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Final Fantasy VIII (PC) Review: Revisiting the Garden

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Final Fantasy VIII PC

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Square has been an interesting developer/publisher for some time. It began when the PS3 launched and they shocked fans everywhere with bringing Final Fantasy 13 to the Xbox 360. Ever since that move, they have made some questionable moves in regards to what games they release and what games to reboot. While it wasn't the first time, Square Enix released Final Fantasy VII on PC in the middle of 2013. Then, at the tail end of 2013, they released the successor, Final Fantasy VIII. People who follow my reviews will know that I acknowledge the significance of Final Fantasy VII during the PS1 era and for JRPGs. However, the relevance is obsolete due to the visuals and dated gameplay. After Final Fantasy VII many games used its formula due to the massive success, and the formula FFVII had wasn't even its own (Breath of Fire Yo). Final Fantasy VIII has the same problems with FFVII, when played in the modern day. Yes it offers a healthy dose of nostalgia, but is it actually worth it?

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Galbadia, a Global Superpower, has declared war on Dollet, a country whose training academy is home to two personalities: the hot-headed Seifer and the 'lone wolf', Squall Leonhart. Both are equally at conflict with each other as their country is with Galbadia; to others, Squall appears lacking in team spirit, while Seifer lacks the discipline of his rival. However, a chance encounter with the free-spirited Rinoa Heartilly turns Squall's universe upside down; having thrived on discipline, Squall find the carefree Rinoa fascinating. He also begins to dream that he is Laguna Loire, a Galbadian army soldier.

Meanwhile, a sorceress manipulates the most powerful men in Galbadia. Will Squall and his party succeed in defeating this maniacal sorceress and saving their world? What part does the mysterious Laguna play?

Something that I enjoyed about Final Fantasy VIII is the story, not the main character Squall though. It is just the atmosphere the game provides. That is why the description for the game does it justice. Sure Squall is charged with saving the world, but the game proves that the problem is much bigger than him. He just doesn't care though. He doesn't care about himself or anyone. As a character, he barely even grows throughout the game. He still feels like he is empty. Opposed to a character like Cloud Strife, he isn't all “Me Me Me, I'm not strong”. It is nice to see a character stick to a majority of his guns through the whole story.

The most unique part about Final Fantasy VIII is the gameplay. The combat system has a lot to it and at first, it seems a bit confusing. The Junction system is some of the best game design I have ever come across in video games because it offers strategic customization for your party members. Sadly, even with tutorials, this system is still confusing to new players. Junctioning is when you allocation your Guardian Force summons and magic spells to increase stats and give your party members new abilities. What makes this interesting is that magic is a limited use item as opposed to the traditional learn ability, use mana system. You can draw magic spells from enemies and points on the map, so the more magic cards you have, the more powerful your stats get.

Guardian Forces are obtained through drawing them from monsters, gaining them in the story, doing quests, or defeating them in battle. A special note is how flipping hard the GF Diablos is to get because Gravity is a broken spell that early in the game. However, if you wait too long to fight Diablos he just gets harder rather than easier. There are many instances in this game where the challenge exceeds the overall skill level of the current area you are in.

I like structure in a game, I will not lie. While I can have fun playing sandbox open world titles, I find it rather annoying in JRPGs when I am given a massive map and no real direction of where to go. That was something I did not like in the previous FF title. There is still free roaming in FFVIII but it is sectioned into areas depending on your main quest, which still gives me freedom, but not too much where I would lose interest.

The actual combat system is ATB, pretty common in the final fantasy series its turn based but you still need to be quick on your feet. The game is loaded with small nuggets of cool combat quirks. Squall uses a gunblade, so when he attacks, you can do extra damage every time as soon as the blade hits, you press R1 and you do like a explosion hit. Characters like Zell and Irvine also have unique attributes to their Limit Breaks and standard attacks. Mechanics like these make the characters stand out in combat thus making the game more fun and teams more varied.

The music as usual, thanks to Uematsu, is still great to this day offering varied genres of music fitting to every battle, new scene, or cinematic playing. To this day, one of my favorite scenes is when Rinoa makes Squall dance with her. While the Hi-Res prerendered cutscene looks great, the actual in game visuals are not and look incredibly dated. The graphics didn't deter me from playing the game one bit, but it does show how far gaming has come.

After playing this game on PC, I cannot help but wonder, where did the traditional JRPG go? Did it just die out after Final Fantasy X? Or did it just evolve into what Final Fantasy 13 is? Some would argue that the game series just doesn't feel the same, and in a way, I agree but in a positive way. Final Fantasy VIII on the PC is a healthy dose of nostalgia and currently I have no way to play the PS1 version. So it is nice to have it on my computer. However, it should stay a classic and is still fun to play with hours of content. The controls for keyboard are odd, so I highly recommend a gamepad to play this game.

I give Final Fantasy VIII on PC a 9/10. While the game is very dated, it is still a nice way to play a classic. I hope Final Fantasy IX is next to be ported to PC.

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