Wednesday 7 January 2015

Final Fantasy VIII Review (Playstation)

Square return after the not so much ground-breaking as ground-shattering master class of all things fantastic that was Final Fantasy VII. With this in mind Final Fantasy VIII had an awful lot to live up to. Although it has a fair go at it, it doesn’t get close to the true inspiration of its prequel.

Set in a futuristic high-tech world, Final Fantasy VIII focuses on the story of ‘Squall Leonhart’ as he becomes entangled in what turns out to be an epic story. This is basically how the story goes- starting as a member of an elite military team you proceed to make a bitter rival in a guy called Seifer. From here you undertake a few missions and exams, which then leads to a sniper attempt on an unsavoury character known as Edea the sorceress. That’s disk one.

You then end up in jail, a military faction goes on a revolt and several mystical things happen. The twist comes when you realise that Edea is actually all the characters' long lost Nanny from when they were kids and if that’s not the most stupid thing we have ever come across in a role-play game then we don’t know what is. Anyway you go through the whole ‘is she really a good person being controlled’ bit, before realising there is a greater evil at work that you must stop. That’s about it for the story apart from the fact you flash back in time with another character and go through his entire life as well. Now I understand that is a very simplified version of events but it took us eighty-three hours to get through and I cannot remember all the details. Needless to say the story does keep you interested and though it makes the odd far-fetched claim, you may well be quite happy to go along with it as it unravels.

Story aside, Final Fantasy VIII changes the control system of VII with magic now being drawn from enemies in combat instead of coming from materia, and Guardian Forces (as they are now known) are summoned very differently. Instead of a one off hit from the huge beasts that drains magic, they now have hit points and can be damaged while being cast. This change to the system is where the big flaw in the game lies. The problem therefore, is that you find yourself constantly calling the Guardian Forces in every single battle. The removal of magic points means that as long as the huge beasts are not killed then you can call upon them as many times as you want. This acts to take a lot of the skill and fun out of the game as you end up sitting through the same animation over and over again.

Furthermore, the other major problem is the difficulty setting. When a game is in excess of eighty hours long it does not need to be completely unforgiving in every single battle that you find yourself in. It is so unbalanced sometimes that two or three random battles can be more deadly than the massive great boss creature at the end of the section. This is not helped by the way that creatures adjust to how powerful you are, meaning that if you are having trouble beating something you cannot go and fight some smaller monsters to make you go up a few experience levels. If you do this, then the returning monster will be even more deadly than before.

Another concern is the actual setting of the game. We can’t quite put my finger on it but it just seems wrong. FFVII, FFIX and X all had perfect settings. But the sterile, futurist world simply lacks the feel of an epic adventure. Its just too dull.

To sum up, then, it’s a shame that Final Fantasy VIII falls short in a few areas. If the control system had not been so drastically altered it might well have been another classic adventure. Unfortunately, while the game is graphically superior to FFVII, in terms of setting, story and controls it lags way behind. Whilst it does hold your attention, We can think of at least four other games in the same genre on Playstation that are much more fun to play (FFVII, FFIX, Breath of Fire 3 and Suikoden 2).

Overall 7/10

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