Final Fantasy VIII
Unless you are new to video games or have been living in a cave, chances are you have heard of the Final Fantasy games. This could very well be one of the most popular game franchises of all time. I have a small confession to make, though—I have never played any of the past Final Fantasy games, so is my first exposure to this world. Do I think that all of the hype is justified? Not sure about that, but it is still a pretty amazing game.
FF 8 is a four-CD romp through a huge world that develops characters like no other game that I have seen before. Great graphics, great music and a deep storyline are the highlights of this game. The CG is nothing short of amazing and I can't wait to see what Squaresoft will be able to do with the next generation PSX, because what they have managed to squeeze out of the underpowered PSX will blow you away.
While I was playing through this game, I kept a detailed notes sheet next to me that I used to record things I liked about the game and things that I was not so crazy about. To be honest, my list of things that I was not so crazy about ended up almost as long as the things that I liked, but that does not mean that the game was bad. I think that due to the enormous amount of hype associated with this game, I reviewed it with a much more critical eye than I would other games so as you are reading this review, keep this in mind.
As I mentioned above, I have never played any of the Final Fantasy games. Most of them were made for 16-bit consoles so I never had a chance to play them. A few years back,was released on the PSX and it was a huge success. For some reason, I never played it either. For those of you who do not even know what type of games they are, let me fill you in: The Final Fantasy games are role playing games (RPGs). From what I have read on the past games along with playing this game, I think it is safe to say that they all focus on great storylines and character development.
Since storyline has been a staple of the franchise, let's start there. All I can really say is "wow." They spent a huge amount of time developing the story for FF 8. You will take your character through training, missions, and battles; throw in some romance and you will find yourself waiting for the next twist in the plot. Nothing can prepare you for everything that this game has to offer. Let me just say that if you are big into the storylines of RPGs (and who isn't?), you will not be disappointed on this front.
Going along with the storyline is great character development. This is another important factor in RPGs and FF 8 does a great job on this front as well. You will meet and develop a ton of different characters, each with their own unique personalities. You have the opportunity to change the names of some characters to your liking and I have to admit, this really helped me develop a bond with the characters. There are plenty of twists and surprises along the way and you will even end up controlling whole teams of different characters.
Another thing that will be sure to please Final Fantasy fans is the length of this game. You will not finish it overnight, that is for sure. It is made up of four CDs and each one will take at least 10 hours to play through. The game is so long that it almost starts to feel like a different game after a while (not in all areas, though). Part of the reason that it takes so long to play through is also one of my complaints, though. I felt like a spectator more than a participant a lot of the time. As the story unfolds, you will find yourself sitting back and just watching CG scenes or reading text dialog on the screen and there is no way to skip past it. Your are stuck watching and that means there is no way you can make the game go any faster.
As long as we are talking about complaints, let me hit my biggest. I really don't like turn-based combat. This may be insulting to some Final Fantasy veterans but I personally don't care for it. To me, it makes me feel completely disconnected from the battles: Press a button and just sit back and wait for something to happen that is completely out of your control. Now they did try to add a small element of real-time action by allowing you to press a button just as your character strikes an enemy to try increasing the hit points that are inflicted on your opponent, but it really did not make me feel any more involved. Hell, I got to the point where I would just keep pressing the X button during battles without even really paying attention to what was going on. Sure, there was the occasional magic that I would cast but for the most part, the battles were just so uninvolving that I lost interest.
Speaking of battles, I have another complaint. There were way too many random battles. This is another thing that I don’t like about some RPGs. I like games where you can actually see something and choose to enter a battle or not. I don't mind an occasional surprise attack, but every 15 steps is a bit much for my tastes. Since I don't really like turn-based battles either, this made the game all the more frustrating for me. I also thought the bosses took way too long to kill. Some took up to 30 minutes before they finally died and it just got plain boring at times. I can't tell you the number of times I yelled at the TV for the stupid boss to just die already so I could move on. And to top it all off, you do not get any experience points when you kill the bosses. Huh? That sucks! I battle for 30 minutes and gain no experience?
My final complaint with the game is that there were just too many instances where I was an innocent bystander and had no control over what was happening in the game. There were times that I felt I was watching a semi-interactive movie or something. In my mind, a big part of what makes a game great is the way that it pulls you into the world of the game. Just as this was starting to happen in FF 8, I would watch a cut scene or 15 minutes of dialog that I had no input on. This really made it difficult for me to get sucked completely in.
