Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII is a fantastic role-playing game for Playstation, published by Square in 2000.

A role-playing game involves a hero and their friends journeying around the world, killing the local wildlife and eventually defeating a megalomaniac with apocalyptic intentions. Gameplay consists of talking to the entire visible population of cities and towns, fighting monsters who appear out of nowhere by choosing options from a menu, increasing your character’s strength through those repetitive battles and reading dialogue.

Final Fantasy VIII is about a Squall, a taciturn teenager, and his pack of eccentric mercenary-students flying around in their magical university to defeat a mysterious sorceress from the future. (By gaming standards this is a typical day at the office.) Along the way Squall must get over himself as he is pursued by a selfish girl who demands emotionally intimacy. The story is enjoyable with both jokes and drama. Characters are diverse, ranging from a nervous East Clintwood knockoff to a city of pacifist fishermen. My favourite moment occurred after a climactic battle. The university nurse demands that the headmaster gets some rest, and the next time Squall sees him, it turns out that the headmaster has exhausted himself through crying. You generally don’t get to see men crying in video games, and the surprise factor made the moment all the more memorable.

Gameplay-wise the most notable thing about Final Fantasy VIII is the Junction-system. If you’re lucky enough to have played the Goldensun games, just think of it as djinns if djinns were a lot more complicated. Throughout the stages of your Final Fantasy VIII life you will make contact with mythical creatures called Guardian Forces. You can summon these guys in battle to whack around your foes a little bit.  You also equip them like you would weapons in any other RPG, where they can raise the character’s competency. I say ‘can’ because you need to junction magic to increase their stats, and the extent to which the stats increase depend on which magic you junction, and how much of this junction you’ve got left. And magic is complicated in this game, you’ve got to steal it from monsters and draw it from natural draw-spots, and you only get a finite amount. Finally, junctioning Guardian Forces to your character grants them optional abilities, that allow them to do stuff like explode in a blaze of glory or mug monsters. I’d be lying if I said that I fully understood the whole Junction thing for the majority of my playtime, and I would be seriously fibbing if I denied that I only fully engaged with junctioning when the time came to take down the final boss.

Final Fantasy VIII also has one of the most ingenious minigames I’ve ever seen. It is a card game called Triple Triad. What happens is that there is a 3 x 3 grid, and players lay cards down on squares and cool stuff happens. Each card has a single digit number on each of its four sides, and it is placed next to a card with a smaller number, the second card is flipped. The player who has the most cards facing up is the winner. It’s a pity that there is no multiplayer option for Triple Triad. I was marked by a distinct tendency to loose against my CPU opponents, barring me from accessing such neato perks as  extra magic and items. If Square Enix hasn’t produced a real version of this game then they should. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a card game with such a unique gimmick.

I played this game on my Playstation Portable, and I legally downloaded from the PSN Store. Frustratingly, the PSN store won’t show you the game’s price unless you logged in, and I’ve misplaced my password at the moment. The Australian PSN Store charged fifteen Australian dollars for this game.

Final Fantasy VIII is a good game, but I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners. They should stick cut their teeth on Chrono Trigger or Pokemon. Alternatively, they can go to GameFaqs and download a guide on junctioning, that would make their gaming life considerably easier. Anyone whose played previous games in the series or has broad experience of nineties RPGs can jump right in. My last word on Final Fantasy VIII is that it a complicated game, that is enjoyable.

 

Romance is like the backbone of this game’s plot, so it’s entirely appropriate to post a review on of it Valentine’s Day! And this particular romance didn’t bore me, mainly because it was punctuated by wars and timetravel and cool stuff like that.

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