Final Fantasy VIII (PC) Review

By Aria DiMezzo 10.01.2016 20

Review for Final Fantasy VIII on PC

Perhaps the most controversial entry of the Final Fantasy franchise—excluding Final Fantasy Mystic Quest for obvious reasons—to many people, Final Fantasy VIII stands as the black sheep in the otherwise masterful line-up of the SNES-PlayStation Squaresoft titles. As its story is primarily a romance and its protagonist is the most unlikable person this side of Tingle, the initial released garnered lukewarm reception. Years later, and the game is available on Steam. Is it truly worthy of standing between Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX? Cubed3 junctions a mod to fix the music and checks it out.

The first thing any player should do before diving into the PC version of Final Fantasy VIII is fix the sound, because Square Enix evidently isn't going to fulfil the promise it made to do it. A free mod achieves this, and it's merely a matter of downloading—the mod even has an installer to keep it simple. This shouldn't be necessary, and this review entails the unmodified sound, but this is also a matter that must be discussed. The modified sound is awesome. Pulling music largely from the Official Soundtrack (OST) that was recorded with live instruments and embellished by Nobou Uematsu's metal band The Black Mages, the mod provides some of the best music in the franchise. Without the mod, however, the music is terrible, and should have been fixed years ago.

For the most part, this is a great example of how a classic game should be brought to modern audiences. The graphics are noticeably improved, with a healthy dose of anti-aliasing making character models vastly superior to the originals - a small but welcome alteration. Other advantages this has over playing with "that E-word" are the inclusions of Chocobo World and Magic Boost. The former was a keychain-like game that supplemented the main game, and it is fun, but certainly no chocobo breeding or Chocobo Hot and Cold. The latter gives a full stack of about a dozen different spells to each character, and presumably is for those who want to play the game without having to actually play the game.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VIII on PC

One of the strongest aspects of the gameplay is that characters can be customised to a ridiculous degree—perhaps more so than in any other entry. The Junction System, although simple to understand, gets pretty complicated when trying to junction every stat to every party member. The summons, known here as Guardian Forces (GFs), are an integral part of the plot and gameplay, though there usually isn't a reason to summon them in battle. The GFs are present mostly to allow characters to junction magic to abilities, thereby increasing one's Strength, Magic, or Elemental Defense. It is fun to game this system, particularly since enemies level up with the party; the most efficient method of playing is to avoid gaining levels and to, instead, seek powerful magic to junction to stats.

This is a love story, and players should know that before diving into the game. It is also a bit of a sloppy love story, worsened because one-half of this relationship is Squall. Whatever he became thanks to the Kingdom Hearts titles, here he is a mopey, angsty jerk; ostensibly, he was intended as an anti-social cool guy who was too cool to care whether he was cool, but heavy-handedness has him, instead, acting as an arrogant jackass. For some, this isn't a problem; for others, it's the last nail in the coffin. Meanwhile, the plot deals with war, an evil sorceress, and time travel, but the thread woven through everything else is a romance, and it's not a particularly good romance, because there's no natural progression to Squall and Rinoa's relationship.

Of course, FFVIII has everything that it's supposed to have: a secret boss, chocobos, a one-time-only character customisation system, Biggs and Wedge, and Cid, but this is also the first time a mini-game was presented as a core part of the game. Triple Triad debuts here, and the card game is integrated very well into the main game; low level challenges utilise Triple Triad extensively, because some of the best spells and items can be gleamed directly from the card game—as long as the Random rule isn't spread around.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VIII on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

With the default music, which Square Enix shamefully still hasn't fixed, Final Fantasy VIII on PC is a weak experience. Modifying the game improves it drastically, but players shouldn't have to do this. An unlikable protagonist severely damages the romance story being told, and it's anyone's guess what in the world Rinoa sees in Squall in the first place. There is a lot of good here, but there is also a lot of bad, and the low quality music is one of the more prominent negatives; if Square Enix fixed that, then this would be much easier to recommend. As is, it's still worthy of a recommendation—but only barely.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This was the first Final Fantasy game I had ever played when I first bought a PS1, and to this day is still one of my favourite games of all time. While the story ended up falling into a complete mess, it really wasn't that bad up to that point. Just waiting for them to port that over to PS4 with the fixed character sprites!