Graphics & Audio
I don't know what to say here other than WOW! This game is absolutely amazing in the graphics department. Even though I just complained about the cut scenes, at least they looked awesome. Wait until you see the dance scene and then the train scene. These are two that you will encounter fairly early on and these alone will give you some motivation to keep playing. The in-game graphics are impressive as well. When summoning magic, you will see some of the best-looking graphics around. It is just too bad that after you have seen the animations once or twice, you can't skip them if you want.
One quick note on the audio of the game. First, the music was absolutely incredible and fits the game perfectly, but where are the voices? I don't understand why some games don't record voices. It would have helped out tremendously if the cut scenes and the dialog scenes were narrated. I know voices take up a lot of space, but hell, it is already four CDs long. Why not make it five and include voices?
I would say my overall first experience in the Final Fantasy arena was pretty positive. I know that I harped on the negatives, but I think that it is important for people to see what I did not like about the game. Most of the issues were not really major but instead kept the game from being top-notch. As it stand, fans of Final Fantasy are sure to be pleased and non-fans should enjoy the game as well. Man, I just can't say enough about the graphics in this game either. After you play all the way through this game, you will not be able to say that you did not get your money's worth, that is for sure.
Download Final Fantasy VIII
The wait for PC owners is finally over and the next installment of this popular RPG series is upon us. Taking on the role of Squall Leonhart (or whatever you choose to name him) you battle outlandish monsters to become the newest member of SeeD, a mercenary organization with a mysterious background. Of course that is only the beginning, as a rebellion plans to topple a president, a powerful woman vies for power, and your party tries to get to the bottom of their own recurring dreams. Once again mixing sci-fi and fantasy, the eighth in the Final Fantasy series takes you through even more plot twists and intrigue than ever before.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game (but especially), you are basically accustomed to both the movement screen and the battle mode. The major departure is how you divvy up your abilities among your party members. While in FF7 you attached special crystals to your weapons, and thus gained experience in the abilities associated with that specific crystal, links all abilities through your Guardian Forces (GF). These Guardian Forces have gone from being a unique once-per-battle special attack to becoming a staple of your attacks. Based on which GF you choose, you are able to use, research, and increase certain powers. At first, this process called junctioning is incredibly confusing, but after several hours of gameplay you will begin to get the idea and, more importantly, appreciate the amount of freedom this affords in character growth. While the Guardian Forces animations are as creative as ever (and truly a highlight of FF7 and FF8), I found they started to become redundant as I used them over and over again. I began to wish I could just skip part of the full-animated sequence. Another annoyance is in the way that you gain your GFs. While some are attained through major plot points, some have to be drawn (stolen) off of main bosses. As far as I can tell, if you forget to draw the GFs at the opportune time, you cannot come back later and pick them up. Since GFs, in my opinion, are one of the major selling points for FF8, finding out that I missed a couple and would have to play the game from the beginning to pick them up again, really cheesed me off.
While the 3D graphics have been tremendously improved from the Playstation version, Final Fantasy 8 still looks dated and worst of all inconsistent. Why is that so bad? Imagine the frustration of seeing a beautifully animated cut-scene (and they are truly great, much better than FF7 for PC) and then walking through a 3D map where it is next to impossible to decipher that these blobs are forests and those round donuts are buildings. Or how about seeing a graphically intense GF animation and then walking through a 2D campus with resolution so bad you can’t read the signs on the wall. This graphical confusion seems to be caused by Squaresoft’s attempt to transfer FF8 from Playstation to PC as simply as possible. For PC owners who are used to the 3D graphics of Riven, these sloppy pixel stews will disappoint., or even the 2D graphics of
Like with the graphics, the audio department has the essence right but fails to take advantage of the PC platform. The music is catchy, moody, and even climactic at times, but comes across like a midi file running on my old 486. Why not fully orchestrated CD audio? Why not at least FM radio quality? I don’t know.
Windows 95/98, P200 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 8MB 3D accelerated video card, and 8X CD-ROM.
Reviewed On: Windows 98, P466 Celeron, 64 MB RAM, 12 MB Voodoo 2 video card, and 32X CD-ROM.
If you are a fan of the series, you’ll find plenty to like: a story as convoluted as ever, interesting characters (with slightly two dimensional personalities), gorgeous cinema scenes, breathtaking GF animation, and plenty of ways to customize your characters. If you were expected something completely new and different, or you are a PC owner spoiled by the latest in graphics and sound, you’ll probably feel as I do, slightly disappointed.
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