RPG Review #85: Final Fantasy VIIINuMetalManiak AH FINALLY
Yep, here's a big one, Final Fantasy VIII, playing this one on a number slot ending in 5, therefore I will go with a Final Fantasy game. This lucky number is VIII, or 8, spanning FOUR Playstation 1 discs and looking significantly more modern than other Final Fantasies while simultaneously offering up the most complex gameplay yet.
Gameplay: And this is the first Final Fantasy where many things are more different than traditional RPGs or other Final Fantasies. Most of the time, leveling up isn't entirely the best idea. Although the experience caps are at 1000, the enemies fought in-game level up too. And then getting magic is significantly different, with several methods, including drawing from Draw Points in-game or from monsters on the battlefield. Or you can refine items. You can also rent and drive vehicles, although there are better ones later on anyways. Also Limit Breaks no longer have their own bars, they instead work when you use a certain spell or if you're close to death, which isn't as reliable as it sounds unfortunately. For magic, those are actually finite, sort of like in Final Fantasy Legend's first two titles, and junctioning them is how stats are raised, but using them while junctioned can lower the stats.
Junctioning is the single most important thing in this game. As I said, leveling up isn't the best idea anymore, and it's all because of the whole junctioning thing. Basically, you need a summon, called in-game as a GF (no it does not stand for girlfriend, but Guardian Force), and then once its junctioned, any magic spells on your character can be junctioned to stats, elemental attack/defense, and status attack/defense. This is THE way to go for this game as far as getting your stats up to snuff, and its easy to break the game because of it. Also, yes, you can summon the GFs, but in doing so, a new active bar shows up. What this means is that if the character using the GF is targeted, the GF takes damage. Yes, now summons play a role in actually being semi-characters for one, and they can die in battle too. I didn't bother with them that much. GFs do level up, and they can also learn new abilities, it's sort of similar to the whole Esper deal in FF6.
Perhaps the last thing I should mention is Final Fantasy VIII's main mini-game Triple Triad, an interesting card game that you'll have to get the hang of the first time, and then get the hang of when the rules start changing. Trying to spread or abolish rules is a real pain though. Not to mention the whole deal with winning/losing cards means you can earn/lose rare cards and there's a lot of resetting involved in order for me to get the best cards. So why are they important? Well, some of the GFs have RF (refining) abilities, and one has Card Mod, which can refine cards into some pretty awesome items. With these, the game becomes even more broken, and you can get high-end spells like Flare fairly early. It's also possible to refine parts in order to buy better weapons, which is how you get the better weapons. Complicated stuff.
So really, there are a TON of strategies and customization in FF8, and that's the stuff I like most. If only there would be more to talk about. A more enhanced version of this review will be on my blog later anyways. Grade: A+
Squall Leonheart: He's another iconic Final Fantasy hero, this time extremely moody and more like the kind of guy who just does his job rather than care about people. He wields what's called a gunblade, and while not entirely original (Ashley from Wild Arms 2 had one) a gimmick to be done with Squall is to press R1 as you hit the enemy to always get a critical hit. Squall is best as a physical fighter. His limit break Renzokuken is the strongest one.
Quistis Trepe: She's Squall's instructor who for some reason has a crush on him. She uses a whip in battle and her main limit break is to use Blue Magic (which no longer requires enemies to use it on characters, but given by items this time around).
Seifer Almasy: He's only playable for a very short time. He's basically Squall's rival, ends up using a gunblade as well with a limit break but I didn't see it. Then he turns traitor and you fight him in the game a few times along with his buddies Fujin and Raijin.
Zell Dincht: A radical dude who likes skateboards, baggy pants, and hot dogs. Seifer calls him "chicken-wuss" for his overall attitude, which suffice to say is directly contrast to the moodier Squall. He's a martial artist, and his limit break is pretty much a button combo sort of thing. Sort of like Sabin's Blitz from FF6.
Selphie Tilmett: That name. Oh gosh, Selphie predates the term "selfie" with that name. She's basically a nunchaku user with an interesting limit break in "Slots", imagine how that one goes.
Rinoa Heartilly: The female lead, she's a battle-ready princess and a resistance fighter, using what's known as a "Blaster Edge", which is some dart-shooting thing as her main weapon. Perhaps what's interesting is her dog Angelo, which functions as her limit break and has several abilities. She actually gets a SECOND limit break later in the game as well.
Irvine Kinneas: A cowboy and a shooter, that kind of archetype. Very casual too. His limit break Shot was what basically one the final battle of the game for me, and it can use several types of expendable ammo.
Edea Kramer: Like Seifer, a temporary playable character, except you fight her twice before she joins you. Basically she's a sorceress and is treated like one.
Laguna Loire: A side character that is played in dreams. Laguna is an idiot in many ways, but he does what's good at heart, which is nice. He wields a gun in battle and his Desperado limit break is powerful.
Kiros Seagill: One of Laguna's companions, wields two katar in battle.
Ward Zabac: The big guy in Laguna's group, he uses a huge spear.
