CGRundertow FINAL FANTASY VIII for PlayStation Video Game Review

Uploaded by CGRundertow on 14.02.2012

Awright. I could be diplomatic, but I’ll just come right out and say it: I was disappointed
with Final Fantasy VIII. 7-fanboy TJ was disappointed with it back in ‘99, college-age TJ was
disappointed with it in ‘02 when he wanted to make sure he didn’t like it, and 2012’s
TJ is, likewise, failing to see what so many have praised about the game. I mean, sure,
it’s a Final Fantasy. And it’s more of a Final Fantasy than XIII - the first XIII,
rather - so it should have an in, right? Yet I’ve never been able to get comfortable
with it. Lemme see if I can express in words exactly what my issues are.
First off, the plot. Now, I try to avoid too many spoilers, so I’ll just sum it up thusly:
Disregard everything until Disc 4, because none of it matters anyway. While disregarding,
continue to ignore the cast of characters, a group of individuals so broken that Dr.
Drew took one look at them and started formulating retirement plans. The only likable one of
the entire lot is Zell, the obnoxious ditz - slash - Mike Tyson wannabe. They bumble
through a thick mound of political intrigue, dealing with equally defective rogue man-child
Seifer, an evil Sorceress who... no, to get into anything even remotely interesting would
require spoilers and spoilers and spoilers. I hold this game responsible for M. Night
Shyamalan. Full stop.
But enough about the plot, let’s talk mechanics. Rather than obtaining money from enemies,
almost all the cash you obtain in-game comes in the form of regular payments from your
employer, the mercenary outfit SeeD. Your salary depends on your rank, which can be
boosted at points in the game... or, since the internet exists, you can just download
the answers to each of the 30 or so true-or-false exams and be rolling in cash. But that’s
but one way to break the game! How about stopping down every time you find a monster with some
new spell to make each of your party members draw 100 copies of same? Besides, spells are
stats, according to the junction system, so it only makes sense to do so. Fantastic for
speeding up the game and optimizing your play... if only the process of drawing these spells
were a bit faster. As it stands, your best bet is to affix a rubber band around the controller
to hold down the X button, and then go to the gym, establish world piece, or make yourself
a sandwich. Or if this doesn’t suit you, simply use that fortune you’ve amassed through
trivia - or the fat stacks of cards you’ve won from losers around the world - to refine
yourself all the spells you’ll need.
But it’s not all bad. While you’re breaking the game, you’ve got a wonderful, well-refined
card game to play. Final Fantasy VII had several smaller mini-games, of varying quality, but
none compared to the scope of VIII’s Triple Triad system. Likewise, IX had Triple Triad,
and X had Blitzball, but both pale in comparison to the perfection VIII managed to attain.
There were relevant benefits, from being able to refine cards into items. Most everyone
in the world was up for a game. If you were running low on cards, you could simply turn
the mobs around you into more fodder. Heck, this was often a more efficient way of making
sure that you’d get the items you wanted.
And, in fact, the judicious use of Card is a fantastic way to exploit another of the
game’s quirks! Turn a foe into a card, and it grants AP, developing your Guardian Forces
(and thus, giving you the powers and junctions and bonuses you need), but yielding no EXP
whatsoever. You can go through the game without gaining a single level if you’re diligent
enough. And since enemies’ stats are tied to your level, you’ll be wading through
a forest of cheesecake as you slaughter foes en masse. (Or, rather, pretend to slaughter
There are some fun mental exercises to be had here, sure. And the music’s pretty good,
even if the main battle theme is in five and makes me want to put on some Dave Brubeck.
But the gestalt of the thing seems too far a departure from what I liked about VII, VI,
Mario RPG, hell, every Square game I’d played up to that point: Goofiness was abolished,
balance was thrown out the window, and ellipses ran rampant like some sort of viral infection.
It tried to tell an intriguing story, but it did so at the cost of fun. Fortunately,
Final Fantasy IX was able to put right pretty much everything about the series, but that’s
a topic for another day.