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January 15, 2021

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Game review: Final Fantasy VIII

TEH. BEST. GAMES. EVAR.
By Andr'e Swartley

Issue #6
Final Fantasy VIII
Developer: Squaresoft
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Platform: Playstation 1
Rating: T for Teen

If you'll recall, the main character in Final Fantasy VII was named Cloud. Well, the main character of Final Fantasy VIII is Squall Lionheart. Get it? Cloud...Squall. This was only the tip of the iceberg with Square naming characters after weather patterns. Two of the main characters in the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII, for example, are named Lightning and Snow.

You could argue that the names are more elegant in Japanese, but they don't use the Japanese words. They use the English ones with Japanese pronunciation and spelling. For example, "Cloud" is spelled 'EN'E^a'EE'Eh and pronounced "kuraudo." And there's your Japanese lesson for the day.

Anyway, in the opening hours of the game, Squall completes a mission to become a member of SeeD, a mercenary group created to fight sorceresses, who, in the world of Final Fantasy VIII, are as reviled as pirates in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. After several missions as SeeDs, Squall and his pals realize one of their own team members, Rinoa, is being possessed by a time-traveling sorceress whose body is imprisoned near the moon.

This is of course a massive problem, not in the least because Squall and Rinoa have been engaged in a rather moody romance since the first time they met, early in the game. Long story short, Squall breaks many international laws to keep Rinoa by his side-literally traveling into space and back to do so-until the endgame, when Rinoa is freed from her the issue is settled by a number of truly exciting boss battles.

So Final Fantasy VIII does not lack on story-confusing as it may be-but the battle and Junction systems are in turns repetitive and overly complex. For this installment in the series, Square obliterated the need for magic points (MP) by making you, the player, draw all magic spells from enemies. You can draw up to ten spells at a time, and max out at 100 for each of your three party members.

My initial reaction to this was, "Yes! I can cast Cure 300 times per battle if I need to!" On the heels of this: "My goodness, this is game going to take FOREVER." But if you use the Junction system wisely, you will very rarely use magic at all, meaning that once you draw 100 of any spell, you will not need to draw it again.

Which brings me to the summoned allies in FF8-this time called Guardian Forces, or GFs-play a big part in battles as well. Not just in strategy, but in literal time. The Knights of the Round summon in Final Fantasy VII lasted about 90 seconds, but it was powerful enough to kill the final boss in two turns! Final Fantasy VIII continued and expanded the trend of long summon animations, with even the most minor ones lasting 40 seconds or more.

The good news is that GFs are only necessary for Junctioning abilities. For example, if you Junction the Fire spell to your physical attack stat, all of your attacks will now cause additional fire damage. Junction Fire to your defense stat, and enemies that use fire will not be able to harm you. So, with powerful enough spells (Draw! Draw! Draw!) beefing up your attacks, you will almost never need to summon GFs or cast spells in battle.

Despite all of my complaints, I liked this game. I really did. I wanted to find out how the story ended, I cared about the characters (except for the pastiche cowboy Irvine), and I always had a hard time laying down the controller. Squall and Rinoa were my introduction to the Final Fantasy series, and although I have found better adventures than theirs, I have seldom found a better story.

Final Grade: B

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