The one that almost got away

It’s still almost hard to believe but Final Fantasy VIII is here, after a surprise announcement at E3 and just a few short months later we now have Final Fantasy VIII remastered on all systems minus android in all it’s high definition glory.

Final Fantasy VIII follows the story of Squall, an antisocial young adult who wakes up after some initial training with a fellow student which has left him with a permanent scar. Once awake Squall’s teacher Quistis collects him and after a brief lecture during class they make their way to the Fire Cavern for a training class.

Here is where you learn the basics of Final Fantasy VIII’s battle system. Final Fantasy VIII’s battle system is certainly unique and one that received praise but also criticism from some fans. There is no MP in Final Fantasy VIII and instead magic is stocked as a unit like items with a maximum of 100 unique spells being able to be carried by each character. To do this GF’s first must be equipped. GF’s also known as Guardian Force are the summons of Final Fantasy VIII. Once equipped you are able to select the commands you wish to use up to 3 extra with the Attack command, you will not be able to use any items, cast or draw any magic otherwise.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is SquallBalambDorms.jpg

The criticism of the games battle system stems from a few factors such as Drawing magic from enemies can take a long time if you wish for the maximum amount especially at the start where you have no spells to start with. Once you have learned the desired abilities with your GF you will be able to junction magic to a particular stat such as HP and Strength; this is the main way to strengthen your characters, doing this early on is a sure fire way to have the strongest team going forward. Junctioning magic by type is the most effective at raising a particular stat, having more magic junctioned is most effective so it is best not to junction magic you will use more often than not such as Cure although you could rely on Potions alone or have a dedicated Healer. GF’s have their own HP bars, when you summon a GF their HP will display with it’s own ATB bar that will go down, the speed dependent on the characters own compatibility with the GF. When the ATB bar is depleted then the character will summon the GF and it will do it’s special attack, if the GF is attacked and knocked out during the summon then it will cease and will need to be revived using GF compatible recovery items.

While drawing magic can seem like a tedious and continuous thing in Final Fantasy VIII it is less of a burden once you have the ability to refine spells from items later on and while this can take a while this is also alleviated by the fact you can play the game at 3 times the speed, also making instantaneous actions available makes drawing magic a small task, it may not be to everyone’s taste to do this but it is an option.

While characters gain EXP and level up and at a quick rate too this isn’t as good as it may seem at first as in Final Fantasy VIII enemies level up too, depending on your level bracket you may be fighting enemies that are just as strong making leveling up seem entirely useless. While you do get slight stat increases most of this will come from Junctioning so while you will feel overpowered and strong at the start of Final Fantasy VIII, by the end of the game you will feel the effects of more powerful enemies.

Graphically Final Fantasy VIII pays much homage to the original but has updated sprites and menus to give the game a more up to date feel but much of that hasn’t translated well in the final product, the pre-rendered backgrounds haven’t changed and they do stand out. It’s understandable though as doing so would mean a great deal of more time and wouldn’t be reflective of the current cost of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered and considering the team behind piecing the remains of a game which most of what had seemed lost it is fair to say they probably hadn’t got much to work with. I know there was difficulty with getting the game to function and for that I think all things considered the Remaster is at the very least worthy of the name.

The real magic of Final Fantasy VIII comes from its Story, for it’s time it was leaps and bounds ahead most other media, while I know most of what is said can be lost in translation I do know with certainty that what is told in the story in Final Fantasy VIII is pure and that nearly all fans of the game can relate to the cast of characters in how they act and in how they grow throughout the game. Squall in particular I know starts out as an anti-social teen without being able to feel what others feel and is generally uninterested in what anyone else has to say but the connection between him and his friends is something you have to experience. Squall has the most extreme growth I have seen in any Final Fantasy game and for that reason alone it resonates with people. All the other character have varying personalities which add to not just themselves but to Squall also.

The music remains unchanged from the PS1 version of the game although one track has had it’s lyrics removed due to copyright issues, a shame as I felt it took away from the scene as it is one of the most memorable in the game, other than that the games music is beautiful as can be expected from Nobuo Uematsu.

Final Fantasy VIII is a lengthy game and one of the longest in the series, it does have extra things to do when everything has been said and done or at least when the end is in sight. There are several optional GF’s that can be obtained, a giant cryptic side-quest featuring a blue alien and of course Chocobos. The real side quest that most will be familiar with is Triple Triad as early on you are given cards. As soon as you get these you can practically open up possibilities that you wouldn’t otherwise if you were just to play the game normally. The card game takes time to learn and be good but once you master it you can obtain some of the rarest items and magic in the game and some of this can be obtained early on so it is well worth investing in.

So all the comments on videos and forum threads certainly paid off. Fans were certain Final Fantasy VIII would not see a release as Square-Enix said themselves they didn’t plan on it, they sure kept us in the quiet though and as they did actually deliver we have to wonder what could be next on the Final Fantasy remaster agenda? May we possibly see the older 2D games in the series get a re-release on modern consoles or maybe even a remake? It’s not certain and possibly may never happen but as Square-Enix have shown, never say never.

A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by Square Enix