Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 27.09.2019 2

Review for Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on Nintendo Switch

After the monumental hit that was Final Fantasy VII, how could Square hope to follow up with it? The intrepid RPG developer found itself in a creative renaissance during the '90s where they were putting out such daring and enduring titles that would shape the industry for decades to come. Many experimental hits such as Parasite Eve were a sort of proving ground for Square to test out some new technology that they would fully utilize in their much more ambitious RPGs; specifically their flagship Final Fantasy franchise. Things like realistically scaled 3D human character models with life-like animation, movie-like production values in CGI cut-scenes, and a mature story, packed into a fully realized fantasy RPG, was a daunting task, and was something the world had never seen in 1999. It was a bold project and would eventually become one of the more elusive titles even after Square and Enix merged, rarely getting any attention due to the unfortunate circumstances of the original source code being lost. The only way anybody could legitimately experience Final Fantasy VIII was to dig up an original copy with a PlayStation 2 (or PSOne), or to buy it off PSN and play it on a PlayStation 3, or either of the Sony portable devices. Now anybody can finally play Squall's journey on all eighth generation consoles, and with some new visual updates and added cheat modes. Cubed3 analyses if Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is the best way to play this often overlooked PlayStation classic.

Before Final Fantasy XV or XIII, the most divisive entry was VIII. It has a lot of detractors for good reason and it does have its fans - also for good reason. Nobody can argue that VIII makes an incredible first impression; the opening CGI cut-scene remains one of the most powerful intros to any PlayStation. The sweeping operatic score and fast editing against an amazingly choreographed sword battle between hero and rival, is epic in the classic sense of the word. It's up there with the intros to Resident Evil 2, Chrono Cross, and of course Final Fantasy VII.

Square spared no expense during VIII's development, and it shows in its production values and overall world design. Every two-dimensional backdrop is rich with detail and full of life, since this was around the time when the artists figured out how to make the scenery animate in a loop. Even more ambitious are the sequences when Squall can be controlled during entire animated sequences which must have been utterly mind-blowing to see in 1999. Moments like this are peppered throughout the entire game, lending a truly cinematic feel to the adventure's picturesque moments.

Final Fantasy VIII is often a misunderstood JRPG, and has been frequently been mischaracterised due to its experimental nature. Over the years it was the target of many memes that have been bald-faced lies about the gameplay, and how its systems work. This is going to clear things up about Final Fantasy VIII and prove that it did have a good idea with some interesting results... even if the execution was fundamentally flawed and poorly thought out. Much has been said how combat is pointless since levelling up causes enemies to scale with Squall's level, thus making encounters something to avoid.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on Nintendo Switch

This is dishonest since there is an entire aspect that is being ignored: the Guardian Forces or "GF." It is true that grinding and gaining power through levelling up will also power-up enemies, but the other side of the coin is that this is the way to power up GFs since they require AP to open up more of the Junction system's options. Junctions are everything in Final Fantasy VIII. It is how characters can be built to be ridiculously over-powered, and the amount of options and potential is truly staggering - almost endless.

The Junction system is not perfect, in fact it is downright incoherently thought-out, since it requires players to tediously draw limited number of magical charges from enemies which has to be done for every individual party member. What makes this even worse, is that the magic that is drawn from enemies has a set value and affects each stat differently depending on the spell. Why does this suck so much? It is because, for the most optimal junction, one would need the maximum allotted charges for the junctioned magic.

This is terrible for another reason, and it is because now anybody who plays Final Fantasy VIII will likely never ever use magic or even bother to make a magician build for any of the six party members. It is just not worth lowering stats in order to cast a spell, and then having to go find the right monster that has that spell in order to replenish the supply of said spell. Effectively this means having to make every character a brute force fighter, and keeping HP very low for constant limit breaks... not that it matters since one of the additions to the remaster is the cheat to enable constant limit breaks with a full ATB.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on Nintendo Switch

There was some potential with the Junction system, since it offers so much freedom of customisation. The downfall of it was how it almost makes every party member interchangeable (save for limit breaks), plus the tedious activity of drawing magic from enemies. Yet another issue with Junction, is that it does not make any sense in the reality of the story or plot. It is never explained just how anyone "junctions" to a Guardian Force or how exactly characters are adding these magics to their stats. It is really weird and abstract, and makes no sense in the reality of the game world's logic since it is never explained. Even how "drawing" magic from enemies is vague and abstract with no real definition or meaning.

