Video Game Review: Final Fantasy VIII
A Square Enix classic, Final Fantasy VIII was lauded by fans and critics alike. Now that we’re slowly approaching 20 years since the release of the game, I figured I’d have a look back at it and play it through to completion once more. How does the game hold in 2018? For this review, I’m covering the Steam version of the game, which includes a few differences, including cleaner looking textures, a speed up feature, which I admit I’m taking full advantage of and something us UK gamers struggled to get ahold of – Chocobo World. Read on to find out more about the game and the difference between Final Fantasy VIII on the PS1 and PC.
|Platforms||PC (Windows), PlayStation 1|
|Windows Release||December 2013|
|Price on Steam||£9.99 (Official Link)|
A lone wolf, Squall Leonhart, is training to be a SeeD, an elite mercenary of the Balamb Garden. His rival is the brash and egotistical Seifer Almasy; both of them are experts at the Gunblade. Squall’s life is turned upside down when he meets Rinoa Heartilly, a leader of a resistance faction to Galbadia, a dangerous nation led by a cruel president. When Squall meets Rinoa on a mission to provide independence to Timber, Squall has to learn how to be a leader as well as how to display his emotions… But what of all of these dreams that Squall and friends have been experiencing about a former Galbadian soldier, Laguna?
Final Fantasy VIII plays like any normal RPG system where you manage a party, you have items and you have magic and weapons. So far, so normal.
One of the main differences between Final Fantasy VIII and many other RPGs, is the use of a Junction system. The only game franchise I can compare this to is Golden Sun, where you set a Djinn to your character. In Final Fantasy VIII, Junctioning is that, but even more complex. You Junction Guardian Forces (known as GF in game) and magic. Junctioning a GF to your character determines what abilities that character can bring into battle with them (abilities such as Item, Magic, GF, Mug, Card and more), whereas Junctioning magic is to set a spell to your stats, which are determined by what Junction Abilities your GFs know. For instance, one GF could offer Junctioning to Strength, or Junctioning to Spirit.
Like a normal RPG, Final Fantasy VIII has experience for your characters, but whatever experience you get also goes towards your GFs. Your GFs can gain levels too, making them more powerful in the process. Along with experience, your GFs get AP, which allow them to learn more abilities. Some of these abilities are used in battle by your characters, such as Card, which will turn a weakened foe into a trading card for the card game side-quest Triple Triad. Other abilities are used to give your characters more Junctionable slots, such as to be able to Junction to your Strength, or to junction a status effect to your basic attacks, such as to make your enemies fall asleep. This gives a whole different way to consider how to fight each encounter.
In this PC version, you get ahold of Boosters. These Boosters can change your game experience: One of them speeds the game up, but not the internal clock. Another of them guarantees your characters to do 9999 damage per hit. One of them is an Assist mode, meaning the game can take over itself for you and finally, the last booster is to give you 100 of all of the magic in the game – A bit too much like cheating to me, but hey ho. The speed up booster I use a lot, because Squall and co do run quite slow, as the world is a bit too big for them. The accessibility of these boosters are very tempting, however.
Finally, we have access to Chocobo World, which is a mini-game from the PocketStation, something that wasn’t released outside of Japan. Chocobo World is one of these titles which you can waste a nice bit of time on, however it plays much like a Tamagotchi. You walk your Chocobo around, you get some items from it – You level up your Chocobo by fighting in random encounters, you get items from a Cactaur and new “weapons” for your Chocobo from Moombas. All in all, it’s a timewaster, but it’s how you get more of those Steam achievements and indeed in-game content in the main Final Fantasy VIII game.
The graphics have had a slight improvement over the original game, which is amazing. It looks so much better for it and the team have kept the character models all the time. It’s just a slightly higher resolution texture, which is all that the game needed. If they do a full remake, I’d expect a lot more detail, however the game itself looks fantastic with these higher quality textures. Furthermore, there are more than enough examples of how the PS1 excelled back in the day – It was truly a spectacular looking game. It hadn’t quite pushed the boat in terms of using all of the power that its sequel, Final Fantasy IX did – But damn for its time, in 1999, this game looked phenomenal.
The audio hasn’t been updated at all since the original games, which is great as I always thought it was one of the best aspects of Final Fantasy VIII. I was humming along with the tunes, remembering them all pretty well. I wasn’t looking for the audio to be updated and I’m glad it hasn’t been. If anything, it just sounds better that it still has the PS1 era music in the game. The music may have been slightly cleaned up, but that’s probably because of how far audio has come overall.
There are many little differences between the PC and the PS1 versions of the game, however the main ones come in the form of those “boosters”. Speeding the game up has been something I’ve used quite frequently – But not when the game requires otherwise. The issue with the game, which is nearly 20 years old by the by, is that it’s pretty slow. However, in some parts of the game the slowness really helps add tension. The plights of the characters are all on full display and yes, there is some excellent, but slow, character development. All in all, the speed is a huge part of the downside of the game – But it also helps move it along in a logical, sensible pace.
Whilst the above paragraph may sound relatively negative, I’m praising the addition of the speed-up feature. I’m praising the cleaned up graphics and I’m praising the addition of Chocobo World, which was nearly impossible for UK kids to play at the time (without a PocketStation, which was released exclusively in Japan). There are many extras added in the PC version which are well worth grabbing – But what do you think? Do you think Final Fantasy VIII has aged well with the addition of these features, or is it not a good Final Fantasy to you? Let us know your thughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.