By the way, did you enjoy the Triple Triad minigame?

Triple Triad is one of the best things to ever happen in anything ever. Used to play an online version about a decade or so ago when I first got online. Now hooked on the free mobile version.

FF8 resonated so much with me, and I put that down to the relatable school/academy setting. Definitely allows you to feel a bit more in the game. Shit does start to get pretty confusing later on, and especially the bloody ending. I still don't know if the plot ever really made sense in the end.

But alongside 7 and 9, I grew up with these three games, and loved each of them in their own ways. I think the Junction system gets a lot more flak than it deserves, but it could be abused to hell and back, especially when abusing the card game early on, too. Then once you had your collection of powerful magic for Strength, it was just spam Limit Breaks, put No Encounters on, and fly through the game.

Defo would like to see it on PS4 with the upgrades 7 and 9 have got in the future, but do wonder about its status considering the music situation and announcing the 9 port before any special upgrades for the PC version of 8. Would expect them all to hit PS4 eventually tho.

Same here. Love 8. It's actually my favorite of the PSX ones, and probably my third favorite altogether. Rinoa is my second favorite FF character, and she's only behind Celes because Celes has a better theme song. The only issue I have with this version is the low quality music. With the mod, it's got some of the best music in the series. Those squealing electric guitars as I fought Ifrit made it the single most epic battle I've ever fought in a Final Fantasy game. The low score for this one is entirely the fault of the poor music quality. With the mod, it's easily an 8, and I'd like to say 9. I love this game. Squall jumping out into space to save Rinoa was the first time a game moved me to tears. I didn't care when Aeris died, but Rinoa?! I don't care what you have to do, Squall! Go get her!

"Triple Triad is one of the best things to ever happen in anything ever."

So completely true.

( Edited 11.01.2016 02:28 by Anema86 )

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Is there a mod for the normal PS OST, instead of the Black Mages tracks and whatever else they put in there?

I believe the mod has the option to just use the original tracks. During the installation process, it has a checklist with a few dozen songs on it, and, if I remember correctly, checking them added the Black Mages music.

The installer also creates a new launcher called FF8+ that needs to be used to launch the game, but it just opens the main launcher in addition to a command prompt that decodes the audio, but that can be ignored.

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Too true about it being so easy to fly through the game. I'm doing a No Level run now, where i kill Ultimecia with Squall at his starting level. Quistis gained a level because I couldn't Card a certain robot that I thought I could, but Squall is the only one whose level affects the achievement. I screwed up, though, and didn't initially intend to do a No Level run, so Squall gained a few hundred EXP at the beginning. And then I forgot that running away still grants EXP if you damage the enemy, so now Squall is four points away from gaining a level. Since I just got Encounters None, that won't be a problem, but I've had to reset a few times because of little accidents. Squall can't gain ANY experience for the rest of the game. The hardest part about the no level challenge in 8 is avoiding experience. Lol

But with Ultima junctioned to Squall's Strength and Rinoa's Magic, it's a breeze. I don't have Ultima yet, but most bosses are still going down in just a few hits. I think I had to hit Edea five whole times.

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It's only just clicked with me that not rewarding EXP for boss fights might have been done purposely to allow for No/Low Level runs.

FF7 gave experience from bosses, didn't it?

For issues with the story, I prefer the Squall is Dead Theory, I think:

http://squallsdead.com/

I believe Square-Enix has officially jossed it, but that there's so much credible evidence is astounding. One of the issues I've always had with the game is the scene where you're climbing the television studio. On the screen is a bunch of flowing writing that says stuff like "I'll be here waiting". It's kinda a strange thing to be in a game that strives for realism, since it's alongside a working train system, several magazine publishers, and other small details like that. Then there's suddenly this text that doesn't fit into the game world, though it happens before Edea allegedly kills Squall.

