"Then it adds in a bunch of other interesting and likeable characters (also some not-so-likeable), gives you some solid information about them, and then, takes the player on an absolute rollercoaster ride between plotlines, brainwashing you several times, messing with your mind, betraying your trust, and ultimately, leading you to an epic and ingenious climax. "
After the stunning success of FFVII, who could imagine what would come next? FFVII pretty much did everything fans wanted. In many ways, it marked the time when the Playstation really kicked off. It set the standard, both graphically and technically for practically every RPG to come after. It achieved a cinematic mood, blended it with slick graphics, more detailed than anything seen before, and threw in a truly remarkable fantasy/sci-fi storyline, just for flavor. How can you improve upon that? How can you even duplicate it? Well, I don't know how, but it's possible--FFVIII is definite proof.
While up until FFVII, graphics weren't exactly looked at first in most RPG's, after the release of square's graphic wonder, the style was mimicked, and widely consulted as the new standard for graphics in playstation RPG's. Then came a new standard--FF8. Square essentially just took everything that made the visuals of FFVII so groundbreaking, and improved upon them. Now, there are more FMV sequences, which are more detailed, there are more on-screen polygons, more dazzling battle and spell effects, more lush backdrops and environments... And if that isn't enough, the animations are also considerably smoother.
Sure, FFVII's graphics were good for their time, but FFVIII's graphics force the playstation's graphic-capabilities to their near max. If you liked VII's graphics, brace yourself for VIII's, they're a whole lot better!
Thought by most fans as the most important trait of a good RPG, FFVIII's storyline has everything you could hope for. It starts out with a seemingly simple premise: The player takes control of Squall, a surly, moody teenage mercenary trainee in some far off universe/time who is just finishing his final test to become a member of SeeD. Then it adds in a bunch of other interesting and likeable characters (also some not-so-likeable), gives you some solid information about them, and then, takes the player on an absolute rollercoaster ride between plotlines, brainwashing you several times, messing with your mind, betraying your trust, and ultimately, leading you to an epic and ingenious climax.
Square is infamous for bringing some of the most heartfelt soundtracks to their wonderful games. Even back in the SNES games, gamers were impressed by songs from old games such as FF6 and Secret of Mana. Now, many years later, Square has surpassed their initial standard, creating a new one, at least twice as high. With the much more technologically advanced hardware of the playstation (compared to the SNES), FFVIII's developers, composers, musicians, etc... Were able to bring fourth a truly breathtaking soundtrack. In many ways similar to FFVII's, featuring sweeping epics with a real kick, along with sad tunes, mysterious ballads, roaring symphonies, you name it! It's all here, and it's all great.
In-game effects aren't bad, either. Then again, in an RPG, those aren't terribly present or important, it's really the music that sets the scene.
No game would be complete without a manner of playing which would truly immerse the gamer in it's simplicity, yet wrap them with many layers and facets of playing which would make for a truly startling experience. Well, ok, maybe FF8's gameplay isn't quite that good, but it's still solid. It plays like most RPG's, mainly comprised of random battles, character interaction, exploration, and side-quests. Sure, that may sound simple, but FF8's battle system is unlike any other RPG's to date. You see, in most RPG's, characters learn their magic by gaining exp or through some kind of magical item, but in FF8, the characters ''draw'' their magic from enemies.
That's right, there is an in-battle option to ''draw'' from an enemy, which allows you to take a number of spells from an enemy. Different enemies have different spells, and once you're out, you are forced to draw more. These spells also have another effect--the ability to junction. Junctioning is, simply put, a way to customize your characters' stats through the use of spells and abilities. Which brings in another factor--GF's. Many will be familiar with the summon spells in FFVII, well, they're back, but this time, they're called GF's, and they're actually living, breathing things which ''attach'' themselves to your characters. And they learn abilities. Depending on the abilities they learn, you can use them to customize your characters.
Sound complicated? I'm afraid it is, and, I'm sorry to say, I won't be able to explain it all to you--That's what the booklet is for. But, it is a solid system which works out well in the end. I've heard people claim it's too time consuming to have to draw spells, and it's too complicated to deal with junctioning, but I say, so what? If a developer is daring enough to try something new, of course it will have it's flaws, but hopefully it will have a number of redeeming qualities as well, which FF8's system does. So just bare with the fact that it's not perfect, and enjoy the pros of it all--you won't regret it.
Naturally, you won't be expecting much replay from an RPG. It's a well-known fact that most of the time, you play through the game once, and never come back to it, unless you really enjoyed it the first time through and are up for taking it for another spin. And FF8 really is no different--sure, it's packed with secrets, side-quests, and fun stuff to do the first time through, and it'll all take around 50 hours to do, but after that's through, you're unlikely to return to the game.
The control is what you'd expect from an RPG--Everything works fine. Menus are a cinch to navigate, and your character pretty much goes exactly where you want him/her to. It's not like a fighting game or anything where supreme control and ease-of-use are vital to playing the game. Everything is how it should be, and I wouldn't expect anything less.
I admit, Square impressed me! I never thought they could make a game which would match the quality of FF7, and even improve upon it in many ways. But, they did, and I'm glad for it. With over 50 hours of fun-filled gameplay, players are sure to be impressed. Sure, there are a few little glitches and flaws sprinkled throughout the game, but that's how games go, right? In the end, it's one of the most rewarding and well-made RPG's ever.
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)
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