I like a lot of characters here, although by the end you're gonna be looking at the Rinoa/Squall relationship a bit too much, as well as a few scenes with Laguna a lot. There's bits of personalities everywhere but nothing overly fancy. Grade: B
So Squall is a member of Balamb Garden, which is the kind of cool university-like school of military training. He actually wakes up after sustaining an injury while practicing with Seifer, and then he is instructed by Quistis to find the GF Ifrit. Then the final exam for SeeD (elite mercenary squadron of Balamb) begins. Seifer leads a group with Squall and Zell to the Galbadian lands, apparently a town is being overrun and Balamb Garden (who's head master is the game's Cid by the way) uses this opportunity for a final exam which is pretty darn odd. Seifer leaves the group midway through the mission and Selphie joins for the final moments of it. Then once it's done the characters are scored. Squall, Zell, and Selphie all graduate, but Seifer is disciplined. The next mission SeeD has for Squall (new leader over Selphie and Zell) is to go to Timber, where he meets Rinoa and the resistance faction, in their attempt to get rid of the Galbadian president. Spoilers, it fails, and while the SeeDs get the help from Galbadia garden and Irvine, it looks like the next big plan is likely to flop. Also around this time the dreams of Laguna and his adventures take place too. The plan is to assassinate the sorceress of Galbadia, Edea. This plan ends up going haywire since Rinoa gets sort of brainwashed, while Irvine gets nervous about the shot. While he does get to do it, it naturally fails because, hello, sorceresses can beat bullets. The endgame fight involves both Seifer and Edea, and in the end Squall gets skewered with an ice shard.
Enter Disc 2, and after a dream sequence with Laguna, the whole group is in jail, apparently Squall also survives but is being tortured by Seifer. After everyone escapes, they all learn of Edea's plan to nuke Balamb Garden and Trabia Garden with missiles, apparently Galbadia Garden has been taken over. Selphie leads a team to the missile base, while unable to stop the missiles from reaching Trabia, manages to destroy the base. Meanwhile, Squall's group is back at Balamb Garden, apparently fighting faculty under the control of the real headmaster, NORG, and somehow managing to make the entire Balamb Garden mobile. The Garden crashes into Fisherman's Horizon, and after regrouping, its revealed that Ellone, a girl who was in Laguna's dream and one who was at Balamb Garden in the present, is what Galbadia is after. Squall is considered leader of Balamb Garden by Cid, and after journeying to the wreck in Trabia Garden, Irvine reveals something that just sort of came out of the blue. All of the characters except Rinoa but including Seifer and Ellone were apparently a part of the same orphanage, and the matron is none other than Edea. Disc 2 ends with the clash of Balamb and Galbadia Gardens, with the last fights being against Seifer and Edea again, and Rinoa loses her consciousness too.
Around Disc 3 is where we see Squall apparently trying his hardest to take care of the unconscious Rinoa, apparently revealing his feelings to her. It's all so sudden. Also Edea is alive, and this time not possessed anymore. Not to mention she's actually Cid's wife. The real villain, Ultimecia, is revealed to have used Edea, and SeeD was established to defeat sorceresses. Squall sets off to Esthar to find Ellone, believing her abilities to slip Squall into dreams involving Laguna to be the key to everything. Things go real wrong at the Lunar Base in space, where Rinoa apparently gets possessed and attempts to release another sorceress, Adel. Ultimecia used Rinoa, then transfers herself to Adel leaving her to die in her spacesuit, but Squall rescues Rinoa and eventually they get back to the earth, that is until the Esthar government wishes to seal Rinoa because she's a sorceress as well. Squall frees her and finally meets Laguna, who's surprisingly the president of Esthar. The big battle plan is to involve time travel to compress time, where Ellone will compress it with her abilities, sending Ultimecia and Rinoa back in time, but obviously bringing back Rinoa only. Too bad Seifer has Ellone hostage, and he's the final boss of Disc 3.
Disc 4 abruptly starts with Seifer kidnapping Rinoa and somehow junctioning her to Adel. The boss fight that ensues will involve freeing Rinoa and then compressing time. Finally, we deal with Ultimecia's castle. Like in most games, there's several sub-bosses to kill that will make the battle against Ultimecia significantly easier. Well, that's short, but the ending is hard to make sense of. Squall feeling all alone again, being rescued from time compression by Rinoa and the others. Well, it is a happy ending at the very list. But man, this was long, and parts of it were hard to follow. Grade: B-
Music: Well it's all good and all. Probably the best regular battle theme of the series thus far. Compression of Time, the song before Ultimecia's castle, remains my favorite. There are also some voiced songs in here, usually in the credits. I know the intro has some lyrics to it as well. Grade: A-
Overall grade: A-
With customization and loads of strategy, plus playing with GFs, item refining, Triple Triad, you name it, FF8 has a lot to offer on the table. The game could use some more characterization out of its characters, and the plot got confusing at times (so why was Squall acting more sappy as the game went on). Not to mention all the tutorials don't really explain all the things properly in this game all that well. It's a Final Fantasy game that takes a lot to get used to, but its worth a shot.
Honestly this is maybe the most underrated post series - iliekpiez