One drawback that I found is that like its predecessors FF8 plays very linearly. So no matter what decisions you make you will always be pushed in a certain direction. Still the story is so wonderful that I never really minded. Replay value on the other hand is just about nill if not less. (4 disks though).

Now we come to the fighting. There were a lot of complaints about the engine in the first one being turn-based and lacking on the action end of things. One nice addition is creating a bunch of different fighting scenes so when the random battles happen they occur on a very similar scene to the one that the characters were just on. Well, it is still Final fantasy so it is going to be turn-based but the actual options in the fighting mode are more useful and interesting. Instead of just waiting for your turn and hitting attack there are many different options at your disposal including magic and item use. The most interesting addition to the game is the use of GFs, which stand for Guardian Forces. These GFs are spirits that protect a player and release a huge attack when chosen in battle. Besides some of the most beautiful animation ever seen, these attacks also do a butt load of damage.

The system of junctioning, which is at the heart of building up FF8’s characters and GFs is a little confusing (OK a lot confusing) but there are many different tutorials as well as an in-depth manual to help you master it. Basically every GF must be junctioned to a player and every kind of magic that is captured must also be junctioned to different player’s attributes. The GFs learn different skills that can then be used to help their player gain strength, defense, etc. Like I said it is confusing but once it is learned it is very helpful in the game. For example you can junction certain magic, like thunder, to help your attack against enemies that are weak against that magic. Complicated? Yes, but it does give the game a lot of depth and playability.

As if all of this was not enough to keep your buy-eys glued to the screen for the next three months, there is also a card game integrated into the gameplay of FF8. Each monster and GF is represented in a card and you can earn card by beating these monsters and collecting the cards that they might have on them, beating other players and taking their cards, or turning other monsters into cards with a card ability learned by your GFs. With the cards you can play a little mini-game which incidentally is a lot more fun and more strategic than any of those collectable card games out there, simpler too. The only drawback is that you cannot play your friends, a big bummer for all of us braggarts who think that we are the best at everything.

With all of this and some Pocket Station mini-games that were not excluded from the US version (even though there is no Pocket Station here yet), FF8 definitely re-establishes the series as the quintessential RPGs for the Playstation. Still it must be said that the game is very long and anyone looking for fast action and instant gratification will have to look elsewhere. Although the pace and use of time is much better in this installment, it remains a story-based game and you must watch the story unfold before the game will continue. However, for true RPG enthusiasts this game will make you realize why you like video games so much. I can’t remember the last time I continually said "this is so cool" so much while playing a video game.

Chris Shade

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