These abilities are also plot points in the story too, and some major characters and some events involve these mechanics, but how and what they are is never defined. It does not help that the interface for all this is a painfully ugly grey menu with no style at all. It feels like staring a concrete wall with stats etched with chalk, and Final Fantasy VIII goes overboard with how many menus within menus it has, making the overall experience depressing. Roughly half of the game is spent staring at these ugly windows, and it wouldn't be surprising if this was a subliminal aspect why so many people got put off so early by Final Fantasy VIII.

While the experiment that is the gameplay is close to being failure, Final Fantasy VIII is ultimately saved by its ambiance and atmosphere. Pushing the visuals paid off and the result is something that can hardly be put into words. Just what kind of world is this? Some parts feel modern, other parts feel European, and once in a while it is just weird and surreal. There are fat alien dudes that look like they came from Star Wars present, and everybody acts like they're a normal everyday thing. Enormous T-Rex roam the inside of the mobile floating military academy, and this is the standard everyday occurrence. Even vehicles have an old-school, World War II era rivet industrial charm to them - something that is rarely seen in JRPGs or videogames in general.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on Nintendo Switch

It is unfortunate that Final Fantasy VIII Remastered does not make use of the emerging algorithm technology that is able to re-interpret the backgrounds into true HD images. This is something that the modding community has figured out, and it is agonizing that this remaster did not make use of this technique, making the overall package feel more like a work in progress. It is a shame too, since the updated character models look quite nice... at least the ones that have not been censored compared to their original models.

One thing is always guaranteed when playing any Final Fantasy? The soundtrack will be magnificent and grand. Sound-wise, everything in Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is unchanged from its PlayStation original, and this is for the better, since previous efforts at remastering the sound/music on other entries had mixed results. Sometimes perfection can't be improved on. As per the usual with Square Enix's remastering of their older titles, there are some quality of life additions included with Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. The usual suspects are No Encounter toggling, times-three speed and instant-turn with constant limit breaks for all party members.

Obviously this means players will always have what is effectively a god-mode at their finger tips at all times. Under most circumstances this would horrendously devalue the gameplay, but in the case of Final Fantasy VIII's less than desirable game design, these additions save this JRPG from becoming a relentless chore. It says something about a game's systems becoming much more enjoyable when major aspects of it are totally circumvented when the publisher includes features like this. It almost seems like an admission of some kind...

Screenshot for Final Fantasy VIII Remastered on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Is Final Fantasy VIII Remastered the best way to play it? It really depends on a few things. Being able to bypass most of its questionable design choices certainly makes it more enjoyable than it was, then again that only highlights just how flawed it was in the first place. So, why bother at all? You may as well play it as it was intended, warts and all. This also applies to the revamped visuals; obviously improved in some areas, but the updated HD character models don't go well with the low-res pre-rendered backgrounds. At least on the older versions there is the option to play with analogue movement; a feature that is frustratingly absent here. As a result Squall's movement is extremely jerky, and snaps around when moving in different directions. It looks and feels terrible to play. This was something that was in the original PlayStation release - why is it not here? What saves Final Fantasy VIII Remastered is the fact that it is still Final Fantasy VIII, and that it is still a very interesting entry thanks to its ambiance and unique setting.

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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Khouli1989 (guest) 03.10.2019#1

5/10? is this a joke? please someone tell the reviewer to take his meds because he is clearly crazy.

Khouli1989 (guest) said:
5/10? is this a joke? please someone tell the reviewer to take his meds because he is clearly crazy.

did you only look at the number? or did you actually read the review?

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