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Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation) artwork

Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation) review

"Like the Materia system, you lose spells when you change Junctions and magic around. And I tend to forget who has what spell, so I go to have Rinoa cast Aura, and find out that not only did I give all of her Aura to Quistis, but Quistis isn't in my party. AAAAAAACK!"

Anyone who knows me knows that I think Final Fantasy VI is the ultimate RPG and there is no better game. (We'll see if that opinion changes once Final Fantasy 9 comes out, but until then . . . ) However, Final Fantasy VIII came very close to joining FF6 in the ranks of ''near-perfect video games.'' Here's why.

Characters are, in my opinion, one of two vital parts of an RPG. (The other? Storyline, of course!) The characters in FF8 are well-developed. Quistis, for example, is a cool, confident instructor, but she definitely has a softer, more uncertain side (witness the scene in the ''secret area.'') Squall is a cold-as-ice lone wolf, but his feelings for Rinoa show that he's not a machine. Even Seifer, for all his erratic temper and . . . unusual choice of romantic dream, has a few interesting traits to his character. Those little quirks and seeming discrepancies in the characters make them interesting. Whereas in FF7 it was pathetically easy to predict what each character would do, in FF8 it is more of a challenge to guess. I liked that aspect. On characterization, I'd give this game an 85 (out of 100). It's not quite at the level of FF6, but it's still very good.

Storyline is the other essential ingredient of an RPG. The storyline in FF8 is very good. There's a little bit of mystery with the whole Laguna/Kiros/Ward thing. Squall and Rinoa (not to mention Irvine's pursuit of Selphie) adds romance. Then of course you have the typical ''Save the world from the evil person!'' RPG goal. There are just enough plot reversals (particularly at the end of Disc 1, and on Disc 3, in Esthar) to grab one's interest and hold it. As you progress through the game, you find out that no, Edea is not the ultimate enemy. The explanation for this is clear and reasonable. The storyline flows smoothly. It's not so unpredictable as to seem scrambled together at the last second, nor is it predictable enough to be boring. In other words, it's just right. I'd give FF8 a 95 for storyline.

You can't play a game without graphics. Better graphics CAN contribute to the game and help along the storyline, but good graphics are NOT essential to a good game. Once again, I make mention of my favorite game ever, FF6. Compared to FF8, the graphics in FF6 are terrible, yet the storyline and characters are still very powerful. But I digress. The FMVs in FF8 are beautifully done. They are used to add a clearer depiction of certain events (Seifer's invasion of the Garden or the ball) and they are easily understood. That was one of the things I enjoyed most about this game. The battle graphics were excellent as well. All in all, I would say that FF8 gets an 80 for graphics.

Now we come to music. I, personally, love the music in this game. I could not find a single piece that I actually disliked. Some of the music (''Blue Fields'', the overworld map music, for example, or the Balamb Garden music) got a litte annoying after a while just from hearing it so much, but the good far outweighs the bad. ''Eyes on Me,'' of course, is wonderful, and the tune is suited to a love theme. I am perhaps prejudiced because I am a fan of all Final Fantasy music. However, I honestly liked every piece of music I heard. That is very unusual for me. (Not even FF6 ranks this high in music.) The score? A perfect 100.

And finally, gameplay. I found the Junctioning system a little tiresome, kinda like raising Materia in FF7. (I actually spent 16 hours getting Knights of the Round to Level 5 so I could get another Master Summon!) Yeah, it was nice to be able to customize the characters so much, and to boost weaker characters like Rinoa. However, I really wasn't thrilled with the need to Junction magic to everything. I'm the type who does NOT use the auto commands, so rearranging my Junctions became a very tedious process. Then, too, the GFs could be kind of a pain. By the end of the game, Squall was at top compatibility with Leviathan, Ifrit, and Diablos, and about halfway with Doomtrain, but zero with all the others. That irritates me. The fact that your GF has to LIKE you to come quickly when summoned ticks me off. But that's just me. Plus, your GF takes damage for you, and may get killed before it even shows up? I don't think so. Then, there's the ''overkill'' problem. Eden, for example, is overkill for just about everybody except Ultima Weapon, Omega Weapon, and Ultimecia. You've got so much time to Boost it, that the only way you could NOT make 250 is if you're a fumble-fingered idiot. That's another thing--the incredibly long GF animations were irritating. Yeah, Eden is cool to watch the first time . . . but by the fifth time, I was going ''Where's the switch to set GF attacks to 'short' instead of 'full?'''

The Drawing system wasn't a joy, either. I don't WANT to spend a long time Drawing magic. (That's why I learned the Refine abilities as soon as possible.) Like the Materia system, you lose spells when you change Junctions and magic around. And I tend to forget who has what spell, so I go to have Rinoa cast Aura, and find out that not only did I give all of her Aura to Quistis, but Quistis isn't in my party. AAAAAAACK! It's little things like these that bothered the hell out of me. But, in general, the gameplay was all right. I'd give it a 70. Overall, I'd say the game gets about an 85.

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Staff review by Lassarina Aoibhell (Date unavailable)

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