Final Fantasy VIII
When a game sells over 8.5 million copies you take notice of it. Final Fantasy VIII is one such game and while it doesn’t quite reach the same scope and achievements set by its predecessor, it nevertheless remains a fantastic RPG that any fan of the genre needs to experience.
Interestingly, Final Fantasy VIII’s story is perhaps the weakest link in an otherwise strong chain of accomplishments. Set in an unnamed world, the eighth part of Square’s popular franchise deals with the trials and tribulations of Squall Leonheart, a troubled individual with a mysterious past and a love of gunblades who teams up with the usual bunch of misfits to topple an evil malevolent queen.
While Final Fantasy VIII goes through many twists and turns during its lengthy playtime it never quite manages to eclipse the epicness that Final Fantasy VII offers and while there are plenty of memorable moments you won’t find anything on a par with key scenes like Aeris’s death.
And yet while Final Fantasy VIII’s plot doesn’t quite match the solid, if slightly generic tale told in Final Fantasy VII, its characters can easily hold their own against the likes of Cloud, Barret and Sephiroth.
While some gamers claimed Squall Leonheart to be something of a miserable git, we’ve always found him rather refreshing and realistic and his journey from sulky teen to saviour is handled with far more skill than Squaresoft managed with Cloud.
Other characters such as Squall’s rival Seifer and his love interest Rinoa are just as ably handled and you really care about their outcomes by the game’s epic end.
There’s far more to Final Fantasy VIII than engaging characters and a typically barmy plot, though, and while its combat system is extremely similar to Final Fantasy VII’s there are plenty of new changes that will have stat fans in seventh heaven.
By far the most exciting additions are the GFs (Guardian Forces); huge summon-able monsters that are linked to characters and provide all sorts of handy bonuses. By assigning or ‘junctioning’ GFs to characters you could give them different commands to use in battle, decide what new abilities your GFs would learn and even change your character’s stats with spells you had discovered.
Unlike previous games you use the ability Draw to suck magic from opposing enemies, which can then be stockpiled or used against them. It’s not quite as mind-numbing to understand as Final Fantasy VII’s Materia, but it’s nevertheless a pretty complex game mechanic that gives your characters amazing flexibility.
Our favourite aspect of the GFs, though, is the ridiculous special moves they have access to, which in turn gives battles a truly epic feel.
Indeed, despite the low polygon counts and the now rather basic looking FMVs, Final Fantasy VIII still manages to impress in the aesthetics department mainly due to excellent character and location design and a truly exquisite score by Nobuo Uematsu.