- Strong cast

- Great story

- Excellent graphics

- Good soundtrack

- Junction and Draw system are a nice change of pace



- Summoning animations wear thin after a while

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Platform: Playstation

Developer: Square

Publisher: Square EA


Genre: RPG


ESRB: T (Teen)


Released: Q3 1999


Final Fantasy 8 

Score: 9.5 / 10


While previous installments have centered on epic quests, Final Fantasy VIII shows a little of the tender side of Square as the game is very character driven. The epic quest is still there, but the way the story is delivered it’s the characters that take center stage. Between the story, the beautiful graphics, music score, and the insanely enthralling card game mini-game, Final Fantasy VIII does the series proud.

Earlier Final Fantasies have been very character driven, whether with Celes, Sabin, Edgar, and the gang in Final Fantasy VI, or the relationship between Rosa and Cecil in Final Fantasy IV. Final Fantasy VIII, however, has by far the most fleshed out cast of characters of any Final Fantasy. Rinoa’s feistiness and flirting with Squall are very endearing, and Squall’s solitary, socially awkward persona is delivered exceptionally well. Even Sophite, Zell, and the rest of the cast have been masterfully molded. The way the overlaying story that fuels the game’s quest, trying to stop a power hungry sorceress, it actually works as a mechanism to further flesh out the characters as the experiences on their journey help them grow as people.

Just as appealing as the story is the game’s visuals. The in-game graphics are splendid with all sorts of little details added to spruce things up. The design of the environments is a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, much like the game’s predecessors, and the character and monster design is very nice. The mix of monsters is very fresh with strange mechanical thingies and beasts of all sorts. During battle there are several times when the lighting effects are dazzling. When drawing magic from an enemy there are very nice streams of energy flowing across the screen. The more powerful spells also go for the ooo-and-ahh factor with some flashy animation and lights. When characters do their Limit Break attacks there are some very snazzy moves to be seen; Squall’s are especially cool. Of course we’ve now come to expect some jaw-dropping CG cutscenes in our Square games, and Final Fantasy VIII has absolutely incredible scenes. It seems like every single time we think that the Playstation has been pushed to its graphical limit Square says, "Not so fast!" and cranks the graphics setting up ten fold. The sheer level of detail in the CG cutscenes is amazing, as the characters look almost life like-like and the animation is very smooth and realistic. What is really interesting about the cutscenes is that they are combined with in game scenes sometimes, one such instance being during an enormous battle where the backgrounds are cutscenes of soldiers fighting while in the foreground the main characters are moving about.

The battles themselves are similar to Final Fantasy VII is their overall scheme, but the way magic and summoning spells are performed has been altered. Instead of using materia or learning spells, party members must "Draw" magic from either their opponents or from Draw Points throughout the game. Once drawn players can either choose to store the spells or cast them right away. This does a good job of adding strategy to the battles, as players will have to keep track of what magic they have and try and keep a well-rounded stock on hand. Summoning gives players the ability to once again call powerful monsters into battle, but this time while awaiting their arrival the character’s hit points are replaced with the monster being summoned. This can potentially lead to a monster running out of hit points and being unavailable until healed. Again there are some very flashy animation sequences as the summoning gets underway, but players can mash away on a button when prompted to do so in order to increase the power of the attack (once the beast being summoned has learned Boost). Be that as it may the summoning does wear thin after having seen this or that particular beast thousands upon thousands of times. The summonable monsters also gain experience from combat and can learn new abilities that can be used in combat or in the world map.

Magic also can be used to modify characters through the game’s Junction ability. Here players attach different spells that the characters have to different aspects of that person. This can be used to heighten defense against fire, improve attacks and so on. For those who like to have the ability to do some real hands-on tweaking of their characters, Junction can be really interesting.

But what about the music? Fantastic of course. Nobuo Uematsu has done a masterful job of the music. It has a more surreal feel to it than the music in Final Fantasy VII and it is a lot more sweeping, which does a great job of complementing the emotional ups and downs of the characters of the game.

And if you like mini-games there’s a card battling game included. Throughout the game the party will sometimes get cards included in the booty won after battles, as well as freebies from the locals. These are used in a Pokemon sort of way where a card is bet before the battle begins (often a rare card), then after winning that card is part of your collection. The AI in these battles is extremely good so players will have to think long and hard about their moves, especially when they have an extremely rare card on the line. This game is so good that it could almost stand on its own.

Final Fantasy VIII does a great job of adding some new gameplay features to the series with Junctions and the modifications to magic use and summoning. Coupled with great visuals and music, as well as an amazing cast of characters and story and this game’s fantastic.

Reviewed by Mr. Nash