Just to clarify: the evidence is all circumstantial, but it's a bit more solid than the "Link is dead" theory of MM, imo.

( Edited 11.01.2016 22:17 by Anema86 )

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Yep, 7 gives EXP after bosses.

I remember the Squall is Dead theory. It sounded very plausible when I read it. I know SE definitely shot down the U=R theory. Not sure about Squall is Dead (probably did; I'm sure I read something that debunked it).

The Timber TV screen's messages are interference messages/thoughts from Adel up in space, who is the cause of the blocked transmission signals across the world (I am alive here; I will never let you forget about me; Bring me back there).

Oh, that makes perfect sense.

I've only killed ultimecia once, actually, because I've had the PSX version stop working on me repeatedly. For some reason, on 3-4 different playthroughs I was unable time crash into the... Lunatic Pandora? I don't recall off the top of my head what it's called. So my experience with disc4 is pretty limited.

Plus, damn. I need to pay more attention to the subtleties, then, because I've wondered about that screen since the first time I played 8.

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I can't get over that--that it's interference caused by Adel. That's fucking epic. That's a remarkable storytelling touch. Really a shame I missed it, but holy crap. If there's any issue with that, it's that it's just too subtle and I missed it. Now that I know, though, it's like...

Mind = blown

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Guest 11.01.2016#12

Story wise viii is a mixed bag. The whole memory loss and time travel aspects really ruined it for me. Gameplay wise its pretty much broken, get siren buy tents/cottages convert to 99 curaga. Junction to whichever stat you want to break the game with. Its an ok game but its sandwiched between two classics

 

Guest said:
Story wise viii is a mixed bag. The whole memory loss and time travel aspects really ruined it for me. Gameplay wise its pretty much broken, get siren buy tents/cottages convert to 99 curaga. Junction to whichever stat you want to break the game with. Its an ok game but its sandwiched between two classics

Yeah, think that sums it up. My eyes rolled ten times when you find out everyone had known each other from kids, but the GFs suppressed their memories. It kinda brings them together plotwise, in order to have a reason to fight/save Edea, but it was too unbelievable.

I'm also not strictly a fan of time travel in any game at all. Once you start messing with that shit, writers think they can get away with anything, and as seen in something like FF13-2, it just fucks with things so much that things render completely pointless prior to all that, and/or you just end up totally clueless as to what's going on. FF8 was generally lax on the time travel stuff until late in the game, although I have to admit the time compression sequence itself was pretty awesome, and Ultimecia's Castle is an incredible final area - possibly the best of any RPG I've played.

I think as a whole, 8's story drags a lot more than other FFs, too, and the realistic look can quite easily turn people away. It doesn't have an obvious charm or unique identity to it like other FFs. I think, like I say, it's the school/military theme and the age of the characters that allowed me to feel part of FF8 that bit more. Thinking more on it, there are definitely far more areas/sections of the game that feel very slow compared to 7 and 9.

( Edited 12.01.2016 02:14 by Azuardo )

I don't know. I'm just about willing to find a hobo and pay him to play through Kalm and the Lifestream so that I don't have to. VIII has Laguna's horrendously slow and boring sections, but none of them drag on for the hour+ that Kalm and the Lifestream do.

I don't know what Squaresoft was thinking back then. "hey, you know what would be great? If we took the player out of the current situation and sent them into the past/alternate dimension to do this bullshit."

IX has something similar, but I can't place it at the moment. The whole design philosophy, though, of controlling who the player plays as, instead of letting the player pick the ones they want, really bothers me. It can definitely tell a better story to separate characters into groups, but if I don't like Sazh and Vanille, then I'm going to bang my head on the coffee table through their sections...

