FF8 Review (#2)
Sound Effects: 8
After the infinite wait after FF7, FF8 finally arrived to the US. Months before that fateful day of September 7th, I had already been using my "Greg Loire" AOL screen name for quite some time (Greg Kisaragi wouldn't fit at the time, but now I have it). It was no secret that I had extremely high expectations of the title, especially considering that FF7 continued to be my favorite game of all time.
But does FF8 rank among the best RPG's? Absolutely. Does it rank among the best Final Fantasy titles? Nope. Is it deserving of the Final Fantasy title? Sure. Am I babbling to myself? Of course. Is the article going to start soon? Maybe...
Final Fantasy 8 begins like no other game I've ever played. It starts out with one of the most stunning opening sequences of all time (and I thought FFT's was great...). But then what? Are you thrust into the bombing of a Mako reactor? Do you fight off soldiers with a Magitek machine? Do you battle an enemy army trying to kidnap the princess?
Nope, you get to take a school test while listening to Quistis give a lecture and showing Selphie around campus! Hurray! Seriously though, the beginning hour or so to FF8 undoubtedly left millions of gamers disappointed. From then on, the game starts off rather slowly. By the end of Disc 1 you'll be addicted quite extensively, though I don't know who's brilliant idea it was to throw in the most boring maze ever (the sewers in Deling City) right in the middle of one of the best parts of the game.
Disc 1 isn't much to brag about (except for the train hijacking), but the rest of the plot is rather cool. Unlike FF7, the "world devastation" theme doesn't come in until the very end, which might be a good thing, since it is rather lame. In fact, it's never even resolved at all! Fortunately, most of the plot isn't so bad. The battle with Galbadia Garden is one of the most memorable scenes in video game history, and there are quite a few others too, like the train hijacking, the space launch, the dance, the execution attempt, the Ragnarok landing (Eyes On Me).
The gameplay in FF8 is really quite original. Instead of MP, you must "Draw" spells from your enemies. You can then cast them much like you would use an item. Other nifty additions include a new Limit Break system (everyone's is completely different and they're automatically activated when your HP is low enough) and "Guardian Forces." Guardian Forces are attached to your characters, and earn experience points and AP through battles. Experience points help raise the GF's power and HP when summoned during a battle, and AP can be used to learn special skills that can increase stats or teach your character special moves.
Guardian Forces can be summoned during a battle, but an extra meter will appear during the summoning process. If the character takes damage during the charging process, the GF takes it instead. High compatibility built by frequently using the GF help speed the charge process. This is a very interesting concept, but there's no button to skim the incredibly long GF movies! This almost completely ruins the battle part of the game, since sometimes you can't afford not to use GF's (they do a ton of damage, protect your character, and recharge HP as you walk). But some are incredibly long (Eden is 85 seconds long) and get boring very quickly.
The graphics in FF8 are obviously spectacular. The backgrounds look great, the character models always look similar, the animation in battles and FMV sequences is mind-blowing, and the cutscenes are woven into the game seamlessly. Plus, the ending is absolutely incredible. There's simply nothing bad about this part of the game.
Characters in FF8 may seem a little shallow and repetitive compared to other Final Fantasy titles, but they're really brought to life with incredible dialogue. Nobody ever has anything boring to say, and it really keeps the game interesting. Sometimes they're not as helpful as you'd like, but that's a minor complaint.
The music in FF8 is great for a video game, but a little disappointing for a Final Fantasy. A lot of songs are slower remixes of "Eyes On Me," and the town themes are relatively boring (though Esthar's is quite... original...). However, there are several songs that are great. Here's a quick list of my favorites, which can be found at ff8.org:
Liberi Fatali, The Landing, The Man With The Machine Gun, The Mission, The Stage Is Set, Movin', Eyes On Me, Ride On, and The Legendary Beast
Well, that just about wraps up my review. Why? Well, it's late, I'm tired, and I seem to be repeating stuff in my other article that I already wrote. In conclusion, FF8 is a great game. It's a lot of fun, it's worth the money, and it's worth your time. However, I didn't find it to be at the level of FF3, FF7 or even FFT. It was certainly flashy with stunning graphics, but it lacked the real plot content of earlier Final Fantasy games. I suppose I have a point of view similar to FF3 fans regarding FF7, which is rather ironic since I always preferred FF7.
* Geez, relax, I made that up. This is almost as bad as that time that I told my friend that Mustadio was a Zodiac spy...
Be sure to check out our complete list of other Final Fantasy Reviews.
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