Retro Review: Final Fantasy VIII
Xin    2008-09-20, 09:18 am.

Before we start, let's just agree that there's no way to fairly review this game nine years after it's release. I can't review it based on what I remember from 1999, and holding it up to today's standards just wouldn't be fair.

So instead, let's just grade it on how well this title holds up nearly a decade after it's initial release. I know, I feel old now too.

"I'll be 'waiting'"

theSTORY. FFVIII has long been categorized as a tale of love, but after this latest playthru I have a different view of it. At it's core, this is a game about taking charge, and realizing exactly who you are.

The dual main characters of Squall and Laguna are both placed into situations where they must assume duties they never asked for to begin with. It follows their struggles, both inward and out, as they task with making the right decision, often times disregarding consequence, all in an effort to help those around them.

This isn't to say that the relationship components should be disregarded. This was really the first FF to deal with love in the spotlight, not just with Squall and Rinoa, but with Laguna and Raine (or alternatively, Julia). Even the relationships of the cast are so intertwined that, often after the swords have clashed, you realize just how hard a decision it is for these characters to have to face one another.

My main complaint is the personal direction of main hero Squall. His inner monologues seemed too numerous and his change in persona could've been portrayed a bit more subtle than his frequent uses of "Can't go on without you" phrases.

All in all, it leads to a final act that stands the test of time, in terms of both story and challenge.

thePLAY. At it's release, FFVIII was heavily criticized for it's Junction System, or more specifically, that you had to draw all your magic from your enemies. Admittedly it is a bit annoying, but utilizing the various abilities at your disposal, it didn't seem as much like the chore many made it out to be.

Travel and the like are all standard fare for an FF, but the strength of this title is the battle system. It draws you in with it's Trigger system for both regular attacks and it's Limit Break system, allowing the character to participate a bit more than just pressing confirm over and over. Even at Lv.100, there's no time to rest.

Speed of battle is a bit concerning, as the game's ATB system pauses whenever a character takes action. Where previous FF's allowed your characters to keep going regardless of the enemy;s action, if your time bar hasn't filled completely by then, you're waiting. It's a bit annoying for an otherwise great system.

theLOOK. I remember when this game first came out that, even then, the game looked a little pixelated, and the problem hasn't gotten better with time. While the game still looks pretty nice, there are moments where you just wish things could be a bit smoother.

FMVs, while full of action and drama and all that, have their own problems as well, suffering from a plastic look for many of the characters. Although it's not an overly jarring distraction, it's still a slight area the game could have improved on, even back then.

theSOUND. Nobuo Uematsu seemed to be at his peak with the release of FFVIII. From the opening cinematic he showed he wasn't playing around this time, with grand orchestral pieces, dramatic overtures and tender melodies. Everything from battle music to mood setting themes seemed to click this time around for him, especially with "Premonition", the sorceress battle track and personal fav~

FFVIII also introduced the gaming world to the vocal theme with the stellar "Eyes on Me", performed by Faye Wong, complimenting both the insert scene and ending cinematic of the game it features in.

theEND. Final Fantasy VIII, now close to it's own Ten Year Anniversary, still holds up quite strong in this NextGen of Gaming. A story of succession and love, battle and compromise, all set to one of the greatest gaming soundtracks there has been. Throw in a dash of love and you've got one of the better entries to the Final Fantasy series~

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