( Edited 12.01.2016 03:18 by Anema86 )

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Oh, I ain't saying 7 doesn't have any slow parts. Those are the definite stand-outs in that game that drag to hell and back (PS4 version nullifies it massively with x3 speed, thank god). Just as far as the PS1 games at least are concerned, I feel FF8 has a general slowness to its story all around, beginning right after the opening movie, and almost every time you return to Balamb after certain missions. I find Galbadia Prison, FH, Trabia, and the trek to Esthar to be just a few areas that feel like they drag. I enjoy it all, mind; but it's just the way the game is, I guess.

Ugh, Galbadia Prison. For sure.

I particularly hate that place because I never remember near the end whether I'm supposed to climb away from the Spinning Death Drill of Doom or toward it. Logic tells me that I would climb away from it, but that's an instant death. The last save point before that is a solid twenty minutes away without Encounters-None. On my recent playthroughs, I just googled it before I got there. With Enc-None, it's basically just running around in a large circle repeatedly, and it sucks. lol

The trek to Esthar never bothered me, though. I didn't feel like it took very long, and the significance of Squall saying "fuck it" and carrying Rinoa on his back across continent affected me enough that I wasn't bothered by it. It's Laguna's sections that I hate more than anything. They wouldn't be so bad if it didn't screw up my junctions every. single. time.

I've never used Encounters-None, though... It really does gimp the game, doesn't it? I'm used to playing RPGs in kind of a tense state, expecting a jarring random battle to occur at any possible moment. It's weird when they don't happen. Ever.

It just occurred to me that these games still had classic dungeons--ones kinda similar to a Zelda dungeon, but without the puzzles. This was when they were still like "Go to this town, learn about the nearby dungeon, go to nearby dungeon. Repeat until a Space Flea From Nowhere appears." The idea of a dungeon existing in one of the more recent Final Fantasy games just strikes me as weird, and I would say IX was the last one with actual dungeons--because I wouldn't count the Cloisters of Trials. Ooh, those were horrible, too.

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Oh those damn Cloisters were too much trouble than what they were worth.

I agree with the time travel thing though; I despise time travel in any story due to the impossibility of making things fit. Plus, that's where things start to get really confusing and makes it hard to keep up with the story and where it is going.

I also loved the whole "students in a school" scenario that FF8 conveyed. Having to complete the assignment in order to graduate into the SeeD level was still one of my favourite moments in that game.

The exams were clever ideas. I loved how your SeeD grade was determined through your performances in the field at the Fire Cavern and Dollet.

Do miss the dungeon formula. Didn't FF12 have dungeons, tho? Been a long time since I played it, but feel like it had a heavy dungeon theme. I suppose it was really only FFX and 13 that did away with them for the most part. Hopefully 15 brings them back a bit. It looks like it could, but I've not been researching too much into the game.

( Edited 12.01.2016 19:18 by Azuardo )

I haven't played FF12 to know, though I didn't mind that FFX did away with the dungeons. The locations and settings and battle arenas more than made up for it IMO. The leveling up with the Sphere Grid was absolute king.

Back to FF8 though, the gameplay just seemed perfect for back then. Even FFX played the exact same way, except for the turn-based battle system.

Jo (guest) 31.01.2016#20

Anema86 said:

Just to clarify: the evidence is all circumstantial, but it's a bit more solid than the "Link is dead" theory of MM, imo.

You do know that the "Link is dead" theory has no solidarity, right? It's been completely debunked and has no ground to stand on. If you're curious, you can just simply search 'Link is not dead' and you'll find articles and videos debunking it.

I'm not a fan of MM's "Link is dead" theory, because the whole thing is an extrapolation of the Hero's Journey, and that it follows the stages of grief is a side effect of the Hero's Journey. It's pretty much true across all fiction, I mean, that a character passes through certain phases on a quest. But yeah, I said the "Squall is dead" theory is all circumstantial and that the MM theory is even less substantial than that, so I definitely don't give any weight to the latter. It's hard to get worse than circumstantial evidence. Smilie

( Edited 02.02.2016 03:00 by Anema86 )

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